Miami EMT's Bus Makes Last Stop in Haiti

Dream of bringing bus to Port-au-Prince orphanage becoming a reality

Mike Saavedra was dog tired when he drove the old school bus to a shipping terminal on the Miami River. Saavdra is a ambulance driver and also works as a EMT in the Florida Keys. He doesn't get a lot of sleep and he's been on another project that has kept him on the run. 

In January Saavdra, his brother Alex, and a band of EMTs were dispatched to Haiti to assist with Project Medishare. A makeshift hospital staffed by University of Miami doctors was working around the clock as surgeons and trauma staffers saved lives in the wake of the earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince. 

Saavedra and his crew knew that where they really belonged was in the street transporting victims. It was what they knew, and they got it on by hooking up with a guy named Grant who was hauling the injured to the hospital in a delivery truck.

The Miami EMTs worked the streets for two weeks saving lives and along the way fell in love with the orphans at Grant's orphanage. 

God's Planet Orphanage cared for 150 Haitian kids who before the earthquake faced challenges, and it got even worse. The EMTs vowed they would help.

Grant said the kids needed a bus and lots of of supplies, like diapers, clothing, canned food, medical supplies. Grant made the bus happen, the Saavedras got Felix Varela High school to stage a donation drive. The result? The bus now painted in vivid island colors was packed with the needed goods and supplies.

Now the hard part, getting the bus to Haiti. Working with the Sisters in Christ the EMTs raised some of the cost for shipment. It was going slow -- donations tight -- but then a bit of a miracle. 

Former Port of Miami Director Chuck Towsley was in Haiti on business. He now operates Sante Shipping Lines which services Haitian ports.

"When I got back my wife said that there was a story on NBC Miami that might be great for Sante Shipping Lines," Towsley remembers. He got a hold of NBC Miami staffers and hooked up with the Saavedra Brothers.  

"We really felt that they had done so much and we would give back to them to help them so we reached out," the shipping industry veteran said. Not only did the company reach out, so did company employees who dug into their pockets chipping away at the shipping bill.

A big crane hoisted the bus on to the freighter that would make its way to a Northern Haiti port. Once the boat is off loaded and clears customs, Mike Saavedra vows he will drive it right to the orphanage.

For Saavedra it is a dream come true. "A great day for me," he says almost misty eyed. And for sure in a month or so a great day for 150 Haitian orphans who for the first time ever will have some transportation that will make life easier in a very tough world.

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