Diane Meinholz and Paul Wittkamp | May 22, 2012
Paul Wittkamp and Diane Meinholz volunteer to teach EMC skills to students in Uzbekistan. Here are their stories.
and Diane Meinholz
volunteer to teach EMS
skills to students in Uzbekistan
. Here are their stories.
I volunteer as an EMT one or two nights per week. A friend of mine and fellow EMT and crew-member, Diane Meinholz, has done trips with MTI in the past. She suggested I check out the MTI web site and monitor the volunteer opportunities. When I saw the Uzbekistan opportunity and saw how it really captured my skill set, I couldn't pass it by. I knew this trip would be rewarding, but I had no idea it would be this good!
What marvelous people to work with, including the staff. All of the students I was involved with really had a passion to learn and improve themselves so that they in turn could help others. I heard comments from the fire fighters we worked with about all of the situations they had seen and been involved with. They explained how it troubled them to not know how to properly care for their neighbors, the victims and patients. Now they feel they really have the ability to make that first positive impact. I think all of us are very gratified that we are blessed with the knowledge and skills that these responders need and were put in a position to be able to help. God's plan in action!
I was very honored by these students. Never having met a one of them in the past, we became part of their "family" after just a few days. The fire fighters started to call me "Brother Paul." I'm sure this is a title that is not given lightly. Even without a common language, it was obvious we were communicating through our common respect and bond.
Going to Uzbekistan dispelled a lot of preconceived ideas. I heard several times from very educated people how the firemen were "simple people". At first that bothered me. I thought it was meant in a derogatory manner. I also got the impression that a woman teaching firefighters seemed like a nontraditional role. This bothered me for about 30 seconds as the firefighters wanted to know all there was to know to help others. They were so eager to learn and try and do the tasks asked of them correctly. I was very impressed with them. Firefighters and first responders are a light when someone’s day goes dark with tragedy. If that's makes them and myself "simple," then I'm very proud to be simple!
Since I've been back in the states and have told my stories to people, one question everyone inevitably asks, "Would you do it again?" The answer is a very resounding, "YES! In a heartbeat.”
I want to thank you and the Uzbekistan Medical Teams International and all the firefighters for giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience. I do hope one day to return.