By Aaron Hochman-Zimmerman, EMT-B

June 10, 2013 – When Alberta Health Services EMS announced that it would be replacing its uniforms, Calgary paramedic Geoff McEwen saw a small opportunity to make a big difference, and he set out to collect his colleagues’ high-quality EMS uniforms to offer as a donation to Trek Medics’ on-going EMS development programs.

Aquin ÉCRU with new uniforms donated by Alberta Health Services

Aquin ÉCRU with new uniforms donated by Alberta Health Services

The initial idea for the collection, McEwen said, was spurred by the realization that, “I had eight full sets of uniforms in parade-ready condition and only wore two per week.” So when the Calgary EMS agency fell under the authority of the provincial Alberta Health Services, the agency’s color changed from blue to green, leaving a surplus of unused uniforms. “I felt that the uniforms could be better used by an agency with limited means than in our closets,” said the seven-year paramedic. With that in mind, McEwen began searching the Internet to look for an agency that would benefit from the uniforms and found Trek Medics International. While he hadn’t had previous contact with them, the organization’s mission turned out to be exactly what he was looking for.

When Small Donations Add Up To Big Results

Before starting the collection, McEwen sought approval from Alberta Health Services’ management, who was more than happy to approve the request. “Being able to give our retired uniforms to a developing area of the world – and knowing that they would go to good use – is very satisfying for our employees” said Adam Loria, a paramedic and the Public Education Officer for Alberta Health Services’ Emergency Medical Services.


Once approved, McEwen spread the word among his colleagues through an agency-wide mailer and by word-of-mouth. “People began responding immediately,” McEwen recalled. “I placed the donation boxes throughout the [city’s EMS halls] and kept on people for the next 2 weeks to donate, including picking them up from people’s houses and having them dropped off at mine. At the end of the two weeks, I went and collected the collection boxes and began the process of organizing and sorting the uniforms. There were some in pretty rough shape that I really didn’t feel were appropriate to be donated – it’s something people are going to wear with pride so should they look that same way.”

In total, McEwen was able to collect over 150 uniforms and other accessories, valued at nearly $3,000. And thanks to the Calgary paramedics’ overwhelming generosity, McEwen was able to collect enough uniforms to outfit two EMS programs in rural communities with limited resources.

New Uniforms for a New System

Creating partnerships where communities can develop and independently run their own EMS systems is at the core of what Trek Medics tries to accomplish. And as both professional and volunteer EMS professionals alike can attest to, a uniform can have an immeasurable effect on unit morale and recognition among the community. “Uniforms make us part of a distinguished group,” McEwen noted, “and it gives people in the community a feeling of trust; that you’re the one the community can look to for help, and who they can rely on.”


“Green or blue we’re delighted to have a partner in Geoff McEwen and really grateful for the generosity of Alberta Health Services and all of the Calgary paramedics,” said Jason Friesen, founder of Trek Medics. “When I saw the quality of them, I was just completely taken back; these uniforms were sharper than anything I’ve ever worn!”

Adding to the good fortune, the uniforms arrived just as we were preparing to run field-testing for our new SMS-based emergency medical dispatching software, Beacon.

A “live fire” test of the system took place in Aquin for the first time at the beginning of June, where Trek Medics’ software development team worked with the Aquin ÉCRU responders and local partners HRDF to continue improving the software’s functionality and user interface. As an added bonus, at the end of the testing, Trek Medics presented the ÉCRU Aquin responders with the new uniforms, and the pride and excitement they expressed was evident from the moment the uniforms came out of the boxes.”Li bèl! Li bèl anpil!!” the ÉCRU responders exclaimed in Creole as they held up their new uniforms, expressing a sentiment we were all in agreement with: They’re beautiful – they’re really beautiful!

If the man makes the clothes, then we’re excited to see what ÉCRU will do with these uniforms. They just don’t make them much better than this.

To support Trek Medics’ ongoing work to develop emergency medical services in communities with great needs, please consider making a donation today – no amount is too small.

J. Friesen
Jason is a paramedic by training and has been working in international development since 2003. Jason has spent many years living in Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe, working for a number of recognized international humanitarian organizations. Aside from ambulance operations and EMS management, he has also worked as a flight medic and paramedic instructor, a contributing author for EMS publications, and provides consulting for a range of global health initiatives in both systems development and disaster response.
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