July 27, 2018

Health-Care Ministry Expands to Meet Community Needs in Mexico

Janelle Ringer, Loma Linda University Health News

A physician assistant from the United States launched an expansion of a community-care clinic in Baja California, Mexico, in July 2018, growing the ministry’s operations and offering an increased amount of care to residents in need.

Sarah Mayer, co-founder and medical director of Siloé Ministries, says the new Siloé Wellness Center—which began as a two-room clinic under the stairwell of a local church—is now a 560-square-meter (6,000-square-foot) facility dedicated to offering medical and dental care, health education, family counseling, and recreation programs.

The facility in the city of La Misión is now home to eight health-care providers, up from three when the ministry launched in 2008. The new wellness center was constructed in collaboration with Strong Tower Ministries, a nonprofit organization focused on orphaned children living in Baja California. The organizations began their partnership in 2015.

“We created this clinic because we wanted to provide whole-person care, and now we can help even more people in this community here,” Mayer said.

The growth includes a full-time doctor, an additional dentist and dental assistant, a nutritionist, and a nurse educator. The new space will have the capacity to host educational classes such as cooking and nutrition seminars. Additions also include a prayer and counseling room as well as an outdoor park and recreation area.

A variety of visiting practitioners and specialists spend anywhere from several hours to several weeks volunteering their time, and more than 40 have served during the past two years, Mayer said.

“When we crafted the vision for the wellness center, we always wanted it to be more than a clinic,” Mayer said. After spending more than eight years at the original site, Mayer had become deeply rooted in the community, learning about the specific health issues that existed.

Mayer began Siloé Ministries with her husband in 2008. She named the ministry Siloé because it is the Spanish word for Siloam, a nod to the Pool of Siloam referenced in the Bible (John 9), the place where Jesus sent a blind man to wash his eyes to restore his sight.

After graduating as a physician assistant from the School of Allied Health Professions of Loma Linda University in 2005, Mayer accepted a job in Southern California. From the start of her career, her passion was for underserved Hispanic communities.

Fueled by this passion, Mayer and her husband moved to La Misión for what they expected to be a 6-month commitment to volunteering at an orphanage. But as the duo became more involved with the local community, they realized the dire need for better health care. Many in the community had limited access to care before the ministry began. The Mayers’ commitment has now stretched over a decade.

The emerging ministry drew not only patients but volunteers as well. “Medical and dental volunteers from the U.S. and Mexico took notice and began to support the ministry with materials, supplies, and by volunteering their time,” Mayer said.

Mayer credits her education and clinical experience at LLU, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Loma Linda, California, United States, for equipping her to practice in a variety of settings. Her background as a student and employee gave her experience with the Spanish-speaking population, preparing her for many of the cultural differences between Mexico and the United States.

Despite these differences, Mayer found the health concerns of the La Misión community similar to those of the Hispanic population in the United States, including conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, poor nutrition, inadequate dental care, and a lack of health education.

“I hope the wellness center will function to provide medical and dental care to those in need, increase awareness and education of how lifestyle choices affect health, and provide spiritual counseling and prayer for individuals and families,” she said.