“Someone said to me during a training session that
‘If we knew what you are teaching us right now, fewer people would have died during the earthquake.’
I just broke down. I had never broken down and cried before during a class,” said , a nursing professor. This Rockland resident was giving a training session in Haiti last year in August when one of the adult students told her this.
Although Jackie Cassagnol has lived in Rockland for 17 years, her passion is international. After being affected by the Haiti Earthquake of 2010, a fire awakened inside her and eventually led her to create WCFR, Worldwide Community First Responder.
“I was over in Israel when the earthquake happened. I had some family in Haiti, but the one we all keep in touch with is my uncle,” she said. “I was so afraid that my (uncle) could have been affected. He’s been like a father to me. We were very relieved. All my family members were ok.”
As a nursing professor, Cassagnol was tempted to go to Haiti and help, but realized that without the correct training, even the best doctors and nurses may not be ready to assist in emergency situations like that in Haiti following the earthquake.
“I couldn’t bring myself to go to Haiti right after the earthquake because I wasn’t trained. I felt guilty. That’s why I cried when that person said that to me,” she said. “Nurses and medical professionals know their way around a hospital or medical office, but are not formally trained for emergency situations like the one that happened in Haiti. In a situation like that, you have to be able to brace yourself for what you may see or may have to do. Without proper training, one can become traumatized in those conditions.”
Her first time going to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake was when she went with the Rockland County Haiti Relief in August 2011.
“I was there for a week in Grand Goave. We did a training program—how to respond in emergency situations,” she said. “We planned the entire training program in English and when we went there, everything needed to be taught in Creole since most of the participants did not speak English.”
In the sessions, she taught them about stroke, drowning and heat-related injuries, first aid, how to treat burn injuries, disease prevention, hygiene and safety and diabetes.
On April 7 this year, she went alone during spring break of the school she teaches at, Helene Fuld College of Nursing. She visited the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti (FSIL), where the students spoke English.
“I created a heath education manual to teach down in Haiti on the topic of geriatric,” said Cassagnol. “(My college) They knew a little about what I was doing, but didn’t fully know until I came back from spring break and showed them this manual. I presented it in a faculty meeting and the response was great from the college.”
The Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA) made it possible for her travels to Haiti.
Earlier this month, July 2, she went back down with a WCFR member for a week and started a Disaster Preparedness project at FSIL.
“I plan on going back to Haiti during the next few months to continue WCFR educational and training programs,” said Cassagnol. “The FSIL Disaster Preparedness project must be completed within two years, and will require me travelling to Haiti at least three times during that time period.”
After she graduated in 2003 from Helene Fuld College of Nursing, she went on to get a “BSN, Masters in nursing administration and Post Masters degree in nursing education.”
Today, this Spring Valley resident is a faculty member at Helene Fuld College of Nursing in Manhattan.
Her family is Haitian and her parents met each other in the U.S. Cassagnol was born in Brooklyn.
“I moved here (to Rockland from Brooklyn) because I wanted to become a nurse and went to BOCES to become an LPN,” said Cassagnol.
Keeping it Local
Although her business keeps her traveling, she also keeps busy locally. Her organization has a Nanuet address and Cassagnol has been involved with the relaunch of the Nanuet Chamber of Commerce.
Cassagnol can’t do this alone. Her family members are very supportive of her and WCFR.
"My parents, they’re proud,” she said. “My brother is the membership ambassador of WCFR and my cousin is the legal advisor.” Currently, her brother is an obgyn and her cousin is a juris doctor.
“I’ve done some crazy things like sky diving and I’ve gone to Australia, but this is what I’m most proud of,” said Cassagnol.