Volunteer with ERSLA in Nicaragua

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A firefighter in gear with an oxygen tank in Managua.
Firefighter e in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo © Jorge Mejía peralta, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

ERSLA is a unique organization that seeks to address three fundamental needs to improve emergency response services in Nicaragua: (1) emergency response equipment; (2) first responder training; and (3) community integration of emergency service preparedness and response. [pullquote align=right]ERSLA is committed to creating sustainable solutions, and its work focuses on training Nicaraguans.[/pullquote]At the time of this writing, current projects included the provision of firefighter equipment and training, a water filter program, building smoke-free stoves, and burn prevention education.

ERSLA is committed to creating sustainable solutions, and its work focuses on training Nicaraguans. Volunteers support the trainer and, when possible, train the trainer.

Volunteers without specific emergency response skills (and, particularly, language skills) who will be visiting for one month or less are welcome on “familiarization trips.” These volunteers can assist with projects such as first-aid training or water filter distribution. Those without Spanish skills, or with basic Spanish only, usually work as assistants for a staff member or other volunteer. Volunteers with emergency response skills, such as a firefighter who knows extrication or brush fire techniques, or a nurse who understands first-aid training, will have a greater opportunity to apply those skills on a short visit, depending on their knowledge level and Spanish skills.

Volunteer responsibilities are explained in an on-site orientation upon arrival in Nicaragua. ERSLA’s project coordinator works with the volunteers to ensure that expectations are met and also that the volunteer feels useful. ERSLA can arrange Spanish lessons (at the volunteer’s expense) for those wishing to improve their language skills. (ERSLA also receives team visits, but these are usually learning opportunities for the team members rather than volunteer opportunities.)

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Emergency Response Services for Latin America (ERSLA)

Northwest Nicaragua
U.S. tel. 478/787-4889
http://www.ersla.org

Application Process: Volunteers must complete a three-page application form (sent to them by ERSLA) that indicates skills and interests. ERSLA follows up with an interview to ensure the best placement.

Cost: ERSLA works with each volunteer to develop a budget that covers airport pickup, administration costs, transportation (private or public vehicles, depending on project and comfort level), and a personal cell phone with minutes added each week. This can vary significantly depending on the volunteer’s ability or willingness to take public transportation such as buses, or the need to transport equipment for the project.

Placement Length: There is no minimum.

Language Requirements: Spanish skills are helpful but are not required.

Housing: ERSLA can make accommodation arrangements for volunteers, or volunteers can make their own.

Operating Since: 2009 (incorporated as a nonprofit in 2012)

Number of Volunteers: Three volunteers and two interns in 2012

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Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.

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