Paramedic Toughest Place to be a...


Paramedic

Angie Dymott, a paramedic from Cardiff, spends two weeks with ambulance workers in Guatemala City - a place with one of the world's highest violent crime rates.


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Transcript


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Three British workers, a bus driver, a midwife and a paramedic.

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They have all accepted the challenge to do their job

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under the some of the toughest conditions on the planet.

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That was a really, really horrible birth.

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That's one satisfied customer, he got off and he's alive.

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How you guys do this in these conditions?

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Angie Dymott is leaving her home in the Welsh valleys

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and her job as a Cardiff paramedic to work in Guatemala city,

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one of the most violent cities on earth,

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where gang killings run out of control.

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As far as I know at the moment, we're going to a shooting.

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Angie will be working in a team of dedicated paramedics

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who risk their lives to deal with killings on a daily basis.

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You have to wear the bulletproof vest.

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Working in the chaos and the carnage of a city dominated

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by violent drug gangs will test Angie's skills to the limit.

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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

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Until now, the closest Angie Dymott has come to Latin America

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is her weekly Zumba fitness class in Cardiff.

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Come on, then.

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Angie lives in the Welsh valleys with her husband Rob, their son Christopher and Glen the dog.

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She's been working as a paramedic in Cardiff for six years.

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When it comes down to it, we do save lives

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and we're all very, very proud of what we do.

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It's a great, rewarding job.

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Just dealing with people in general - the old person that's fallen on the floor,

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that needs cleaning up, that needs putting back into bed,

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that needs a cup of tea making or just some kind words.

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That's on one end and then to the other end,

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where it's the person that needs to be taken as quickly as possible to the nearest A&E.

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It's Friday, the busiest night on Angie's beat in central Cardiff.

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Angie's highly trained in emergency medicine and drives a state-of-the-art ambulance.

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OK, welcome to my office.

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This is my domain for four days a week, all right.

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We've got cupboards for everything. Everything has a space, all our airways, our oxygen masks,

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our music for the back, very important.

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Our suction kit.

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When needed. Oh.

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Vomit bowls.

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So you always make sure on a Friday and Saturday night you have a good stack of vomit bowls.

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If you have nothing else, you need those.

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Our cat flaps.

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They're bins. This is our Zol. We can do 12-lead ECGs, 3-lead ECGs...

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OK. Look at that.

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We don't tolerate aggressive, violent and threatening behaviour.

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We don't tolerate it in Welsh either.

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Look at this, right, this is the best bit, OK?

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When you open this door... the steps just fall out.

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How good is that?

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It's 9pm and Angie and her colleague Gus receive their first emergency call.

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How old is he?

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All right, Kyle, have you actually been sick, darling?

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I'm shaking and my whole, my adrenaline is shaking.

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-Kyle, calm down. What are you afraid of?

-I'm dying, I'm dying.

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I can't, I can't...

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No, Kyle, listen. Kyle, you're panicking now.

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-I can't feel like this, no...

-Come on, Nick, steady now.

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What we have here is an 18-year-old who has had lots and lots and lots to drink,

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which is very, very normal for us here,

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and ending up in the back of an ambulance, which really is not the way it should be,

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using up an ambulance, using up an A&E bed, just for alcohol,

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so, I suppose, frustrating in that way.

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I'm just going to park behind the police here

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and there's a man waving to me in the window.

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Angie's second call and the paramedics and police

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have been sent to a house where a young man has been assaulted.

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OK, lovely, that's all right.

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Show them the bruises on your back.

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While Gus deals with the boy's injuries, Angie looks after his mum.

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Is he your only son?

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-He's your only one.

-My baby.

-Your baby or your only one?

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No, I got two girls.

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-You got two girls, have you?

-Two girls.

-But he's your youngest.

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All right. You never stop worrying about them, do you?

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Usually I work with a female member of staff

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and together they call us the Mumbulance,

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because we like to sort of, you know, mother people

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and I give them the sympathy that they need and the sympathy they deserve.

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Breathe slowly. OK.

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You don't want my Barry Manilow International Fan Club pen.

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It really is a Barry Manilow.

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Barry Manilow International Fan Club. My special pen and I'm proud.

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OK.

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# Her name was Lola

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# She was a showgirl

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# With yellow feathers in her hair

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# And a dress cut down to there... #

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Hello?

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After a series of drink-related incidents,

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patient transfers and minor injury call-outs,

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Angie and Gus's Friday night shift ends.

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Tonight, we've had a variety of jobs,

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some better than others.

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I think every paramedic looks for what's called a real job,

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or a job that's interesting, a job that's exciting,

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a job where you can use your skills and use what you've been trained for.

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Angie is about to get what she wants.

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She's leaving her family and village life to work in Guatemala City,

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one of the most violent places in the world.

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To help prepare for her trip, the paramedics in Guatemala

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have sent her some essential Spanish phrases to learn.

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It's a taste of what may be to come.

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'Are there criminals still in the area?'

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Oh. Hey. 'Did they have weapons?'

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Good God, it gets worse.

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Now they got weapons.

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Ellos tenian armas?

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Ages...dimea...armis?!

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-OK...

-So they're talking about guns and weapons.

-Yeah.

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Have you seen a gunshot?

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No, I haven't.

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-I think you'd better get your books out.

-I think I better had.

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Angie's rarely sees violent crime in Cardiff,

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so Guatemala is likely to test her training to the limit.

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I know that I'm a competent paramedic.

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I wouldn't be working as one if I wasn't.

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But will I be a competent paramedic in Guatemala?

