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My Heart, My Home, My Work
I've never felt as strong a connection to the need to provide better access to sexual and reproductive health services than what I felt during a visit to Mexfam’s community health center in my hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico.
The health center was founded in 2001 to meet the needs of migrant workers who sought to improve their lives by finding work closer to the capital city. The workers established squatter settlements that were neglected by the municipality. These communities have higher rates of poverty, gender-based violence, and adolescent pregnancy. The abundant need in these communities led to Mexfam opening the health center in Zacatecas.
In the last four years, the dwindling support of international donors in Mexico for sexual and reproductive health services has caused Mexfam to scale back its services at this health center and rethink its strategies to reach vulnerable communities. Its community health promoters play a critical role in reaching those most in need.
The health center currently implements two programs that bring services to vulnerable communities. The Urban Community Program ensures that residents can avoid the long waiting time at public clinics and receive high-quality care. The Rural Community Program, which is run primarily by the health promoters, offers basic health services to people living in remote areas, as well as sexual and reproductive health information and care.
“In my community, there are no doctors and nobody wants to go there," said Maria, a client at the health center. "The health promoter organizes us. We all get a truck and come to the clinic to get services together. It takes about an hour and a half." Without Mexfam's Rural Community Program, Maria would have to walk under the sun in Mexico's arid climate for two hours and then take a bus to reach a government clinic.
The health center in Zacatecas has limited resources, but, according to project coordinator Jose Manuel Ramos, it meets its “primary objective to continue to offer high-quality services and provide the best care to the people who need it most.”