Toronto volunteers to drive ambulances to El Salvador
Photo of a previous de-commissioned Toronto ambulance en route to El Salvador. (Photo courtesy of the San Lorenzo website)
Mariam Zahir, Special to ctvtoronto.ca
Published Saturday, February 20, 2010 10:20AM EST
An ambulance run of more than 3,000 kilometres is heading to El Salvador with the goal of helping thousands of lives.
Caravan of Hope, a group of volunteers helping those in need in Central America, aims to raise $130,000 to buy 13 ambulances from the city of Toronto. The vehicles will be used as mobile clinics.
The vehicles have reached their maximum 54-month service period and have been decommissioned by the city.
"So far, we have gathered enough money for four to five ambulances," said Father Hernan Astudillo, founder of Caravan of Hope.
The city is donating two more ambulances on its own. All 15 will then be driven to Soyapongo, El Salvador.
"I started helping El Salvador because in 2001, the country had suffered two earthquakes and they ruined so much of the land," Astudillo explained. "They are also one of the poorest countries in Central America and Soyapongo is the most populated city in all of Central America."
Since 2001, the organization has delivered 31 school buses, 12 shipping containers and five retired Toronto ambulances to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
"When I arrived at El Salvador some time ago, close to 1,000 people were waiting in the streets to say thank you," Astudillo told CTV.ca. "And that is the reason why I take the risk to drive there, for the people."
The group has also raised funds for Haiti. More than $30,000 will be going to the nation this week.
"On Feb. 18, I will be traveling to Haiti to give the money to an organization called the Religious Order of the Spiritian Priests," claimed Astudillo. "I will be observing, listening, and learning about the reality there."
The money will fund projects such as a restaurant, a bakery and an orphanage, just to name a few.
"Many people focus on the capital city, Port-au-Prince, but it's the small towns that have been completely destroyed," Astudillo said.
"We're just helping because we can," said Danny Cota, a volunteer for Caravan of Hope.
Their goal is to send 56 ambulances to El Salvador over the next four years. On Feb. 27, Not My Dog bar and pub will be hosting a fundraiser for the Caravan of Hope.