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That is a fear, that is a fear.

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Definitely.

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It's 5,000 miles from the Welsh valleys to Central America

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where Angie is about to find out if she's got what it takes.

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Guatemala is a small country of just 14 million people

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but it has a violent history.

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A long civil war ended in the mid-90s but left the country devastated.

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Now there's a new war on the streets as violent gangs,

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called Maras, terrorise the city.

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A weak and corrupt police force does little to combat them.

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The stability of Guatemala is also threatened by

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powerful Mexican drug cartels,

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who transit billions of dollars of cocaine through the country.

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Robbery, murder and gang killings are on the rise.

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And picking up the pieces are the nation's bomberos,

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combined firemen and paramedics, who witness violent death every day.

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For the next two weeks, Angie will join a paramedic team working the very toughest beat.

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Looks like it'll be an interesting place to get out and have a look

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but we've been told that it's not that safe a place to wander round, even day time.

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It looks just like a normal market street to me at the moment.

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There's little kiddies running about.

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It's hard to believe, really, that it is that dangerous.

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Bomberos fire station number ten, Guatemala City,

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is sandwiched between two funeral parlours.

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Angie's guide will be local bombero Luis Archila,

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or Archie, to his friends.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

-How are you?

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I'm well, thank you.

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So the taxi brought me straight to the door.

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Why could I not get out on my way here?

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It's a red zone around here.

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A red zone, OK, which means...

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So you may be...

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robbed or killed or kidnapped if you're not wearing a uniform.

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I personally don't walk around here.

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You have your... I don't know if we spell it right.

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Oh, wow.

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-Oh, thank you.

-And this is just for precaution.

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-OK.

-You will have to wear the bulletproof vest.

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And are we likely to see shootings and stabbings tonight?

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-Yeah.

-Yeah.

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That's quite normal, is it?

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How many, on average, would you say a week, are there shootings in Guatemala?

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I will say, in the whole country,

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probably, like, 15 to 20 persons per day.

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-Per day.

-Per day.

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It rises a little bit more in the weekend,

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but the average, it's like that.

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So I think today is going to be busy.

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So let's prepare and let's rock and roll.

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OK, let's rock and roll.

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I think she was not prepared for all this...

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crime and bullets and knives and blood.

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I know I am in quite a volatile, dangerous place,

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but hopefully, I'll just be able to focus on what I'm doing and not let my surroundings

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worry me too much or hinder me with what I'm doing.

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So it's going to be a little bit shocking,

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but I think she has been trained for that

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and she shall be able to go through that, so that's my impression as of now.

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The first call-out and it's to one of the most dangerous parts of town.

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We're in the right area, as far as we know,

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but I think nobody knows what the incident is.

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This is the patient.

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The man has a deep knife wound.

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But as Angie starts to treat him Archie tells her to get the patient

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off the street and into the ambulance straight away.

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-So he was, he was drunk.

-Yeah.

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And he had a fight.

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The knife was going to the chest.

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OK. He put his arm up instead. OK.

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Yeah, if you put some on there.

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No worries, no worries.

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He's saying that he's going to fold it, shoot.

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-The guy that did what.

-Oh, OK.

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He's really pissed off with him.

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-I can imagine.

-With the guy that did that.

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HE SPEAKS SPANISH

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-What's that?

-He's going to fight with the guy that did this to him so.

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OK.

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In the first case, she just helped me there where I get there,

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and she was good, doing the right thing.

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Good work. It's the kind of work that you say, "OK, let's do another one".

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So, I love it.

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But Angie is concerned about how the patient was treated.

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Usually we would have transported to the ambulance

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and done all the blood pressure

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and all the observations before any intervention.

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I went by your instructions.

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Why did we do it differently then?

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We were in a really, really dangerous area.

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There's a lot of gangs around there, so that's why it's like what we call pack and leave.

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-OK.

-We're leaving.

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But there's no time to discuss patient care as calls come thick and fast.

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Another call, again to the red zone.

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As far as I know at the moment,

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we're going to a shooting in zone 12, which is apparently a red zone.

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OK. We have arrived.

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-What...

-Angie and the team are the first paramedics on the scene but it looks like they are too late.

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-Can you feel it?

-No, it's brain here.

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-I have the bullet there.

-OK.

-It's in the face.

-So what do we do now?

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There's nothing we can do.

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So do we leave the casualty here?

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We have to cover him. He has another...

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So he's been shot several times then.

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-Yeah.

-OK.

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-So they're going to bring their blankets so we can cover him.

-And then we...

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-We have to wait till the Colonel get here.

-OK. All right.

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-Careful, there's...

-OK.

-All the bullets are there.

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-Have you seen that before?

-No. Never.

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-So your first time is there?

-Yeah.

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Difficult.

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-And every person reacts different.

-Yeah.

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I remember my first person that I picked that was killed.

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I didn't sleep the whole night.

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Just on playing on your mind all the time. Yes.

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-You see he has more than seven shots.

-Yeah.

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So somebody really wants to kill him.

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Thank you.

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As per the police, the guy was in a bus going,

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two cars stopped the bus, the guys climbed into the bus,

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pulled him out and execute him in the street.

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Oh. He's so young.

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Yeah, looks like he's young.

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-There was loads of witnesses there, though.

-Yeah.

-And what...

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It's an open street. Nobody can do anything, just run everywhere.

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-Yeah.

-And make sure you don't get shot too.

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-And you can see that we are in a gang area.

-Right.

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-Because you see all the graffitis.

-OK.

