In 1998, Rahul Singh—a Toronto paramedic—was on a backpacking trip in Nepal when disaster struck. The downpour from a dangerous monsoon had triggered devastating mudslides that resulted in the destruction of several villages. As a first-responder, Singh quickly realized that local relief efforts were slow and inefficient—he jumped in to help lead the rescue team. The experience had a profound impact on the paramedic, who saw an urgent need for future rapid response relief around the world. When he returned to Canada he founded GlobalMedic—a humanitarian charity with a mandate to save lives.
A volunteer effort
Singh built the organization by turning to his first-responder community for help—he knew they had the training and skill sets to provide life-saving aid during large-scale emergencies. Volunteers are key to GlobalMedic’s efforts. A dedicated core of Canadian paramedics, firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses have volunteered to be deployed on the first report of a crisis. Civilians from all walks of life generously donate their time to help prepare and pack at the GlobalMedic warehouse. The new Emergency Food Program enlists help from local communities whose members at home and abroad have been affected by disasters. They work together to create cost-effective and culturally appropriate meals.
In a race against time, GlobalMedic is often the first team on the ground to get critical interventions to people in life-threatening situations. It employs high- and low-tech approaches to help solve complex issues with greater speed and lower costs, from drones that map disaster areas to rudimentary water purification units. A commitment to innovation helps bolster local resilience in disaster areas—the volunteer teams empower the distressed communities by providing immediate aid, training and support. GlobalMedic’s core Emergency Programs—Water, Medical, Shelter, and Search & Rescue—are scalable to the size of the crisis. They can activate as many as needed, depending on what the situation demands. Singh says “the solidarity and resilience of the people affected by the crisis hardens their resolve to push through and help.”
The best of Canada
Rahul Singh’s humanitarian work has received international recognition. In 2010, he was named to Time Magazine’s 100 list of the world’s most influential people. Since his memorable backpacking trip to Nepal in 1998, GlobalMedic teams have responded to over 200 disasters in more than 70 countries, including the earthquake in Haiti, the civil war in Syria, and most recently, the aid effort in the Bahamas following the destruction from 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. The organization continually strives to expand their reach so they can save more lives each and every year. For Singh, GlobalMedic’s volunteers are “giving the best of Canada to people around the world.”
Through the work of GlobalMedic, we understand implicitly that we live in an interconnected world in which we all have a role to play in creating a better future.
Each time I visit GlobalMedic emergency packing events I take away a new learning. For example in November 2018 I was struck by the thoughtfulness of seeking out culturally appropriate foods. Meals were designed by Syrian refugees here in Ontario to support those facing food insecurity in Syria. The volunteers understood that familiar food is helpful in maintaining a sense of normalcy. The sense of collective responsibility was palpable and demonstrated that we are at our best when we draw upon each other’s strengths, expertise and cultural knowledge. My most recent visit showed the results of buying in bulk and repackaging to continue to find economies, reducing the cost per person. Similarly Mr. Singh consistently seeks new or captive technologies to meet new needs and provide improved services whether water technologies or drones.
The consistent element is GlobalMedic’s attraction of volunteers – those with expertise and resources and those with energy, time and good will. They are making a significant positive impact to disaster relief abroad by building on and reinforcing Toronto’s unique experiment in social cohesion.Sustainability