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If she was Prime Minister, Pushpa Rathor would give Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers the Order of Canada—how the country honours those who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.

“You are the light of Canada,” the disabled senior told volunteers in Cape Breton in late August. “You take away the darkness.”

Rathor, 82, knows about darkness. When Hurricane Fiona hit the island in September 2022, strong winds tore shingles off her roof in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “There was water in every room of the house,” she said.

She was able to get some “band aid” fixes from local contractors, but they didn’t stop the leaks. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said as the water continued to leak in. “I felt hopeless.”

Then Rathor heard about MDS and asked for help. After being approved, volunteers put on a new roof and did other repairs.

For that, she was “eternally grateful,” she told volunteers over supper on a Monday evening at the MDS base camp at the Sydney River United Protestant Church. “Disasters bring despair, death and hopelessness. But you brought hope.”

Originally from India, Rathor said the MDS volunteers remind her of Mahatma Gandhi, who was known for his life of service, and also of Jesus.

“You don’t just live for yourselves, you live for others,” Rathor said, adding she was planning to buy books about Mennonites so she could learn more about them.

So far, what she has learned about Mennonites is that the faith is about “helping others, no matter who they are, and to always do your best,” she said. “Your work is invaluable, there’s no two ways about it.”

“In my dark midnight of my despair, you were the only star,” she added.

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications


A total of 458 volunteers from across Canada provided over 32,000 hours of service for 272 families and community organizations in Cape Breton in response to Hurricane Fiona. This included repairs to 44 houses, 28 new roofs or roof repairs and 179 tree-cutting and clean up jobs. Read about the August 24 closing celebration.

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