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We don't know what this guy has done, but even so,

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to hunt him down and shoot him in the street in front of people,

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and then drive off, just seems that, you know, life has no value.

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Its highly unlikely the killers will be ever arrested.

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As many as 97% of murders here go unpunished.

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The police and government are accused of widespread corruption.

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Recently, a leading international monitoring organisation

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described the country as "a paradise for criminals".

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It's 4am and Angie's shift with the bomberos has ended.

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She's staying with her host.

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Archie is a volunteer paramedic, one of 20,

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who give up their weekends to work alongside the permanent paid staff.

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He's from a wealthy family and works as a sales manager by day.

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Unlike most Guatemalans, he can afford to live in a heavily-guarded compound.

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Buenos noches, gracias.

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So this is, like, three guards are sleeping there.

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That's what we have and then we have a second gate.

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And is it necessary to have all this security around here?

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Yeah.

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Just to give you a little example, last week, my parents-in-law,

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they were driving with my two sons, and they almost get robbed.

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They point the gun to my mother-in-law,

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and they showed the gun to my kid and my kid started screaming,

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so to avoid that, that's why we live...

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Live in a... Right.

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And is it more expensive to live in an area like this?

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Yeah.

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-But it's safer.

-It's safer.

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Absolutely. OK.

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This is a lovely home that I'm staying in.

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Just sad, really, that it's behind so many security gates

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and high walls, but if you want your children to be safe,

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I suppose that's what you have to do.

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But this, look, this beautiful little boy,

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beautiful, was traumatised by having a gun...

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No child should have to see that.

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How cute is he? My notes,

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that's "welcome" in

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three-year-old Guatemalan.

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Maho, Archie's wife, is getting the family ready to go to church.

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They're committed Christians and this is an important part of their week.

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-I'm Maho.

-Maho, nice to meet you.

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-Have you with us.

-Oh, thank you. Thank you for letting me stay.

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Of course, of course, no thank you for joining us.

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As the violence in Guatemala increases,

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there has been a massive rise in the popularity of evangelical churches.

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This is one of the biggest in the world.

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Angie hasn't been to church for years.

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CONGREGATION SING

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I didn't think that this place would affect me the way it did,

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to see everybody together, all there for the same reason,

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and then comparing it to less than 24 hours ago, what we saw were

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being gunned down, young people in the street.

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I can certainly see why Archie comes here,

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especially doing the job he does.

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I could see that I would come here regularly if I worked as a bombero full time in Guatemala.

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It's Angie's second evening shift with the bomberos.

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News comes in of a multiple shooting in the city centre.

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Angie's team have been called in to help.

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Right we're going to the hospital now...

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..to help another ambulance take off three injured people.

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They've been involved in a shooting, right? Yeah.

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At the hospital they encounter the victims of a bloodbath.

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Two men are dead and three more are injured.

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One survivor has been shot in the face,

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another has multiple wounds to the leg.

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Angie is treating a man with a bullet lodged in his arm.

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But this isn't just another gangland hit.

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They were all university students.

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They weren't involved in any drugs or gangs

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and their lives have just been completely changed.

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I mean, lives have been lost.

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It's not a good place out there on the streets of Guatemala City.

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Not a good place at all.

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There's a lot of hate, violence and life is cheap.

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The next casualty for tonight's shift is not quite so dramatic.

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This is quite a relief, actually,

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to have somebody wandering in that's not covered in blood...

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..cos it has been full on for two hours.

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In the middle of the shift,

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there's time for some food and to learn the bomberos' rituals.

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So before eating we do two things.

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-OK.

-First, we pray.

0:25:100:25:13

And the newest is the one that is going to pray.

0:25:130:25:16

So the pray is for you.

0:25:160:25:18

For me. OK.

0:25:180:25:20

Say Grace.

0:25:200:25:22

All right.

0:25:220:25:25

Thank you for this wonderful food that has been put before us

0:25:250:25:31

by some very kind people and can I also say thank you

0:25:310:25:36

for this opportunity and for everyone being so welcome.

0:25:360:25:42

Um... Let's all enjoy our food.

0:25:420:25:45

Amen.

0:25:450:25:47

And next, somebody has to wash the dishes.

0:25:470:25:50

Ah, so you do.

0:25:500:25:51

Everybody has to pick one and the smallest card is going to...

0:25:530:25:56

The lowest one does the dishes.

0:25:560:25:58

Does the dishes.

0:25:580:26:00

So obviously gang culture is huge here.

0:26:160:26:20

Now it's, like, 200 or 300% more than five years ago,

0:26:200:26:25

so it's really bad.

0:26:250:26:27

So what can be done about it, though?

0:26:270:26:29

Is anything being done? Or is there nothing that can be done?

0:26:290:26:32

Nothing much, put them all inside jails.

0:26:320:26:35

And the thing is, we don't have enough jails to keep all of them in.

0:26:350:26:40

A good solution is what they're doing in Honduras and in El Salvador.

0:26:400:26:44

They're putting them together and they're killing each other.

0:26:440:26:47

And it's my personal opinion that's what they have to do, put them together in the jail and let them...

0:26:470:26:52

And let them fight it out.

0:26:520:26:54

They get all of their funding from extortions.

0:26:540:26:58

-Like, these kids that we just saw in the hospital...

-Yeah.

0:26:580:27:02

They probably weren't extortions, but they were like an initiation,

0:27:020:27:07

so in the initiation, also in the gangs, they say,

0:27:070:27:11

"OK, you want to be in the gang,

0:27:110:27:14

"go and kill somebody?".

