Interagency migrant support workshop

SAMU First Response hosts Interagency Migrant Support Workshop

SAMU First Response hosted our very first Interagency Migrant Support Workshop on May 31st, 2024 in Silver Spring, MD. We hosted 15 agencies that came together virtually and in person to share knowledge, strategies, and best practices in migrant assistance and care. The goal of the workshop was to strengthen the relationship with agencies that are currently working with migrants in the Maryland area. We took this time to discuss how we can work together and share information that may be valuable to each other in our own day to day work.

Some of the agencies that were able to benefit from this safe space of collaboration were AYUDA, Montgomery County Government, Iglesia de Dios, Vision Diaspora, Washington English Center, Carecen, Montgomery County Public Schools, Couching Salud Holistica, Identity, Mr.Car Foundation, CASA Maryland, and SAMU First Response. Each of these agencies were able to bring valuable information of how they have been serving the migrant community, lessons they have learned, and to brainstorm ways in which we can collaborate to provide even better services to those individuals and families we serve.

Community and partnerships for SAMU First Response has always been an important key to our success of helping migrants in the DMV area. We are grateful that we were able to bring together so many successful agencies to work together in strengthening our response and efforts that we provide for the migrant community. The individuals that attended the workshop were able to walk away with a better understanding of how other agencies serve the migrant population, insightful ideas that they can bring back to their day-to-day work, and most importantly personal connections with other individuals in the world of migrant assistance. Together we can make a difference and continue to provide a safe and welcoming space to migrants arriving to the Maryland area.

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

Our Partnerships with the community are what make us stronger

“Strength is not about being able to do everything alone but having the courage to know when to ask for help for the overall good.”

At SAMU First Response, we know the power of teamwork and how far it goes to help those we serve. The partnerships that we have created and nourished help us to bring the best quality and care to every single individual that walks through our doors asking for help. We all need help, even those whose mission it is to help others, and because of that we are grateful for the partnership with Bee Thrifty Holdings LLC that we have had since the very beginning of our operations in Washington, D.C.

B-Thrifty is located in Woodbridge, Virginia, about 20 miles south of Washington, DC, and has been in business since 2011. Their mission is that everyone should have access to amazing clothes at affordable prices while we all help the environment. We proudly partner with them in an effort to actively combat clothing and material waste, while providing a means to help raise funds for SAMU’s mission in the United States and worldwide. Through their collaboration we are able to be a part of Project B Green, SAMU sponsored donation bins, and receive donations directly from B-Thrifty.

As partners, SAMU First Response and B-Thrifty proudly support Project B Green, a transformative initiative addressing climate change through an innovative in-kind donation and recycling program. This program goes beyond traditional donations by offering convenient at-home-pick-up services for gently used clothing, shoes, and household items. Interested donors can easily schedule a pick-up from the comfort of their home by submitting a form on the SAMU First Response website detailing what items they will be donating. After the form is submitted, Project B Green will then coordinate with the individual for the best time for pick. This process prevents these items from ending up in landfills and actively combating clothing waste.

SAMU benefits from these donations through each pick-up that is coordinated through our website. We are able to receive a monetary contribution based on the weight and amount of each donation, and with those funds we are able to support the daily influx of migrants coming through our doors via walk-ins and buses from Texas and Arizona.  We can purchase new items, such as intimate wear (underwear, bras, and socks), that are most needed for individuals after they have spent days or even months making their way to Washington, D.C for a better life.

B-Thrifty also collects gently used clothing, shoes, and household items throughout the Virginia, D.C., and Maryland area through bins that are strategically placed in high traffic volume locations and shopping areas. With these bins, individuals can drop off gently used items to be later picked up by Project B Green. Four of these bins are placed throughout the area in and around Washington, D.C. with the SAMU First Response logo. With each bin that is on display each month, SAMU is able to receive a monetary donation to go towards serving our mission. This partnership is a mutually beneficial relationship as it helps each organization thrive by providing items for B-Thrifty to refurbish and re-use in their local store, as well as providing monetary donations that are most needed by SAMU in order to support every migrant that walks through our doors.

