Sunday, August 31, 2008

Medill News Service: "Turkey, Mexico and a tale of two ambulances"

Turkey, Mexico and a tale of two ambulances

by Becca Milfeld
May 15, 2008

Becca Milfeld/MNS

[Picture] Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan holds the keys to one of the new ambulances that will be used in Tabasco, Mexico.

WASHINGTON – In Turkey they would be called two shiny new ambulans. In the Mexican state of Tabasco, where they’re headed, they’ll go by their Spanish name, ambulancia.

The keys to the two brand-new Mercedes ambulances changed hands on Tuesday, thousands of miles from either country.

In a Capitol Hill ceremony, the Turkish Coalition of America gave the two vehicles worth $60,000 each to the Mexican Red Cross, Cruz Roja Mexicana, as a goodwill gesture.

Representing an odd coupling of countries, the gesture by the nonprofit Turkish organization returned a favor – one dating back nearly nine years when an earthquake hit northwestern Turkey.

The Mexican government contributed significant aid in the wake of the disaster that left approximately 17,000 people dead, according to official counts.

In return, the Turkish coalition decided last year that it would give a gift to the people of Tabasco, the low-lying state along the Gulf Coast that suffered horrendous flooding in fall 2007. Waters there left tens of thousands of people homeless, destroyed most of the state’s crops and ruined businesses.

Red Cross of Mexico President Daniel Goni Diaz, who spoke at the ceremony, emphasized that the Red Cross plays a different role in Mexican civil society than in the United States.

Last year, the Red Cross there was responsible for 1.3 million ambulance trips, representing 80 percent of the nation’s ambulance calls. All were free of charge, he said.

He added that every new ambulance could allow an additional 1,000 trips per year.

The ambulances will be presented in the state of Tabasco at a July ceremony. Among the invited guests of honor are Reps. Solomon Ortiz and Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrats who had helped facilitate the donation. They also attended Thursday’s ceremony, where the two vehicles were dedicated to them.

“We would love to be there when you turn the siren on,” Ortiz said said of the July event.

And then, Ortiz and Reyes joked about who would get to man the siren and who would turn on the lights.

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