The first responders of Eastmain, who are re-certified each year to stay fresh when dealing with medical emergencies that arise in the community, will soon be able to teach others.

The project, which is being heralded as a first in Eeyou Istchee, will see the Eastmain First Responders and Ambulance Service become certified instructors by April 11.

“The St. John’s Ambulance instructor also informed us that it was the first time the instructor’s course was offered outside of Quebec City,” said an excited and proud Jonathan Cheezo, the community’s Chief First Responder.

“Whenever we wanted to re-certify our personnel, we always had to fly people up here, pay for their hotel and other expenses. This way, we will eliminate many costs by teaching community members how to be instructors,” he said.

“We contacted St. John’s Ambulance to see what was possible. Finally they said yes and we have six members of the community who just passed their theory part of the exam and will be doing their practical on April 4.”

Cheezo also said this will enable the newly-crowned instructors to teach other non-medical personnel in the community, and that it might be possible in the future to visit other Cree communities and certify their staff as well.

After a grueling week of theory, the students will practice their skills in early April when, accompanied by a master instructor, they will teach their first class.

Four of the six people taking the course are actually working on the ambulance.

Misty Cheezo is one of those people.

She’s been working on the ambulance for over a year. She became interested when she started taking water rescue and thinks it’s important for the community. “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said.

Jonathan Cheezo said that although they won’t be able to teach advanced first aid after they complete the course, they would have the opportunity to become master trainers if they wish to continue on.

“With these new instructors we’ll be able to offer the course, which usually costs $135 down south, for free to community members. They’ll be able to give the course in Cree which is definitely a first,” said Cheezo, adding that he hopes to translate the St. John’s Ambulance teaching manual into Cree very soon.

“We’re going to increase the knowledge of the community of knowing basic CPR, thus we can save more lives.”

Andrea Mamianskum, Felicia Poison, Jeremie Cheezo, Desiree Blacksmith, Francine Moses, Misty Cheezo are slated to graduate April 11.