The Caravan of Hope was on a mission and no amount of snow or slippery roads would get in its way.
Four ambulances filled with wheelchairs, walkers, stretchers and medical supplies destined for Ecuador and Guatemala needed to get from Toronto to Montreal on Thursday, Dec. 27. The day after the GTA was hit with the first snowstorm of the season that dumped more than 10 centimetre of snow on the city.
But with Father Hernan Astudillo of North York’s San Lorenzo Anglican Church and his seven volunteers at the helm, there was never any doubt the precious cargo wouldn’t make it, despite the bad weather and rough road conditions.
“It was a very intense and risky adventure,” said Astudillo. “Close to Kingston we almost ran off the road because of a large piece of black ice. And at Cornwall the road was covered in a thick layer of snow, you could not see the road. We were driving blind.”
“One of my personal ambitions is to send at least
But still they pressed on in spite of seeing roads and highways littered with cars that were not as lucky as Astudillo and his crew.
Once in Montreal, the ambulances were packed into shipping containers set to hit the seas on Monday, Dec. 31. Two of the ambulances will be sent to the province of San Marcos in Guatemala, still recovering from a 7.4-magnitude earthquake that rocked Central America on Nov. 7. And the remaining two ambulances are set to go to Morona Santiago in Ecuador as Astudillo’s first step toward expanding his Caravan of Hope initiative.
“One of my personal ambitions is to send at least one ambulance to each country in Latin America in the most vulnerable areas,” said Astudillo.
This trip will be the first time ambulances will travel by boat. For the past 11 years, since the Caravan of Hope’s inception in 2001, Astudillo and his band of volunteers have driven ambulances and school buses full of medical and school supplies themselves to Latin American countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, a trip that takes roughly 12 days of driving to complete.
This trip marks the church’s 14th visit and is its second trip of 2012.
Astudillo plans to fly to both Guatemala and Ecuador in early February once the ambulances have cleared customs.
It took Astudillo about seven months of raffles and fundraisers to raise the $21,000 needed to buy all three ambulances. The fourth was donated by Elite 911, an authorized used-ambulance dealership at Finch Avenue and Dufferin Street.
“This is the best gift we could give this Christmas season,” said Astudillo. “To give the gift of charity to our brothers and sisters who are in need in Ecuador and Guatemala.”