- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) - The ambulance will take 15 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

It will arrive on an island off the coast of West Africa - more than 3,300 miles from Massachusetts but in a place close to home for three Brockton brothers.

Joao, Jose and Paulo Soares, natives of Cape Verde, have put in more than 100 hours rehabilitating an ambulance they bought at auction. They repaired its body and mechanical problems and found a fellow Brockton business owner willing to donate thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment.

“We’re just trying to do a positive thing,” Jose Soares said.

The brothers have operated Soares Auto Body on Montello Street since 2006. After visiting with a Cape Verde official in Brockton last year, the brothers kept their eyes open for a way to help medical transportation on Sao Filipe, the capital of the island of Fogo.

Cape Verde, consisting of 10 islands, has “generally rudimentary” medical facilities, according to the U.S. Department of State. “Medical service providers are often adequately trained but lack equipment, supplies, and medical facilities for treating serious illnesses and injuries,” the department said in a 2013 report.

Joao Soares said he hopes the ambulance will arrive by the end of the year. A brake job is the only work left to be done. After that, the brothers will bring the ambulance to Fall River, where the Cape Verde government will take over the duties and expense of shipping the ambulance.

The Soares spent $7,000 on the ambulance, which was stripped of medical markings and rusted along its underside. They fixed the vehicle’s body, did mechanical work and painted markings designating it as an ambulance for Sao Filipe.

“We put a lot of work into it,” Joao Soares said.

Then the brothers handed the ambulance over to Steve McCall, whose company McCall Ambulance Service has locations in Brockton, Boston and Quincy.

McCall donated about $10,000 worth of equipment, including a stretcher, an automatic defibrillation machine, long boards, oxygen tanks, fracture splints and EpiPens.

“It’s fully stocked,” he said. “This ambulance would pass inspection in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts is one of the toughest states.”

McCall, whose wife is Cape Verdean, said he decided to donate his time and equipment because the island nation has little modern medical equipment. He and the Soares brothers are among thousands of Brockton residents with a Cape Verde connection.

Nearly 10 percent of the city’s residents have Cape Verdean ancestry, one of the highest percentages by municipality in the United States. Residents with dual citizenship can vote from Brockton in Cape Verde’s presidential elections, and Mayor Bill Carpenter visited the country earlier this year to build relationships with government officials.

That partnership was showcased again in August when Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos Fonseca met with Carpenter at City Hall and the two men exchanged gifts. Two weeks later, three mayors from the island of Fogo visited and received miniature statues of hometown hero Rocky Marciano.

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