June 21, 2018

Devastating flood had lasting, positive impacts on staff and alumni

Volunteers mucked out, cleaned up, and helped flood casualties with business and legal needs
Eleanor Carlson, a lawyer with Carbert Waite LLP, was a law student and the Calgary co-ordinator for Pro Bono Students Canada when the 2013 flood hit.

Eleanor Carlson was a law student and the Calgary co-ordinator for Pro Bono Students Canada

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Micheline Campanaro remembers fielding calls from concerned alumni all over the world, students lining up to lend a hand and a serious scarcity of rubber boots in the city. The MBA program specialist at the Haskayne School of Business was one of thousands of people on campus who jumped into action after the devastating floods of June 2013.

“My biggest impression was how our MBA international students came out in droves to help out,” she says. “Some just had little thin shoes but they really wanted to help in their new city, they felt it was their obligation. They wanted to know ‘What can we do, where do we go?’”

As soon as the water receded, a group from Haskayne went to Mission and Roxboro to help people dig out from the muck. “There were no boots in the city and we got the last three pairs,” says Campanaro. “When we were done, there was a group going out to High River and they needed boots so I passed mine on. They were the boots that kept on giving.”

The flood itself keeps on giving, she says, by spurring people to give back to community. “Emergencies bring out the best of people,” says Campanaro. “It gave an opportunity for people who never volunteered to go, ‘Oh I can clean up. Oh I made a difference,’ and I think that trend is continuing.”

These boots were made for volunteering — passed along from Haskayne staff member Micheline Campanaro to a bootless volunteer.

Micheline Campanaro passed her boots along to a volunteer who needed a pair.

University of Calgary

Law students lent a hand with flood-related legal matters

More than 1,000 University of Calgary students, faculty, and staff responded to the flood with an outpouring of volunteer service. As well as helping to clean up, collect food, find shelter, mind children and help businesses recover, people on campus helped with legal matters that rose with the waters.

“You had many people who all of a sudden had very different legal needs than they did right before the flood,” says Eleanor Carlson, JD'15, a lawyer with Carbert Waite LLP. When the flood hit, she was a law student and the Calgary co-ordinator for Pro Bono Students Canada.

“A lot of people had landlord and tenant issues,” she says. “Their apartment had been flooded, they couldn’t go back but they didn’t know if they still had to pay rent.” Some families with shared custody arrangements had questions about family law — if a parent’s house was flooded, where were the kids to go?  

Law students aren’t allowed to give any legal advice, but they helped facilitate appointments with groups that do, including Calgary Legal Guidance and Pro Bono Law Alberta. “The call went out and we had more than enough students to fill all the time slots we needed for all the clinics,” says Carlson. “We worked together to put these clinics in place very quickly.” Hundreds of people who needed free, timely legal advice got it.

And the students benefited, too. Working alongside lawyers in the “pressure cooker” situation helped them get to know future colleagues.

“When you have to work under time constraints and in a heated environment, you can build very good relationships,” says Carlson, who is now on the board of Pro Bono Law Alberta. “I forged good relationships with the leaders in the pro bono legal community already doing this stuff. The flood brought people together in interesting ways, people you wouldn’t have otherwise met.”

The muddiest volunteer of the day award in 2013 went to Sandeep Kaur, one of three international MBA students who were part of Haskayne’s cleanup crew.

The muddiest volunteer of the day award in 2013 went to Sandeep Kaur, an international MBA student.

University of Calgary