Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellow(s) from Aruba Conducting Professional Placement with SAMU First Response

Nicole Ruiz is partnering with SAMU First Response in Washington D.C through the U.S. State Department’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. For four weeks, Nicole, an emerging international young leader, is working at SAMU First Response collaborating in outreach and preparing the Entrepreneurial Leadership Action Plan (E-LAP) they will undertake upon their return to Aruba.

For four weeks, Ms. Ruiz will play an important role in the programs implemented by SAMU First Response to benefit migrants received in Maryland and Washington D.C. through their participation in outreach activities to connect with potential donors and community members. In addition, the fellow will be able to conduct the intake process to know first-hand the conditions in which migrants arrive in the United States and learn new intake practices so that she can implement them in her country of origin, Aruba.

“We are very excited to have Nicole as part of our staff, and we are very interested in making the most of her abilities and talents based on the programs available to the migrants we receive in the capital of the United States. Nicole will learn about the family admission process, learn first-hand the reasons why migrant families leave their countries and how, at SAMU First Response, we help them integrate into the United States. Also, she will help us generate strategic alliances for the organization that increase our reach,” said Andrea Gallegos, managing director of SAMU First Response.

As part of the fellowship experience with SAMU First Response, the fellow will also have access to the entire training package that the organization has for its staff, such as Psychological First Aid, how to act in case of epilepsy, and DC mandated reporters where she will learn how to report child abuse and neglect.

Nicole’s long-term goal is to continue to support non-profit organizations to help achieve their goals.

Launched in 2015, YLAI empowers emerging entrepreneurs from the Western Hemisphere to enable the full economic potential of the region’s citizens. This year’s YLAI fellowship program launched in October 2023, bringing together 280 young leaders from 37 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada. In March 2024, Fellows will convene in Houston, Texas for an Opening Orientation and will then travel to 19 cities across the United States for four-week professional placements with U.S. businesses.

They will collaborate with their peers to address shared business challenges, as well as engage in virtual and in-person events and cross-cultural activities. The program concludes with a Closing Forum in Washington, D.C. in April. Fellows return to their ventures with new skills, resources, ongoing support from U.S. partners, and a broader network, strengthening business ties between the U.S. and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada.

For further information, please contact us. Follow the fellowship using the hashtag #YLAI2024.

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.

Learn more about the YLAI Fellowship Program on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn at @YLAINetwork, or at

SAMU Staff goes the extra mile

“The SAMU First Response staff has been working around the clock to serve the increasing needs and arrivals of migrants from the border. This month, they received 26 buses from Texas and Arizona.”

The month of September this year in Washington, D.C. has been one of the busiest and most hectic months of 2023. The SAMU First Response staff has been working around the clock to serve the increasing needs and arrival of migrants from the border. This month, we received a total of 26 buses from Texas and Arizona, which thus far has been the most buses that we have received this year!

In order to successfully welcome and process each individual and family, the intake team worked long and hard hours receiving buses at any hour of the day and night. There were many days where the intake team worked 22-hours straight to welcome buses that arrived at 3:00am, 11:00am, and 10:00pm. These were the days when our team was most tired and worn-out, but they continued to show their commitment to helping others. Members of the entire staff banded together coming from the data and reporting team, management, and service/logistics team to help and assist their team members, by taking shifts to welcome buses so that they could give the intake team a day to be able to rest and return rejuvenated.  This is truly the definition of what teamwork looks like and how each staff member embodies the mission of SAMU to save lives.

During the month of September, our staff worked diligently to be available 24/7 for the increased arrival of buses and walk-ins. This was truly a time where the passion, heart, and dedication shone brightly from each team member of SAMU. We successfully welcomed 1,112 individuals to our welcome center and have supported 298 families during their migration journey (63.81% arrived from Texas, 15.24% arrived from Arizona, and 20.94% arrived as a walk-in directly referred to our reception center). We were able to offer shelter to 379 migrants at our dedicated respite centers located in Montgomery County in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Furthermore, we were able to purchase tickets for 497 individuals to travel onward to their final destinations where friends and families awaited their arrivals.