B-Thrifty has gone above and beyond in their mission to collaborate by also donating items to each of our respite centers in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County. In Washington, D.C. they were able to donate items in order to create a relaxation room, which is furnished with soft lighting, comfortable couches and chairs, a plush rug, and soothing photos hung on the walls. Each of these items were picked with care in order to provide a safe and relaxing space to those who have recently arrived from their journey to the United States. This relaxation room provides new mothers a space to be with their newborn babies, parents a moment to be together in silence, and a space for every individual to take a moment to relax, be still, and soak up a few minutes of silence to breathe again from their journey.

They have also generously dropped toys off for the children at our respite location in Montgomery County, in an effort to make sure that each child that passes through the door of our respite center can feel like a kid again. B-Thrifty has been a direct source of safety, care, and peace to our migrants. This is the power of collaboration and partnerships.

We look forward to our continued collaboration with B-Thrifty, as we both utilize the abundant resources in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. Together we are stronger, together we are unbroken, together we can do anything.

The Power of Trust

Trust is foundational to what non-profit organizations do. It matters in every aspect of operations, beginning with the interpersonal relationships required when building teams. Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, writes, “A team is not a group of people who work together. It is a group of people who trust each other.” 

Employees need to trust their leadership to forward the mission and prevent turnover. Similarly, when volunteers trust an organization, they will go out of their way to support their work. Trust also matters when seeking financial support. Every dollar or in-kind donation that is given to an organization is born of trust. In fact, in a publication titled, The Future of Trust, the international professional services company Deloitte reported that “trustworthy companies outperform non-trustworthy companies by 2.5 times.” 

But there is perhaps no place more critical for trust to exist than in the creation of strategic partnerships. 

SAMU has a long history of forging such relationships, including with fellow NGO, Project HOPE. Harley Jones is Project HOPE’s Senior Manager of Domestic Operations. He oversees the organization’s programming in the United States. 

“Trust is essential in our work because we are not selling products. We are organizations that are made up of humanitarians and good people, focused on alleviating human suffering at the worst times of their lives,” Jones said.

With two decades of experience in this field, Jones has seen partnerships that work, and others that fail. “There are a number of organizations that don’t like collaborating because it takes attention away [from them],” He said. But that’s just one of several factors that can lead to failure. Sometimes, Jones explained, the values and mission of the partners are just too different. Motives get questioned, and the lack of trust becomes an obstacle. “At the end of the day,” Jones said, “Mission is important,” explaining that – when values and mission align – it creates the perfect environment for a partnership to flourish. 

“You build that trust internally,” He said. “You know when you face a barrier, that other organization is often going to view it in the same way you do. That creates the opportunity to work together in other areas because you can go into it with that understanding without having to work around it. It’s that place where your values converge with your approach, your compassion and your focus on mission.”  

The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

A mutual partner introduced SAMU to Project HOPE in 2017. The similarities between the organizations were evident immediately. “As two globally-based NGOs,” Harley Jones said, “Our focus has been on various places around the world, supporting vulnerable populations fleeing armed conflict or natural disaster.” 

SAMU and Project HOPE began looking for ways they might partner. It didn’t take long to identify an opportunity. In November of 2018, Juan González de Escalada Álvarez, Grupo SAMU’s Director of Operations Grupo Samu’s and Director of SAMU School, headed to Venezuela on what would become the first of many joint operations.

“I was asked to enter Venezuela with them to ascertain the Venezuelan Migrant Crisis,” He said. “We spent several days around Cúcuta in Colombia and the Venezuelan region of El Táchira.” The teams were exploring whether SAMU could provide Health Emergencies Training to local humanitarian organizations managing a large influx of displaced Venezuelans. 

That venture led to a significant partnership toward the end of 2020 in Honduras. The country was reeling from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic when Tropical Storm Eta hit, followed closely by Hurricane Iota. The Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) activated Emergency Medical Teams to assist with the resulting crisis. SAMU joined that mission, with Project Hope partnering to provide the financial support that allowed SAMU’s team to meet the needs of nearly 1,200 patients. 

