Every story has a beginning
In October 2008, Rodney McDonald was visiting some friends in the extreme northern city of Jalapa, located on the Honduran border. He noticed there was no fire station. After spending 2 years (2002-2004) in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua in a community located directly on the Pan-American highway, he knew the importance of emergency response and the lack of resources and training existing in Nicaragua. On the trip with him was a friend from his Peace Corps days Nola Nakerud who suggested he contact Mark Taylor, director of Bend Firefighter Foundation, because he had been integral in building a volunteer firefighter service in the Nicaraguan community of Condega.
Mark and Rodney began to discuss how to duplicate the success in the project in another area. As they researched, they realized that the issue is not only with the lack of stations in populated areas, but also with the overall structure. They knew that without adequate training and community support, the construction of other stations would not be sustainable. The decision was made to create an organization that would not only work directly with existing fire stations, but would also work in unison with the country system(s) to improve all emergency response services.
ERSLA was founded in April 2009 as a project under the Bend Firefighter Foundation located in Bend, Oregon. We began with donations from friends and family, then extended out to support with civic and mission groups.Since inception, ERSLA has been able to provide specific training in first-aid, community outreach, vehicle extraction, high angle rescue and many other topics to firefighters in northern Nicaragua. The organization has delivered several tons of much needed equipment from fire-trucks, to specific hard to come by items such as fire hose. ERSLA has initiated outreach programs designed to improve communication between community members and their local firefighters while also providing non-emergency needs to local community members.
ERSLA has been growing at a strong and steady pace over the past years. Our dream is to extend the services to other parts of the country and eventually to other countries in need as well. To develop this program, we offer volunteer, internship, and study abroad opportunities to better understand the needs in developing countries and to find committed individuals who are serious about making a difference in the world in a positive and sustainable manner.