Two thousand miles of border separate the Mexico and the United States. The base of operations for ISL Mexico is located Puerto Peñasco. This desert paradise, like much of Mexico, has a health care system that is overcrowded and desperately in need. At ISL, 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, sometimes we forget about those who are right next door.
The Brief on Mexico
The Baja region of Mexico is the geographic area that borders the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. The ISL Baja program is located on the Northeastern coast of the Sea of Cortez. The principal town or small city that is the headquarters for this program is Puerto Peñasco, also known as “Rocky Point.” Rocky Point is the approximate English rendering of “Puerto Peñasco” and refers to a prominent geographical feature at the entrance to the natural harbor. Puerto Peñasco is located about 50 miles directly south of the Arizona border crossing of Sonoyta. Being a border area, there are sociological challenges: more population than the local infrastructure can support, ever-changing population as people move through, very high unemployment, and healthcare challenges and diseases that are unintentionally brought to 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 which don’t provide adequate coverage for the population.
Where We Serve in Mexico
Puerto Peñasco is the only population center within 55 miles in the Northern Desert of Mexico. ISL serves this urban population of over 50,000 people, focusing on specific zones.
The Need in Mexico
Focusing on specific 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, that serve the orphaned, developmentally challenged, abused, and/or drug/alcohol rehabilitation patients.
As with any great work, it takes great relationships to get the job done well. That’s why ISL Baja is excited to partner with nonprofits, NGOs, and governmental and religious institutions to better serve the underserved of Mexico. ISL Baja works with all levels of governmental health care in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico: city, state, federal, and a low-income healthcare plan, which would be comparable to Medicaid in the United States.
General Hospital: a Phase 2 facility.
Centro de Salud
Health Department: a Phase 1 facility.
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
What to Expect as a Volunteer
You’ll arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport where you’ll meet an ISL driver and drive across 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 ISL Mexico staff and have an orientation on the work you’ll be doing in Puerto Peñasco. Your first day will be spent in training seminars and touring around the city. The majority of the days to come will be focused on various aspects of ISL’s health service work.
The balance of days are focused on the various aspects of ISL’s health service work in the area, mixed with various seminars on Border Health Issues, Medical/Dental Spanish, Community Surveying, and Desert Medicinal Plants. The program concludes with a morning of community screening clinics, followed by a second day of full clinic time with a variety of medical professionals and full pharmacy. Because of our active partnership with the Ministry of Health, we are often invited to join their staff in providing immunizations. ISL Baja received an award in 2015 from the Ministry of Health for our work in this area, as we enabled underserved communities we work in to double their immunization rates.
With ISL Mexico, you’ll get to volunteer and experience the culture of those you serve. Here are some of the many possibilities.
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 fueled by the American prohibition in the early 1900s.
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, Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, studies climates and the impact that humans have on fragile ecosystems and wildlife on the Sea of Cortez. Take advantage of seeing CEDO up close and touring its only facility in the world.
Horseback riding on the beach
Right 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 in the surf of the ocean waves?
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 or soaking up the sun. The best thing is, it’s a free, authentic Baja experience.
If sitting on the beach isn’t quite your thing, venture out into the Sea of Cortez on an ocean kayak.
Want to see more than just sand? Rent a bike and pedal up and down the beaches of Rocky Point.
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.
Ultralight flights over the ocean and beach
Get a bird’s eye view of Rocky point from an ultralight plane!
$45 for 20 minutes
Shopping for local crafts is a great way to experience the culture of Puerto Peñasco and to bring back gifts for friends and family.
Tequila factory presentation
For those interested in one of Mexico’s most famous drinks, you can see how tequila is made up close.
Sunset dinner cruises
Experience the Sea of Cortez at sunset with a great meal – a fantastic way to end a fun-filled day.
An estuary is a partially enclosed bay where freshwater flows into the ocean. If you’re feeling 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.
Puerto Peñasco first began as a fishing village many years ago and today it’s 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.
Whether 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, ISL’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 as well as meeting spaces for team training and fellowship. Many ISL accommodations are unique and may include retreat houses, guest houses or home stays, all of which provide a distinctive cultural experience. ISL country coordinators will provide a description of your team’s lodging in every Welcome Letter that goes out prior to your departure.
Casa de Paz
A five-bedroom guest house that houses up to 20 guests in a warm home atmosphere, and is located in a private, gated community only one block from the water’s edge.
A retreat center in the heart of Puerto Penasco with easy access to beaches and a swimming pool. Housing is 3-4 volunteers per room in a hotel/motel like setting.
We love our staff and we are positive that you will too! Each staff member is professional, courteous, and has the same passion as you do: to serve others.