0:27:140:27:16

-And it just happened to be those five.

-Unfortunately they were.

0:27:160:27:20

They have no conscience, though, or no value of life.

0:27:200:27:24

Nothing. And it's...

0:27:240:27:27

awful.

0:27:270:27:28

At 3:00am, Angie's second shift ends.

0:27:300:27:33

She wakes in the security of Archie's fortified house.

0:27:380:27:42

Today Archie's wife, Maho,

0:27:420:27:44

wants to take her out of the compound to go shopping.

0:27:440:27:47

In Guatemala, this is not as simple as it sounds.

0:27:480:27:52

Now we're going to town.

0:27:520:27:54

You have to be very precautious.

0:27:540:27:56

Take all your jewellery off.

0:27:560:27:57

-Oh, right.

-Your earrings, yeah, or something that is valuable.

0:27:570:28:01

-This, maybe?

-Yeah, I wouldn't recommend it.

0:28:010:28:03

It is, like, different for you but...

0:28:030:28:05

Very different, very different.

0:28:050:28:08

I never have to take my jewellery off to go shopping. That's for sure.

0:28:080:28:11

I didn't bring my purse.

0:28:110:28:14

I just have the cash with me and...

0:28:140:28:17

-OK.

-And nothing else. Yeah.

0:28:170:28:18

-All right.

-So don't bring attention to us.

0:28:180:28:21

Things here that...

0:28:210:28:24

-you have to be thinking all the time, it seems.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:28:240:28:27

But it is like part of your routine.

0:28:270:28:29

It's like getting dressed or getting showered.

0:28:290:28:32

It's like you're thinking all the time.

0:28:320:28:34

Yeah.

0:28:340:28:36

And was it the same as you when you were young as well?

0:28:360:28:39

No, no. There was like delinquency and everything

0:28:390:28:43

but now they kill you for your cell phone.

0:28:430:28:45

It is ridiculous, right?

0:28:450:28:48

-Yeah.

-A life for a cell phone.

0:28:480:28:50

But now, these days, it's what we live with.

0:28:500:28:53

Maho is shopping for her son's first birthday party.

0:28:560:29:00

-Ready? Which way? Face down?

-Face up.

-Face up?

0:29:000:29:04

-Yeah.

-OK.

-That's the advice from the experts.

0:29:040:29:07

Ha-ha, there we are.

0:29:070:29:09

-Pinata experts.

-Yeah.

-Wow!

0:29:090:29:12

Muchas gracias. Gracias.

0:29:120:29:14

-It looks great in there!

-Yeah, I know.

0:29:140:29:16

Bye.

0:29:230:29:25

Even at the party it's hard to escape the violence.

0:29:250:29:28

Angie, we're in the newspaper.

0:29:300:29:32

Nuestro Diario is Guatemala's biggest selling newspaper.

0:29:320:29:36

-We're in the newspaper?

-What a picture.

-Yeah.

0:29:360:29:39

It's known locally as Muerto Diario, or the daily death.

0:29:390:29:44

Oh, that was, er... pretty violent last night.

0:29:440:29:48

Yeah, it was.

0:29:480:29:49

It was really violent.

0:29:490:29:51

If I was living in Guatemala City

0:29:530:29:56

I just don't think I'd want to live here any more.

0:29:560:29:59

I think I'd just want to go. I'd just want to go somewhere safer,

0:29:590:30:03

especially with children.

0:30:030:30:05

THEY CHATTER EXCITEDLY

0:30:050:30:08

Especially with something that's getting worse,

0:30:110:30:13

getting worse every day.

0:30:130:30:15

That's pretty grim. Yeah. I wouldn't want to live here.

0:30:150:30:18

Not at all.

0:30:180:30:20

Not at all.

0:30:200:30:22

But Angie's stay has only just begun.

0:30:220:30:24

From now on she'll be leaving the gated security of Archie's house

0:30:240:30:28

and living with another of the bomberos

0:30:280:30:31

in a very different part of town.

0:30:310:30:33

Unlike Archie, Wilfredo Ponce is a full time bombero.

0:30:370:30:42

Hola, Wilfredo. Si?

0:30:440:30:48

The Bomberos Voluntarios rely almost totally on donations to pay for their medical kit

0:30:520:30:57

and the salaries of the dedicated permanent staff like Wilfredo.

0:30:570:31:01

He seems a really nice man that's very proud of his job

0:31:010:31:06

and very proud of what he does.

0:31:060:31:08

Very proud and honoured to be a permanent bombero.

0:31:080:31:11

Very knowledgeable as well.

0:31:130:31:15

And said he's looking forward to learning from me.

0:31:150:31:17

I'm looking forward to learning from him, I think, definitely.

0:31:170:31:21

But aside from checking the kit there are other important jobs for Angie to learn.

0:31:210:31:25

Like making pork and rice,

0:31:250:31:28

Guatemalan style.

0:31:280:31:29

I'm going as fast as I can.

0:31:320:31:34

I think this is a great way to work.

0:31:360:31:39

I think it really brings people together.

0:31:390:31:42

It would be good if this could happen

0:31:420:31:44

back on our station but just the nature of the jobs are so different.

0:31:440:31:49

Where I work it's quite often

0:31:490:31:51

you can go all day without seeing somebody else on your shift.

0:31:510:31:55

BELL RINGS

0:31:560:31:58

They've been called to a road traffic accident,

0:32:030:32:06

which should be more familiar territory for Angie.

