Perth County paramedic returns from Antigua, ready to continue relief work

A paramedic with Perth County Paramedic Services has recently returned to Canada after spending a week in Antigua as part of a relief effort team - an experience she says changed her

Nadine Balint was in Antigua between Nov. 5 and 12 as part of a relief effort mission

Perth County Paramedic Services collected relief items like toiletries, blankets and school supplies from the Antigua community. Ont top of that, Nadine Balint, a paramedic with Perth County Emergency Services, took an additional 12 suitcases and hockey bags of medical supplies. (Submitted by: Nadine Balint)

Nadine Balint was sitting in her living room sipping on a cup of coffee when she saw news of Hurricane Irma unfold. That's when she decided she wanted, somehow, to help.

As luck would have it, Balint and her husband had booked a trip to Antigua and Barbuda with a couple of friends a week before the Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean.

But rather than cancel her trip, she decided to take that opportunity to be part of a relief effort.

Nadine Balint (center) went to Antigua for a week as part of a relief effort mission. She brought with her suitcases and hockey backs full of supplies to help locals. Left to right: Morvin Fiedtkou, Darius Diffou, Nadine Balint, Makeisha Desuza, Shawn Greenidge. (Submitted by: Nadine Balint)

"Watching the news, while I'm trying to book excursions ... I saw the devastation, and it was like 'Oh my goodness. Well, we are not cancelling our trip at this point,'" she told CBC's The Morning Edition before she left for Antigua on Nov. 5.

With the help of the Perth County Paramedic Service Balint collected relief items like toiletries, blankets and school supplies and medical supplies and equipment. 

All that resulted in her taking an additional 12 bags to Antigua.

Upon her return, Balint said she was amazed to see how helpful the community was towards one another and how welcoming they were to her — despite the hardship. (Submitted by: Nadine Balint)

Time in Antigua

Balint said people from Barbuda and the Dominica are taking refuge in Antigua, many still waiting to hear if they can go back home. 

Upon her return, Balint said she was amazed to see how helpful the community was towards one another and how welcoming they were to her — despite the hardship.

"In all of the tragedy and hope, they haven't lost their Caribbean spirit. They are all lovely, happy to have people visit and happy to educate us in the things that they are doing to try and recover from all this," she told CBC's The Morning Edition host, Craig Norris on Monday.

"They are happy to feel included in our own education on the things we are doing humanitarian-wise as well as getting an education on our medical services." 

Nadine Balint had the opportunity to tour the island during her week stay. She stands at the EMS base in St John's, Antigua. (Submitted by: Nadine Balint)

Balint had the chance to tour the island during her week-long stay.

She spent that time with Morvin Fiedtkou, head of training for Antigua and Barbuda EMS, Shawn Greenidge, director of Antigua & Barbuda EMS, and even met with Makeisha Desuza, chair of the Health Committee of Barbuda, to talk about where and how the medical supplies would be distributed. 

"Ms. Desuza, I didn't mean to bring her to tears, but she was so grateful for all the effort that the community had put in," said Balint.

"You don't really realize how special it is, what you are doing, until something like that happens."

'I wont stop'

The trip has been an eye-opener, said Balint, who hopes to continue to work closely with Perth County Emergency Services to go on more relief effort missions in the future.

"Now it's like I've been bit and addicted," she said. "I'll be doing this everywhere I can. I won't stop."

Perth County Paramedic Service is now fundraising and collecting relief supplies for Guatemala and Haiti. Balint said anyone interested in helping out can contact Perth County Paramedic Service or Not Just Tourists.

Listen to Nadine's interview with The Morning Edition:

It's been months since Hurricane Irma battered Caribbean islands like Barbuda and Antigua. But the clean up continues. And now a Perth County paramedic has seen first hand the work that still needs to be done. 5:21