After the last election, I was approached by the new Chiefs of Civil Protection for PV and Compestela. Gerardo Castillon, the new PV Chief was a Bombero when I started the Foundation so we have a background and a friendship. It is always wonderful to see 1 of the firefighters elected as Chief rather than someone politically appointed who has no relative background. Both Gerardo and Arturo Ortiz(Chief from Compestela) were asking for help in getting gear and equipment. I, in turn, reached out to an amazing organization called Firefighters Without Borders Canada. Two days after sending an email asking for support for these areas, I received a response and a phone call from their President, Carl Eggiman. I was thrilled and we had a conversation about how dire things are in these impoverished countries. Just a truly great person who does what he does in spite of the roadblocks he faces, on a constant basis. A giver!! During this conversation, I learned that they collect massive amounts of surplus gear and equipment and ship them in 40 foot containers to countries for just the cargo price. What is in these containers will support around 200 Bomberos. Huge!! They also get emergency vehicles donated and do the same thing with them. After a few more discussions and emails, Carl gave me the amazing news that we could have a container that was designated for another country but they did not want to pay shipping. Kudos to Carl and FFWB Canada for dealing with so many of these countries. I know, from my 14 years of trying to help Mexico, that it can be an extremely taxing and frustrating process. But we keep doing it for the brave individuals on the front lines.
Chief Castillon and Chief Ortiz were very happy to hear this news and have been working with City Hall to get the necessary Customs paperwork done for the Mexico side. FFWB Canada does the shipping paperwork on our side. Another blessing from working with them as we used to have to pack the containers and do the paperwork. Did I mention how amazing this organization is??!! Like a well oil machined that just keeps doing such important work. The container should arrive in early December into the port of Vallarta. It will be shared by PV, Compestela, Guayabitos, Las Varras, Mascota and Tulpa. The difference it will make, to these areas and the Bomberos trying to save lives, is immeasureable. Imagine going to work every day and trying to do your job whatever it might be without the tools required. I have seen the sadness and frustration in the eyes and hearts of these brave men and women too many times in the past 14 years. It is the moments of being able to support them that brings a complete and utter joy to our AFM hearts and those of FFWB Canada. If their generosity and interest in helping these areas by donating 1 of their precious containers was not enough, they are also coming down in late March to do a weeks worth of training for the Bomberos in the areas that will share the contents of the container. Phil Cyr is the head of the training team for FFWB Canada. Another fabulous person who has a huge heart and wants to help. In case you are unaware, the training Bomberos receive is minimal, at best. Anything past that they have to pay for themselves courses, lodging and travel. Pretty difficult to do when you make barely enough to support your family. FFWB Canada will bring down a team of 7 to do the training. They pay their own flights and use vacation time to give this amazing gift. Our firefighters in Canada are not paid a kings ransom and most have second or third jobs because the passion for what they do is so strong. The Bomberos who participate in the training will then share what they have learned with their fellow firefighters. Lots of ripple effects from this will result.
To say that Angels for Mexico is excited, grateful, and humbled to be working with this outstanding organization, is an understatement. It is a relationship that I hope to see continue for many years to come. If you are interested in getting involved or helping in some way, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about FFWB Canada, you can check out their Facebook page. I would like to give a quick shout out to my good friend and loyal Angels for Mexico supporter, Stan Gabruk. I am very grateful that I walked into his shop, Masterbaiters, 14 years ago. He has used his voice in his shop, with friends and via his articles with various PV newspapers, to send out our message and try to get people educated and involved. You truly are one of the Great Ones, Stan!!