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September 15, 2008

Professional volunteers?

Today I have played host, on behalf of my former employer, to a group from Santiago in Chile. It may come as a surprise to most Europeans, but the Chilean cities are served by an entirely volunteer fire service. What is more they get some funding from the municipality they serve, but each member pays to belong to the service. Now that is novel!

But even more interesting is the fact that they draw their membership from university graduates, businessmen and generally middle class and well educated backgrounds. And that leads to the next little piece of interesting thinking. These guys are trying to find ways to put their people through our training regime - at their own expense. Why? Because they recognise the fact that, in order to meet the demands of a modern city they need to be at least as good as the professionals in other countries.

One thing is veryclear, these guys are entusiastic, they are determined to make a difference to their society and to provide a service that will be as good as they can make it. All power to them! It has been a privilege metting them and talking to them today. And I learned something else - my ancestors must have been busy and prolific. My surname is a common one in Chile and seems to have been carried there by an opportunist member of the clan. I wonder which one?

Posted by The Gray Monk at September 15, 2008 06:05 PM

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My town was served by all volunteer fire and ambulance service. Most of the volunteers were local business owners and had a vested interest in making sure the town was safe. Both times we had to use them we got better service then when we lived in the capitol. Our stove gas main broke and caught the pilot light, becoming a blow torch. The guy who used to own our house was a volunteer. He was driving by to the station and saw us flag him down. So he stopped knew were the gas cutoff was, he had his gear with him, went in and saved the house from 10 of thousand dollars worth of damage.

As a town we made sure there was money for refresher training every year with the "regular" fire services. Like a all volunteer military, the people are motivated by something more then a paycheck so end up giving more then 100%

Posted by: Skipjack at September 16, 2008 03:05 PM

I couldn't agree more - they have a vocation, not a job.

Posted by: The Gray Monk at September 16, 2008 06:20 PM

Somebody told me it's a "very Bahamaian" surname a few months ago - I guess she didn't know where it came from originally...

Posted by: Postulant at September 20, 2008 10:49 PM

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