Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corp.: Twenty-six years of saving, helping and training youth to trade in guns for stethoscopes

Eulene Inniss | 7/24/2014, 4:38 p.m.

The Hippocratic oath states that doctors (medical personnel) should treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, preserve a patient’s privacy and teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation. The Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corp.’s EMT graduation and 26th anniversary parade Saturday, July 12 embodied all the elements of that oath.

This volunteer EMT service was the brainchild of two neighborhood men, Commander James “Rocky” Robinson and Joe Perez. At that time, both men were employed as EMTs and decided to use their skills to help their community, which was being underserved. Robinson’s belief in the oath is made evident by his passion and love for people, and his unquenchable desire to serve the Bed-Stuy community. Hence, the BSVAC is celebrating 26 years of service to the Bed-Stuy community.

The graduating class completed their BSVAC Emergency Medical Technicians training program courses at the Deborah Crawford Training Academy, 727 Green Ave. in Bed-Stuy. Robinson said that the class of 15 graduates was exceptional and the best of the more than three dozen students who enrolled in the class. They maintained the stamina and fortitude needed to excel and complete the rigorous, competitive program.

Assemblywoman Annette Robinson was the keynote speaker. She told the graduates, visiting EMTs and guests that “BSVAC has always been a major part of my community engagement as a City Council member from 1992 to 2001 and now as a state Assembly representative. I am concerned about what we don’t have and what we need. I met with numerous elected officials this morning, and we are working to ensure that we sustain BSVAC.

“I encouraged my colleagues to get a building. We are committed to putting a building on this land that has classrooms to make it work. Many young people have been trained here over the past 26 years and have become professionals. They have jobs as EMTs, doctors and nurses. Commander Robinson has been on the ground with hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, in Haiti and every disaster. You now have to give back. Robinson sacrificed a lot to make it happen.”

Sidique A. Wai, an NYPD administrative staff analyst and advisor in the Office of the Commissioner, reminded the EMTs, “There was a time when you were required to have a volunteer EMT license to get a job in the city. I encourage you, when God gives you an opportunity, it’s your responsibility to give back.”

This 26th anniversary of saving lives was not celebrated in a glittering edifice surrounded by elected officials and renowned entertainers, but rather by a parade up and down the winding boundaries and inner blocks where the people live. BSVAC EMTs embraced and mingled with the downtrodden, underserved masses that stopped to greet them or just waved in appreciation of BSVAC’s services and undying love for the volunteers. The community’s reaction demonstrated that BSVAC is truly of the people, by the people and for the people.

A fleet of emergency vehicles and EMTs from Ridgewood Volunteer Ambulance, Canarsie Rescue Emergency Medical Service, New York State Emergency Medical Service, New York State Caribbean American Association and more were there to show support for BSVAC. The caravan drove through the streets and encouraged the youths to come for training and trade in guns for stethoscopes so that they can save lives rather than take them.

Robinson boasted of the other communities that are beginning to recognize the work of BSVAC, such as the Church of Scientology and Interfaith Medical Center. Robinson said that he “started this journey walking, graduated to bicycles, cars and now has a fleet of EMT vehicles.” He asked the audience, “Who does not want to be an angel saving lives?”

The answer was in the loud, ear-piercing, positive response.