Photo of five team members of VCRT wearing blue uniforms and standing in front of red medical tent
Students pictured from left to right, Devon Nicholson, Caitlin Shyng, Stephen Donaghy, Nicolas Toex, Sydney Raduy, and Qassim Alkassir. Photo: VCRT/Provided.
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VCRT: student first-responders, both relatable and reliable

Jenny Baek, the executive director of VCRT (formerly known as UOSERT), was first intrigued by the student emergency response team after noticing them haul around a bunch of big red backpacks on campus. 

She’s been a part of VCRT for a bit over three years and saw the transition of the team, formerly known as UOSERT to their establishment as the Volunteer Crisis Response Team today. The team is student-run, works closely with Protection Services on campus, and all of their members are certified at the first-responder level or higher. You can rely on your fellow student responders who participate in bi-weekly training for any emergency on campus — whether it’s a small injury or a mental health crisis.   

Being a student-run organization means VCRT can relate to students on a personal level when they’re in vulnerable situations, ultimately separating them from the likes of typical medical response teams. 

“It’s really cool that when we interact with them [students], we’re interacting with them as students right, so a lot of the times we can connect with them with a much deeper level than other emergency services can and just bring that sense of comfort and open that line of trust between the students,” said Baek in a Zoom call with The Fulcrum.  

Olivia Aitken, their PR coordinator explained how the team works in three shifts that covers a 24 hour span every day, with their assigned shift remaining the same throughout the semester in order to foster the teamwork necessary for first-responder work. 

Whether they’re in the office or somewhere else on campus, once VCRT gets a call from protection services through their PTT, they’re dispatched and ready to go at all times. 

Sydney Raduy, VCRT’s social coordinator, emphasizes the seriousness of every call, no matter the issue. 

“You’re going and you’re responding to calls that can sometimes be quite heavy, you’re seeing people in their most vulnerable states and you’re with your peers doing that. So after every call we always have a debrief, whether that is a mental health call, whether that is a bleeding nose,” explained Raduy.

Considering the sensitive nature of their work, team work is essential between their volunteers and for Aitken, “being a part of such a big team, [means] you really become family.” 

VCRT is an essential support system for students at the U of O and student volunteers from all majors come together at VCRT to unite for a common cause: to create a safer campus for everyone. 

If you’re in a crisis, you can get in contact with VCRT by calling the Protection Services number: 613-562-5411. If you’re interested in the team and joining as a volunteer, you can follow their activity on Instagram @vcrt.ebic.uottawa for regular updates.


  • Grace is a second-year political science student joining the Fulcrum for the 2022-23 publishing year. She has experience in public service, and has volunteered in advocacy campaigns and grassroots initiatives uplifting youth and women. She is passionate about the arts, community organizing, and politics. When she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or rewatching Seinfeld episodes.