When I was a kid, I was in awe of first responders. At 15, I joined the Youth Corps of my hometown ambulance squad to learn First Aid. When the crew answered an emergency call, I rode in the ambulance with them. The best part was when we came to a stop. Once the doors of the ambulance opened, what happened next could be life changing.
Millions of brave women and men make their living or volunteer their time helping people in crisis, often risking their lives in the process, not once, but over and over—floods, traffic accidents, or pulling someone to safety from a burning building. For the average person, it could be devastating to experience just one of those events in a lifetime. For a first responder, that could be any day of the week. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Google’s announcement today, especially in light of the series of recent natural disasters in the US and around the world.
We wanted to find a meaningful way to thank first responders, one that would be as valuable to them as their work has been to us. From our research and from talking to organizations that work with these men and women, we know that being brave and strong doesn’t mean first responders aren’t impacted by the stress of their jobs. Many first responders struggle with the memories of those they didn’t save or the traumas they witnessed.
The First Responder Support Network (FRSN) was developed by and for first responders. Their goal is to provide education and assistance to those still recovering from incidents that impact their day-to-day life and thoughts, such as a child who didn’t make it or a wounded colleague.
Pat Green, FRSN.org’s executive director, told my colleague at Google: “It’s hard for a first responder to ask for help. I know this from personal experience. Together with our volunteers we provide understanding, hope, and a community of care, letting others know they don’t have to walk this journey alone."
FRSN’s one-week residential programs offer first responders access to counselors attuned to their unique experiences with a 2:1 ratio of volunteer peers who can share how they coped with similar situations. The waiting list for these programs is up to six months long.
Today we are granting $1 million to help the First Responder Support Network extend the reach of its programs. We will help expand its operations in Missouri, Arizona and Oregon, as well as help them open in two new locations by 2020. In addition, we will fund 80 scholarships for first responders who might not otherwise be able to attend the program.
I consider it a privilege to have worked side by side with first responders from my years as an emergency medical services (EMS) volunteer to my recent work with the Google.org Crisis Connectivity program. Now I want to say thank you to first responders for all you do to keep our communities safe.