Volunteering: This is an Emergency!

Volunteering: This is an Emergency!
  By Sheena Osman

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Volunteers play a major role when natural disasters or emergencies occur. If you are interested in becoming one of the people called upon to help, many volunteer opportunities exist for disaster relief efforts, search and rescue operations, and other emergency situations.

For those who want to volunteer locally for emergencies or disasters, there are many positions available with St. John's Ambulance. St. John's Ambulance is the world's oldest humanitarian charitable organization with regional offices in all provinces and territories in Canada.

"We work hand in hand with Red Cross," said Paradif who is the St. John's Ambulance York Region Branch Manager in Ontario. Training in first aid, CPR, logistics, equipment and other life-saving skills is provided for volunteers who meet once a week within their brigades. There are four to five brigades within each region.

There are also volunteer positions available for those who are not interested in volunteering for emergency response. "Young people can join as Cadets directing traffic, non-first aid kind of stuff," said Paradif.

Volunteering with St. John's Ambulance is beneficial for those who are looking to gain experience in public response. "[For those who] are considering a career with public response, this is a great way to get started. It's an item on your resume and you can contribute back to the community. We're always looking for new folks to join up."

Doctors Without Borders, an independent international medical relief organization, offers volunteer positions overseas which entails providing medical help in armed conflicts, natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, epidemics of disease, famines, food insecurity and environmental crises.

"We're the leading medical organization in the world," said Simona Powell, a Recruitment Officer for the Toronto location of Doctors Without Borders.

Overseas volunteers are comprised of both medical and non-medical volunteers and volunteer for nine months to a year or six months. Medical volunteers include Physicians, Nurses, Midwives, Mental Health Specialists, Laboratory Specialists, Surgeons, Anaesthesiologists, and Dieticians/Nutritionists. Non-medical volunteer positions include Logisticians, Administrators, Financial Controllers, and Water and Sanitation Specialists.

Logisticians provide technical and operational support for the medical activities. Some requirements Logisticians must possess include technical and administrative skills.

Administrator's responsibilities include bookkeeping, budget control, and financial reporting for donors. Applicants must have demonstrable experience in either Financial Administration, which includes accounting and reporting, or Financial Management, which includes planning, and budget control.

Financial Controllers deal with the financial management of all the projects in the country and the requirements are the same as the Administrators.

Water and Sanitation Specialists are responsible for the design and management of sanitation and water projects. Applicants must have engineering degrees in civil, geological, mechanical, or environmental engineering. They also must be available for a minimum of six months.

For all non-medical positions, applicants must have a minimum of two years work experience, experience in supervising, training, and managing others, ability to cope with stress, ability to work in a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team, ability to organize and prioritize workload, able to work in unstable environments, valid passport to cover period overseas, good command of English, and a valid and

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