SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. -- Jackie Cassagnol traveled to Haiti shortly after a massive earthquake devastated the small country in South America in 2010. She returned to Spring Valley a changed woman with big ideas.
Cassagnol, a registered nurse and professor at Dominican College, started Wordwide Community First Responder in wake of the earthquakes, which killed more than 100,000 people. Cassagnol’s parents are natives of Haiti and family members live there.
In 2011, Cassagnol started WCFR, a non-profit all-vounteer organization, to prevent deaths worldwide through education and training. Her trip to Haiti illustrated the need for teaching people everywhere the importance to know basic first aid skills.
While I was doing the training, I had people tell me if we only knew what you’re teaching us right now fewer people would’ve died. I broke down in front of the classroom. I knew then I had to go into this type of work.” -- Jackie Casagnol
“When the earthquake happened, it hit home for me,’’ Cassagnol said. “I went to Haiti and did community response training, where we taught first aid and first response. While I was doing the training, I had people tell me if we only knew what you’re teaching us right now fewer people would’ve died. I broke down in front of the classroom. I knew then I had to go into this type of work.”
She started WCFR with healthcare professionals who visited Haiti with her. WCFR provides services worldwide to all communities. The all-volunteer team, which is funded through grants and its own fund-raising initiatives, promotes health education by teaching people how to lower blood pressure, hypertension, learn healthy habits and adapt behaviors that could lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, HIV and more.
WCFR also teaches people first aid skills and first response and disaster training. Its volunteer army has trained nearly 200,000 people in its five years of existence in scene assessment, basic anatomy and physiology for first responders, rapid evaluation of disaster victims and CPR.
Cassagnol draws attention to WCFR through social media, health fairs, community events and local media. She also works closely with Volunteer New York! Businesses, community and church groups and scouting troops are some of the associations which can schedule WCFR volunteers to conduct its services. There is no fee.
What surprises Cassagnol is the lack of awareness many people have for basic first aid training.
“When we do health fairs and community outreach, people are like ‘My goodness, how could I not know how to do that. This could save a life, and it’s so basic. I think people feel they need to be healthcare professionals. You don’t need need to be a healthcare pro to save a life. There are very basic things that can save a life. That’s what we try to teach them.”
Cassagnol’s organization celebrates its 5-year anniversary in September, and she feels its work is just beginning. WCFR volunteers visited China two years ago. While she maintains a passion for nursing and teaching, sharing knowledge of basic lifesaving skills provides true emotional rewards.
"I did it with the support of our friends, family, members, volunteers, , and sponsors,'' Cassagnol said.
"I like to volunteer and help out, but I never thought I would be a founder of an organization,’’ added Jackie, who was a 2015 finalist for the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year. “Nursing is very rewarding. But being the president and founder of WCFR is somewhat more rewarding. I’m doing it for free. I look back now and WCFR is going to celebrate five years. I feel like, ‘My goodness, I really did this.’”
To learn more about WCFR, click here to visit its website. Contact them at 845-608-7409 to schedule WCFR to visit your organization or business.