When a community faces a disaster, as happened in Fort McMurray, they often receive a great deal of media attention during the first few weeks of the devastation. Yet after the camera crews pack up, there are still months or years of cleaning and recovery.
To inspire hope for all in Fort McMurray who face the daunting task of rebuilding, the City of Chestermere is participating in a program called ‘Stars of HOPE.’
Stars of HOPE was started in 2007 by a Texas family who had received support following a disaster and decided to pay it forward by having students paint inspirational words and messages on colourful wooden stars and send them to display in communities impacted by disasters.
Donelda Laing, Chestermere’s Director of Community Services and Emergency Social Services, connected with one of the organizers of the Stars of HOPE organization at a disaster forum earlier this year. Following the devastation in Fort McMurray, she asked if Chestermere could be one of the first Canadian partners in this program. The offer was eagerly accepted and a kit of blank stars arrived in Chestermere last week.
“Many Southern Alberta residents have faced their own disasters and have recovered. Even here in Chestermere, we have come so far since the flooding a year ago,” says Laing. “While we recognize that the Fort McMurray fire is one of the largest and costliest disasters in Canadian history, through the Stars of HOPE program we want to pass on encouragement that rebuilding is possible and we are still standing with the community.”
Synergy youth and Early Childhood program have begun decorating some stars for Fort McMurray but invite all residents to participate and share their messages of inspiration. While posting a painted star may seem like a small act, brightly painted messages of encouragement have a big impact in areas full of colourless rubble.
A survivor from Hurricane Sandy was quoted saying “The first time I saw some stars, I smiled.
The second time, I stopped to read them. The next time, I found myself looking for them and excited to see new ones. That was the moment I realized your beautiful stars became my focus instead of the destruction that was once our beautiful life. Thank you for the beauty you are bringing back to us.”
Stars will be available at Chestermere City Hall during the week of July 12-15 giving Chestermere residents a positive way to reflect on the flood that impacted their community one year ago.
“Please take a moment to stop by and share a message of hope with residents who have lost so much. You never know how far a little kindness can go,” says Laing.
For more information call (403) 207-7028.