SOUTH RIVER – A South River paramedic took her expertise to Nicaragua to teach others how to support their communities.
Trainers and students gather together for a group photo the day that the Ontario paramedics, including Arlette Wood of South River, wrapped up training in Nicaragua.
Arlette Wood, a paramedic with Parry Sound EMS, took off to Central America with a number of other paramedics from across the province through Threefold Ministries, based in Parry Sound from April 7 to 14.
“It was great,” said Wood.
Forty-eight students, eager to learn, came from 15 different villages from all over that country for a week’s worth of sessions.
Wood says most of the students only have a Grade 6 education. The youngest in the class was 14, but the majority were in their twenties.
“The government wanted us to teach the young ones because they said that this is their future so we should invest knowledge in their futures,” said Wood. “Then they can take it back (to their villages) and teach the other people.”
The students didn’t speak English so the group was taught through an interpreter. Wood says this worked well though it did slow the process.
“They were just so thankful to be learning something new that could potentially open up a job later on,” she said. “We are trying to get them knowledge so the government there might recognize this and make some jobs for people.”
Wood says a representative from the equivalent of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health visited the group toward the end of the week and was impressed by the depth of training provided.
“She made up little diplomas for them with their names, recognizing that they had completed the first step of the emergency first response,” she said.
Although there is a hope for further employment with first response, another reason for the training was students could take what they have learned back to their villages for much needed medical support.
Walmart provided waterproof bags the group filled with stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, penlights, thermometers and other medical supplies.
“A lot of things that we would use we were able to purchase for them and make them up little kits so they could take them back to their villages,” said Wood. “We were able to purchase a lot of equipment.”
Before leaving on their trip each group member set a goal of raising $2,000 – a goal that Wood met and will try to meet again for a future trip.
“There were 12 of us. We each raised $2,000 and that paid for our way, plus we were able to purchase all of the supplies,” she said.
Wood says at the end of the week the students were provided with journals so they can track situations where they were able to use their newfound knowledge to help others over the course of the year.
“The big things with them, from the stories we were being told, is that there are a lot of burns,” she said. “There is garbage everywhere and there is no dump so they burn their garbage.”
She says many children end up with burns to their hands and feet. She says there are also a lot of machete accidents when the large knife slips while cutting wood or wheat.
“There are also a lot of motor vehicle accidents,” said Wood. “They are scary drivers.”
She says it is not uncommon to see a family piled onto a moped, often travelling with helmets dangling from the handlebars.
Wood says they did spend some time with a local fire department, which doubles as the ambulance service.
“They have nothing. They’re as poor as anything could possibly be,” she said.
The fire department, comprised of four people.
“They have the ambulance and the fire truck and they can’t afford to run both,” she said. “They have no supplies.”
After their visit to the fire department, the group headed back to the compound where they were staying and decided to deliver what extra supplies they had to the department the following day.
“Their first aid kit was pathetic. It has one collar that was broken and dirty. They had a Band-Aid, some cotton balls and a bottle of water,” said Wood. “They were just so thankful for everything because they have nothing.”
The group has been invited to return to Nicaragua next year so the same students can get further training with different equipment.
“We’re going to see how much we can fundraise between now and next year and see how much more equipment we can bring over to do more training with them,” said Wood. “At the fire hall we were at, they want us to go there and do training with them as well.”
Wood has plans to return.
“I think we all have intentions of going back. They were great people. I enjoyed working with the people,” she said. “It was perfect.”