Canadians prepare to return to work with MDS in U.S.

Kevin and Teresa Bueckert of Neuanlage, Sask., served with Mennonite Disaster Service in Texas in 2019. — Mennonite Disaster Service Kevin and Teresa Bueckert of Neuanlage, Sask., served with Mennonite Disaster Service in Texas in 2019. — Mennonite Disaster Service

The United States opened its border to vaccinated Canadians Nov. 8, allowing Canadians once again to volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service in the U.S.

The border closed to nonessential travel in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Canada opened its border to fully vaccinated Americans in August.

“Every year about 600 Canadians go south to volunteer with MDS,” said Kelsey Friesen, volunteer manager for MDS Canada. “Some go longer, combining it with winter vacations. Others go for shorter times.”

Among them are key volunteers who serve for a month or more as project directors, crew leaders, administrators and cooks.

“The pandemic has created a challenge for MDS since we depend on Canadian leadership volunteers to help run so many projects,” Friesen said.

MDS in the U.S. has had to reduce its number of projects despite many needs due to hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

“It will be great when Canadians can once again go to the U.S., since that’s where most of the disasters occur each year and where MDS is most active,” Friesen said. “We are all anxious to get back to normal.”

For MDS executive director Kevin King, the reopening is cause for celebration.

“I receive the news with joy and elation to hear that Canadian volunteers will once again be traveling south to our MDS projects,” he said. “Our partners in Louisiana and Washington state have asked, ‘When are they coming?’ ”

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