French Red Cross first responders triage a patient
By Your Edge Blog Team | August 25, 2020

Living the Rugged Life (Safely): What It’s Like Volunteering on the Front Lines of a Global Pandemic

Lucas Gautier has been training with the Red Cross for 15 years to lead his team through something like the COVID-19 outbreak. But how does one really prepare for something as stirring as these past months have been?

At Zebra, we focus on empowering front-line heroes every day. As the global fight against the COVID-19 outbreak continues, we want to shed light on one of Zebra’s very own heroes, Lucas Gautier. 

Lucas Gautier and another French Red Cross volunteer respond to a car accident

Lucas is a Senior Solution Architect based out of Zebra’s Paris, France, office who, for the past few months, has been working safely from home full time like the rest of the world to support his team, clients and family however he can. (Like many others, Lucas is an extremely hardworking parent.)

Outside of his “office” hours, though, he spends much of his free time volunteering in the field as a Regional Deputy Manager and Paramedics Team Leader for the French Red Cross in Les Yvelines.

A French Red Cross volunteer

Given the risks of being around a lot of people during the COVID-19 outbreak, he could have pushed the pause button at any moment to minimize his potential exposure. No one would have blamed him if he had taken advantage of this situation to dedicate more time to his family or his passion for photography. 

A little girl puts on an adult's boot while sitting next to a French Red Cross volunteer vest

But, instead, Lucas found himself more motivated than ever to help his community and provide a sense of comfort for those who have been affected by the implications of the virus.

As he explained to us in a recent interview, he has spent the last 15 years volunteering with the Red Cross supporting humanitarian aid missions and disaster relief efforts. Now wasn’t the time to stop. In fact, he shifted into overdrive and worked as much as he could amidst COVID-19 to help.

He has devoted even more of his time to several different relief efforts underway in his country, going above and beyond his traditional duties as the Regional Deputy Director and Paramedics Team Leader. Keep reading below to hear more about his efforts and the unique experiences he has had working first hand with citizens throughout the pandemic…

Your Edge Blog Team: First off, thank you for your 15 years of service with the French Red Cross! What a landmark milestone! Tell us, what originally motivated you to get involved with this organization?

Lucas: When I was a university student, I found myself hearing about situations where I would wonder, “What would I do if I found someone laying on the floor?” I did not want to be in the situation where I saw someone who needed help and I was not able to do anything. I would not have wanted that on my conscience.

I met someone at the university who worked with the French Red Cross and they invited me to join. I went and spent a couple hours volunteering there and next thing you know, I ended up spending 15 years there. We have a saying with the Red Cross, if you spend one year, you stay three years, then you stay seven years and then you are here forever. There are so many things that you can learn, so many ways to help and so many people to meet. It’s a welcoming family. Nobody judges you. We all share the same passion to help others.

Your Edge Blog Team: How did you move up to the position of Regional Deputy Manager?

Lucas: I started off at the Red Cross as a volunteer without qualifications. We run similarly to a company where you start almost as an intern and you work to move up. You start with training and then begin to take responsibilities locally. You move little-by-little up the responsibility scale and, eventually, you’re in charge of the bigger tasks within your department.

The Red Cross as a global entity focuses on different aims in every country. The aim of our station is to fill the gap of France’s government emergency response teams. You can move from one team within our station to another if you start feeling a bit bored with what you are doing but are still motivated to do good for your neighborhood and for others. You can always start working on something new. There is always a place for you.

Your Edge Blog Team: In addition to serving as a Regional Deputy Manager for the French Red Cross, you are a Paramedics Team Leader within the ambulance crew in the area of Les Yvelines. Are you a certified paramedic/emergency medical responder?

Lucas: I actually joined the Red Cross as a volunteer with the goal of becoming a certified first responder and to be involved with the paramedics for the reason I previously mentioned. I have now been trained repeatedly by the Red Cross for over 15 years in order to gain and retain all of the proper certifications. Over the years, my training progressed so that I could become a team leader.

Your Edge Blog Team: Have you found the COVID-19 pandemic more challenging than other crises in your roles as a Red Cross Regional Deputy Director and Paramedic Team Leader?

Lucas: I’ve been trained for the past 15 years for something like COVID-19. The Red Cross originated with the intention of helping people. It doesn’t matter who the people are, we are trained to help them to our best ability. Regardless, you never expect to put every little thing you’ve learned into place so abruptly. This pandemic has been the first time we really have needed as many hands on deck as we possibly have.

The implications of COVID-19 in France are something that hopefully we never see again, but we have learned so much. We are so grateful that we have been able to help. When the pandemic first came about, all of the volunteers jumped at the opportunity and said, “I want to be there.” We had massive support from all of the volunteers because everyone wanted to help.

