Brno Expats Join The Volunteer Effort To Help Out In Case of Overstretched Hospitals

Foreigners in Brno are offering their support to fight Covid-19. The Red Cross has been training volunteer nurses to support professional staff in Czech hospitals, including expats, whose language skills may prove useful in communication with medical teams from abroad. Brno Daily spoke to one of the expats generously giving their time to the program. Photo: Courtesy of Brno Expat Centre.

Brno, Dec 1 (BD) – The Czech Red Cross is running a basic nursing course for volunteers who would like to assist in hospitals and other places where help is needed. This course was also recently conducted in English, for expats in Brno who also want to help. 

On Saturday, November 21st, a group of nine foreign residents of Brno attended training classes at Grohova Secondary Medical School. The course participants learned about the rights of patients, methods of communication, hygiene procedures, bed preparation, the feeding and positioning of patients, and how to use protective equipment. 

“The presence of English-speaking foreigners will be very useful, especially if the situation worsens again and medical teams from abroad arrive to help. These newly-trained nurses will then also be an important link with knowledge of local conditions,” said Katka Báňová from Brno Expat Center, who interpreted and helped to organize and promote the course.

Photo: Courtesy of Brno Expat Centre.

One of those taking part in the course was Brian Tynan, originally from Tennessee in the United States. Brian has been in Brno for two and half years, and is a teacher at the International School of Brno. Brno Daily spoke to him to find out more.

BD: What motivated you to become a volunteer?  

I felt really helpless in the Spring. I understood what I needed to do to help, which was basically stay home, order in, do nothing. And I did that, but I felt like there was something more I could do than get into internet arguments with people while acting like an armchair epidemiologist. I looked for opportunities but there was nothing in English until this opportunity came along. 

BD: Would you recommend this course and volunteering to other expats? And Why?

If they want to help, yes. It was a bit surreal imagining having to gear up in a bunny suit and help out in a field hospital, which will only be utilised if things are worse than they’ve been so far.  So the excitement at being able to help quickly faded when you realise that if your help is needed, things will be rough. If people are prepared for that, then I think this is a great way to feel some small amount of control in a time when it feels as though there is just reaction and chaos. 

BD: What challenges can an expat volunteer expect to face? For example, the language, what level of proficiency in Czech is needed?

The language is a concern, but English-speaking volunteers should be placed with international doctors who would come in a humanitarian capacity, and hopefully medical students/nurses who can speak a bit of English. My Czech isn’t great, but necessity is the best motivation and when you’re wearing PPE, sign language is key as well. I also appreciate the focus on mental health.  The volunteer coordinator was very candid that some people find it difficult and there are services available for volunteers and, ultimately, it’s their decision about how much time they commit. 

BD: How do you think it helps to include expats as volunteers and what do expat volunteers bring to the initiative?

Immigration is a big issue today in the whole world, and one of the refrains we hear from pro-immigration activists and organisations is that immigrants want to give something back. I don’t know if you can make such a sweeping generalisation about any group of people, but I am an immigrant here and I want to give back. I want to show my appreciation for a country and a community which has provided me with so much. So in a way it is a relief to have a concrete way to help. 

More information about the course can be found on the Czech Red Cross website

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