The Kaua‘i branch of the Medical Reserve Corps has 127 volunteers.
Of that, one volunteer is assisting with houseless outreach. Some are assisting with meal delivery for those in isolation and quarantine.
Over a dozen volunteers have received contact tracing and are standby in case they’re needed. And during Hurricane Douglas, 11 were deployed to assist at shelter sites.
The Medical Reserve Corps is a national network of local volunteers including public health professionals and community volunteers with, or without, health care training, who respond to community health needs. During the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve stepped up to provide the county with much-needed assistance.
“We are so fortunate to have a pool of medical and non-medical volunteers who are on standby to assist with the COVID-19 response efforts, even during another crisis (Hurricane Douglas) within a pandemic,” Cynthia Chiang, Public Health Preparedness Educator with the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, said. “We have seen a sizeable bump in signups during these past months and it is really a testament to Kaua’i and our collective mindset as a close community helping each other.”
Volunteer Richard Stevens, a registered nurse, has been a KMRC member for about a month volunteers with houseless outreach at county beach parks, providing basic first aid.
“The houseless population has many challenges facing them,” Stevens said. “Everyone I have been in contact with has appreciated the care they received. All of the other volunteers make the experience very rewarding.”
When Hurricane Douglas posed a threat, he was station at Kapa‘a Middle School, screening the houseless population and addressing cuts, promoting health and treating those who needed help.
Alongside Stevens was Eric Schroll, who is also an informational specialist with the Kaua‘i District Health Office. Schroll has volunteered with KMRC for about five years. He’s a non-medical tech, but has been trained in CPR, grief and trauma counseling and American Sign Language. Schroll, who has his ham radio license also lends a hand with communications during emergencies.
“It was very rewarding to assist the houseless and other families in need during a crisis,” Schroll said.
KMRC typically helps with many community health events, like Tropic Care and the Stop Flu at School campaigns. With those canceled, KMRC volunteers are still
“…The ongoing COVID-19 response efforts and participation from KMRC have made us so appreciative of their willingness to serve, even as some volunteers fall into high-risk groups for severe disease from COVID-19,” Chiang said. “Luckily, many tasks have been designed to be no risk to participants or can be done remotely. We are so grateful for any and all contributions each volunteer makes to serve our island when it is needed the most.”
Winnie Lis-Tamura is a long-time KMRC member. Recently, she was honored by the county as one of Kaua’i’s 2020 Outstanding Older Americans for her service with KMRC, as well as Project Vision Hawai‘i, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, Community Emergency Response Team, Chiang said.
Erin Carrington, a physician assistant began volunteering within the last year. During the recent storm, she and another volunteer helped to provide basic health care and medical oversight at a neighborhood shelter.
“The challenges included social distancing, screening and extra cleaning due to COVID-19 concerns,” Carrington said. “Many came from houseless situations. Everyone was kind and helpful as we sheltered together. I really enjoyed meeting the people who came to shelter and hearing about their lives and situations.”
That night, Carrington said, somebody said, “There is a reason we were all brought together.”
Reflecting on that, Carrington said, “Empathy starts with understanding. It was a good reminder that we are all in this together.”