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Study investigates disaster impact, resiliency of kids in 2013 floods

WATCH: Researchers are hoping to use firsthand accounts from children affected by the 2013 floods to be better prepared to respond to children’s needs in future natural disasters. Jill Croteau reports.

CALGARY – The watermark still stains Kyle Keith’s Elbow Park home, but more of a reminder is the effect on the sense of community, and the lasting effect the 2013 floods have had on the neighbourhood children, including Keith’s two sons and one daughter.

“I never would have thought we’d be the only family living on this street,” said Keith. “Friends moved and aren’t coming back… We don’t feel safe anymore. We want these houses fixed or gone; we want a neighbourhood again.”

Keith’s home is surrounded by boarded up, abandoned million-dollar properties. Many were bought by the province from the floodway relocation plan and still sit empty.

Keith says his three-year-old daughter still asks, “Are we having a flood?”

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A new research project is going to investigate the toll the floods had on children and youth.

Called the Alberta Resilient Communities (ARC) project, it’s led by faculty of social work associate professor Julie Drolet, professor Robin Cox from Royal Roads University and Mount Royal University’s assistant professor Caroline McDonald-Harker.

The project will engage kids ages five to 12, along with their teachers and parents. It aims to help encourage resiliency for any future catastrophes and guide future social workers.

“We are making them the experiential experts,” said McDonald-Harker. “We will be going into the schools and interviewing teachers, observing children in classrooms, and meeting with parents—so they are very much a part of the research study.”

Drolet says the impact of the disaster hasn’t been integrated into school curriculums as of yet.

“We are seeing a call to see how can we build more capacity for human service professionals,” said Drolet.

Keith’s neighbourhood is proof that people continue to recover, and support is still needed.

“There was a lot of attention and volunteers early on,” he said. “It’s like somebody dies, and everyone leaves after the funeral.”

With files from Erika Tucker

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