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Voluntourism Spotlight: Disaster Relief Training in Mexico

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When disaster strikes we all want to be able to help, but few of us have the necessary training. In this week’s Voluntourism Spotlight, together with Go Voluntouring we’re highlighting Voluntrek’s 18-day emergency preparation program. Check back every Wednesday for more voluntourism opportunities and tune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio on Saturday for more information.

For the first time ever, Voluntrek, a Mexico City-based volunteer organization, is partnering with non-profit organization Brigada de Rescate Topos Tlatelolco, known as Topos, to offer an 18-day emergency preparation program this summer.

“In 1985, Mexico was hit by a very strong earthquake,” said Yvonne Nader, Voluntrek founder. “Mexico City was practically destroyed, so [Topos] started working as volunteers to start to save the people that have been trapped, and after the damage from the earthquake was finished, they decided to organize themselves as a non-profit organization. They are recognized worldwide, and they are the ones who give the training to potential volunteers.”

Topos has responded to recent natural disasters, including the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2009 earthquake in Sumatra and the 2007 floods in Tabasco, Mexico.

“After taking the volunteer program in Mexico City, they are not qualified to perform a rescue on their own,” Nader said, “but they are qualified to perform it as part of the team.” When there is a disaster in a certain country, the organization contacts citizens of that country who have completed one of their emergency preparation courses to see if they would like to assist Topos in the rescue operation. Volunteer are only eligible if they have stayed up-to-date on their region’s specific training protocol.

Volunteers who go through the program must also sign a pledge that they will not use their knowledge to make a profit, as Topos is strictly a volunteer organization and not intended for people looking for a career in natural disaster preparation.

The program runs from July 19, through August 5, 2012. In addition to the training, the $1,227 (USD) Voluntrek program fee provides hotel-style lodging, two meals per day, all program fees and transportation related to the course and local support 24.7. There are also leisure days during which volunteers can explore Mexico City.
All volunteers are also required to have travel and health insurance in order to participate.

For more information about this program, visit Voluntrek’s website.

By Charles Edward Hicks for PeterGreenberg.com.

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