‘Caravan of Hope’ will supply El Salvador with much needed ambulances
by M. Cook – BASICS Online – February 2010
On Monday February 1st, members of the San Lorenzo church community blocked the implementation of recommendations of a City staff report that threatened the success of their internationalist project ‘Caravan of Hope’.
In 2001, San Lorenzo started the ‘Caravan of Hope’ program. The program donates decommissioned school busses, ambulances and medical supplies to communities in Latin America. Last year, the City of Toronto donated two decommissioned ambulances and the community organized numerous fundraisers to pay for the legal and transportation costs of driving the ambulances down to the City of Soyapango in El Salvador.
The ambulances act as both “mobile clinics and mobile operating theatres,” said Josephine Van Dusen, a retired teacher and a volunteer for Caravan of Hope. They are “among the few publicly owned ambulances in the country [El Salvador]”.
“Caravan of Hope is one of the best examples of people-to-people solidarity,” said Luis Granados Ceja, a member of the community organization Barrio Nuevo, “It brings together communities who are in many ways involved in the same struggle for social justice and it does so in a way that builds real bonds between these communities.”
This year, the community was hoping to send down 14 ambulances. However, that plan was put in danger when City of Toronto staff recommended ending its support of the program.
Despite the short notice, the San Lorenzo community was able to mobilize over 50 members of its community to attend the executive committee meeting. “It is important to invite the people because they need to participate in actions to get our rights and to build solidarity with people in the world,” said Father Hernan Astudillo.
Through the community mobilization and the support received from city councilors, the community was able to overturn the recommendations of the staff report. The City of Toronto’s Executive Committee, in the face of the popular action, agreed to continue donating one ambulance per year from 2010 to 2013 and to allow non-profits the first option to buy decommissioned ambulances.
The people here “represent the poor people, the grass roots in the Latin American community. We have now a clear picture; if we want to get something we must be united…we believe that when the poor believe in the poor we can build, we can feel the freedom in our families and in our society,” said Father Astudillo.
To get involved with the Caravan of Hope and the San Lorenzo community visit: www.sanlorenzo.ca