Although this month was a very busy and hard month for our staff, it truly showed how the staff members that work at each of the reception centers truly support each other and do everything they physically can to support those that need an extra hand when entering this country. By the end of September, we have welcomed 11,642 individuals since the start of our operations on June 21, 2022. We are lucky that our staff is willing and able to go the extra mile to serve each migrant that passes through our door, whether that be a birthday celebration for a child, providing a peaceful night of rest to be able to continue on in their journey, or our staff working 22 hours straight in a day away from their homes and families, all in the name of being able to help those that arrive to our respite center doors. The spirit of SAMU truly lives in each and every one of our staff members.

As the year ends and we are preparing for more arrivals from the border and walk-ins from other cities, we are also looking forward to providing moments of celebration for our guests and staff members. We are currently working on plans to celebrate Halloween, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, Christmas, New Years Eve, and other special traditions that are celebrated by each of the countries and cultures that are represented in the migrants that pass through our doors. We at SAMU First Response continue to strive to be a part of and help with the spark of hope and celebration that a new life in the United States brings.

SAMU’s Response to the migrant crisis in the Canary Islands

The recent migrant crisis in the Canary Islands, has once again tested SAMU Foundation’s capacity to act fast and with determination towards an emergency. As a result, SAMU has been able to set up and running four centers for unaccompanied minors. The centers, located in Telde, Farabella, Roque Nublo and Tamanaco (Puerto Rico), all part of Canary Islands, have the capacity to host 296 minors.

More than 300 unaccompanied minors arrived to the island with nothing else than the clothing they were wearing. Now, thanks to SAMU’s action, they have a safe shelter. 

The first center, in Tamanaco, was set up in record time. The first 43 children arrived on November 11, only 48 hours after SAMU had received the official calling from the Dirección General de Protección a la Infancia y la Familia, of the Canarian government. SAMU responded to the call for help. Up until  November 15, the arrival of migrants to the coast of Canarias, of more than 16,000, was 11 times more than the previous year according to official data. Numbers that had not been seen since 2006. 

SAMU was assigned the task to set up an emergency center in Tamanaco. “They called us because they had reach their capacity” Explains Juan Rodrigo, Directo of SAMU in the zone of Andalucía Occidental. The center, with a capacity to shelter 150 people had over 200 minors during the peak of the crisis. The other centers built have a capacity of 60, 58 and 28, respectively. 

SAMU’s response to the arrival of immigrants to Spanish coasts

SAMU Foundation is one of the main global operators in health, emergency and social services with have over 70 work centers in various autonomous communities in Spain and in four other countries, including our offices in Washington, DC. These include residences for highly dependent persons, residences for the elderly, day care centers, a mental health hospital and more than twenty centers for minors (11 types).

SAMU Foundation has proven and extensive experience in the management of Emergency Field Shelters for the reception of unaccompanied foreign minors since 2007. During the 6 months that SAMU managed the Emergency Field Shelter in 2007, 313 minors were attended. In 2009 and 2012, two new Emergency Field Shelters were managed, serving a total of 515 minors.

Currently SAMU Foundation manages the Programa de Recepción, Atención y Acogida Ininterrumpida (RECEP) in Andalusia, Spain. This program ensures uninterrupted reception and care for unaccompanied foreign minors. From the beginning of the activity in October 2018, SAMU Foundation has attended 4,091 unaccompanied foreign minors under the RECEP program. 

The Spanish response to the crisis respects various signed international conventions and treaties. These emergency reception facilities are put in place to guarantee the protection of those who see their fundamental rights threatened in their country of origin and to assure Spain’s commitment to the Right of Asylum.

SAMU Foundation currently has a total of 35 work centers attending minors. In 2020, 2,201 minors were attended by a multidisciplinary team of 426 professionals. They carried out the contingency plan when faced with COVID-19 through the implementation of a biosafety department in all centers. The RECEP, due to its unique characteristics, is the center with the largest emphasis on biosafety.  


Mission El Salvador 2020: Elite force against Covid-19

COVID-19 El Salvador

An intervention team from SAMU has been deployed to El Salvador in response to a call from their government to SAMU First Response at the beginning of July. The team of 28 is there to help them as they face the sanitary crisis caused by COVID-19. 

