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This article was first published 14 years ago  » News » Rahul Singh: The unassuming face of aid in Haiti

Rahul Singh: The unassuming face of aid in Haiti

By Ajit Jain
May 14, 2010 21:25 IST
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Rahul Singh, who rubs shoulders with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton on Time's list, takes unpaid leave to help the needy, discovers Ajit Jain

Toronto's Rahul Singh shares space on Time magazine's 2010 list of 100 most influential people, with the likes of United States President Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, etc. Singh has been ranked 22nd in the heroes category, along with three other Indians--humanitarian worker Dr Perumalsamy Namperumalsam (6th), cricketer Sachin Tendulkar (13th) and entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (16th).

Singh, a paramedic, is the director of GlobalMedic, a charity he established 12 years ago for major disaster relief. "I feel honoured and touched," he told "This recognition is not for me as an individual, but for the wonderful work that our 400 volunteers are doing. I am just a face taking the award."

He will join the 99 other luminaries on the list at Time's gala next week in New York City. In its essay on Singh, Time highlighted his work in Haiti. "We put up two field hospitals and distributed million dollars worth of medicines," Singh said. "We installed 60 water purification machines and distributed 5 million water purification tablets. We are giving 150,000 liters of clean drinking water there and so far have purified 12 million liters of water. We were sending our volunteers on motorcycles with water purification machines to cities where cars couldn't move during that period. We also installed 39 power generators."

A Time reporter in Haiti "saw GlobalMedic's work. He was impressed and started talking to us. Maybe he recommended our name," Singh said. Singh and his team have gone to 50 disaster areas in the past five years. Wherever they go, they create a cadre of volunteers, Singh said. "We train them so that they can then look after disaster in their own country and neighborhood. We have done this in the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, etcÂ… It is easier for us to send people from the same region and neighboring countries rather than all the way from Canada. Once those volunteers are there, if the disaster is of such a magnitude that they can't handle it, they can advise us and we will be on our way."

There has been no emergency call for GlobalMedic from India. "India is self-sufficient," Singh said. "And there hasn't been any major disaster (in the recent past), but we are willing to leave on short notice in case there is a need."

Singh, whose father is Delhi-born and mother from Quetta, Pakistan, is a fulltime paramedic. He and his volunteers "take unpaid leave and use their vacations to do this work." The expenses of flying across the world, stay and food are tacked with help from airlines and others. "Many airlines give us free travel. For example, Sky Service of Air Canada took us on their cargo plane to Haiti," Singh said. "Wherever we go, we pitch tents, or sleep in a hospital. Any kind of inexpensive food is good for us."

He said corporate Canada had reservations, as more than 80 percent of money businesses give to charities is spent on administration. "They give a generator, but are not sure whether it will reach the people for whom it is intended," he added. "Corporate Canada supported our efforts (in Haiti), as they know if they give GlobalMedic a generator on Tuesday morning, it will be on the plane Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday it will be installed in Haiti."

For Haiti, Singh was disappointed that GlobalMedic didn't get any help from the Canadian International Development Agency. "They helped us in some of our earlier projects, but not this time," he said.

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