0:32:060:32:08

After 30 minutes of classic bombero driving they arrive at the scene.

0:32:160:32:20

A 25-tonne-truck carrying tortilla flour

0:32:320:32:35

has crashed through the central reservation.

0:32:350:32:38

Two men have been crushed underneath.

0:32:470:32:50

But one very lucky 19-year-old has been pulled from the wreckage.

0:32:500:32:55

We've got this guy here

0:32:590:33:02

whose main injury seems to be his leg,

0:33:020:33:06

and he's got quite a bad laceration to his knee

0:33:060:33:10

and to his head.

0:33:100:33:13

That's a pretty grand scale accident.

0:33:130:33:15

I've never seen an accident like that before. And we've just got here at the tail end of it

0:33:150:33:20

so you can imagine what it would have been like to be first on scene.

0:33:200:33:24

That's pretty incredible.

0:33:240:33:26

The emergency calls just keep coming.

0:33:290:33:31

By the time they get back,

0:33:510:33:53

the carefully prepared meal is stone cold.

0:33:530:33:56

We're finally having pizza

0:33:560:33:58

because we've attempted to eat food now for about the last four hours,

0:33:580:34:02

which was the food that I helped prepare.

0:34:020:34:07

It's probably is just as well that everyone's ended up with pizza.

0:34:070:34:10

Angie is staying with Wilfredo while they are working together.

0:34:230:34:27

He lives with his family 20 miles outside the city.

0:34:280:34:32

It couldn't be more different from Archie's house.

0:34:320:34:35

This feels to me like the real Guatemala,

0:34:380:34:41

or more like the real Guatemala.

0:34:410:34:43

The community, the small shops, the people working together,

0:34:430:34:47

people walking round the streets.

0:34:470:34:50

Where Archie lives, behind the gates, I think it's what

0:34:500:34:54

unfortunately has become necessary in Guatemala

0:34:540:34:58

to survive and to be safe, but not being able to live freely.

0:34:580:35:03

Yeah, this definitely feels to me more like

0:35:100:35:12

I thought what Guatemala would.

0:35:120:35:14

-Buenos dias.

-Hola. Buenos dias.

0:35:260:35:28

Bienvenida. Como estas? Muy bien?

0:35:280:35:31

Hola. Como estas?

0:35:400:35:43

Ah. Hola.

0:35:430:35:45

Has he got a name?

0:36:090:36:10

Patito.

0:36:100:36:12

Do you want the parrot to kiss you?

0:36:150:36:18

Do I want the parrot...?

0:36:180:36:20

It's been a dream of mine.

0:36:200:36:23

The house is very small and very, very different to Archie's house.

0:36:230:36:29

Obviously the... Well, Wilfredo said they make the best of what they've got and you can see that.

0:36:290:36:35

But so small for all those people.

0:36:350:36:37

They've all moved in together so I can have a room to myself.

0:36:370:36:41

I'm just very touched actually that they've done that for me.

0:36:410:36:44

I feel a bit like the queen,

0:36:440:36:46

which is nice.

0:36:460:36:48

This place is lovely. It's so relaxing.

0:37:000:37:03

It's so how I imagined a little village in Guatemala to be.

0:37:030:37:07

Everybody knows everyone else.

0:37:070:37:10

I'm sure everyone knows everyone's business here as well,

0:37:100:37:13

like they do where I live at home. It's lovely.

0:37:130:37:15

Really nice. I feel really comfortable walking round here.

0:37:150:37:18

But even here, life is not as peaceful as it seems.

0:37:210:37:25

To travel the 20 miles to work every day Wilfredo catches a bus from the bus station at five in the morning.

0:37:250:37:32

But this simple journey to work is fraught with peril.

0:37:320:37:36

TRANSLATION: Travelling is very difficult.

0:37:360:37:39

At the moment they are extorting money from the bus companies.

0:37:390:37:43

And because the companies aren't paying, people are being killed every day on the buses.

0:37:430:37:49

And why do they do this? Why does it happen?

0:37:490:37:51

TRANSLATION: The gangs ask them for money

0:37:510:37:53

and if they don't hand it over, they kill them.

0:37:530:37:56

Do you ever feel afraid to travel by bus?

0:37:560:37:59

TRANSLATION: Yes, it's uncomfortable.

0:37:590:38:02

Every time you get on the bus,

0:38:020:38:03

you look around to check who is getting on.

0:38:030:38:05

And you think, something's going to happen here.

0:38:050:38:09

Guatemala City has been gripped by a campaign of terror on the buses.

0:38:110:38:16

In the last five years more than 500 bus drivers

0:38:160:38:19

and dozens of bystanders, including children, have been murdered

0:38:190:38:23

as the Maras have tried to extort money from the bus companies.

0:38:230:38:26

And the threat is not far away.

0:38:280:38:31

TRANSLATION: Those houses you can see over there,

0:38:310:38:34

that's the neighbourhood of Peronia.

0:38:340:38:36

It's got a lot of gangs. It's a very dangerous place.

0:38:380:38:42

Here it's very quiet,

0:38:440:38:46

but they used to come over and steal people's belongings.

0:38:460:38:50

So is it the Maras that create the trouble that you find on the local buses here?

0:38:500:38:57

Is it the Maras that do the extortion?

0:38:570:39:01

TRANSLATION: That's right, they are the ones that do it.

0:39:010:39:04

At first, they just extorted the buses.

0:39:040:39:06

Then they started extorting households, schools and shops.

0:39:060:39:10

I wasn't expecting the Maras to live that close to Wilfredo,

0:39:130:39:17

and such a big presence of them as well.

