that he could barely hear anything. It was also painful.”
Dr. Miguel gave each of his interns a syringe. “We basically irrigated
his ear. Ryan did one ear and I did the other. It took 30–40 squirts,
and it was so gross, you’d see all this black hard gunk falling out of
the ear … He had to push through the pain, but eventually it cleared
up and he could hear.”
According to Harrison, medical personnel who come from a devel-
oped nation such as the United States gain tremendously from the
internship program. “The first thing you get is, you’re astounded by
how we get by with so little. People walk away wondering how we
do it,” he said.
In addition, the experience can be very hands-on, especially when
interns stay two weeks. “Michael got to do a lot of stuff even para-
medics can’t do,” said Harrison. “The doctor is totally responsible, and
he’ll let them act up to their full potential.”
Anyone can volunteer for the education program, and there are
opportunities for individuals, couples, groups and families, people of all
ages, “… and no, you don’t have to be a paramedic!” asserts the website.
Teams of volunteers do outreach trips, such as visiting schools in the
aldeas during the school season (February 15 to November 15). “We
do the Children Health Identification Program (CHIP) program,” said
Harrison. Four times a year, he said, they visit about 2,000 children
in 25 schools, monitoring their growth, development and well-being.
“CHIP also allows us to identify children with medical or developmental difficulties, and refer them along to our clinic for evaluation
and treatment,” according to the PFCI website.
Of course, they never go empty-handed. “The Chortí way is to take
a gift. You always have to give something,” said Harrison. “And they
always have a gift for us—chickens, bananas, or the children will dance
for us or do a show.” Teachers receive a computer disk containing photos of the children, which can be printed for each child’s school photo.
HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE
For a grassroots organization, Paramedics for Children has done well,
persisting for more than 20 years. It survived the Hurricane Mitch
era and what Harrison refers to as the “Ambulance Age.” PCFI is
making a real difference with Clinica La Esperanza. The charity has
morphed from an entrepreneurial seat-of-the-pants effort, and is
now more established and stable, with a dedicated board of directors
and business advisors. A modern website, accessible at www.pfci.org,
links it to the world.
Now, the future of the organization relies on a few things: First,
said Harrison, is bolstering the donor base and drawing in a new gen-
eration of donors. “We’ve got to reach the millennials,” said Harrison,
“and teach them how to give.”
He’s noticed that younger people often have a short attention span
and not much money—but they love adventure. So, Paramedics for
Children has developed a “super-supporter” category for donors who
commit to making a modest donation ($20–$25 per month) through
a credit card.
“Every penny will go against your stay for your first mission to Hon-
duras, including room and board in the hacienda,” he said. “If I can
get a kid to put $25 a month in for 8 or 12 months, they’ll have their
down payment to get to work in the clinic and be involved.”
Second, with many traditional sources of income tapped out, Mor-
ton is looking for corporate donors or anyone interested in grants.
Third: beanie babies! With so many children passing through the
clinic each month, said Morton, “we’re getting beanie babies or small
stuffed animals. The children are usually scared. So, Rodger will take
the stuffed animals and make ‘em talk. He calms them down so they
won’t be so scared.”
Paramedics for Children will have a booth at the upcoming 2018
EMS Today Conference and Exposition, which will be held February
21–23 in Charlotte, N.C. Anyone traveling to the show is encouraged
to bring a beanie baby or two. Wander over to their booth and stay
to visit awhile with the people making a difference in Copán Ruinas,
Honduras. Maybe Rodger Harrison, Roz Morton or one of the oth-
ers will draw you in and you’ll soon experience the volunteer adven-
ture of a lifetime. JEMS
Kate Dernocoeur, NREM T, has written numerous books, articles and columns for EMS readers.
Her involvement with emergency care began in 1976, and she served with Denver’s famous
Paramedic Division from 1979 to 1986. She’s now an EMT-firefighter with the Ada (Mich.)
Fire Department and a SAR TECH-II with Kent County Search and Rescue’s K- 9 unit. The fourth
edition of her seminal book, Streetsense: Communication, Safety and Control, is scheduled for
release in 2019 by JEMS Books and Videos.
Medical professionals who volunteer with Paramedics for Children gain valuable
hands-on experience with patients while also delivering valuable patient care to
a community in need. Photo courtesy Rodger Harrison