Long history of service enriches the heart

November 4, 2014
Jean Macgregor

Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett is passionate about the way helping others makes a difference.

But not simply in the way you might expect.

Just back from his 13th trip to Haiti in four years, Beckett points to the difference helping others makes in his own life.

“I feel blessed,” he says. “On each trip, I recognize how material things are of significantly less importance to my life.”

But the MA Leadership and Training alumnus (now MA Leadership) makes short work of raising funds and resources for others. He teamed up with members of the West Shore community, Colwood Rotary Club and Langford Fire Rescue to raise more than $38,000 for the Divine Hands Orphanage in Port-au-Prince in just six weeks.

Beckett and a team of five volunteers from the West Shore delivered the funds in-person this fall, and hired local crews to build and equip a kitchen, dormitory, dining and classroom facility where previously, 52 children shared an 800 square foot house.

Beckett credits his Royal Roads experience for helping develop the skills needed to get things done at home and abroad.

“Royal Roads provided me with tools to be very effective, to negotiate contracts, resolve conflict, approach things collectively and to understand common goals. The cohort experience, learning about taking risks, and that personal reflection – all those things contribute to someone being the best they possibly can be in whatever they do,” he says.

Beckett has a long history of pitching in where needed around the globe.

Invited to participate in a ride-along with the Los Angeles fire department in 1992, Beckett arrived just as the city erupted with the Rodney King verdict.

“How can I help?” he asked, and he’s never looked back.

He made his first trip to Haiti shortly after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, and has participated in projects in Afghanistan with Project Can-SAFE (Canadians Sending Afghanistan Firefighting Equipment), responded to ground zero in New York City immediately after the 9/11 attacks to support NYC firefighters and volunteered with the United Nations during the siege of Sarajevo.

The opportunity to give back is a privilege, says Beckett. “It encourages the heart. It gets to be part of who and what you are.”

“My first real international project was working with the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. When I went into a refugee camp, I was overwhelmed by the dire straits that people there were in.” says Beckett. For a moment, I broke down and thought, ‘What we are doing is like a drop of rain in the ocean. What difference is it going to make?”

“I realized that even the small things we had to offer represented hope – hope that somebody half a world away cares,” he says. “I think that hope is a very strong component of us reaching out. And we shouldn’t be afraid of maybe not changing the world tomorrow, but identify that there is hope through in humanity through our actions.”

For Beckett, being the best means giving back at every opportunity.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are coaching Brownies or Girl Guides, we should all give something back because it is so enriching,” he says. “That’s where I’m coming from. I just can’t emphasize it enough – it enriches the heart.”