Mobilizing health professionals, faculty, and students for medical mission trips to serve women and children in vulnerable populations with health-related and socio-economic support systems.
What is Well Child International?
Michael Birnbaum, the founder and “semi-retired” president of International Service Learning (ISL), originally designed Well Child International (WCI) as a sub-program or division of ISL in 1998. (ISL was founded in 1990.) The purpose of WCI is to focus on the “most underserved of the underserved” in vulnerable populations.
WCI teams collaborate directly and thoroughly with the health ministry’s (government departments) in the countries we serve. For now, we will be focusing on the Baja, Mexico and Costa Rica areas. We already received an award from the Mexican state of Sonora for doubling the immunization rate of children in that area.
We can offer a tax deductible receipt for donations over $100 from a sister nonprofit, Good Samaritan missions. There is a processing fee of 7%. If you have questions, please contact Michael Birnbaum: Michael@WellChildInternational.org
About Mexico Two thousand miles of border separates Mexico and the United States. The base of operations for WCI Baja Mexico is located in Puerto Peñasco. This desert coastal paradise, like much of Mexico, has a health care system that is overwhelmed and desperately in need. At WCI, we don’t believe that borders should keep us from helping those in need any more than fences should keep us from being good neighbors, and with so many people in need around the world, we sometimes forget about those who are right next door. A Brief Overview of Baja Mexico The Baja region of Mexico is the geographic area that borders the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. Our WCI Baja program is located on the northeastern coast of the Sea of Cortez in the small city of Puerto Peñasco, also known as “Rocky Point” because of the prominent geographical feature at the entrance to the natural harbor. Puerto Peñasco is approximately 50 miles directly south of the Arizona border crossing of Sonoyta. Border towns face many sociological challenges: more population than the local infrastructure can support, an ever-changing population as people move through, high unemployment, and healthcare challenges and diseases that are unintentionally brought into the city. Although Mexico has a socialized health care system, it can be very challenging to work with, as it is divided among four areas of separate governance and control and does not provide adequate coverage for the population. Where We Serve in Baja Mexico Puerto Peñasco is the only population center within 55 miles in the Northern Desert of Mexico. WCI serves an urban population of over 50,000 people, focusing on specific areas to which we can return for sustainable service. The Need in Baja Mexico In urban areas we work very closely with the Ministry of Health to conduct house-to-house surveys, screenings, and clinic days throughout the city of Puerto Peñasco. We also provide service and support to local agencies, both private and governmental, which serve the poor, the orphaned, the developmentally challenged and the abused. Our Partnerships As with any great work, it takes great relationships to get the job done well. That’s why WCI Baja Mexico is excited to partner with nonprofits, NGOs, and governmental and religious institutions to better serve the underserved in Mexico. WCI Baja works with all levels of governmental health care in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico: city, state, federal, and low-income healthcare, which is comparable to Medicaid in the United States. Hospital General General Hospital: a Phase 2 facility. Centro de Salud Health Department: a Phase 1 facility. DIF UVR Basic Rehabilitation and Family Development Unit Cereso Puerto Peñasco Puerto Peñasco Prison Centro de Rehabilitación Nueva Esperanza Men’s and Women’s Rehabilitation Centers Centro Comunitario Piedras Vivas Living Stones Community Center Centro Comunitario Palabras de Esperanza Words of Hope Community Center Secundaria Profesor Gilberto Pacheco Castillo #27 Jr. High School Primaria Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta Elementary School What to Expect as a Volunteer You’ll arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, where you’ll meet an WCI driver and cross the border at the town of Sonoyta. After a four-hour drive, which includes a brief stop at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and a few other small breaks along the way, you’ll arrive in Puerto Peñasco. With a full Mexican dinner awaiting you, you’ll get to know the WCI Baja Mexico staff and receive an orientation to the work you’ll be doing in Puerto Peñasco. The next day will be spent