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Hurricane Harvey experience humbling and rewarding for Gander emergency responder

GANDER, NL – After two weeks in Houston, Tex. following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, Salvation Army Capt. Sheldon Bungay is back home in Gander.

Bungay arrived in Texas on Aug. 30 and set to work as part of a 12-member team.

Over the course of the two weeks, the team was able to make contact with more than 7,000 people.

Bungay spent time travelling to particularly hard hit areas, assisting with the distribution of food, beverages and cleaning kits.

It made for some intense and emotional work, as Bungay and an officer from California spent two days assisting police and the National Guard in a neighbourhood where residents were still in their homes after six days of flooding.

“We had a pickup truck and were literally driving through the water with people in the back of our truck,” he said.

“Each day was a little bit different, but a lot of my time was actually talking to those impacted and affected, offering emotional and spiritual care.”

Bungay said the emotionally charged conversations revolved around personal loss, displacement and starting over.

“It leaves a lot of question marks for the future and they don’t know what kind of resources, support or funding they are going to get,” he said.

“That’s why our role was so significant – because these people want to vent their frustration and talk about it. So we became a listening ear.”

Experiencing everything firsthand was hard on Bungay and the other members of the team.

They were able to find solace in each other, however.

“You walk away with a lot of heavy emotions,” he said. “That’s why it was important for us to get together the end of every single day to do a debriefing, to discuss what we had seen and witnessed, and talk through it.

“That became a source of coping and support for us.”

With Hurricane Harvey having been the largest emergency response he has ever taken on, Bungay said he’s returned home humbled by the experience.

“What seems like a major mountain in your own life, all of a sudden it becomes so insignificant when you see the devastation others are facing,” he said.

“… The number of people that came up and offered words of encouragement, hugs and thank yous, it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

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