In September 2014 I had the opportunity to spend some time with Francisco Olachea Martin, getting to know the man and learning about the work he does.
We met just across the border on a September morning in downtown Nogales, Sonora. As the day started we first stopped by a city government building to submit paperwork for an upcoming Independence Day parade, where Francisco and his ambulance were to participate with other vehicles and volunteers from the Mexican National Emergencies Commission.
After that we picked up our friend Elias, a retired attorney. But before we could leave, some of Elias’s neighbors walked over to request help with a jump start for their engine, and always willing to lend a hand, Francisco obliged.
We then went to the offices of Mexican Senator Ernesto Gandara to drop off donated medical supplies for a health fair to be held the following Saturday in one of the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Then it was on to ARSOBO, a facility whose employees produce and provide durable goods and services to people with special needs. ARSOBO, which stands for Arizona Sonora and Border, is a nonprofit that was founded by retired University of Arizona doctor Burris Duncan, MD. It provides wheelchairs, prosthetic devices and aural health services to people who could otherwise not afford them. To learn more about ARSOBO, visit their Facebook page.
We were there to drop off some donated crutches and a wheelchair, and pick up some wheelchair tires for another Francisco, an amputee with a shoeshine stand near the border whose wheelchair tires were failing.
After delivering those tires to the other Francisco we went to a place where homeless migrants were waiting for a lunch that was to be provided by a local Christian charity. As we waited for the food to arrive, Francisco provided some basic assistance, like blood pressure testing and foot powder, to the men.
Soon, the van from Nana Ministries pulled up. But before the food was served, the group got together to sing, dance and pray, after which Francisco helped serve the basic meal of soup, bread and tortillas.
After everyone had been fed, we jumped back in Francisco's ambulance to make a visit to the people who live in the local "El Tirabichi" landfill, to do a follow-up on some vaccinations he had done the day before and bring some cream to a young girl who was suffering from a skin condition.
When the other landfill residents saw Francisco arrive, they came to him to ask health-related questions and request aspirin and other basic medical assistance. After he dropped me off at the border in the late afternoon, he was on his way to take sandwiches to the inmates of the city jail, and provide other support to the people of Nogales.
Francisco Olachea Martinez is busy helping others from early morning into the night. He does not do it for money. In fact, any donations he receives are spent on medical supplies, food for the needy, gas for his ambulance and other basic necessities.
He hopes to one day to be able to have a fully equipped ambulance. But it would be more than an ambulance, he explains. It would be a mobile source of community medical assistance.
Always thinking of others.