In conjunction with the Snoqualmie Sister Cities Association, Peruvian firefighter Patricia Bendezu came to Snoqualmie for 10 days of learning and sharing her culture with the Snoqualmie Fire Department.
Arriving on Aug. 4 from Chaclacayo, Peru, Bendezu was introduced to Snoqualmie with a welcome event at the fire station. Her next 10 days were filled with activities ranging from fire drills and ride-alongs to river rescue training.
Tina McCollum, president of the Snoqualmie Sister Cities Association, said Bendezu was chosen for the exchange based on numerous qualifications.
“First of all, it was her great personality, her ability to want to give and share, and her excellent English skills. For a first ambassador, it is very important to make that contact,” McCollum said.
Learning how the Snoqualmie Fire Department operates was a big focus of Bendezu’s trip. Snoqualmie has a significantly larger amount of resources than her department in Peru does.
“It’s like going beyond. I’m in the future of Chaclacayo,” Bendezu said.
Mark Correira, Snoqualmie Fire Chief, said on her second night of training, Bendezu was able to experience three very different calls and to see how Snoqualmie responded to them.
“We ended up going on three emergency incidents during the training time, so she didn’t get any time to train with them,” Correira said. “Which is just as well because she got to go on three distinctively different types of emergencies.”
She worked with the crew and lived along side them for part of the week, as well.
On Aug. 10, “she was here in the fire station for a 48-hour shift, so she actually got to work side by side with the crews, stay in the station with them, and basically become part of their group,” Correira said.
Bendezu said that one of the biggest difference between the two countries is that in Peru, firefighting is not a paid job.
“Our work there is volunteer. We try to go as much as possible, even though we have family and we have jobs. We do things by heart and commitment. Our big motto is God, country, humanity,” she said.
Bendezu’s background is actually in teaching, Back in Chacalacayo, she is an English teacher.
“I work in the secondary level. I teach English, teenagers from 12 years old to 16 years old and also I work in a public university. It’s the National University of Education and I also teach pre-service teachers there,” Bendezu said.
In Chacalacayo, the fire house they use isn’t a station, but a single-story house that is shared by the on-duty fire fighters.
“We try to do our best to serve the community, so when we have some training or want to share some information with other firefighters, what we do is to use the same dining room and living room all together,” Bendezu said.
Snoqualmie is looking to help get resources to Bendezu’s fire house and help her pass on to her co-workers what she learned in Snoqualmie.
“Because her background is teaching, what would be really good is to really connect with her and provide her with the resources that we have, so she can deliver that type of education and training and they can practice things there,” Correira said. “I see that being one of the next potential steps in this relationship that we have with the sister city.”
McCollum said plans are already in motion and another exchange could happen this year.
“Our goal next is to get some firefighters from this area down to Chaclacayo and to shadow them,” McCollum said. “We are looking at Nov. 1 and then again in April 2016, to (send) a few firefighters from here or in the state or community that have been involved with our departments and have the interest and desire.”
The Sister Cities Association also hopes to send some Snoqualmie firefighters to Chacalcayo, so they can experience a different culture and learn from the hard-working firefighters there.
Bendezu said when she goes back, her plan is to have a meeting to share her experiences in Snoqualmie with the other firefighters.
“I’m sure everyone will be asking me how they do this thing or that, but I prefer to coordinate with my fire chief and have a big meeting with them all and to share what I did here, what I did in the Fire Academy, what we talked (about) with Tina and the city council, and show some videos I recorded from here,” Bendezu said.
She was very happy that she was able to spend some time meeting and learning from the people here and wants to let people know she appreciated the hospitality.
“It’s not just a thank you, but a huge thank you, to the fire station, to Tina and Snoqualmie Sister Cities, the city council members, the whole municipality for hosting me here,” Bendezu said. “I feel so proud to be a representative from Peru here.”