On Feb. 20, 2012 eight members of the Kamloops Fire Department (KFD) and 10 volunteers are embarking on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua, opening a village community centre that’ll feed the physical and intellectual needs of its residents.
Operation Nicaragua IV is firefighter David Sakaki’s ninth trip to the tsunami and civil war ravaged region since 2009. Since then members of the KFD have been providing equipment and financial support to help residents rise above their current situation, which for many, involves living in extreme poverty and filth at a site shared with the garbage dump.
“It’s just vile conditions, nobody needs to be living in filth like that and it needs to change,” says Sakaki.
This year, volunteers will deliver three fire trucks and two containers of medical supplies for the new community centre. The centre will host a medical clinic two to three days per week, and will feed up to 400 children who would otherwise scavenge food from the dump.
Sakaki explains that for these children, an education is out of reach. “These are kids that can’t attend school because if they do, they can’t collect garbage and if they can’t collect garbage, they can’t eat.”
KFD Chief Neill Moroz believes the support they’re providing is priceless.
“To put a value on it would be difficult,” he says. “Whatever the dollar amount is, this equipment, be it medical equipment or stuff for the community centre or for the firefighters, it’s like getting a brand new truck or brand new equipment because they have next to nothing.”
“We need financial donations so we can get these kids fed,” says Sakaki. “One of the plans is if the kids want a meal they have to come and sit down and they’ll get about an hour of education every day. Hopefully we can start bringing that up to a couple hours a day and eventually just get them right out of the dump.”
Although the community centre is only just opening, Sakaki is dreaming of the day when it closes permanently.
“Nothing’s going to make me happier than actually having to walk away from that community centre because there’s nobody there,” he says. “Unfortunately, the only solution right now is a short-term one and that’s to make sure the kids get fed and to start providing them with an education.”
It takes vision, passion and determination to raise funds and equipment for communities in need. Every project needs a strong leader and Moroz thinks Sakaki is the perfect man for the job.
“David’s a remarkable young man,” he says. “His drive and his energy to help others is never-ending. I’m always in awe of his organizational skills and his ability to fundraise, find the need and then take care of things.”
KFD is accepting cheques and cash donations at the city’s fire halls. Interested donors should make cheques payable to Kamloops Fire Department Operation Nicaragua.