Lifelong Skills from Volunteering

Lourdes 2018
2019 Lourdes Pilgrimage
February 15, 2019
Ambulance Corps Activities 2018
May 15, 2019

On Tuesday, March 26, the Waterford Unit of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps suffered a significant amount of damage to their premises, vehicles and their equipment. One of their ambulances, a 2010 VW Transporter, had a reversing camera forcibly removed from the back, damaging wiring and bodywork. A second ambulance received a broken window and its fire extinguisher removed, which was later used to smash a window at the front of the building. The intruder spent over 40 minutes in the third ambulance, ripping a camera monitor screen from its bracket, breaking a radio console bracket and causing thousands of euro worth of damage during a prolonged ransacking.

Following this incident, the Waterford Unit are fundraising to repair/replace the damaged equipment. In support, Dr. Laura Barry wrote a wonderful article for the Munster Express (16/04/19) giving her experience of being a volunteer with the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps and how it helped her achieve her professional dreams. Dr. Barry works in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow and is a native of Waterford.


By Laura Barry

On the morning of March 26th, I woke to read the shocking and yet senseless news of the break in at the Order of Malta Headquarters in Waterford. This attack was cold, pointless, callous and costly.

As the Order of Malta moves towards its 80th year of providing a vital role in our community, this ransacking has lead to a deep sense of upset and frustration amongst its members and the people of Waterford.

It was May 1999 that I first passed by basic first aid course. I remember it vividly; the late Jimmy Fennessy every Saturday morning teaching about triangular bandages, the recovery position, CPR and many other vital skills that now, 20 years later I still use these skills as an Intensive Care and Anaesthetic Doctor. However, it wasn’t just that basic first aid course that ignited my curiosity for medicine, it was the non-technical skills that the Order of Malta gave me which provided skills for life. As a cadet you learned about discipline, integrity, responsibility and punctuality.

Whilst Fr. Tom Rogers, a long serving member of the Order recently commented that I am still struggling with the latter after I showed up 20 minutes late for a coffee, these skills were embedded into the ethos of the Waterford Unit and without a doubt, taught me how to communicate effectively, the rewards of team work and also, and aptly for my medical career how to lead a team under pressure.

As I became more involved in the unit, I loved spending time “on duty” at many of the sporting events around the city and county. Many days were spent at Walsh Park, Spraoi, the Tall Ship events, equestrian events, rally racing in Wexford, athletics, marathons, charity swims, horseracing in Tramore to mention just a few. In addition to this, as a unit we often gave a strong attendance at national events, my most memorable being the Special Olympics in Dublin.

However, whilst most of us are aware of the presence of the unit at many of these public events, it is often the quieter and more private duties that truly reflect the volunteering spirit of those involved with this Ambulance Corps; the transfer of a sick patient to another hospital up and down the country, the transfer of a relative from a nursing home to spend Christmas with their family or simply, numerous hours standing in the cold raising money for the unit to enable the purchasing of equipment, uniforms or to further the training of its members.

The recent events at the Waterford Headquarters left me feel saddened and sickened at the actions of one person’s attack on this charitable organisation.

Whilst the unit does fundraise throughout the year, this attack has caused significant damage to their vehicles, equipment and charitable spirit, none of which will have been accounted for in the usual fundraising that the unit requires. Urine, blood splatters and glass has meant a lot of equipment needs replaced.

Vehicles need significant repairs and the headquarters itself needs made safe by the installation of a new fence and the building itself needs deep cleaned. All of the above requires money and most importantly, the time of its volunteers.

As the news filtered in about this attack, it was both enlightening and uplifting to see the response of both its current and past members. In addition, many of the people of Waterford have helped with either donations or repairs.

Whilst the actions of one person hampered the service and the spirit of the unit temporarily, the larger reaction was to rebuild an organisation that is at the permanent heart of the Waterford community.

A fundraising page has been set up online with the goal of reaching €12,000 to help cover the cost of the above needs and it has been overwhelming to see the response of the Waterford people.

Without the Order of Malta, I alongside many of its past and current members would undoubtedly not have gone on to achieve my dreams. Whilst we now may be scattered throughout the world, we have a common bond that binds us together and we owe an infinite amount of thanks to the volunteers, some of whom are no longer with us but fondly remembered, who gave up their time, skills and knowledge to train and teach us in the values of the Order of Malta here in Waterford.

At every stage of my medical career the Order of Malta has played a role; from applying that triangular bandage to the surprise of my medical colleagues or easily identifying a shrader valve in the back of an ambulance, the Order of Malta has provided me and its volunteers life long skills and life long friends that I, its members and the people of Waterford County and City will be forever in debt for.

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Source: The Munster Express. Published 16th April 2019

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