One cuddly little teddy bear can make a world of difference
Our emergency service volunteers often see people at the worst moments in their lives, during house fires or following serious road accidents. While these incidents are traumatic enough at any age, it can be a particularly distressing time for children.
It is a time when a simple act of kindness can make a huge difference.
“We keep these teddy bears in our trucks, a lot of brigades have them, and any job with kids involved we usually try to give them a bear and it helps,” said Lucknow Rural Fire Service Brigade Captain, Michael Bloomfield.
The Canobolas Rural Fire Service district has been gifted 50 ‘Gentle Bears’ that are now ready to support and care for children around Orange.
Gentle Bear was the brainchild of insurer Gallagher Bassett and the South Australian Police Department who wanted to do more to help the children they were coming into contact with when responding to 000 calls.
Gallagher Bassett has now partnered with Insurance and Care NSW (icare) to bring Gentle Bear to NSW. So far, 2500 Gentle Bears have been donated to 46 RFS stations across NSW, with another 2,500 to follow next year.
Previously the Rural Fire Service had been supported via keen knitters within local communities who made what were known as ‘Trauma Teddies’, a tradition that is still in place today in some small towns.
An astounding 14,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of road between Orange and Bathurst, which makes it a hot spot for vehicle accidents, said Captain Bloomfield.
“You feel helpless at times”
“We do mainly car crashes out here; on this section of road we average a car crash every month and we’ve seen several fatalities — we've had to hand out a few bears,” said Captain Bloomfield.
And it is not only children who benefit, he said.
“We find that some adults are very stressed in these situations. We gave one to a lady at a housefire, who lost every possession she had, so she walked around for a couple hours holding a teddy bear,” said Mr Bloomfield.
“I've had a lady crying on the ground and we couldn’t console her, and we gave her a bear and she was right. And kids are the same; it gives them something to cuddle, it definitely helps.”
RFS volunteers are also not immune to the mental stress of being involved in traumatic incidents. Being able to do something to help someone, no matter how small, can be healing in itself.
“It is good for all ages and probably even good for us,” said Mr Bloomfield. “You feel helpless at times. There is not a lot you can do — the Ambos are doing their job and we back them up — but you see someone who is distressed, you hand them the teddy bears and it makes a difference.”