Given the situation in El Salvador, the Ministerio de Salud made an official call to Carlos Álvarez Leiva, President of SAMU, to provide assistance to a national hospital in San Salvador, the nations capital. The hospital has been recently inaugurated by president Nayub Bukele. The hospital counts with 1,000 beds of emergency and ICU support, making it the biggest hospital in Latin America. The urgent petition comes as there is a great need of volunteer medical support at all levels for at least a month. This call also comes with a need for instruction and knowledge transfer, something deep into SAMU’s mission and structure. 

To respond to the call, SAMU has gone through an intense selection process in which more than a 100 professionals from different parts of Spain have applied. On July 29th, the team of 28 professionals departed to San Salvador on a month long mission. 

The volunteers reported for duty on July 28th at the Escuela SAMU facilities in Gelves, Seville to depart to Madrid on a bus organized by our team. On July 29 they left on a charter plane to San Salvador. 

“We are a young team with a call to service and a willingness to share the institutional knowledge we have acquired during the last 30 years of missions and 20 years of training from our organization. We are eager to share the best practices that have been developed from the protocols on the fight against covid in Spain.” Says Juan Gonzales de Escalada, director of SAMU emergency services and leader of the mission. 

The departure was attended by many of our local authorities who came to wish the best to our team as they departed on this trip. Among them were Rafael García Villa, delegate from the Human Resources and Mobilization office from the local mayor’s office; Carma Tápies, Leader of the Humanitarian Action office in the Andaluza Agency of International Cooperation; Christophe Sougey De Funes, French Consul in Seville; Ignacio de Cossío Pérez de Mendoza, Consul from El Salvador in Seville; Alfonso Carmona Martínez, president of the School of Doctors in Seville; and Pilar Cordero Ramos, Vice President of the School of Nursing in Seville. 

Before the departure there were many emotional moments from our volunteers and their families as they wished them good luck and said their goodbyes. 

“As a mother I am afraid, what she is going to do is dangerous, there is a risk of contagion but I understand that is her calling and I’m here to support” said one of the relatives from our volunteers. 

As of July 29th there are approximately 270 new cases a day in El Salvador. 87% of the confirmed cases are in the nation’s capital. The Salvadorian Ministry of Health identified the first original cases of Covid-19 in the country back on April 10. At the beginning of July there were of 8,000 cases and 209 diseased. Health authorities predict the peak to hit in August and the country does not count with enough professionals to respond. 

“The call for medical volunteers will create a long lasting impact in our country. We are excited to continue building our relationship with SAMU Foundation as we all continue the fight against the virus, always improving the condition of our community” as stated by the Government of El Salvador. 

SAMU has extensive expertise in emergency interventions during catastrophes and has acquired a lot of know how in the fight against Covid-19. During the time of peak cases in Spain, SAMU was at the frontlines of the response, providing sanitary response by setting up temporary hospitals in Hotel Alcora, located San Juan de Aznalfarache in Seville, and the Residence del Tiempo Libre El Burgo, located in Línea de la Concepción, Cádiz, in order to provide medical services to elderly people with  Covid-19. SAMU also participated in the transfer of Covid patients from Madrid and Toledo. 

SAMU launches a program of distance learning for students with hearing impairment

After the state of emergency was declared in Spain as a result of the global crisis caused by Covid-19, the 16th of March marked the closing date for all education centers in the country, at all levels. The closing force centers and teachers to change their methodology and go from an in person to 100% virtual in record timing creating a great challenge for the education community. 

Distance learning has allowed a great section of the student population to continue with instructions. However, students with hearing impairment have not been able to advance their studies because interpreters have not been provided by public administration. 

“This has created a great prejudice towards students with hearing impairment, alongside an increasing learning gap between them and other groups” explains Conchi Pérez, chief of student services at SAMU. 

With this situation, SAMU has moved to develop a program of distance learning for students with hearing impairment. The program has been presented to the Agencia Pública Andaluza de Educación de la Consejería de Educación, and later shared to all other autonomies throughout the country. 