0:39:170:39:21

It looks such a lovely place over the green hills,

0:39:210:39:26

and you can see it there.

0:39:260:39:29

But Wilfredo said he just wouldn't go there and it's just not a place you'd walk around.

0:39:290:39:33

Back in Wilfredo's house, Angie can relax and get to know more about the family.

0:39:370:39:41

Do you want to be a bombero when you grow up?

0:39:440:39:48

Good boy. It's a good job.

0:39:480:39:51

What do you want to be when you are a big girl?

0:39:510:39:54

A ballerina? Show me.

0:39:560:39:58

Oh!

0:40:000:40:02

Beautiful.

0:40:020:40:05

But there seems to be no peace here in Guatemala.

0:40:070:40:12

By 11 o'clock, outside Wilfredo's house, the street is full of men,

0:40:120:40:17

many in balaclavas. Some are armed.

0:40:170:40:20

They are the guardians of the neighbourhood.

0:40:200:40:25

From 11 o'clock they watch the whole neighbourhood, just in case anything happens.

0:40:250:40:29

Since this system was set up, nothing serious has happened.

0:40:290:40:35

Quite shocking that this is what it takes

0:40:420:40:45

to make sure that the village sleeps safely.

0:40:450:40:48

People give up a big chunk of their time,

0:40:510:40:54

when really, you should be able to be sleeping soundly in your bed.

0:40:540:40:58

Increasingly, ordinary Guatemalans

0:40:590:41:02

are forming vigilante groups to protect themselves against the gangs.

0:41:020:41:07

The police seem to have abandoned the streets.

0:41:070:41:09

I am really, really, really tired now,

0:41:120:41:16

so I'll say good night.

0:41:160:41:19

And know that I am going to sleep soundly in this bed tonight,

0:41:190:41:23

because I'm being protected by those wonderful people out there.

0:41:230:41:27

It's stupid o'clock in the morning.

0:41:390:41:44

About quarter to five, I think.

0:41:440:41:45

Wilfredo usually gets to work on the bus,

0:41:470:41:51

but we've been advised that it's not safe to travel on the buses,

0:41:510:41:56

so I've ordered a taxi.

0:41:560:41:58

I haven't asked Wilfredo yet, but I'm going to ask him if he'll join me.

0:41:580:42:02

(Will you join me in it and we can travel to work together?)

0:42:020:42:06

Here's to a good shift.

0:42:160:42:17

While most of the villagers start an uncertain journey on the buses,

0:42:240:42:27

for once, Wilfredo avoids the risk by travelling in the back of a cab.

0:42:270:42:32

After a week in Guatemala, Angie is getting used to her new job and workmates.

0:42:410:42:46

She is becoming a bombero.

0:42:460:42:49

Yeah!

0:42:490:42:51

In the middle of another shift,

0:42:590:43:02

Angie and Wilfredo get their most bizarre call.

0:43:020:43:06

The police want them to identify the contents of a blood-soaked bag which they have found in the street.

0:43:060:43:11

But there's a reason the police are nervous.

0:43:310:43:36

TRANSLATION: A few months ago, it was fashionable to find heads here.

0:43:360:43:41

And arms, legs, hearts, lungs, or any bits of people's insides.

0:43:410:43:47

So they thought this could be a head, or body parts.

0:43:470:43:51

Even for Guatemala City, this series of gruesome murders

0:43:560:44:00

and decapitations represents a worrying escalation in the violence.

0:44:000:44:05

It's further evidence that the city has become a target

0:44:050:44:10

for the fearsome Mexican drug cartels.

0:44:100:44:12

In Mexico, to the north, the state is at war with the cartels.

0:44:140:44:19

It's a conflict that cost more than 30,000 lives.

0:44:190:44:26

Now there are fears that Guatemala could be completely overwhelmed

0:44:260:44:30

by the powerful Mexican cocaine traffickers.

0:44:300:44:33

But there is a glimmer of hope in this troubled country.

0:44:340:44:38

The government has begun to negotiate

0:44:380:44:41

with some of the gangs to try and bring the killings under control.

0:44:410:44:45

The Ministry of Culture has invited Angie to visit a gang-controlled area that they claim is now safe.

0:44:450:44:52

It's Peronia, the village near Wilfredo's house.

0:44:520:44:57

Understandably, Angie has her doubts.

0:44:570:45:00

We've been asked to visit Peronia

0:45:000:45:03

by the Ministry of Culture,

0:45:030:45:06

who are doing some work there.

0:45:060:45:09

Well, we've been invited,

0:45:120:45:14

and we've been told it's quite safe now, so...

0:45:140:45:19

I don't know.

0:45:190:45:20

I'm a little bit scared, but I'd be interested to go.

0:45:200:45:25

So Wilfredo, if I asked you to come with me,

0:45:370:45:43

would you do that? Would you come to Peronia with me?

0:45:430:45:46

OK, I understand you need to think about it.

0:45:490:45:53

I mean, in a way,

0:45:570:45:58

although I am quite afraid to go in because of the things

0:45:580:46:03

that Wilfredo said, it would be very fascinating to actually...

0:46:030:46:07

speak to these gang members,

0:46:070:46:10

and just to see what kind of people they are.

0:46:100:46:14

And just why they do what they do,

0:46:140:46:18

or how they came to do what they do.

0:46:180:46:22

Um... Yeah.

0:46:220:46:25

Next morning, and Angie has decided to take the plunge.

