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Medical Reserve Corps Seeks Youth Volunteers

From the Barnstable Patriot

“Post 9/11,” although the phrase brings horrific memories for their elders, can bring a new meaning now for young people who want to help their neighbors and probe possible careers in health care.

Post 9/11 is the identity of a new Explorer troop for ages 14 to 19 for youth who are thinking about a future in a medical profession, or who want to help in emergencies and disasters.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps will host an open house for the new Explorer post. The event will offer, for about an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m., an introduction, a problem-solving experience, a first-aid activity, and refreshments. It will take place at the old county jail, now a county office on the hill above the parking lot, on Route 6A in Barnstable Village.

Explorer posts are a branch of the Boy Scout movement, but these groups are open to young people both male and female. The youth who choose to join the post will have a lot of say in its goals, according to its organizers, Jean M. Roma, director of the Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps, and Susan Rask, environmental health specialist for Barnstable County.

Roma said that she had thought of the idea of a junior corps a while ago but wasn’t sure how to organize it. When she called the scouting organization for some ideas, she said, she learned that through them she could start a post that would have organizational support such as liability insurance and access to activities on a larger scale such as ropes courses.

Roma and Rask share decades of youth work between them. Rask, who will be the advisor for the post, has been a coach for Destination Imagination (formerly Odyssey of the Mind) in the Barnstable public schools, and Roma has taught parenting and other health topics in the Archdiocese of Boston school system.

Although the women want the post to evolve into a “kid-driven” organization after about a year, they have some ideas to prime the pump to create a corps of young people who can offer meaningful service for community health.

First, they want to continue last summer’s “sun safety project” that sent volunteers to 14 Cape beaches, including Craigville, to distribute free sunscreen, T-shirts, beach balls, and other prizes to youngsters who took part in a brief educational session about the dangers of tanning.

Then, they want to teach post members how to put together a first aid kit. “We don’t just want to hand them a kit,” said Rask. “We want to work on the kit together, one piece at a time, to teach what the materials are and how to use them.”

The Explorers will also learn how to distribute an emergency preparedness bag that comes preprinted with a list of essentials that an individual or family would need during a natural or manmade disaster. Medication, food, cash, pet supplies, and even a whistle to signal for help are among the suggestions on the bag. “Our goal is to have the kids teach their neighbors, church groups, or other people they know how to be ready for emergencies,” Rask said.

A last goal for the post’s first year is to expose the youth to a variety of health professions. “Whatever interests them,” said Rask, who plans to organize the post along contemporary “incident command system” lines in which groups of about five people have responsibility for a specific task, such as public information.

The women also hope to offer the post opportunities to serve at a fire department’s “controlled burn” and at a triathlon this coming fall on Martha’s Vineyard to give them ways to learn about treating burns and dehydration.

Pre-registration for the open house is not required, but Roma and Rask welcome questions. They plan to hold meeting twice a month, probably from 6:30 to 8 p.m., on a day of the week that works for the youth who choose to join the post.

They also invite adults to apply as volunteers. “We have to empower the next generation,” Roma said.