José Mauricio Torres of San José is being honored because he and fellow Cruz Roja members started the first canine search and rescue teams in the region.He is one of six persons worldwide receiving the 2010 Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad. This is the 20th year of the awards that go to a U.S. government employee or family member. The awards are managed by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, which describes itself as a non-profit organization that has been representing foreign service spouses, employees and retirees since 1960.
A summary said that Torres spent two years learning with members of Virginian Task Force 1, one of only two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams that deploys internationally. He did this while his spouse, a foreign service officer, was stationed in the Washington D.C. area.
When he and his wife moved to San José, he worked with firemen and Cruz Roja here to set up a search and rescue program using dogs, said American Foreign Service Worldwide.
Torres worked for years with the Cruz Roja equivalent in El Salvador, so as a native Spanish speaker he helped the Cruz Roja rewrite its dog training manual, said the organization.
“Through his volunteer actions, Mauricio is building Central America’s capacity to respond to natural disasters,” said the organization. “His personal goal is to leave behind a viable and self-sustaining canine search and rescue program that can respond in a swift and professional manner in order to save lives throughout the region.”
The awards, which include $2,500, will be presented Thursday in Washington by James B. Steinberg, deputy secretary of State.