Improving Healthcare for the Guarijio-Makurawe People of Sonora, Mexico

Rotary Global Grant Sonora

Picture yourself living in one of seven remote villages, populated by just sixteen-hundred people and spread out over two-hundred-nineteen square miles. Access to water, electricity, and cell service is limited. Medical clinics and hospitals are far away, and getting to them is nearly impossible because roads are in poor shape and public transportation doesn’t exist.

Healthcare is sorely needed. But getting doctors to permanently move to your remote area will never happen. What do you do if you need medical attention?

This was the challenge facing the indigenous Guarijio-Makurawe people of Sonora, Mexico. The closest medical facility, the Clinica Integral Almas in Alamos, was between two-and-a-half to fourteen hours away. Dr. Ted Glattke, an audiologist working at the clinic, wondered if Rotary might help bring healthcare to the villages.

Dr. Glattke reached out to a colleague; Barbara Kiernan, PhD. Dr. Kiernan is a past president of the Catalina Rotary Club and recently retired faculty member of the University of Arizona. She also has a great love for Mexico. Dr. Kiernan visited with Dr. Glattke and Dr. Elizabeth Pettit, the physician who runs the Clinica Integral Almas, and consulted with the Guarijio-Makurawe community. Together, they outlined goals for what became an amazing project spearheaded by the Catalina Rotary Club in the U.S. and the Navojoa Rotary Club in Mexico. Eventually, this project became a global grant, involving twelve Rotary Clubs across five districts and three countries – as well as The Rotary Foundation.

Funding from the clubs and districts, matched by a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation, totaled $116,172 USD. Over a two-year period, from 2018 to 2020, this money was put to work as follows:

  • Five adults, called Promotores, were trained as healthcare promoters. Their job is to promote healthcare among their people and provide basic healthcare.
  • Eleven high school students, called Vinculadores, were trained as healthcare assistants. As rewards for their services, these students are now eligible to receive scholarships to a community college on the Mexican coast, where they will receive Emergency Medical Services (EMS) training and certification.
  • New medical equipment for Promotores, villages, and the Clinica Integral Almas.
  • Telemedicine equipment (solar panels, batteries, satellite modems, smart phones) provided and installed.
  • Healthcare training sessions for all villagers.

But wait, there’s more! Although the Global Grant ended in 2020, the work continues. Thanks to a grant from the University of Arizona, the Colleges of Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Public Health will use the already installed telemedicine system and trained healthcare Promotores to provide virtual clinical practicum experiences for UA graduate students in global health.

If you’d like to see more details about the Global Grant, you can read the final report.

Here’s an overview of the project, presented by Barbara Kiernan, PhD.