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Reflection: Georgia Yurwich-Spink

In that strange no man’s land of time between Christmas and New Year, when social events with friends are a blur and there’s a constant drone of Home Alone in the background, it can be hard to think of anything other than what else to do with those turkey leftovers and whether the shop will take back the bright pink bunny jumper your Grannie bought you … but then in late December 2015 Mother Nature dramatically intervened.

The normally tame River Wharfe, running through the Yorkshire town of Tadcaster, burst its banks and rushed headlong to wreak havoc on local homes and businesses. In a matter of hours the bustling high street famous as the home of Sam Smith’s and John Smith’s Breweries was waist deep in water. Whole shops full of goods were lost and people were left bereft and shocked by what had happened.

On 27th December Georgia Yurkwich-Spink, Senior Expedition Manager at Wilderness Expertise, received a call to action; could she help form part of the Team Rubicon clear up team in Tadcaster? Yes was the answer.

So off she went, husband in tow, to see what she could do and how she could support the community. What she found was a town of amazing resilience and tremendous community spirit rallying together to help the most vulnerable and who were determined to get their lives back on track as quickly as possible.

Tadcaster was soon awash with willing Team Rubicon volunteers, getting hands on and helping oversee the amazing work done by the townspeople to give them a sense of direction and support. Small task groups were deployed to help those most in need, including a mother and young baby whose entire downstairs had been devastated by the raging waters, plus several elderly couples whose electricity and gas mains were under water in their basements.

Pretty soon the high street stopped resembling a dumping ground as white goods, damaged stock, ruined food and endless amounts of carpet and flooring were taken away to the local tip.

Georgia takes a break with members of Team Rubicon and Serve On during Operation: Calcaria
Georgia takes a break with members of Team Rubicon and Serve On during Operation: Calcaria

Due to Georgia’s experience in logistics, she was given the responsibility of organising food and accommodation for all of the TR volunteers and their operating partners Serve On. This required lots of discussions and liaison with pertinent community members and a great deal of tact and gratitude to try and gain all of this for free. Thankfully the team were given the run of a local hotel and the absolutely amazing Salvation Army came to the rescue and provided 3 meals a day for everyone – and even a home for the night on New Year’s Eve.

Two months after the floods Georgia reflects on her time in Tadcaster:

“Christmas is such a special, family time that it must be so heartbreaking to have it impacted in such a way. What was amazing was seeing that although people were definitely upset, their stoic nature and commitment to getting it sorted (in a true Yorkshire way!) meant they were able to overlook any material loss and really thrive and survive based on the community spirit and support. A community that I feel truly blessed to have been part of.

“The experience of working alongside the community and seeing them rally will stay with me forever. It brought a tear to my eye seeing the new temporary bridge go up recently and watching the news footage I saw faces I knew and it made me smile. I knew I had been a part of that journey with them and am thrilled that I was given that opportunity.”

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