Jackie Cassagnol, MSN, RN, PMC, a member of Sigma's Upsilon Chapter, is a recent recipient of the Jefferson Award for her work in Haiti and founding her organization, Worldwide Community First Responder. Jackie has great memories of spending time in Haiti with her family when she was younger. She is very passionate about giving back to the country because of those fond childhood memories. Her cultural background forged the person that she is today because education is paramount for Haitians.
What is Worldwide Community First Responder and how did it come to life?
Worldwide Community First Responder (WCFR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit/charitable organization that I founded in 2011 with a mission “to prevent deaths worldwide through education and training.” WCFR came to life when I was doing a session about first aid and first response in Grand-Goâve, Haiti, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. A student said, “If only we knew what you are teaching us now, fewer people would have died during the earthquake.” That statement brought me to where I am today. I knew then that I had to continue doing this type of lifesaving work and founded WCFR.
We are a diverse group of volunteers who put others first every day by providing health education, first aid, and disaster preparedness training free of charge. We believe that everyone should know what to do in case of an emergency and that nobody should die because they needed first aid they couldn’t get. Over the past nine years, WCFR has trained over 350,000 community members in critical lifesaving skills. Although WCFR continues to offer its services mainly in the US and Haiti, we have also provided our services in China, South Africa, and Ireland.
What’s been your favorite moment working with Worldwide Community First Responder?
My favorite moment has been when community members reported that they utilized the skills that they have learned from us to save lives. There are so many wonderful stories of people putting into action the training they receive.
What does the Jefferson Award mean to you? What does volunteering mean to you?
It was a great honor for me to represent Pace University as a recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award. I am so grateful to Pace University and Multiplying Good for recognizing extraordinary public service. For nearly half a century, the Jefferson Awards have been honoring those who put others first. This perfectly aligns with the purpose of WCFR. Volunteering at WCFR provides me with the opportunity to educate others and aide in saving lives. Our motto at WCFR says just that, “Teaching people, saving lives”. We have so many heroes out there empowered with lifesaving skills. This Jefferson Award helps us to acknowledge them all, and I was excited to receive this award on their behalf.
What’s next for you?
I am currently a PhD Candidate at Pace University. The title of my dissertation is Haitian Nurses’ Perceptions About Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Nursing. The purpose of my qualitative descriptive study is to explore Haitian nurses’ perceptions about disaster preparedness and disaster nursing. The goal is to provide insight into training programs tailored to assist those within vulnerable populations. The study aims to gain an understanding of Haitian nurses’ perceptions of their knowledge, roles, and skills about disaster preparedness and disaster nursing.
What advice would you give to nurses who find themselves in the middle of a disaster?
As a result of the increased frequency of global disasters, disaster preparedness training has become essential. Since nurses form the largest group of the healthcare workforce, they often find themselves on the frontline. While teaching disaster preparedness, the first thing I address with nurses is that safety is the number one priority. Assessing when to shelter in place or evacuate is important. Naturally, they should be adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills to respond to disasters. Nurses can find continuing education and competency development for disaster preparedness offered by several nursing and non-nursing organizations. When we as nurses are prepared, we can cope and help our communities recover from disasters better, faster, and stronger.
Jackie Cassagnol, MSN, RN, PMC, is the founder and president of Worldwide Community First Responder, Inc. in Nanuet, New York, USA. She was a recipient of the Jefferson Award last year. She is a member of Sigma’s Upsilon Chapter.