Most recently, Project HOPE supported SAMU in Moldova and Romania, where our teams on the ground provided support to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. During this joint mission, the teams were able to provide three and a half months of care for migrants affected by the crisis. Project HOPE provided 60 percent of the funding necessary for SAMU to perform more than 2000 medical consultations.  

Jones explained that the relationship between Project Hope and SAMU was a natural fit because of how well the strengths of the organizations align. Jean Oelwang, president and founding CEO of Virgin Unite, describes in her book, Partnering, how that alignment cultivates something she calls “Deep Connections.”

“Deep Connections are relationships of purpose that make us who we are,” She writes. “They are the enduring ‘got your back’ friendships found in all aspects of our lives. These relationships help us become our best selves and multiply the impact we make in the world.”

On Mission Every Day

Project HOPE’s mission is simple, but critically important: Empower frontline health care workers. Prior to the pandemic, the organization’s main focus had been geared toward vulnerable populations in the developing world. Covid travel restrictions rendered that work nearly impossible, requiring the organization to pivot toward domestic assistance. 

Jones said that, during this time, the NGO leaned heavily on their robust emergency response capability to help provide surge staffing to support frontline workers in some of the hardest hit areas, including Chicago/Cook County, Harris County in Texas and within the Navajo Nation. A strong supply chain allowed the organization to provide more than 18 million pieces of PPE across 15 countries in 2021 alone.    “We know enough about the work that we do to know that it has to be needs-based and it has to be fast,” Jones said. Other organizations are not that nimble, he explained, which is why Project HOPE was so drawn to partnering with SAMU. The migrant crisis in Washington, D.C., is a prime example. Although SAMU was in the United States hoping to open the organization’s first unaccompanied minor shelter on American soil, the teams on the ground were able to change gears quickly to tackle a new mission: Meeting the needs of thousands of migrants being bussed to the Nation’s capitol from the border of Mexico.

Meeting Crisis Head-On … Together

As SAMU First Response transitioned into a leadership role in addressing Washington, D.C.’s unfolding migrant crisis – which Mayor, Muriel Bowser, later would declare a state of emergency – one of the first calls made was to Project HOPE. Jones remembers that call, and the very direct and clear asks that were made.

“We need some capacity-building and support around logistics,” Jones remembers the SAMU team saying, which he shares is Project HOPE’s specialty – particularly when it comes to government funding. The organization runs $10 Million in programming with the federal government and has extensive experience with the reporting and documentation necessary when managing federal dollars.

SAMU First Response’s Respite Manager, Jeisson Cartagena, adds that the procurement process also presented a challenge for the growing team. “I didn’t have that much information on how to navigate government funding,” He said. “Project HOPE had that experience and was able to send someone to work with our team to help us better understand the process.” 

Jones recalls SAMU’s second ask: “We need some training around the stress, mental health and resiliency of our staff. We need tools that can help them take care of themselves and the people they are serving.” Project HOPE responded, providing classes on a variety of topics, from psychological first aid and gender-based violence, to sexual exploitation and de-escalation.

Cartagena remembers the resiliency training provided by Project HOPE as being extremely impactful for the staff. Migrants staying in SAMU’s respite center had been sharing stories of the violence, including sexual, experienced during their journey. 

“It created so much pressure for the staff,” He said. “Just hearing the stories… they did not know how to answer. We were hearing this information and keeping it to ourselves. That was the worst part of this work. It was really, really hard for our team.”

The resiliency workshop coupled with the psychological first aid training helped the SAMU team begin to understand the psychological process guests in their were experiencing. Cartagena said it shed light on why they might act a certain way and how to address issues as they arose. 

“That was important,” He explains, “Because it gave us the tools for how to handle this process. It is something we cannot change, but we can listen and put ourselves in their shoes. Just listening is the best way that we can help them. Now we are able to better care for our guests, and separate what is happening at work from our home lives.”

