First Responders Project
Following a presentation in 2008, the Stowmarket Gipping Valley Rotary Club embarked on a project to raise funds to establish a Community First Responders Scheme which would operate in the parishes of Mendlesham and Wickham Skeith, two of the many rural communities in the district served by the Club, including the outlying areas around them.
Guy Wiltshear, a Past President of the Club, lives in the village of Mendlesham and volunteered to lead the project and to become the Co-ordinator for the new group upon its formation.
The first time the project saw the light of day was at the Mendlesham Street Fayre in May 2009 when demonstrations were given to villagers by qualified First Responders and the first funds were raised towards the goal of £2000 which was needed to finance the purchase of equipment. Until the funds had been raised and enough volunteer First Responders found , the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust would not sanction the formation of a Group. A date was fixed for a major fundraising event to be held in Mendlesham at the end of September and months of planning and preparation went into the organisation of the event spearheaded by another Past President, Arnie Bennett, whose experience in organising such events proved invaluable.
During the long summer months, word went round the villages and sufficient volunteers to make the scheme viable came forward to train as First Responders in order to form the Mendlesham and Wickham Skeith First Responders ( MaWS F.R.). And finally, on 25th September 2009 at 7.30p.m., the Mendlesham Community Centre hosted the first Camel Racing evening to be held in the village …. ever !!!!!!!!. Never before had camels raced within the boundaries of the parish but there were many willing jockeys and even more willing spectators, nearly all of whom visited the Tote which was hosted by a team from the Rotary Clubs of Saxmundham and Felixstowe Landguard, to place a bet on the jockey they most fancied to bring his, or indeed her, camel home across the winning line first . A great evening,which included a bar and grand raffle, was had by all at the end of which over £1300 had been raised towards the project’s target.
Following the camel racing evening, the Club made application to RIBI District 1080 for a Simplified grant which resulted in some £500 being provided and the Club itself donated the balance , thus enabling the equipment to be bought .
By February 2010 , the First Responder volunteers had been trained by the East of England Ambulance Service N.H.S. Trust and Mendlesham and Wickham Skeith First Responders had been formed.