Volunteers are raising money to drive an ambulance to Argentina
New Yorkers are used to the blaring sounds of emergency vehicle sirens. But in a farming community in Argentina, the nearest hospital and ambulance could be 100 miles away.
That's where Stephen Jan and his team of seven explorers come in. "The Last Responders" have spent months raising $2,000 to buy a used ambulance. In December, they will begin the three-month journey through 13 countries and 41 cities, with the help of the Nicaragua-based charity Esperanca, to deliver the ambulance and emergency supplies to a community in need.
"The typical South American visit is you fly to Machu Picchu and party, but to go to a village and see these people firsthand is educational," said Stephen Jan, the founder of The Last Responders, who lives on the Upper West Side.
In 2010, Jan participated in the Mongol Rally, where volunteers drove dozens of service vehicles from London to Mongolia to donate them. The next year, he participated in one in Africa. By the time the second journey was over, word had gotten out.
"Stephen is one of those people your parents warn you about," said "last responder" Paul Rosenthal, from the Upper West Side."Before you know it, you'll be finding yourself in an ambulance in Guatemala."
The group still has to raise between $10,000 and $15,000 more to cover the costs of fuel, travel and shipping. They have been selling T-shirts, hosting fundraisers and finding corporate sponsorships. Already, Google has donated several pairs of Google Glass to the group, which will probably be used to document their journey through a web series.
Each team member is looking forward to a different aspect of the journey, from seeing the Bolivian Salt Flats, to coming to "the end of the world" or the southern-most tip of the continent.
"I want to get to the tip and jump in the water where the Atlantic meets the Pacific," said Ken Sin, a recent college grad from Brooklyn.
There will be challenges along the way, especially when the group will have to figure out a way to transport the vehicle across the Panama Canal without knowing Spanish.
But they have help. One EMS squad donated old EPI pens and syringe caps to the team.
"It really is a community effort," said Jan. "We try to reach out and tell people our story, and maybe someone will say, oh there's a water crisis in this village, so why not help out?"
The Last Responders will be holding their next fundraising event, a fencing tournament, at the Sheraton Fencing Academy on the Upper East Side on September 29th.