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Cleaning ambulances as a Red Cross volunteer

Cleaning ambulances as a Red Cross volunteer


Archive Thierry Bleijswijk

Thierry Bleijswijk, master’s student of Public Policy and Human Development, has been a volunteer with the Netherlands Red Cross for four years. He usually works at music festival Pinkpop or André Rieu concerts, but he’s currently doing volunteer work at the hospital. “We support health care professionals in their work”, says Bleijswijk. “We’re not directly involved with patient care yet. We don’t yet know whether we’ll be helping out at the temporary emergency hospital in MECC Maastricht.”

Last weekend, he helped out at the ambulance service. “I cleaned and restocked the ambulances while the paramedics dropped off their patients at the hospital. Paramedics usually do this work themselves. Having someone else do it reduces the turnover time [the interval of time between ambulance arrival and the moment the ambulance becomes available for another call] by twenty minutes.”

Does he still have time for his studies? “Yes. People may think that Red Cross volunteers are helping out full-time now, but that’s not the case. I think I spend about ten to fifteen hours per week volunteering. The Dutch health care system is very professional. Health care activities are preferably performed by professionals rather than untrained people like me.”

All his courses are being taught through Zoom at the moment. “There’s less interaction than in the classroom, but it’s going well.” He’s worried about his thesis, though. “I want to find out how to improve the cooperation between the Netherlands Ministry of Defence and humanitarian aid organizations like the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and [Dutch Oxfam affiliate] Oxfam Novib. I’ll have to carry out a lot of interviews. I could use Skype or Zoom to do so, but I prefer to talk to people face-to-face. It makes it easier to see their reactions and to ask follow-up questions.”

Many students have left Maastricht in the past few weeks, but Bleijswijk still lives in his student room. “My parents live in Lombardy. We moved there for my dad’s job when I was about twelve years old. Fortunately, the virus hasn’t affected them personally, but it’s chaos where they live. My dad’s work has come to a halt and sometimes they have to queue for the supermarket for as long as two hours.”

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