0:46:290:46:33

She's heading to Peronia. Wilfredo has agreed to meet her there.

0:46:330:46:38

She's hoping to talk to some of the people behind the violence she has had to deal with.

0:46:380:46:42

Just waiting here now for a bus to take me to Peronia.

0:46:420:46:48

Waiting for a guy called Gustavo,

0:46:500:46:52

who's going to be my guide, I guess.

0:46:520:46:55

OK?

0:46:550:46:57

Hello.

0:46:570:46:59

-Mucho gusto. Soy Angie.

-Angie. Mucho gusto.

0:47:030:47:05

I have to say I'm a little bit...

0:47:070:47:09

worried and concerned about today.

0:47:090:47:11

How safe is it?

0:47:120:47:15

TRANSLATION: We're going to Peronia.

0:47:150:47:19

The government initiatives have had a big impact.

0:47:190:47:22

The two gangs there managed to sign a peace agreement.

0:47:220:47:25

So things are a bit calmer now.

0:47:250:47:27

Gustavo and his friends aren't quite your usual government representatives.

0:47:310:47:35

This isn't what I expected of the Ministry of Culture at all.

0:47:380:47:40

When I knew they were going to be taking me in to Peronia, I thought it was going to be quite formal.

0:47:400:47:45

But it's not like that at all. They're all slightly bonkers, to be honest.

0:47:490:47:53

It turns out that Gustavo and his colleagues are all ex-gang members themselves.

0:47:550:48:00

We come from the street.

0:48:070:48:10

We have credibility with the gangs.

0:48:100:48:12

They trust us.

0:48:120:48:15

This allows us to be a bridge to help them change.

0:48:150:48:18

So how did you manage to get away from the street then, and do what you're doing now?

0:48:200:48:26

I never left.

0:48:260:48:28

I still feel part of the street.

0:48:280:48:30

But the part of the street that tries to help people.

0:48:300:48:33

Gustavo's approach has already got results.

0:48:370:48:41

He played a key role in bringing a ceasefire between Los Metales

0:48:410:48:45

and Los Caballos, gangs who, before the truce,

0:48:450:48:48

were killing up to ten people a day.

0:48:480:48:52

It's the only gang ceasefire to ever happen in Guatemala.

0:48:540:48:58

And now Gustavo is taking Angie to meet the ex-leader

0:48:580:49:03

of the notorious Metales gang.

0:49:030:49:05

Wilfredo and Mildred have turned up to show their support.

0:49:090:49:13

So here we are, Peronia. Yeah.

0:49:130:49:15

Just what you were telling me about.

0:49:150:49:17

Glad you came.

0:49:180:49:21

Glad you came.

0:49:210:49:22

Gracias.

0:49:260:49:29

Juan Francisco Sarceno has the tattoos the Maras are famed for,

0:49:310:49:35

but he has now left the gang he used to lead.

0:49:350:49:39

He has found God,

0:49:390:49:41

-and now he has a job.

-In your past life, did you ever actually kill anybody?

0:49:410:49:46

TRANSLATION: Unfortunately, it's compulsory if you follow that path.

0:49:490:49:54

You have many rivalries and enemies.

0:49:540:49:56

And some of them tried to kill me.

0:49:580:50:02

I've been shot in the face.

0:50:020:50:04

I've also been wounded here.

0:50:040:50:06

You kill them, or they kill you.

0:50:080:50:10

I used to extort money from the buses. Now I work on them.

0:50:160:50:21

So now that you're a bus driver,

0:50:210:50:23

how does that make you feel knowing that you used to extort the bus drivers here?

0:50:230:50:28

I thank God.

0:50:340:50:36

And also the bus owner who gave me a break.

0:50:360:50:40

He opened a door to me, and showed me that there are people

0:50:400:50:46

who value you, and believe in you.

0:50:460:50:51

Suddenly, something is wrong.

0:50:540:50:58

Gustavo tells everybody to get back on the bus.

0:50:580:51:01

It's time to leave.

0:51:010:51:03

When we were filming with the ex-leader of the Metales gang,

0:51:100:51:14

many of the young guys still in the gang were annoyed.

0:51:140:51:18

They drove past, revving their engines.

0:51:200:51:22

For your safety, we decided it was time to leave.

0:51:240:51:29

It was a nervous few minutes,

0:51:290:51:32

but the visit has been worthwhile.

0:51:320:51:35

It was strange to actually put a face to the killings,

0:51:350:51:39

and the violence, because they've been faceless till now.

0:51:390:51:45

All we've seen is the mayhem that they've left behind.

0:51:450:51:49

I didn't feel any sort of hatred towards him,

0:51:490:51:54

or any...

0:51:540:51:55

No, he just seemed an ordinary man,

0:51:550:51:59

who now just wants to earn a living.

0:51:590:52:03

It's hard to believe that

0:52:030:52:05

he did the things that he did.

0:52:050:52:08

Angie is clocking on for her last shift with the bomberos.

0:52:120:52:16

It turns out to be one of the most shocking.

0:52:190:52:21

They are racing to the scene of one of Guatemala City's regular bus shootings.

0:52:290:52:33

It's an incident on a bus.

0:52:410:52:43

OK.

0:52:470:52:49

-Si...

-A passenger has been shot twice in the chest.

0:53:040:53:07

It's not clear if he is still alive.

0:53:070:53:09

Yeah. Here.

0:53:090:53:10

Yeah, yeah, si, si.

0:53:130:53:15

Si, si, si, pulso.

0:53:150:53:18

I need my kit.

0:53:210:53:24

Can we have...a mask as we go?

