Ilana OverinkSelwyn Fire Department
Ilan's Story :
Growing up, my sister and I always had to be front and center of the action. There was this inner sense of adventure maybe, but mostly curiosity that drove us to chase the ambulance or wiggle ourselves to the front of the crowd to watch a crane lift a car out of the river. My sister always knew she wanted to be a police officer, but I juggled between a police officer or a flight medic growing up, and it was not till later in life that I found my calling in firefighting. It was always clear to me that I wanted to help people, to really be there for them in their time of need and make a difference.
Immigrating from the Netherlands to Canada at the age of 12, was a big life changing event. Adapting to a new language, culture, and general way of life from the busyhustle and bustle of a Dutch town to the relaxed Canadian country living, was a bit of a culture shock but turned out to be the best decision my parents made. A career in emergency services took a spot on the back burner as a new passion for creativity flourished and I pursued a career in home decorating and design. It was not till my second year of working in the design field that I decided to fill the internal void of wanting and needing to do more.
I wanted to give back to my community and got hired with the Selwyn Fire Department. Like other emergency professions, firefighting is mostly still a male dominated field, but having grown up with only boys aside from my sister, this was familiar territory to me that I happily embraced. I was the only female in my hiring class and am one of two females currently in the department out of almost a hundred firefighters. Firefighting is a physically demanding job, so as a small bodied female, I would be lying if I said there hasn’t been a fair share of doubt and comments from the public on my ability to do the job. But those comments only fuel my pride and remind me of how far I have come. When you work hard and have determination, nothing is impossible. My entire life I have stuck to my personal motto of “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Once I have decided on a goal, I will work at it until I accomplish it.
My firefighting journey so far has been nothing short of amazing, I am so proud and thankful to be part of an amazing department and wear its crest on my sleeve. The camaraderie and the friendships created on the fireground and in the firehouse make the early morning wake up calls, and the long nights worth it, and of course driving the big red fire trucks is not so bad either! 😉
When I am not working as a designer or a firefighter, I try to keep busy and always better myself and skillset. Throughout the summer and fall season I work at The Peterborough Speedway as a first responder – providing first aid when required to staff, spectators and drivers- this year will be my third year and I foresee myself being there for years to come as it truly is a lot of fun. This fall I will be continuing my education by studying Emergency Communications at Seneca College, with so many college courses being offered online due to the pandemic, it gave me the opportunity to study while keeping my jobs. I suppose it is my way of making the best out of a given situation.
All in all, I’m a busy girl but I wouldn’t change any of it, I love every single job I have and don’t take any of them for granted. People always say, ‘work hard while you’re young ” and that’s exactly what I’m doing.