Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
Toronto-based charitable organization GlobalMedic was a pretty easy pick for Hero this year. The group was founded by Toronto paramedic Rahul Singh in 1998 as a tribute to a fellow emergency worker who lost his life, with a stated mission of being “an efficient aid agency that delivers the maximum amount of aid with a minimum operating cost.” But that dry corporate statement doesn’t do justice to the work GlobalMedic does.
GlobalMedic teams routinely fly around the world and put themselves in harm’s way to help people who’ve been hit by catastrophe, both natural and human-created. Since 1998, GlobalMedic has sent teams of volunteer EMS workers (typically using vacation days from their day jobs) on more than fifty missions to disaster areas across the globe, including war zones in Sri Lanka and Gaza, post-earthquake Haiti, and parts of Pakistan devastated by floods. In keeping with their first-responder roots, they’re often among the earliest aid agencies on the ground, where they set up field hospitals, water purification facilities, and other basic resources to keep people alive. Equally importantly, they train locals in the tools and techniques of disaster relief and emergency medicine, so that the effort can be sustained after GlobalMedic leaves.
When not globe-trotting to places where Sandals hasn’t yet set up shop, GlobalMedic also does work closer to home. Along with other emergency workers, they collected and delivered clothes and household items to residents forced out of their homes by the massive fire at 200 Wellesley Street East back in September, and they also work with other charities to give toys to low-income kids during the holiday season.
Founder Singh and his organization have been widely recognized for their work, receiving awards from Canadian politicians as diverse as Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty, and David Miller. Earlier this year Singh was named in the “Heroes” section of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People” feature, sharing the list with luminaries like Bill Clinton and Serena Williams. In true hero fashion, a self-deprecating Singh talked to the Star about the honour, crediting team members for the group’s success. “I’m… going to a gala next week in New York to be honoured. This is not wing night at the local pub,” he said. “I’m in a little over my head.” And that, for a man like Singh, is saying a lot.
In addition to donations, GlobalMedic is also in the market for all kinds of supplies, from communications gear to uniforms to emergency medical equipment and medicine. If you want to help out, a more exhaustive list and contact information can be found here.