The final ask was perhaps the most critical, as buses previously bound for Union Station – a transportation hub in the heart of the city – began dropping migrants near the Naval Observatory and private residence of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. The immediate surrounding area is largely unpopulated and migrants dropped without notice struggled to know where to go for assistance upon arrival. Jones remembers SAMU’s request around this challenge distinctly: “We need a large vehicle that can move people.”

In less time than than anyone would believe, the keys to a 14-passenger van were being handed to Cartagena. “Project HOPE was really focused on getting us the best possible option,” He said, adding that, suddenly, the weight of trying to arrange reliable transportation was lifted. Picking people up from wherever they were dropped off was no longer an issue, but that gift provided so much more. 

We can now take people to medical appointments. We can take them to Baltimore to change their address with ICE,” Cartagena said. “I was feeling like it was helping me to do my job better every day. I was feeling like it was for me, even though it was for SAMU. [Project HOPE] told me something like, ‘I hope this helps to make your job easier.’ And definitely it did.”

Jones says that partnering in this space has only increased the organization’s interest in further supporting SAMU’s work. As the trust between the NGOs grows, so does the value of the partnership between SAMU and Project HOPE. 

“It has made it even stronger,” Jones said. “Our relationship and trust were built on years of working together around the world. We have [now] shown that we can continue to work together in the United States. As SAMU looks to increase and expand their work here, Project HOPE stands ready, willing and able to support that work in any way we can.

COVID-19 Volunteer training

In order to continue the battle against the spread of COVID-19 in Spain, SAMU Foundación carried our a call to recruit volunteers in different fields. Within two days, 600 people had responded to the call. Of all candidates, SAMU selected a total of 60 volunteers with profiles needed to respond to the crisis. Doctors, nurses, EMTs, clinical assistants, pharmacists, medical students, logistical personnel, psychologists,  educators, social workers, occupational therapists, drivers, maintenance workers, seamstresses are all part of this group. 

Fundación SAMU has habilitated a welcome center for volunteers in the facilities of Escuela SAMU de Gelves, Seville. The volunteers have received training in the center, organized by small groups and taking the highest levels of protection to ensure their safety and security. The volunteers underwent a special training on self protection in order to join the organization in their different capacities. This training covers from proper hand hygiene, to wearing and disposing of PPE. Those volunteers with a sanitary profile received an even more in depth training and a refresher course on the basic skills.

Once the volunteers had successfully completed training, they incorporated to a pool to which SAMU will call on for future calls for service in the event needed, for things like patient mobilization, logistics, emotional support among others. 

“We are preparing in case the situation turns for the worse. We are hopeful and optimistic, specially given the good results in Andalucía. At the same time, as an emergency assistance institution we are working with communities like Madrid, where the impact of the virus has been stronger. We have a team workin on supporting local efforts but in case they need additional support, we will be ready” said 

Carlos González de Escalada, SAMU’s General Manager. “This training is essential to the security and wellbeing of our volunteers”.

SAMU is thankful to all the volunteers and is constantly recruiting more volunteers in the fields of higher demands, such as sanitary workers, medical students, nurses and auxiliary personnel. Every volunteer is welcomed in this moments of crisis when society needs it the most. If you want to apply, email 

SAMU joins the efforts to increase access to Automatic External Defibrillators around the world

SAMU is now joining forces with the Cisali Project, a free mobile app that provides users the opportunity to search for and register the location of automatic external defibrillators (AED) around the world. 

Ever year, around 1.8 million people die of cardiac arrest. Everyone is vulnerable to cardiac arrest, this could happen any time and any place and access to an AED could be a game changing factor. 

Cisali is an independent NGO with the sole purpose of saving lives through the quick access to an AED.

This app also aims to create awareness to the role and support than anyone can bring to aid someone. Users can register as CPR certified and enable themselves to help as first responder. 

Through the app, users can:

  1. Locate the nearest AED 
  2. Call the local emergency services (911)
  3. Locate a CPR certified individual nearby

The app has no commercial purposes and it’s entirely free and crowdsource, so the more users, the better the information. To learn more, check out this video: