With so many crises in the world right now, we are all looking for reasons to be optimistic—and for ways that we can help. I will always cherish the hope and community spirit I have experienced at volunteer aid-packing events run by GlobalMedic at its base in Etobicoke.
Rahul Singh, founder and executive director of the humanitarian relief organization, explains: “Everyone’s there for the mission—whether it’s packing the aid, moving it, getting the team to the airport, or getting the aid delivered in the field. But when you start looking past the mission, you realize that we have all genders, all ages, all ethnicities, all educational backgrounds, all political views. We make all these glorious, grandiose statements about Canada, like how diversity is our strength; the dream of inclusivity is actually played out right here.”
Singh, who was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2012, founded GlobalMedic in 1998 as the David McAntony Gibson Foundation, in honour of his best friend, who had died earlier that year. Singh was working as a paramedic in his native Montreal, and he became determined to bring much-needed skills and aid to places wracked by conflict and catastrophe. The organization started by offering training—for instance, enabling landmine clearance personnel to become paramedics in Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
When Singh moved to Toronto to take up full-time paramedic work, he found a wonderful opportunity to grow his organization. “In the city of Toronto,” says Singh, “more than half the population does not speak English as a first language. Our people are from everywhere, and they care.” GlobalMedic’s first full-fledged disaster mission was to Grenada in 2004, to help residents cope with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ivan; its second was to Sri Lanka, to help the wounded and displaced in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami.
GlobalMedic has since undertaken 240 missions around the world. Its largest current operation is in the Ukraine, and its teams in Poland, Romania, and Moldova are feeding and giving shelter to refugees, as well as crossing the border to deliver aid.
One hallmark of GlobalMedic’s work is made-in-Ontario innovation, and Singh and his team have been working with paramedic and film students at his alma mater, Humber College, to make instructional videos that teach people in the Ukraine how to use first-aid kits. “The young people on camera are three weeks away from graduating,” says Singh, “and they’re helping strangers they’ll never meet. It could be the single most impactful thing that they ever do.”
GlobalMedic is also helping at home in Ontario. It has just opened a vertical farm in Oakville to grow microgreens for food banks. And since the outset of the pandemic, it has helped approximately 250,000 people get vaccinations by supporting clinics in hotspot areas and underserved neighbourhoods, and has offered food and hygiene kits to those in need.
The theme of this year’s World Health Day, which we recently celebrated on April 7, was “Our planet, our health.” With their inspiring work at home and abroad, Rahul Singh and GlobalMedic are strengthening the connections between the local and the global, between Ontario and the world. By building community, they are building resilience.
— The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
One of a Lieutenant Governor’s great privileges is to celebrate Ontarians from all backgrounds and corners of the province. Ontario’s honours and awards formally and publicly acknowledge the excellence, achievements, and contributions of role models from all walks of life. In doing so, they strengthen the fabric of communities and shape the aspirations of Ontarians. On April 25th, it will be my honour to invest the 2019 appointees of the Order of Ontario at a special ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Learn how to nominate someone for the Order of Ontario here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/order-ontario#section-3