For some, traveling is life’s greatest opportunity, and for Martina Pounds, that couldn’t be truer. In the midst of her time at medical school in Germany, Pounds’ wanderlust brought her to America for a study abroad program. When deciding among California, Montana and Missouri, the mid-Missouri cost of living drew her in. Her father’s work as a park ranger influenced her to study fisheries and wildlife, and while her original plans were to spend one semester in the U.S., she stayed an additional, and then another, until her credits as an undergraduate were finished.
Pounds left Europe as a student in medical school and went back as a Mizzou graduate in fisheries and wildlife. Though her degree was never put to use, it was her adrenaline-hungry attitude that would eventually lead her to her most recent undertaking — firefighting. After working as a paramedic and then a police officer in Columbia, Missouri, she decided to switch to a new kind of public service and has made helping people one of her life’s greatest goals.
“[Firefighting] is a little bit that rush to get somewhere fast and to do something to make an immediate difference in people’s lives,” she said. “You go to people’s houses when they have a really bad day, and you just try to make it better.”
Pounds said, though, that some of the greatest conquests she ever took on had to do with traveling the globe. While visiting Cairo, Egypt, on a three-month trip, she lived in an enclosed, self-sustaining community and saw many people suffering from issues that, being from a first-world country, she would have been vaccinated or received antibiotics for. The experience changed her outlook on what it means to “change the world,” and she learned an important lesson that she carries with her today.
“Anything you do makes a difference to somebody,” she said. “When I was there — at the age I was — I couldn’t see that. I was like ‘I can’t help these people, it’s just not making anything better’.”
These days, Pounds works long hours aiding people on their worst days. It doesn’t come without a toll, though. As a firefighter, a disaster responder, she does see more than most people would be willing to see. After a particularly long day, her own ‘first responder’ is a good book. With the exception of her favorite series lining her bookshelves — including Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings — she reads action-packed novels on her Kindle to escape.
When she’s not reading, she finds serenity in the outdoors as well. Her three dogs, each a rescue, provide her company along with her son, daughter and husband.
Whether she is out checking building codes, rescuing disaster victims, or traveling the globe, Martina Pounds makes the most out of extraordinary situations in an ordinary world. To this day, though, she will never forget the lessons that her life experiences have taught her.
“I felt like I couldn’t make a difference, and now I see it in a much smaller scale,” she said. “You make a difference for a small amount of people … you make their life better … and the more you do that, I think, the more you get other people involved.”
For Pounds, improving the world and getting others involved is a slow process. Through her own perspective, though, each day is an opportunity to make another step in the right direction