in training seminars and touring the city. Health programs spend the majority of the days to come on various aspects of WCI’s community health service work mixed with seminars on border health issues, medical/dental Spanish, community health surveys, and a Medicinal Plants of the Desert seminar. Health clinics are conducted with a variety of medical professionals and a full pharmacy. Because of our active partnership with the Ministry of Health, we are also often invited to join their staff in providing immunizations. WCI Baja Mexico received an award in 2015 from the Ministry of Health for our work in this area, as we enabled the underserved communities, we work in to double their immunization rates. Cultural Exploration With WCI Baja Mexico, you’ll get many opportunities to experience the culture of those you serve as volunteers. Here are some of the many possibilities: City Tour Get an up-close view of Puerto Peñasco, a city that started out as a small fishing village and turned into a Mexican boom town during the American Prohibition Era in the early 1900s. Local Handcrafts Learn how to make the signature-style pottery of northern Mexico, instructed by local artisans. An Evening on the Malecon A popular gathering place by the ocean, there is always something happening here, including concerts, festivals and community events. Presentations at CEDO CEDO, a center for the study of deserts and oceans, studies climate and the impact humans have on the fragile ecosystems and wildlife surrounding the Sea of Cortez. Take advantage of seeing CEDO up close and touring its only facility in the world. RecreationHorseback riding on the beach Because of its location on the Sea of Cortez, Puerto Peñasco has one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. What better way to experience it than riding horseback through the ocean surf? – $25/hour Beach time and shell hunting For those on a budget, you can spend all day relaxing on the beach while hunting for shells, swimming in the breaking waves and soaking up the sun. The best thing is that it’s a free, authentic Baja experience. – Free Ocean Kayaking If sitting on the beach isn’t quite your thing, venture out into the Sea of Cortez on an ocean kayak. – $10/hour Beach Biking Want to see more than just sand? Rent a bike and pedal up and down the beaches of Rocky Point. – $10/hour ATVs on beach and dunes For those feeling more adventurous, you can rent an ATV and let loose on the beach or one of the many sand dunes. – $40/hour Ultralight flights over the ocean and beach Get a bird’s eye view of Rocky Point from an ultralight plane! – $45 for 20 minutes Craft shopping Shopping for local crafts is a great way to experience the culture of Puerto Peñasco and to bring back gifts for friends and family. – Free to look! Tequila factory presentation For those interested in one of Mexico’s most famous drinks, you can see how tequila is made up close. – Free Sunset dinner cruises Experience the Sea of Cortez at sunset with a great meal – a fantastic way to end the day. – $30 Zip-line Experience a ride on a 5-Stage Zip-line prices starting at -$20 Estuary exploring/swimming An estuary is a partially enclosed bay where freshwater flows into the ocean. If you feel like swimming but don’t want to brave the crowded beachfront, swimming in the estuary might be your idea of a perfect, laid-back day. – Free Fishing trips Puerto Peñasco began as a fishing village many years ago and is still famous for its world-class fishing. Take a guided ocean trip in search of the perfect catch and come back with a few fish stories to share. – $30/half day Lodging Whether you lodge in a hacienda on the beach of the Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, Mexico; a walled convent in the heart of Alajuela, Costa Rica; or an apartment situated above the bustling metropolis of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, WCI’s volunteer lodgings are unique and carefully chosen based on very important criteria. Accommodations are safe, clean and within a reasonable driving distance to service sites and recreation opportunities. Volunteers are provided their own bed, easy access to restrooms and showers and meeting spaces for training and fellowship. Many WCI accommodations are unique and may include retreat houses, guest houses or home stays–all of which provide a distinctive cultural experience. WCI Country Coordinators will provide a description of your specific lodging in the Final Trip Document posted to your My WCI Portal prior to your departure. Casa de Paz An accommodation that is often used in our programs, Casa de Paz is a five-bedroom guest house that houses up to 20 guests in a warm homey atmosphere and is located in a private, gated community only one block from the water’s edge.