Vail Valley ambulance lands in Honduras | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley ambulance lands in Honduras

Local Rotarian Reggie O'Brien, left, is a Peace Corps volunteer in Cane, Honduras. She asked local Rotarians to help get an ambulance for her village, and about a year later, here it is.
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VAIL, Colorado – The good guy network did good.

Local Rotarian Reggie O’Brien is Peace Corps volunteer doing economic development in Honduras.

Her village, Cane, Honduras, needed an ambulance. Yes, she’s supposed to be in economic development. And yes, she just landed the last grant to buy 200 computers for her village and she’s really happy about that.

But Hondurans in her village need everything, and she’s doing everything she can, including finding an ambulance.

And so began a year-long odyssey for what would turn out to be the nicest ambulance in that part of Honduras – OK, the only ambulance in that part of Honduras.

O’Brien is serving in Cane, Honduras. The ambulance will serve three communities, each with a population of 5,000 to 6,000.

But before we can tell you that story, we have to tell you this story.

More than a year ago, O’Brien contacted the Eagle County Ambulance District’s Fred Morrison, asking where she might find an ambulance. Morrison didn’t have to look much further than his office window. They had an old one headed for a trade in.

A used ambulance is worth about $2,500 as a trade-in, and doesn’t make much of a dent in the $150,000 price tag for a new one, Morrison said.

So they decided to send it to Honduras, since O’Brien had asked so nicely.

While humans illegally sneak from Honduras to the United States all the time, moving an ambulance in the other direction is a little more problematic.

Dan Smith and Buddy Sims are military veterans, Rotarians and forces of nature. Both understand that, alas, gone are the days when a case of Jim Beam might have procured your ambulance a spot on a military transport plane. Not that they would have any personal experience with that sort of thing.

Smith serves on the ECAD board and secured the ambulance. Sims fired off hundreds of emails, looking for official channels the ambulance might take to Honduras.

And that put them in touch with the Navy.

The Navy has this ship, The Swift, that’s part of Operation Handclasp. It does lots of humanitarian missions, along resupplying small Navy bases between here and places like Honduras.

Yes, there was a spot on the Swift, Sims learned, but the ambulance would have to be on board, in Florida, about three days later.

Someone strolled into a Vail Rotary Club meeting and hollered, “Road trip,” and before you could say, “Four Way Test,” local Rotarian Luc Pols, a former Dutch Marine, was on his way to the Sunshine State at the wheel of the ambulance.

Once loaded, it took five months for The Swift to get to Honduras. Lots of humans between here and Honduras need humanitarian help, so it stopped a lot.

When it docked in Honduras, the mayor of a neighboring town decided the ambulance must be for him. He hadn’t actually asked for an ambulance, but now that he saw O’Brien’s ambulance he decided he wanted one, and this one would do nicely.

Eventually, he was convinced that the ambulance was not his, but the good people of Cane would share.

The trip to Honduras was just the first leg of its journey. It has made two dozen trips since being in country.

Cane’s mayor launched a maternal children’s health center in his village. There’s a hospital in the next village.

“The Vail Rotary was huge in supporting all my projects,” O’Brien said via Skype last month from Cane. “The Rotary does so much for so many people, and they do it so quietly. They have such open hearts.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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