This April I will be heading down south to return to the amazing country of Nicaragua! Last year I spent an wonderful 3 weeks exploring this Central American nation, hiking volcanoes, surfing, scuba diving and even salsa dancing. For such a small country, there’s so much to see and do, especially if your the adventurous type!
But this isn’t why I’m heading back. I’ll be again traveling to Nicaragua with a group for approximately 8 paramedics (I work as a paramedic here at home) to volunteer with a charity group called Three Fold Ministries. Our group will be heading to Three Folds Skylark Retreat Center, located in Los Medranos, a small town near San Marcos about 1 hour south of Managua. Our mission is to teach a 1 week First Responders course to local members of rural communities.
Health Care in Nicaragua
According to the World Bank, Nicaragua is one of the poorest nations in Central America (second poorest after Haiti) and they have little to no emergency first aid services (no ambulances or paramedics) outside of their major city centers. While the Nicaraguan government boasts universal health care to its population, this doesn’t mean much when there is no clinic in your community. For those who don’t live in more heavily populated areas, access to emergency first aid is limited to non-existent. Often times if there is a medical emergency in these smaller and sometimes more remote communities, the closest health care facility with a doctor can be many hours drive away on dirt roads, with travel conditions varying depending on the time of year. Three-Fold Ministries, who takes on a variety of community projects, identified the need for these villages and towns to have someone in their community trained in emergency first aid. This way, when medical emergencies arise, each community will have trained first responder ready to help.
Progress In Paramedicine
This year will make the 4th anniversary of the Progress In Paramedicine (Paramedic Partnership Bridge) program which is run in 2 parts. About 30 Nicaraguans are chosen from across the country to take part in two, 1 week long training courses. In April my group will be teaching Part 1 of the Emergency First Responders course and then in November another group of paramedics from Ontario will travel to Nicaragua to teach Part 2 to the same group.
Last year, we had such a wide range of students attending; from teenagers to grandmothers, they were all eager to take part and learn emergency first aid. Teaching through translators, we educated them in a wide range of emergencies. From trauma and heart conditions, to child birth and diabetic complications, we taught them how to recognize, assess and treat a wide variety of emergency health problems. Each student was also outfitted with a basic first aid kit and taught to improvise with whatever materials they had available in their community.
Inspiring Success Stories
One of the most rewarding parts of this project is returning a year later to hear about the successes from our students. One student told of a car accident his brother was involved in that resulted in severe neck and back pain. Using the knowledge he had learned at the first responders course, the student knew that a broken neck/back was possible and that his brother needed to be immobilized, flat on his back, until he could be seen by a doctor. Using an old door, the student was able to immobilize his brother and transport him in the flat bed of a truck to the nearest hospital (1 hr drive away) where it was discovered that his brother had indeed broken his back.
Another inspiring story is of a young girl who attended the course and saved her fathers life. One day she was at home with her family when her father began having signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Right away she recognized that her father was in trouble and after much convincing, finally got him to agree to go to the hospital. After being assessed by doctors, it was discovered he was, in fact, having a massive heart attack. Had she not taken this first responders course, there’s a good chance her father would have died.
We Need Your Help!
Even though I’ll be going to Nicaragua to volunteer, there is a cost associated. We are not paid to go do this and must use our own vacation time. Each of us volunteers must pay $1000 to cover our own expenses, including flights, accommodation, transportation and food while at Skylark. But we are also committed to fundraising $1500 each as well. This money is used to transport, accommodate and feed each student for the week as well as outfit each of them with a first aid kit, as they cannot afford these expenses themselves.
Here in Ottawa we run fundraising events, seek out cooperate sponsorship’s and ask our family and friends for personal donations. Still, its always a scramble to meet our goal of $1500 each. If you feel that this is a charity you’d like to support, my co-volunteer has set up a GoFundMe account to collect donations online.
I’m very excited to be a part of such a wonderful project again! It’s a sustainable way to import knowledge into a developing country, knowledge that is truly life saving. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Becoming involved with members of the local community, hearing their stories and seeing how they live day to day, also offers a unique perspective to the country, one I would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.
Have you ever volunteered while traveling?