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Published: 06 March 2023

Class of 2022 Paramedic Science alumnus, Finlay Maguire, has recently been involved in humanitarian aid effort in Ukraine as part of Outreach Paramedics, a UK-based non-profit organisation made up entirely of unpaid volunteers, paramedics and other health professionals.

Here he shares his experience as part of the team, how his time at St George’s helped prepare him for the mission, and his plans for the future.

I wanted to use the skills I learned during my degree

Speaking about how he first got involved as a volunteer in Ukraine, Fin says:

“A friend of mine, Faye Shepherd, is the co-founder of Outreach Paramedics. She had volunteered for other charities in the past by driving ambulances to the Poland-Ukraine border, and decided that she wanted to do more so that health professionals could also provide medical support to areas of conflict.

I’ve always had an interest in humanitarian work, and I wanted to use the skills I learned during my degree at St George’s to give back to those most in need of help, so decided to join Outreach Paramedics on their first mission to Ukraine earlier this year.

- Fin -

Fin was one of team of four, made up of search and rescue and road paramedics, who joined the mission. They fundraised ahead of their trip through events including bake sales and telethons, and a local team of firefighters also supported the mission by organising a sponsored run across Tamar Bridge in Plymouth in full firefighting kit. The money raised helped fund two full ambulances and one ton of medical supplies. 

Helping save a lot more lives

The team left from Saltash in Cornwall and drove across to Ukraine, travelling by ferry to France from Dover. Once they arrived in Ukraine, they spent just over two weeks touring central Ukraine and training local firefighters. Fin explains:

Firefighters are often the first on scene to medical incidents, but they receive very little medical training, so our team helped train them in emergency care. Every single day we were there, we went to a different fire station. We knew that by sharing these medical skills, and helping these firefighters pass them on to colleagues, we were potentially helping save a lot more lives.

- Fin -

The team were the first humanitarian workers to provide aid in the region of Khmelnytskyi. The original mission was to train 120 firefighters, and by the end of the mission the team had trained almost 170.

Reflect on the teaching I'd received

Reflecting on how his time at St George’s had helped prepare him for his role as a volunteer, Fin says:

“Our team only had one translator, so we soon realised that we would need to deliver one session to the whole group, rather than using different teaching stations as we’d originally planned. My role was to deliver training as the main speaker of the group, with the help of the translator, while the rest demonstrated.

My time as a Paramedic Science student helped equip me with the skills I needed to train the firefighters effectively, and as a recent graduate I was also able to reflect on the teaching I'd received and use this experience to share information in the most effective way.

- Fin -

Family members on the front line

Reflecting on his experience in Ukraine, Fin says: “We were extremely welcomed by the Ukrainian people we met, and they really appreciated being able to learn from us. We would all have a meal with the firefighters every evening. It was incredible, and very inspiring, to hear some of their stories about what they had been through, and about some of their family members on the front line.”

On one of the days we were delivering training, we had to crowd into a bunker when we found out about an inbound missile. The firefighters were so determined to keep learning that they brought our medical equipment down with them and just carried on training.

- Fin -

The first mission carried out by Outreach Paramedics was featured in several media outlets, including ITV news, helping raise awareness of the organisation’s work. Since the first mission, Outreach Paramedics have managed to receive enough donations to buy an escort vehicle and two more ambulances for a second mission, closer to Ukraine’s front line.

Make a real difference to people’s lives

Fin plans to be part of the team once again and says:

This time, things will be a bit different for me as a full-time Paramedic, but I am determined to go and am looking into swapping shifts or taking time off to make the trip possible. I hope to be able to continue balancing my role as a paramedic with more humanitarian work in the future. It gives you the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives and see the impact of your work first-hand, which are some of the things that first drew me to being a paramedic.

- Fin -

Last week, Outreach Paramedics received the sad news that one of the fire stations where they had delivered training had suffered a missile strike, resulting in the loss of two lives. Our thoughts go out to those directly affected, and to those who have friends and family in Ukraine.

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