Columbia’s pretty rad. We’ve got things going on and, better yet, things to do and take part in. Since my last two CBT articles...
Since its launch in 2013, Global First Responder, a local 501(c)3 nonprofit, has provided international medical relief, education and community development to the people of Haiti, Syrian refugees and others.
The nonprofit’s far-reaching assistance comes from a core team of volunteers, led by its founder, Adam Beckett, a practicing emergency medicine doctor at University Hospital and former Marine.
In mid-April, GFR received its nonprofit status, making it easier for the organization to raise funds and share its mission with the community.
“There are so many different kinds of non-for-profits operating, and there is a lot of reluctance among providers, or with any volunteers, to get involved because they just don’t know what they are getting themselves into,” Beckett says, “so we started Global First Responder to try to solve a lot of those problems by creating this centralized network for global relief work.”
The nonprofit’s website is brimming with in-depth information about other nonprofit agencies, countries in need, field experience reflections and numerous ways to become involved either by serving or donating.
With no office as a home base, the website runs purely through the efforts of Beckett and devoted volunteers, usually operating out of homes. Even though all of GFR’s core team of volunteers have full-time jobs, they continue to keep the organization running, and some take a week or two to travel and help people in countries in dire need of medical assistance.
A couple weeks after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Beckett traveled to the country to provide as much medical assistance as he could. Since then, he never looked back, totaling around 17 missions since to other countries around the world. The majority of the trips were served through GFR.
“Emergency medicine is pretty versatile; we see anything and everything, so there is really nothing we haven’t come across when we are out in the different environments,” Beckett says. “The uncertainty is something we deal with all the time.”
Usually the mission trips consist of groups of 20 but can be as small as eight volunteers, varying in medical, educational and carpentry backgrounds. A week is the typical length of the volunteers’ stay, making it the utmost priority to maximize all efforts as soon as they arrive.
“In some cases, we’ll do health education, and that is a big key to be teaching out in the field because once we leave, we are not going to be there to care for them,” Beckett says.
Basic hygiene, infant care, neonatal, CPR and advance life support are common subjects implemented in the education classes. Each community and country comes at a case-by-case basis, making any chance to provide education an important task.
Over the past years, on top of providing medical care and education, volunteers have also focused on community development efforts.
“Whether it is working on a library or a wing at a hospital, we will have the supplies purchased ahead of time so when we get there, we hit the ground running,” Beckett says.
The future for relief
In an ever-changing world ailed by conflict, war and lack of simple health care, it may seem close to impossible to make an impact. But for the GFR volunteers, progress has been evident, and spirits are high.
Such positive change can be seen in Haiti.
“The government there is not the easiest to work with, but in the areas we have been, we have seen vast improvement in the hospitals and the health care that’s provided in the communities,” Beckett says. “There is still a lot of work left to be done, and there probably always will be in these countries, but we are moving in the right direction.”
GFR’s last organized trip was to Haiti in February. For a week in August, a group of GFR volunteers will team up with another nonprofit, My Little Patient, and travel to India. After India, Beckett and another group of volunteers plan to travel to Ethiopia and possibly Turkey and Jordan to bring aid to Syrian refugees.
Monetary donations and mission trip volunteering are open to anyone interested, regardless if they have a medical background. As the nonprofit continues to expand and connect agencies to willing volunteers, Beckett says he hopes he and others can continue to improve the overall health care in the countries that need it most.
“Our team is just getting bigger and bigger, and we have been counting down the days to India and Ethiopia,” Beckett says. “With these last few months, we have taken a little break to get the nonprofit going, and now we have some momentum, and we are ready to get back to work.”
For more information about Global First Responders, stories from past mission trips and how to donate and/or get involved, visit globalfirstresponder.com.