That being said, we can run into difficulties occasionally because people are not paid by the Red Cross. We are all volunteers, so we do not have a formal reporting and accountability structure. If team members don’t want to do their tasks, they really have nothing to lose. There is no risk of being fired or getting a bad notation. It makes being a team leader quite interesting because you have to be very good at what you do and drive by example.

Your Edge Blog Team: Outside of the current COVID-19 relief initiative, what are some of the other main focal points of the French Red Cross’ mission?

Lucas: The French Red Cross has two main missions. The first is what we call “help and rescue.” This covers any major event, such as disasters, attacks, floods, storms and public health crises such as the one we’re facing right now. Paramedics are in the stations to help people with health issues. The second part of our mission is focused on social rights. Our work here is aimed toward visiting homeless people, bringing food to people who do not have access or means for food anymore, visiting prisoners, helping people with the admission tasks needed to become a French citizen and other similar actions. To be honest, the COVID-19 relief effort actually intersects both given the economic impacts of the virus. I have been working continuously with other Red Cross volunteers to provide food to citizens who may not have the means to provide for their families anymore due to the massive unemployment that has resulted from COVID-19.

Your Edge Blog Team: It seems like you get to interact with lots of different people while volunteering. What is the most memorable or meaningful interaction you have had while working on the front lines in France?

Lucas: When somebody is crying of joy while thanking you for coming, you realize how appreciative they are. Sometimes you do nothing but listen to them or get them a cup of coffee and talk with them, but they are still so relieved. You close the door of the ambulance back at the station and think “I’ve done something for my day. I can go to bed satisfied knowing that I’ve done something important.”

The day-to-day is never the same, so you must always be one step ahead and try to understand what you can do to make things better.

Your Edge Blog Team: What are the best ways for people to get involved or give support to the Red Cross right now, including those who must continue to stay home to stay safe?

Lucas: The first option to support the Red Cross is to give, if you can. I know for example in the U.S., Zebra has been donating a lot. Due to COVID-19, absolutely all of our resources have been used. The money will be well used in different situations depending on the country.

Of course, you can become a volunteer, whether it’s for one hour, one day or for as many as 15 years. We have a program in France where you can volunteer for a day. So, if you have two hours of your day that you want to spend, it’s as simple as knocking on the door and saying you’d like to help. Contact your local Red Cross and ask what you can do. There’s always a place for you. You’ll always be greeted with a smile from a Red Cross volunteer. Anyone can give something, which is time. It doesn’t have any cost, it’s easy to give and it’s always welcome.

Your Edge Blog Team: As you mentioned, the Red Cross is one of Zebra’s strategic charitable partners. Do you find the values of Zebra to crossover with the values needed to be impactful with the Red Cross?

Lucas: I would say that being a volunteer is all about team effort. I can’t do anything as a Red Cross member without my team. It’s the same concept with Zebra. If it’s just myself in front of a customer, I can’t do much alone. I need my teammates to help deliver what the customer is expecting of us and to deliver the promise of the brand. It’s the same for volunteerism with the Red Cross.

Your Edge Blog Team: What would you say to those who are worried that they may overcommit themselves by volunteering? How do you manage it all?

Lucas: You need a balance between professional work, your volunteer life and your family life. If you’re too heavily invested into one of them, you can start to forget yourself. I love photography and taking pictures, along with spending time with my family. Being a volunteer, especially with the Red Cross, it is very hard to see things daily that you are not emotionally or mentally prepared to see. You need to be anchored to something that makes you feel better at the end of the day, and for me it’s my family and my children.


A Final Thought:

We are honored to call Lucas a member of Zebra Nation!

Leading a team of Red Cross volunteers into battle against the spread of a virus is no easy feat, and his tireless volunteer efforts with the Red Cross have undoubtedly made a positive impact in a time of immeasurable need – not to mention every day for the last 15+ years!

We hope you join us in celebrating his work and that of every other Red Cross volunteer around the world by taking a moment to give back however you can.

Remember, “hero” is not defined by one specific quality or achievement. Now more than ever, we can all be defined as such. Whether you do your part by staying safe at home, wearing a mask when out in public, donating money to the Red Cross or volunteering on the front lines alongside those like Lucas, you are making a fundamental difference.


Editor’s Note:

If you are in the position to do so, we invite you to donate to Zebra’s Red Cross fundraising initiative here. The Red Cross is also in urgent need of blood donations in response to COVID-19. More information on how to donate can be found here. And as Lucas mentioned, volunteering is a cost-free way to help the Red Cross in a time of high need. You can learn more about how to volunteer and where volunteers are most urgently needed here.

Related Resources:

Corporate Social Responsibility, Inside Zebra Nation,
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