Rotary ambulance benefits Mexican fishermen

An ambulance is donated to the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka for the Mexico Ambulance Project. Pictured from left are Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka Rotarians Haider Ajina and Dan Brown, Project Coordinator Dean Charlton and City Ambulance of Eureka CEO Jaison Chand.
An ambulance donated to the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka for the Mexico Ambulance Project. From left are Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka Rotarians Haider Ajina and Dan Brown, Project Coordinator Dean Charlton and City Ambulance of Eureka CEO Jaison Chand.

Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka (D 5130, North California, US) is celebrating its 48th anniversary with the completion of its Mexico Ambulance Project. The club was formally established March 22, 1969, with 20 founding members. Today, it has 75 members and is led by President Roland Johnson.
“A roster of the organisations that we have supported, the many dozens of projects that we have developed, mirrors the critical challenges of our times,” Johnson said. “Projects that have addressed literacy, health and wellness, the environment, support for young entrepreneurs, education, at-risk children, hunger and food insecurity, seniors, and more — we have, through one project and one effort at a time, worked to improve our Eureka community and, through our international projects, to better lives in other parts of the world.”
The club’s most recently completed effort is the Mexico Ambulance Project, benefiting the small fishing village of Boca Tamatlan on the west coast of Mexico. With a population of less than 600 people, Boca Tamatlan is a hub for six fishing villages bordering the coastline. Though only 16 miles from Puerto Vallerta, it takes an hour to reach medical care — a drive that has been, until very recently, made with the ill and injured traveling in the back of a pickup truck along a winding two-lane dirt road.
The need for villagers to be able to reach Puerto Vallerta hospitals quickly and safely was critical, though options were limited.That’s where the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka stepped in.
It all began with Southwest Eureka Rotarian Lewis Quinby, who conceived the annual Festival of Brotherhood in the 1990s, which brought Guadalajara and Eureka Rotarians together to develop projects in Mexico. Dean Charlton, a member of the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka who grew up in Mexico, attended most of the Festival of Brotherhood gatherings and has been instrumental in many of its projects. Through his relationships with Mexican Rotarians, he learned of the transportation needs in Boca de Tomatlan, developed a plan and signed on as project coordinator.
The solution hinged on the donation of an ambulance by City Ambulance of Eureka, which was facilitated by fellow Rotarian Dan Brown.
Rotary Club of South Ukiah auto shop owner Salvador Rico also played a key role. He had connected with Charlton at a Festival of Brotherhood gathering and agreed to repair and refurbish the vehicle in his spare time.
Ignacio Palomera, a member of the Puerto Vallerta Sur Rotary, took on the challenge of completing the appropriate paperwork required by the Mexican government, a process that, due to repeated regulatory changes, took 10 months to complete.
Marty Lay and Jerry Colivas Jr, Southwest Eureka Rotarians, then joined Charlton in a convoy, driving to Los Angeles to deliver the vehicle to Palomera. Changing documentation requirements led to lengthy encounters with U.S. Customs, the State Board of Equalisation, the Immigration Department of Mexico and the Department of Motor Vehicles. “We’re trying to donate, to do a good thing here,” said Charlton, “but the various bureaucracies did not make it easy.”
After several days of negotiation, online searches for information conducted by Rotarians in Eureka and piles of paperwork, the ambulance recently crossed the border at Tijuana.
Now, Boca de Tomatlan and six neighboring towns — with more than 9,000 people — have transportation for sick and injured villagers to Puerto Vallarta hospitals for treatment.
“Was it easy? No. Frustrating? Sometimes. Worth the time and effort? Absolutely,” said Charlton.
“Service Above Self” is the motto of Rotary. And Roland Johnson believes that the Mexico Ambulance Project is a fine example of service above self, of the real-life meaning of the Rotarian motto.
“It’s the Rotary way,” he said. “And it makes this year’s birthday celebration that much sweeter.”

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