By Caroline Franks
After a morning of learning to put out car fires, high rise operations and learning about personal protective equipment a group of young women aged 15 to 19 participating in Camp FFIT (Female Firefighters in Training) spent their lunch time learning about “The Other Side of The Fire”, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services Program (EDS).
Camp FFIT is designed to introduce young women to a career in firefighting and give them an opportunity to learn about the mental, physical and emotional challenges while giving them the opportunity to take part in physical training and learn firefighting skills.
The camp is a recruitment tool used to encourage young women to look at firefighting as a career choice.
The Salvation Army’s presentation to campers introduced them to helping those affected by fire and disaster at the scene of an emergency.
Campers learned about The Salvation Army EDS program which offers people in crises food, beverages, vouchers for clothing and furniture as well as emotional and spiritual support. The EDS team of volunteers also supports first responders at the scene.
In partnership with the City of Ottawa, EDS dispatches volunteers to the scene when called upon by the city.
EDS responds to over 100 calls a year and is funded entirely by The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Kettle Campaign.
A number of female EDS volunteers first learned about the program through Camp FFIT, like Melissa Donaldson, who has been volunteering with EDS for five years and helped deliver this year’s presentation to campers.
“I love it. It’s a lot of fun, sometimes it’s difficult when you’re called at 3 am in January, but it makes it all worth it when you’re handing a kid a teddy bear and reassuring them, supporting a family or handing a firefighter a hamburger and seeing how it warms their heart,” said Melissa.
EDS Coordinator, Craig Dunbar, who co-led the presentation explained to campers how volunteering with EDS helps them to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be at the scene of an emergency and learn from firefighters.
“We’ve had a couple of 16 and 17-year-olds approach us with interest and we tell them when they are 18 to give us a call and they do,” he said.
Craig says about 40 per cent of their EDS volunteers are women.
The campers asked a lot of questions and for many, this was the first time they had heard about The Salvation Army’s program.
“It was a really interesting presentation, I had never heard of the services that EDS provides, so it’s really good to know that The Salvation Army is there and it’s good to know people are being taken care of after a fire,” said 18-year-old Poppy Stevens, who attended Camp FFIT this year.
“I think EDS would be a great way to do some more volunteer work and support the community,” said Hannah Clement who is only 16, but like many in her family is looking to firefighting as a career.
“I think the biggest reaction from campers about EDS is surprise,” said Camp FFIT Director, Sue Jones. “You typically see first responders at a fire scene or disaster but you don’t always see the care afterwards or who helps people after the tragedy. I think the program was even a surprise to me after a few years of being a firefighter. I think the campers are also excited as it’s something they can get involved with and help people out.”
For more information, please contact EDS Coordinator, Craig Dunbar at 613-241-1573 x 301.