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Cochabamba, Bolivia

As the second-poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Bolivia faces many challenges. Each year, thousands of people suffer permanent injuries or death due to adverse living conditions and inadequate medical care. Emergency medical services in particular are fragmented and underdeveloped.

In August 2011, the international nonprofit Mano a Mano invited A Tu Lado to join in the goal of training volunteer paramedics for Mano a Mano's air service. After completing a needs assessment in January 2012, we expanded the partnership to include SAR Bolivia and the medical school of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (UMSS). With these partners, A Tu Lado led an “Introduction to EMT” course in June 2012, which trained 23 students and served as a model for future courses at the university. Ongoing projects in Cochabamba include courses in basic life support and EMT-level courses at UMSS.

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Caracas, Venezuela

Caracas is hidden behind tall, narrow mountains, a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. Large and growing shantytowns dot the city, nested between between skyscrapers and perched on the many hillsides. The geography reflects residents' disparity; access to medical services varies considerably across the city and likely depends on where you reside. First responders from different parts of the city often have dramatically different training.

In January 2011, A Tu Lado formed a collaboration with Venemergencia, a private ambulance service, and Los Bomberos of Universidad Simón Bolívar (USB), a volunteer firefighting and emergency medical brigade. In June 2011, we led a basic life support course for 17 paramedics, and partnered with the community of Los Erasos, a local shantytown of 5,000 people, to train first responder volunteers. These first responders formed a community brigade under the medical direction of Venemergencia with the goal of growing into an autonomous emergency medical service. Members continue to receive education from our partners, and are organizing the community to improve their capacity for emergency response.

Since our courses in 2011, A Tu Lado has supported continuing education for the brigade and is partnering in a 180-hour EMT course at USB. The course, scheduled to begin January 2013, will be taught by the USB Department of Biology and Venemergencia. It will be Venezuela's first university-based and accredited EMT-level course.

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