While stress and anxiety continues to build for evacuees in Prince George, some are finding comfort in a sacred ritual. Each morning, a smudging ceremony is held in the front courtyard of the College of New Caledonia (CNC).
It’s a chance for people, regardless of their beliefs or values, to come together and share in prayers, thoughts and blessings.
Darlene McIntosh is a Cultural Advisor at CNC. She has been leading the smudging ceremony every morning since last Monday. She cut her holidays short to be there for evacuees.
“There’s so much trauma, disconnection, everything that goes with what has happened to these poor people that have been displaced from their homes,” says McIntosh. “This is our intent; to create a community, to create a safe place for them to express the sadness that has happened to them. We support them and they feel comforted and they can carry on for the next day.”
Allan Baptiste Deutsch evacuated Williams Lake last Tuesday. He has been to every ceremony. “You just stand there and you take it all in. You might not hear everybody, but it doesn’t matter because they are getting out what they want to say and it makes them feel good in their heart. It makes me feel good to get myself out there.”
McIntosh says the work may be through the unseen, but it is just as important as the efforts being done in the physical world. “We create this energy that is loving, positive, comforting and safe. Then it is extended out into the college where all the people are there, out into the University and out into Prince George, and wherever.”
McIntosh is doing more than creating a safe space for those displaced. She has taken in a 77-year-old woman from 150 Mile House. “It has been such a positive experience for herself and for us, to the extent that she is even considering extending her stay here. So we made a really nice friend.”