The main purposes of this new program is to address the educational needs of this special group so they can level up with their peers. This will further help the social and labor integration. “This project is born out of the needs to adapt our educational system to work under the current sanitary crises created by Covid-19” says Conchi Pérez. “The main objective is to get the information that educators provide in their classrooms or from their homes and make sure that there is no learning loss to the students in the higher education and vocational centers”

In order for distance learning to reach all students equally, the program will have a virtual platform using existing technology, in which all students can connect at the same time and to provide an interpreter. That way the students will gave equal access to both the instructor and interpreters, maintaining a situation similar to their previous in classroom experience. This will be possible given the previous access to materials provided to interpreters so that they are ready to transmit what is needed to learn. 

“The only thing needed is access to the platform to the students, instructors and interpreters, with reliable internet access and camera and audio capabilities” explains Conchi Pérez. “The student will have the opportunity to participate during online sessions, raising questions and answering at the same time as the rest of the students”.

SAMY wants to expand this program beyond the regular educational cycle into the summer break to supplement learning as it will be offered to other students during the month of July. This will allow all student to catch up with any learning loss emerging out of the pandemic. “If needed, this program can prolong into the fall, given the uncertainty with the return to in person schooling”

The area of Education Services at SAMU counts with a team of over 70 interpreters of sign language that provide in classroom services during the regular school year in education center in the province of Almería, Huelva, Jaén, Cádiz y Córdoba.

Starting on July 16, Fundación SAMU will also provide accompanying services for people with hearing impairment Comunidad de Madrid, for which it already counts with a body of 24 sing language interpreters.

Close to 600 children under the protection of SAMU

The massive arrival of immigrants in small boats to the Andalusian coast in recent years has put all the social entities involved in this phenomenon on alert, among them the SAMU Foundation, which currently hosts about 560 minors who have arrived clandestinely to Spain without being accompanied by an adult. These are distributed among the 16 different centers available to the organization. On the one hand, the so-called Temporary Emergency Accommodation Units or Immediate Care centers, and, on the other, the Basic Residential Care centers. Most of them come from Morocco, although there are also children from Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Ivory Coast.

Irregular immigration has more than doubled so far this year compared to the figures of 2017, which were alarming then. Spain is already the main access route to Europe, surpassing Italy. Up to the 15th of July, the irregular immigrants who had entered this year in Spain, mostly by sea and on the coast of Andalusia, already numbered 15,686, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior —the European agency Frontex raises this to 18,016 for the same period—, 114% more than in 2017, when the figure had already increased by 170%.

Many of these immigrants are unaccompanied foreign minors. In the first seven months of 2018, some 3,200 unaccompanied foreign minors came to Andalusia through its shores, a thousand of them in July alone, compared to 2,855 in all of last year, according to data from the Andalusian Government.

This year, the SAMU Foundation, by order of the Board, has opened, as of yet, 11 new resources aimed at this group. Two of them are Basic Residential Care centers, and the rest are Immediate Care centers.

The last two emergency temporary shelter resources were opened in August in Guillena (Seville) and Jimena (Cádiz). In addition to these, there are two more in the province of Cádiz open this year and two more in 2017, two in the province of Almeria, and three in that of Granada, all of them active from this year.

In terms of Basic Residential Care resources, which allow minors to remain at the center until children reach legal adulthood, SAMU has three resources in Seville, Granada and Cadiz. The last of them was set up in El Bosque, in the province of Cádiz, at the end of May. It was born from a need of the General Direction of Childhood and Families of the Board to address the needs of minors who arrived in Spain during the year 2017 and were still being cared for in Immediate Care centers. There are 13 people who work here, among them psychologists, social workers, educators, teachers, and edudational technical assistants.

“The key objective of the Basic Residential Care centers is to insert these children into society. Our role is one of social and professional guidance that starts with the task of documenting the minors, placing them in educational centers or in different courses and working with them towards their future emancipation,” indicates Nicolas Torres, director of SAMU minors.

All these resources add up to two more instruments in Motril (Granada), a Center of Social/ Professional Orientation, opened in 2013, and a floor for children who have been under the guardianship of SAMU and who have already reached legal age.