Plea for help for helper
Brian West has been providing help to families and friends of missing people. Now he needs help to keep it going.
The New Westminster resident set up the Missing People Canada site that has more than 27,000 fans on Facebook. West runs it out of his subsidized apartment on a disability income often putting in 15 hour days on it.
He started it in December 2011 as a tribute and extension of his and his father's participation in search and rescue when he was younger. That ended for him in 1970 when he suffered a brain injury during a rescue. He lost a chunk of his brain that put him in a coma for three years, followed by seven years of recovery.
West's site was so successful his computer blew up. He went to a thrift store and got another but it's always crashing.
"It's not doing any good at all. I'm having a lot of problems posting things. It's very slow, I can't have too many tabs open at once, the whole thing crashes on me," said West.
When Stephen Watkins of Toronto, who runs a site dedicated to child abduction prevention, heard about West's plight he decided to start a fund raising campaign to get West a new computer.
"It's very important to me. A lot of other [organizations'] pages depend on me. I'm on here almost all the time. There are 10,000 people missing in Canada today, mostly cold case files, and people have asked me to post their missing loved ones on my page," said West. "I'm the largest missing persons page in Canada. I'm independent, I'm not police … I'm the best poster in Canada, and everybody feeds off me."
West searches throughout the country to find out who is missing and doesn't take their names down until the police or the media say they've been found.
Last November, West had a posting on his site of an Amber Alert for a missing boy from southeast B.C. Somebody who saw the posting helped Montana state troopers arrest a British Columbia man who had taken his son across the border.
"He is doing a fantastic job bringing awareness of Canadian missing people, teens and children but now he needs our help," wrote Watkins in his online plea for funds for a new computer for West.
West lives on a $1,000-a-month disability pension and doesn't have a change to spare for himself.
"If I buy a computer I won't be able to eat for a few months. I just want to keep this page going. I want to be on this for 10 years," said West.