Sarah Twomey – Emergency Programs Intern
At GlobalMedic we are incredibly thankful for our dedicated volunteers who make our work possible. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, our volunteers have worked tirelessly to help vulnerable community members navigate the registration process to receive a vaccine and have committed an incredible number of hours to help support pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the GTA. Volunteers fill a number of vital roles at the clinics including assisting with registration, crowd control, observation of individuals post-vaccine, and general logistical operations. By supporting these areas, we help the clinics function in a smooth and efficient manner, allowing more people to receive their vaccinations. As of August 1, GlobalMedic volunteers have participated in over 261 COVID-19 vaccination events helping more than 218,000 people receive their vaccines.
While every clinic we support is integral in the effort to get Canadians vaccinated, one clinic, in particular, is going above and beyond to provide vaccines for some of the most vulnerable populations – the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare (CCRIHC) in Scarborough. GlobalMedic has been working with the CCRIHC for the past year to support its efforts to provide vaccines to undocumented persons, immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, international visa students, homeless persons, and those without a health card. This clinic is filling a large gap in the vaccination administration program, as many people were previously ineligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless they could present proof of coverage under OHIP. These populations are also some of the most at-risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus as many work in essential, frontline jobs and live in densely populated areas.
GlobalMedic believes that regardless of citizenship status, age, race, sex, socioeconomic status, or geographic location, everyone in Canada should have equitable access to vaccinations. As GlobalMedic founder Rahul Singh says: “None of us is safe, until all of us are safe”. Based on this belief, we are proud to have provided critical infrastructure tents for the CCRIHC clinic to operate out of in all seasons, as well as volunteer bodies each shift to increase vaccination capacity. Our volunteers also distribute hand sanitizer, masks, hygiene kits, and pantry-staple food items to those who attend the clinic.
As an intern with GlobalMedic, I had the opportunity to witness the work of our volunteers at many of these vaccination sites. I quickly realized that while our involvement was clearly supporting the logistic operations of these clinics, we were also making personal connections with the local community, and growing as people and an organization. I had the opportunity to sit down with Marty Bromley, a veteran GlobalMedic volunteer acting as a site lead for a number of the vaccination clinics, and it was abundantly clear how passionate he was about his work at the clinics. While Marty shared stories of overcoming obstacles such as power failures and floods at the clinics, he also shared a story that exemplifies what it means to be a volunteer with this organization. Upon learning that an elderly woman who had just received her vaccine could not afford a taxi home, a kindhearted volunteer offered to push the woman home in a wheelchair, as she insisted it was “just down the road”. After navigating more than half a kilometre through busy intersections and heavy traffic, the volunteer delivered the incredibly thankful woman to her home, and learned that “just down the road” means very different things to different people. This is only one of the many remarkable feats our volunteers have accomplished during their time at these clinics, and it demonstrates how meaningful their involvement truly is.
In a conversation with Rob McNamara, another veteran GlobalMedic volunteer now acting as a site lead for the CCRIHC clinic, he shared his love for the camaraderie that had developed between the volunteers and clinic staff. As the healthcare professionals at the clinic are also volunteers, he valued that everyone at the site was truly there to make a difference for these vulnerable populations and to ensure these communities did not fall through the cracks. Rob even mentioned that Libby, the clinic’s manager, often cooked traditional Filipino food for all the volunteers to share.
When asked about their favourite part of working at the clinics, both Rob and Marty said the same thing – having the opportunity to work alongside wonderful volunteers. Rob said, “They are talented and dedicated. We also have a lot of fun while making a difference in this fight against COVID-19”. Marty echoed this sentiment emphasizing how proud and honoured he was to work with these volunteers: “They are amazing people who care and have stepped up to help knock out this pandemic”.
From my own time at the clinics, I can say that it’s clear our volunteers truly care. I can’t count the number of genuine connections I watched GlobalMedic volunteers make in the course of one day. It was inspiring. While working at the clinics, I realized how many types of people exist in every community across the GTA. From different ethnic backgrounds, to religions, to sexual orientations, to varied family units, I realized that we can all be so different, and yet many of us are seeking the same things – kindness, empathy, support, and reassurance in these uncertain times. I saw so much excitement and relief from those finally getting their vaccines, and I watched people from all walks of life share in this joy. The hope that came from these vaccine clinics, during a time when many are struggling, lonely, and worried, was incredible to witness.
These experiences are attributable not just to GlobalMedic volunteers, but every healthcare professional, clinic staff member, and person taking the opportunity to get their vaccine. We still have a ways to go until COVID-19 is behind us and equitable protection is afforded to everyone, but each day we are making notable progress. It is with selflessness, empathy, and perseverance that we will get through this pandemic together.