Gonzalo Pazmino, Firefighter/EMT
Gonzalo Pazmino has been a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department for 15 years. He currently is at Truck 48 and has been there for the past 3 years. Like most Chicago firefighters, Gonzalo's spirit of helping others does not end when his shift at the firehouse ends. Gonzalo was born in Ecuador, and at the age of 18 months immigrated to the United States with his parents. He went to school in the states and became a citizen at the age of ten. In 2007 he returned to Ecuador on vacation and met the 2nd chief to the biggest city of Ecuador which, is the city of Guayaquil. The chief explained that the firemen of Ecuador were in bad shape, especially the fire departments in remote areas, and that they were in need of a lot of help. Gonzalo was greatly impacted by this and vowed to bring whatever supplies he could carry in his luggage every time he came to visit and donate it all to firemen.
The chief guided him on a tour of firehouses and introduced him to other chiefs in Ecuador. Upon his return to the United States, Gonzalo began calling different fire departments and organizations for help. Unfortunately, he was continuously turned down. One of the firehouses that turned him down explained that all their equipment was already being donated to an organization called Hearts in Motion and gave Gonzalo the founder's name - Karen Scheeringa. Gonzalo contacted Karen to explain what he was doing and without hesitation she said she was more than willing to donate to his cause. Gonzalo drove to Indiana to meet Karen personally and from that point on Hearts in Motion has tremendously helped Gonzalo and his cause for Ecuador.
Gonzalo didn't stop there; In 2008, he asked a group of Chicago Firemen to help by traveling with him to Ecuador to train Ecuadorian Firemen. From that point on, other firemen from other departments in the United States have joined the team. Approximately 6 to 10 firemen from Chicago and other departments from other cities travel to Ecuador with Gonzalo 3 to 4 times a year. These firemen have families and other responsibilities of their own yet they selflessly give their time and dedication for this cause.
While on one of these training missions, Gonzalo was taken to an orphanage in mountains of Ecuador. As a fireman that has seen so much in his line of work, the images he witnessed visiting the orphanage were life changing. The living conditions and the poor nutrition these children were living with were heart wrenching. At that point Gonzalo decided to do whatever possible to help this and other orphanages, as well as special needs schools. This experience motivated Gonzalo to start organizing fundraisers. The fundraisers have been very successful and all the proceeds went towards buying essentials such as, play ground sets, school supplies, and equipment.
In 2009 during the first fundraiser, Gonzalo met a group of hard working professionals, Sandra Maldonado, Migdalia Al-Shboul, and Freddy Flores. This group wanted to help with the cause. They have helped organize fundraising events as well as helping Gonzalo establish a non for profit organization, which known as Firefighters Hearts United.
In 2010 Hearts in Motion went to Ecuador with a medical team to do surgeries, such as cleft palates and other crucial operations. With the acquired donations, containers, crates full of medical supplies, firefighting equipment, ambulances, fire engines, and fire trucks have also been sent.
Gonzalo has two sons, ages 11 and 17, who help with many of these efforts, and who witness firsthand the love and generosity that their father shares with the less fortunate people of Ecuador.
Lives have been saved through the training of firemen, the donations of equipment to fire departments, and by providing kids with the essential needs to be able to succeed and live with basic necessities. All of this has been accomplished by the selfless efforts of Gonzalo and his fellow firefighters. They have a great passion for their cause and what they do.
Gonzalo epitomizes the heart of the Chicago Fire Department and Ignite the Spirit and is truly Someone You Should Know!