0:53:310:53:35

After two weeks with the bomberos, Angie is taking charge of the situation.

0:53:350:53:41

Ambu bag, Ambu bag. Er...

0:53:410:53:44

Can I have it now?

0:53:440:53:46

That's OK,

0:53:510:53:52

that'll do. Let's just get out, shall we, and then we can...

0:53:520:53:56

This man might be saved, but as Angie and the bomberos

0:53:560:53:59

struggle to get him off the bus,

0:53:590:54:02

-his life is ebbing away.

-Si, si, oh, si.

0:54:020:54:07

Connect that up for me, please?

0:54:150:54:18

Connect it.

0:54:180:54:20

Yeah. He's a big boy.

0:54:280:54:32

Can...cannula.

0:54:320:54:35

Gracias, gracias.

0:54:350:54:38

The ambulance is tiny compared to the one that Angie is used to back home.

0:54:380:54:43

Si, si.

0:54:430:54:44

OK. Compresion. Gracias.

0:54:470:54:50

Let me check carotid.

0:54:520:54:55

He had one on the bus, he hasn't got one now.

0:54:550:54:59

How you guys do this in these conditions...

0:54:590:55:04

Compresion.

0:55:080:55:10

Ooh.

0:55:100:55:12

Despite their best efforts, the man dies.

0:55:140:55:16

That poor guy's gone.

0:55:160:55:18

It's another brutal murder on Guatemala's buses.

0:55:200:55:23

Wilfredo, I don't know how, seeing that now, and you having to go on the buses,

0:55:250:55:29

I don't know how you deal with it.

0:55:290:55:32

Sometimes you expect people to thank you for what you do,

0:55:320:55:35

maybe the families or something.

0:55:350:55:37

But the greatest gift you can have here is to wake up alive the next day.

0:55:370:55:43

The short time I've been in Guatemala, especially

0:56:020:56:04

in Guatemala City, I've realised it's a tough, tough place anyway,

0:56:040:56:08

er, seen a lot of violence and brutality around,

0:56:080:56:13

and these guys, the voluntarios, are,

0:56:130:56:15

are sort of putting themselves out there in the midst of it.

0:56:150:56:20

But I can kind of see why, because it is very, very exciting.

0:56:230:56:27

And they love it, and they love it,

0:56:310:56:33

and they're so, so good at it.

0:56:330:56:35

Thank you! I feel I really belong now.

0:56:350:56:40

I got kind of mixed feelings about going - I would love to do some more shifts with the bomberos.

0:56:400:56:45

So, mixed feelings, yes, of course I miss my family, and of course,

0:56:460:56:51

but yeah, I could stay out here, I could stay out here.

0:56:510:56:55

One month later, and Angie is back in Cardiff, but she hasn't forgotten the bomberos.

0:57:030:57:08

Since I got back from Guatemala,

0:57:080:57:10

I made it my mission to do a bit of fundraising and raise some money,

0:57:100:57:16

so I am in the process of organising a sponsored Zumbathon,

0:57:160:57:19

or Zumba Till You Drop.

0:57:190:57:21

I've persuaded a lot of my colleagues to come tonight and have a practice

0:57:230:57:27

because some of them have never done Zumba before - hopefully, they'll get a taste for it,

0:57:270:57:31

like I have, and we will have a good money-raising event in the near future.

0:57:310:57:36

Guatemala City is a violent place and it make me appreciate

0:57:410:57:46

what an easy life, compared to my colleagues out there,

0:57:460:57:50

that I have here without the fear of shootings in the street,

0:57:500:57:56

shootings on buses, stabbings.

0:57:560:58:00

I'd love to go back out there

0:58:000:58:02

and take them some equipment, things that we take for granted that I know they really need.

0:58:020:58:09

It was a privilege, and I felt very proud to be part of the bomberos

0:58:100:58:15

of Guatemala city - it was amazing.

0:58:150:58:17

Next time, a bus driver leaves his London garage to get behind the wheel in Manila.

0:58:200:58:26

-They're coming from all directions.

-Everywhere.

0:58:260:58:29

He has to go solo on some of the busiest roads in the world.

0:58:290:58:33

I should give him 43 change but the minimum fare is seven.

0:58:330:58:38

And he learns what it takes to survive in the most densely populated city on earth.

0:58:380:58:43

He works 12 hours a day to live in a box.

0:58:430:58:46

A man that works that hard shouldn't have to.

0:58:460:58:49

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:59:030:59:06

E-mail [email protected]

0:59:060:59:11

Angie Dymott is leaving her job as a paramedic in Cardiff, South Wales, to join the Bomberos of Guatemala City, capital of Guatemala and one of the most murderous places on earth.

For two weeks, she will live and work with the Bomberos, combined paramedics and firemen, as they race to the scenes of gangland killings and drive-by shootings, trying to save lives and to stay alive. She will swap her roomy, high-tech, state-of-the-art ambulance for a cramped minibus.

As the drug barons fight it out and innocents are caught in the crossfire, Angie will see more bloodshed and killings in a few days than in all her years on the job in Wales.

Decades of civil war and increasing drug-related violence have left this Central American country close to chaos. The murder rate is bucking the global, downward, trend, and rising every year. Recently a leading international monitoring organisation described Guatemala as 'a paradise for criminals.'

As she contemplates her departure, Angie is scared, not just of the violence but of failing her new colleagues. She knows she's a competent paramedic in the UK, but in Guatemala? Will she cope? Will she be a useful member of the team or merely a hindrance?


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