Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was taken to a Winnipeg hospital Thursday morning, after the 92-year-old appeared to feel faint while working on a Habitat for Humanity house.
"President Carter has been working hard all week. He was dehydrated working in the hot sun," Habitat officials said in a statement.
"As a precaution, he was transported to St. Boniface General Hospital for rehydration. Mrs. Carter is with him," the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and The Carter Centre said in a statement.
Carter had been working in the sun for about 90 minutes when he went to sit down on a chair. As he sat, he appeared to wobble; Secret Service agents supported him, and whisked him back to where his motorcade was parked.
After a few minutes, a waiting ambulance pulled to the back of the house, near where the president was sitting. The ambulance remained on site as paramedics walked over to attend to the president.
The ambulance later left the site without lights or sirens. His motorcade followed the ambulance down the back lane. A number of Secret Service officers remain on site.
Carter informed build leaders that he is feeling "OK," according to Habitat International CEO Jonathan Reckford, and encouraged volunteers to continue on with their regular workday.
Vehicles in former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's motorcade and Winnipeg police vehicles are seen outside the emergency department at St. Boniface Hospital Thursday. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Earlier, Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn made their first public appearance in Winnipeg this morning, welcomed by the sound of thunderous applause.
The Carters, who will stay in Winnipeg through Friday to work on a Habitat for Humanity build, arrived at the St. James work site shortly before 8 a.m. to lead a morning devotional.
"I just wanted to say how pleased we are to be here," Rosalynn Carter said to the over 500 volunteers gathered under the site's kitchen tent to greet them.
"Somebody just asked us if we could see the change in Winnipeg from the time when we were here before (in 1993), but we don't remember," Rosalynn, 89, said with a laugh. "It was a long time ago."
The former president opened by offering greetings from his home church of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., and extended a special invitation to the volunteers.
"You're all welcome to come (to the church)," said Carter, the 92-year-old former president who served his term in 1977-1981, and added a wink: "Not all on the same Sunday, but you're all welcome."
Only minutes after finishing the devotion, the Carters joined the crew at the house that will become home to Todd Gauthier and his daughters Chloie and Carmin, aged nine and seven.
Under the watchful eye of a team of Secret Service agents, Gauthier and the volunteers gathered for a brief chat with Carter before picking up their saws and hammers.
"He just introduced himself, and said he wants to get going on the work and get it done," Gauthier said, while the Carters worked on sawing boards for the front steps.
"It was just straightforward, wanting to get the project going and complete it. It's pretty cool."
That home, designated as the "Carter House," is located at the construction site on Lyle Street where 21 Winnipeg houses are being built as part of Habitat for Humanity and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
A total of 25 houses are taking shape in Manitoba as part of a total 150 homes across the country to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Eight of the homes will house Indigenous families.
Carter and his wife have volunteered since 1984 with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in places such as Winnipeg.
Five hundred volunteers will be working each day in Winnipeg out of a pool of about 1,600 who have signed up.
Successful applicants for Habitat homes must pay market value for their homes through a pay schedule that’s based on income. At least one adult must be working full time and have been doing so for at least the past two years.
Other requirements are a housing need, 500 hours of sweat equity, a willingness to be completely transparent in the transaction, and children in the household.
The process is intense and intrusive in the hope it’ll avoid setting a family up for failure, said Sandy Hopkins, the chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity Manitoba.
After the houses are constructed, volunteers will make way for professionals to complete the final touches such as plumbing, electrical and heating.
In the 36 years since Carter left the White House, Carter and the nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization called the Carter Centre that he founded in 1982 have helped people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts, advancing democracy and human rights, preventing disease and improving mental health care.
The former U.S. president and first lady were in the Winnipeg in 1993 and helped build 18 Habitat homes in the North End. After Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan, Carter and his wife started volunteering with Habitat and created the Carter Work Project to officially volunteer every year for a week.
Winnipeg was the couple's first Habitat build outside of the United States. Since then, the Carters have participated in builds in other countries, including Mexico, South Korea, India, the Philippines and Haiti.