“My passion is to rescue and save other people’s lives,” said 19-year-old Jonathan.
Jonathan is an alumnus of the Amor Viviente Child Sponsorship Program in Honduras, and has been able to achieve his dream as a result of being registered in the program.
“As a child, I was living in the midst of a hopeless environment until I enrolled in the children’s firefighter program at the center,” he said. “I trusted the Lord and never gave up my dream of becoming a firefighter, so I pursued it. Today, I proudly wear the firefighter’s uniform and serve my community.”
Twelve years ago, the child development center staff at Amor Viviente partnered with the fire department in the community in order to benefit the children.
Through the partnership, children ages 7 to 18 years old get to attend a basic firefighter training course, first-aid workshops, and live simulations. In addition, they can accompany firefighters to visit nursing homes, participate in parades promoting the environment and provide training and orientation to schools and communities where there are no fire departments.
Every Sunday morning, children visit the fire department to start a new adventure. They wear white T-shirts with “Child Firefighter” printed on the back in red.
Step by Step
Becoming a firefighter is not an easy task. The children and young adults have to fulfill several physical, moral and academic requirements in order to be a permanent firefighter.
For the younger children, they learn how to control fire by using basic equipment, such as fire hoses and fog nozzles, and take the first-aid workshop. For the young adults, they learn how to use a breathing apparatus, pick-head axes, spanner wrench set, and how to get dressed in the bunker gear in less than two minutes.
All of the participants have to keep up with school and pursue good grades and behavior.
“It’s a pleasure to train children from the center,” said Jorge García, a firefighter and coordinator of the children’s firefighter program. “During training, I can witness how moral and Christian values are imprinted within them. Some of them are troublemakers, I must say, but at the end of the day they do not have problems following directions.”
When children are practicing live simulations, there is one activity they enjoy the most – getting wet!
“The pressure of the water through the fog nozzle is very strong, and it’s impossible to remain dry,” said 10-year-old Neytán. “Two of my classmates and I hold the fog nozzle as hard as we can and start making stream patterns. These stream patterns indicate to paramedics that an area has been cleared and that they can move forward to aid victims. Once victims are rescued, we end up all wet, and we love it!”
Child firefighters in the program are well recognized for their social activities and parades in the community. Local media have interviewed children and have witnessed how empowered they are when it comes to controlling fires.
“Children have been invited from the nearby communities to explain how to control fire. It’s really rewarding to see how they can handle fire training at such a young age,” said Jackeline, the center director.
Becoming a Firefighter
“I enrolled in the program at Amor Viviente when I was 9 years old,” recalled Jonathan, the former beneficiary who is now a firefighter. “A few months later, I was registered in the children’s firefighter program. At the age of 18 years old, I graduated from both programs. However, my race to become a firefighter was just getting started, as I had to complete some phases.”
In order to become a permanent firefighter, Jonathan needed to complete a one-year-course for volunteers, submit a high school diploma and show good behavior. Even though there are a lot of candidates from all over the community, just a few get the chance to be part of the firefighters’ crew.
“I met Jesus while I was in the project. I also learned about respect for myself and for others. Also, my former sponsors’ letters encouraged me to go through. Those qualities enabled me to be selected as permanent firefighter. I rejoice in the Lord because my family feels proud of me, as I am serving my community,” Jonathan said.
Besides the dream of becoming firefighters, youth in the program also have the opportunity to go to university and get a diploma.
“It’s amazing to see what children can become when their dreams are encouraged,” said Jackeline. “As center staff, we motivate children to develop their talents to the fullest. Through the Compassion curriculum, children are growing spiritually and emotionally strong, and the firefighters’ training is the perfect complement to strengthen their abilities.”