JIBC firefighting graduates eager to support firefighting training in Central America

2015 One World Scholars Depart YVRRecent JIBC firefighting graduates Conrad Callagher, Nolan Pick, Ben Gutowski and Steve Oishi depart Vancouver International Airport February 8, 2015 to support firefighter training in Panama. (Submitted photo; story by Richard Chu)


Each year, four JIBC firefighting graduates have a special opportunity to gain valuable experience and make a difference overseas through a special course called Fire Protection in the Global Community.

Graduates of JIBC’s firefighting pre-employment certificate program apply for this unique course that includes a three-week deployment in Central America to support instructors from the Fire Rescue International Training Association (FRITA) as they provide firefighting training in the region. Students selected for the course receive the Irving K. Barber One World International Scholarship administered by the Victoria Foundation, and additional support from JIBC for the Central American deployment.

“It’s fair to say that the days are long and packed with activities and experiences,” said Kim Saulnier, a firefighter from Coquitlam Fire & Rescue and this year’s lead instructor for the course. “The aim is to instil a sense of connectedness to firefighters in the global community and gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the career these four graduates have chosen.” 

An intense few months

The program begins in January each year when the graduates begin work on a number of online assignments and discussions prior to their three-week deployment in Central America. For the first four years of the program, participants were deployed to El Salvador. In 2014 and 2015, the team will be deployed to Panama.

The first part of the deployment is an intensive Spanish language program that includes language class in the morning and an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the afternoon as they tour regional fire halls in the country. During the fire hall visits, the JIBC graduates present and demonstrate basic firefighting techniques to civilians and local firefighters called bomberos.

The graduates are also tasked with creating a fire safety plan for a local organization. This year, they will be creating a plan for the Jungla de Panama Wildlife Reserve.

After about two weeks acclimating to the local language and culture, the graduates will join the FRITA deployment team and support the training program for local bomberos.

Panamanian bomberos


The 2015 team

This year’s team left for Panama on February 8 and includes two graduates from Surrey, B.C., one from Kelowna, B.C., and one from Shelburne, Ontario that currently resides in Kelowna. All of the recent career firefighter pre-employment program graduates can’t wait to get on the ground to support the firefighting training needs in Panama.

Nolan Pick, 22, from Surrey, B.C., said, “I applied for the One World Scholarship because I knew it would be a once in lifetime opportunity. Only a handful of students get to do this each year, and I am very excited to be selected. I hope to learn how a fire department in a completely different region of the world functions compared to one here. I hope that our lessons given to the Panamanian firefighters will allow them to be more effective at their job.”

Conrad Gallagher, 22, a Surrey resident currently working in Saskatoon, said, “I feel we should always be educating and lending a hand to those who may not have the opportunity to have the same advanced training and education as we have had. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I knew I would regret it if I passed up on this!”

Steve Oishi, 24, from Kelowna, B.C., said, “The One World Scholarship is a chance to gain unique fire service experience while getting to travel and help educate others. I hope to come out of this with a broader perspective on the fire service and make a meaningful impact on the bomberos.”

Ben Gutowski, 31, originally from Shelburne, Ontario, said, “By studying in the Fire Protection in the Global Community course, I would like to help Panamanian firefighters improve their level of training and job safety. Although our countries are very different, I expect that our common desire to help people as firefighters will bring us together and build strong relationships.”

The One World Scholarship recipients will be documenting their experience online next month. To follow their activities during their deployment, visit the One World Scholarship & Fire Protection in the Global Community Facebook page

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