Officer Jorge Narvaez leaves another footprint in the community, only this time it’s in Managua… and has tread marks.

The last time The Sun spoke with Jorge Narvaez, Princeton police officer of 22 years and Master Sgt. of the 108th Wing Security Forces of the state Air National Guard, he was creating outreach programs for Princeton’s immigrant community. Himself having emigrated from Nicaragua to the U.S. as a young man, Narvaez is empathetic. However, his philanthropic pursuits exceed community lines, country borders and even the U.S. mail system.

This month, after two years of wrenching effort, Narvaez – with the help of former Princeton Fire Chief Ray Wadsworth, the town of Princeton, the United States Embassy and an Air Force Reserve unit – will be transporting a 33,000-pound fire truck to Nicaragua’s capital.

It was 2014 when Narvaez entered the headquarters of the Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos, the volunteer firefighters in Managua, and saw they were ill-equipped to actually fight fire. The serviceable fire trucks, hoses and uniforms were all in bad condition.

“In Dec. 23, 1972, there was an earthquake that destroyed most of Manaqua. I remember when it happened – I was 8 years old,” Narvaez said. “The actual structure of this fire house – the headquarters – still has cracks. That’s what they have in the meantime, and that’s what they’ve been dealing with for many years. You can see the cracks in the walls and the ceiling. The trucks they had were all old and not in good condition.”

Narvaez knew he had to do something to help.

Upon his return home to Princeton, Narvaez spoke to Ray Wadsworth about donating some of Mercer Engine No. 3’s equipment. Together, they were able to send used hoses, coats, helmets and boots to Managua. The Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos were grateful for the items Narvaez brought to them. Yet, their need for a truck was still grave.

The questions arise: how does one find the right fire truck to donate? And, once you have one, how do you transport it 3,740 miles away?

About a year later, the Princeton fire department was notified it had to replace two of its fire trucks, one – a 1982 Mack 1250 GPM pumper truck – because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration deemed the open cab a safety hazard. This was Wadsworth’s and Narvaez’s opportunity to do the right thing.

Princeton sold the truck to Wadsworth for $1 in a symbolic auction, who then filled it with 13 pairs of boots, six additional fire jackets and a 1,200-foot hose.

The next thing Narvaez needed to address was how to get the truck to Managua. To transport it on a flatbed truck would have cost more than $9,000, and it wouldn’t even get the truck all the way to Nicaragua; it would have to be driven from Costa Rica to Managua.

“I tend to read the local Nicaraguan papers once a week. I saw an article that caught my attention – it was a photo of an air force aircraft carrying supplies,” Narvaez said.
This gave him hope; this is where the Denton Program came into play.

According to USAID.gov, the Denton Program allows U.S. citizens and organizations to utilize U.S. military cargo, as long as space is available, to transport goods for a humanitarian cause. This can include donated clothing, educational and medical supplies, food, agricultural equipment and vehicles. It is spearheaded by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Department of Defense, USAID and Department of State.

While no guarantees can be made as to whether the program can service one’s mission, Narvaez “did his homework,” navigated the process and finally received the letter of approval. As of July 13, the truck was prepared for its flight to Central America. On Aug. 1, Narvaez got notification he and Wadsworth had the go-ahead to drive the truck up to McGuire Air Force Base on Aug. 10. The following day, a plane from Massachusetts will pick the truck up and take it to South Carolina and by Saturday the 13th, it is scheduled to arrive in Nicaragua and be taken to the Benemérito Cuerpo de Bomberos.

“I like helping people that can’t afford things like this,” Wadsworth said. “Instead of having to  throw it into a dumpster… Some of these countries don’t have [this equipment] over there,” Wadsworth said.

“This was a joint teamwork. Myself, Ray Wadsworth and the military all came together to make this happen to help another country that obviously needs this equipment,” Narvaez said. “My goal is to continue to do this through the Denton Program. I’d like to send ambulances and maybe another fire truck to a village outside the capital that may not have any resources. Anyone else with a desire to contribute, I’d be happy to talk with them.”

For any information or ideas regarding contributions, Narvaez can be reached at (609) 510 – 4222.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida