Columbia group leaves to provide relief

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COLUMBIA – When disaster hits, relief tends to follow, but one Columbia group is focusing on a different side of disaster relief.

Global First Responder, or GFR, is a local not-for-profit program that aims to do two things—Send volunteers to provide health care in disaster-struck areas and serve as a centralized platform for health care providers worldwide. Founder of GFR, Dr. Adam Beckett, DO, said the program is centered in Columbia, but its members are worldwide.

“We do relief work, disaster relief operations depending on the availability of the volunteers,” Dr. Beckett said. “A lot of our support is from Columbia but it has expanded across the globe.”  

On Sunday, a GFR team will head to Ponce, Puerto Rico to aid in hurricane relief efforts. However, resources will not be put toward simply picking up debris. Puerto Rico Team Leader Judy Baker said their work will focus on two areas of need.

“We are working on going to clinics, in particular, that are unable to function well at this point, so we are going to install solar panels,” Baker said. “We will also be taking Dr. Hassan’s mental health care team, which focuses around the psycho-social trauma that happens after disasters.”

In certain disasters, Baker said people tend to forget all aspects involved with relief efforts.

“In these cases, and in Puerto Rico in particular, there are so many people that just lost everything,” Baker said. “I think often [mental health] gets overlooked as something that needs to be addressed, so we have prioritized it for this trip.”

The team will be in Puerto Rico for one week before returning to the United States.

Supporters can donate to GFR and its disaster relief programs on their website.