Superhero: How a Toronto paramedic made Time’s 100 most influential list

Superhero: How a Toronto paramedic made Time’s 100 most influential list

(Image: Courtesy of Globalmedic) 

When the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince last January, Rahul Singh took GlobalMedic, his relief organization, to the centre of the destruction. They set up field hospitals, distributed 2.4 million gallons of water and provided medical assistance to more than 7,000 people. For the remarkable effort, Time named him one of the world’s most influential people.

You founded GlobalMedic in 1998. How did you get the idea? My first wife dumped me in the ’90s, so I went backpacking and ended up in Nepal. After a series of landslides wiped out a village, I ran a disaster response team. Most of the funding seemed to get lost in administration before it got to the people who needed it, and I wanted to change that.

So how is your group different? We get paramedics, police officers and firefighters to volunteer their time. We also work partnerships with airlines so we can fly for free, and we don’t stay in five-star hotels. We camp or bunk in hospitals or schools.

Had you ever seen a disaster as severe as Haiti? Haiti was by far the worst earthquake I’ve seen. Everywhere you looked, pockets of the city were down. When a prison is knocked down and every violent criminal gets turned loose, that doesn’t help, either. There was no infrastructure. No communications.

So how did you communicate? Our BlackBerrys were working, if you can imagine that.

Did you meet anyone interesting at the Time 100 awards gala in New York? Martha Stewart was sitting behind my wife and me. It was odd. I mean, I’m a paramedic who can’t even keep my uniform shirt clean through lunch, and there was Demi Moore teaching Ashton Kutcher how to dance while Prince was playing onstage.

Are you a Prince fan? I camped out for tickets in the ’80s, but they were sold out. Man, he can still move for an old guy!