JIBC firefighting grads make a difference in Belize

2016_OneWorldBelize_Collage1-blog-600x300smFive recent JIBC graduates of the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate Program provided firefighter training in Belize earlier this year (Story by Richard Chu).


Each year, JIBC’s firefighting graduates have an opportunity to apply for a special course where they travel overseas to support basic firefighter training in a developing country.

This year, five students had the opportunity to travel to Belize on a three-week deployment that saw them travel across the country to visit each of the country’s 17 local fire halls, train local firefighters, and get involved in the community.

This special program is made possible with support from the Fire Rescue International Training Association (FRITA) and student scholarships from the Irving K. Barber One World International Scholarship administered by the Victoria Foundation with additional support from JIBC.

For each of this year’s One World Scholarship recipients, the experience was an eye-opening one that made a significant impression in their lives.

“We traveled to all the different fire halls, and we quickly realized that while they don’t have all the equipment that we have at home, they have the same passion that firefighters here have: they want to go to work and are proud of being a firefighter,” said Cody DiSalvo, one of this year’s One World students who was among the other JIBC graduates who shared their experience in a presentation at the New Westminster Campus in April. “It inspired all of us, to be proud about what we were doing. We had a great experience and learned a lot.”


Firefighting grads get involved in the local community

2016_04APR_OneWorldCommunity-collage-600x300bTeaching students at a local elementary school important fire safety tips and helping to clean a local playground were some of the community activities this year’s One World Scholars initiated on deployment in Belize.


The opportunity to travel to a different part of the world and be immersed in the local culture was a highlight of the deployment for the One World Scholars. Despite being the only Central American country where the official language is English, Belize nevertheless has a rich cultural diversity for a country smaller than Vancouver Island.

As the One World Scholars traveled the country, they remained heavily involved in the communities they visited. One highlight was visiting a local school where the team spoke to 450 elementary school students teaching them basic fire safety tips. After the presentations, they helped clean up a local playground that was littered with garbage and dangerous objects like broken glass and razor blades. They also had the opportunity to meet with local law enforcement to help improve their building evacuation policies and procedures.

“Working in the community as a firefighter is one of the biggest and best parts of the job,” said Cody. “During our time there, we were able to do a lot of that.”


Supporting firefighter training across Belize

2016_04APR_OneWorldTrainingCollage1200x600smJIBC’s firefighting graduates traveled to all 17 fire halls to provide training for firefighters in the Belize National Fire Service and supported training provided by Fire Rescue International Training Association (FRITA).


Being able to experience how firefighters in Belize handle their unique challenges was an invaluable experience for the JIBC graduates.

As they traveled the country, they realized just how challenging the situation is for members of the Belize National Fire Service. Jacob Woronuik noted that most fire halls were very small, often with a single truck bay for an old fire truck that was likely donated from fire departments in other parts of the world like the U.K., Germany or the U.S. And within each truck, there was a minimal amount of firefighting gear. Many fire halls also had limited staff, usually one or two firefighters on duty at any given time. But despite these limitations, Jacob noted the dedication of each member of the Fire Service.

“In every fire hall we visited around the country, they were always eager to learn,” he said. “they wanted to get involved; they wanted to know everything we had to share. They just wanted to keep training.”

During the last week of their deployment, the One World Scholars worked with Metro Vancouver firefighters from FRITA who provided training in various areas such as Fire Investigation, Incident Command Training. Fire Prevention, Inspection and Public Education, Emergency Vehicle Operations, and tactics for putting out a liquid petroleum gas fire.

A trip that will leave a lasting impact

The deployment to Belize left an indelible impression on this year’s team.

David Mathieson noted that despite the challenges people face in the country, “they are still such a happy people and the personalities are unbelievable, he said. “It was amazing to go there. This was a truly unbelievable opportunity to be able to see Belize, work with the Belizean fire service and help teach with FRITA.”

For Sean Campbell, the advice from one of the firefighters the team met stuck with him.

“We went to the farthest south station you can go to, and the one firefighter we met there, he said to me, ‘The day you stop training for success is the day you start training for failure,” Sean recalled. “It was remarkable to see what little they had to work with, yet their passion for the job was higher than what we could even imagine.”

For Arseni Oursov, the trip gave him the opportunity to make a difference in the community.

“It was great to be able to share my experience in the [JIBC] fire academy,” he said. “Travelling across the whole country and visiting the fire halls and doing a presentation at each hall was truly amazing. I’ll never forget this experience. I have learned so much, not only in firefighting, but I have gained invaluable life experience and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Visit the One World Scholarship webpage for more information about the requirements of the award that is available to recent graduates of JIBC’s Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate Program. For more information about JIBC’s firefighter training programs, visit the Fire & Safety Division webpage or contact the Division at fire@jibc.ca.

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