Last Updated Wednesday, May 10, 2023 3:50PM UTC
"Giving back and making things better is what this life is all about."
Our incredible volunteers take time out of their busy lives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their communities, volunteering to provide first aid coverage at both large and small events across Canada. Anyone can volunteer with us, no matter their experience level. Medical First Responders (MFRs) with St. John Ambulance are specially trained for their volunteer role. They can care for minor injuries on their own and help with major ones while they wait for paramedics to arrive on the scene for further care.
Mark is one of our Medical First Responder volunteers at the Federal District Council in Ottawa. We asked him a few questions about how he got his start volunteering and the impact it has had on his life.
How many years have you been volunteering with SJA?
I have been volunteering with SJA for five years now. I first joined as a volunteer with my first aid and CPR/AED course. I then went on to volunteer at duties to learn the ropes and after a few months, took the Basic Life Support Course. I then did the comprehensive Medical First Responder course and was able to provide direct patient care. I volunteered many times to be a mock casualty for the MFR course and this was a great way to learn about my colleagues’ skill levels. It gave me a good sense of their competencies in patient care. In my first year of volunteering, SJA federal district presented me with the "Most Promising New Member" award.
I went on to assume the position of Stores Non-Commissioned Officer and after that I became the Division Administration Officer. I then proudly became the Council Logistics Officer. Training my replacement in that position was a goal as I was travelling to and from Ukraine at that time and we needed someone on the ground to support the logistics for all the various duties we have. I reverted to the ranks in Dec 2021 (just as I retired) as I spent most of 2022 in Ukraine (I was there just after the war broke out and was providing humanitarian aid as a volunteer).
Why did you first decide to volunteer?
Growing up in Canada, I was aware of SJA but it was only when I left the military and was working as a civilian with the Department of National Defense, in the Surgeon General's Office (Head Doctor for the Canadian Forces), that I became truly aware of the extent of SJA’s history and activities as they were closely linked to the Surgeon General through the directorate in which I worked.
As I was getting ready to retire, the person running my retirement course planted the seed by saying "start now to do the things you want to do in retirement, so that you discover the best way to maintain your social connections." In thinking of the organizations that I was already volunteering with, I decided to get involved with SJA to give back to the community and to use the skills I had developed over my time in the Army and as a senior manager in the civil service.
Getting involved with SJA is one of the most satisfying things I have done from a personal perspective. It gives me the opportunity to increase my competency in first aid skills and it gives me an opportunity to mentor a younger generation. To be that "older, steady hand' when they face situations they have never had to navigate. Giving back and making things better is what this life is all about.
What has been the biggest highlight(s) for you as part of volunteering with SJA?
There are many highlights of my time with SJA. From responding on the evening of the tornado in the Mont Bleu area in Gatineau, to the clean-up in Dunrobin, as well as being deployed to Rigaud during the flooding there (deployed two years in a row). Additionally, being part of a small team who were training to possibly be deployed to support COVID efforts in Montreal at a retirement facility and assisting with the PPE drive and distribution that SJA conducted in partnership with the Ontario Medical Association was a significant experience. I once had to call 911 four times while out on duty and had the dispatcher recognize my voice on the last call. They immediately dispatched an ambulance as they knew from the other three calls that things were serious for our casualties. That duty will always stand out in my mind as it was 2019 and I had just come back from my first visit to Ukraine. It was the Annual Ukraine festival in Ottawa and on the Saturday, it was 40 degrees with the humidity. People were dropping like flies. Although I had to call 911 four times that Saturday, we had over 12 casualties to deal with across a wide spectrum of issues.
You can hear more from Mark in this video we took of him for National Volunteer Week in 2023: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12jqU-kQudk
Mark is one among over 15,000 volunteers that work with SJA across Canada. Volunteering has a multitude of benefits including making connections with other like-minded individuals and developing lifesaving first aid skills. The feeling of giving back is like no other. Make a difference in your community and volunteer today! Learn more and apply here.