Four Students One World
JIBC Fire & Safety graduates have experience of a lifetime in El Salvador
On January 7, 2012, after months of research and preparation, four JIBC Fire & Safety Division graduates – along with Firefighters Without Borders Canada – went to El Salvador to begin a challenging three-week deployment. The assignment was to train fire fighters in the Central American country, while learning how fire services operate in a developing country.
The four graduates of JIBC’s Career Fire Fighter Pre-Employment Certificate Program – Nicolas Alderliesten, Jenny Reid, David McLean, and Nicolas Andersen – were sponsored through the One World International Scholarship. Funding for the scholarship is from the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society in partnership with the Victoria Foundation, with matching funding from the JIBC Foundation.
Their first impressions of El Salvador were “wide eyes and gasps directed at opposing traffic and the local interpretations of the rules of the road,” said Nicolas Alderliesten. But they quickly adapted as they visted all 17 fire halls in El Salvador and assessed the resources departments had on hand, quickly realizing how fortunate Canadian fire fighters are to have the latest equipment. Some fire halls had only one fire engine and limited gear for the fire fighters. Despite the resource challenges it was inspiring to be greeted warmly by the Bomberos (fire fighters), who showed such pride in their work.
At the fire halls the One World scholars delivered presentations, tested blood pressure of the local firefighters, and participated in calls. These calls gave them a glimpse of how fire crews operate in El Salvador. “I learned that firefighters did not wear liners of their personal protective equipment. This was shocking,” said Nicolas Andersen. But he quickly understood why this was the case: it was simply too hot in El Salvador’s climate.
They never anticipated that part of their job would include responding to a killer bee call. This entailed “laddering a building, dousing the bees in cocktail not enjoyed at happy hour and macheting the remainder for good measure,” said David McLean. The firefighters of El Salvador adapt to the challenges, as did the four JIBC graduates.
After visiting the fire halls, intensive training began for the El Salvadorian fire fighters. The JIBC grads were responsible for teaching the fire fighters the importance, limitations, and proper usage of personal protective gear as well as lessons on ladders and hose handling. By the end of the week the JIBC grads were able to see their training put into action by the local fire fighters, who demonstrated the skills and decision-making they had learned. The JIBC grads had a central role in a live fire exercise, starting, building, and stoking the inferno for the onrushing hose teams.
Senator Larry Campbell also travelled to El Salvador along with the fire fighters and was instrumental in helping Vancouver Fire bring a fire engine to donate to one of the fire halls. At a presentation on the trip by the four One World Scholarship recipients held at JIBC’s New Westminster campus in March, Senator Campbell praised them for their teamwork. “They moved in sync with each other and they worked as a team.” Senator Campbell also applauded JIBC’s support of the One World program. “To have the Justice Institute involved in this is just tremendous, because it allows the Justice Institute to give students such as this the opportunity to go out there into the real world.”
Although there were challenges such as the language barrier, the JIBC grads gained a deep understanding of the issues at stake in El Salvador. “Overall it was a huge learning experience both for the Bomberos and also for the JIBC grads,” said Nicolas Alderliesten, who along with the other three One World recipients documented their experience through a blog that they updated throughout the trip.
“Over the three weeks we learned a great deal about ourselves, the Fire Service, and El Salvador,” said Jenny Reid. “We pushed our limits; we were challenged every day, and made wonderful new friends. It was truly an experience we will never forget.”
Last updated September 19, 2012