Some people collect coins. Others fill albums with postage stamps from around the world. But not Roman Bayrock (RC of Edmonton Riverview). He collects ambulances.
So far, he has obtained 11 of these life-saving vehicles, after they have been retired by Alberta Health Services.
Once these ambulances are refurbished, they are designated for developing countries where the need for them is great.
Assisting people in this fashion gives Roman “a rush. It’s like winning the lottery. I feel great helping people,” he says.
Roman, who describes himself as “a bit of an opportunist, with a talent for bargain hunting,” purchased his first ambulance by chance, when he discovered it listed for sale on an auction site.
“I figured that not too many people would be interested,” he recalls. “I wondered how cheaply I could buy it.”
But first, he contacted the Belize Emergency Response Team.
“I called BERT and asked, ‘If I could find you an ambulance cheap, would you be interested?’ They were.”
That first ambulance was shipped to Belize in 2016.
Since then, two more ambulance have gone to Belize. One went to the village of Dangriga, in the Southern Health Region, and the other to Southern Emergency Service, which was started in the Southern Health Region by a former Spruce Grove resident.
This last ambulance was delivered to Belize with the assistance of the US Air Force, through the Denton Program, which is jointly administered by several US government departments and agencies.
“The Denton program offers shipment of ‘humanitarian assistance’ in the form of utility trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, etc., to locations in North American at virtually no charge when space is available,” Roman says.
At the end of August, Roman and his wife Sandra, who is also a member of Edmonton Riverview, drove the ambulance to the Malstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. There the ambulance was loaded onto a C-5 Hercules transport for the flight to Belize.
Prior to departing for Montana, Roman held a media event at Alberta Honda in Edmonton, which stores and refurbishes the ambulances.
“Without Alberta Honda, we would not have a space to store these ambulances and no source for parts, tires and batteries,” Roman says.
Once Alberta Honda has refurbished the remaining ambulances, they will be shipped to other developing countries. Four will go to Belize, two to Africa and two to Mexico, as part of the Highway to Mexico program organized by the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie-Swan City.
This convoy of ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles will depart for Mazatlan on March 29. Members of the Edson Rotary Club, which is paying to refurbish this vehicle, will drive one ambulance on the two-week journey. Roman and Sandra will drive the second.
Two ambulances will be going to Southern Emergency Services Belize, two to the Believe in Belize Charity in Pacencia, and one each to Faith Prestige Hospital in Ghana and to Arms Across Africa for use in Uganda.
The organizations receiving ambulances are responsible for all costs associated with refurbishing and transportation of the vehicles.
Before the Riverview club releases vehicles to other groups, the potential recipients are required to complete a questionnaire developed by Dean Wood, the club’s International Services director.
“The purpose of the questionnaire was to get the organizations to make a series of commitments and demonstrate they have the capacity to operate and maintain the vehicle to ensure they will provide a quality and sustainable service,” Dean says.
“We asked them to commit to provide services to all residents of the areas, without regard to their ability to pay,” he says. “We believe that making the service available to all reflects a core Rotary value.”
Finally, each organization was asked to demonstrate a partnership with a local Rotary club.