Wellness and health are issues important on both sides of a border that has been the center of so much controversy in the United States.
We have had several entourages, including President Biden, visit the border, but I wonder if the parties from Washington ever visited a health care oasis called the Naco Wellness Initiative on the Mexican side of the border.
With support and leadership provided by Tom Carlson, retired AT&T executive, the NWI has been providing health care and social services in Naco for several years.
A few years ago, as a member of the Legacy Foundation’s board of directors, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of the NWI’s new clinic — a marvelous opportunity. The Legacy Board chair at the time, Dr. Joanna Michelich, who is not a native speaker, memorized her speech in Spanish for the occasion.
The reason for NWI’s being is clearly stated on its webpage: “The Naco Wellness Initiative provides medical and wellness services to benefit the minds and bodies of people with limited resources in Ambos Naco. NWI collaborates with bi-national health care providers, through a well organized and professional infrastructure, while maintaining the values and culture of the local people and their communities.”
The support and regard in which NWI is held by the community was demonstrated by the community’s naming one of its streets after Carlson.
Another example of local concern and support was a therapist who would travel from Agua Prieta to Naco in the late afternoon on a daily basis to provide services to the NWI patients. That is some journey!
NWI provides a multitude of health care and community services to the people of Naco via a four-pronged approach: clinics, education, social enterprise and food production.
Under the clinical setting, NWI provides blood pressure checks, dental screenings, diabetes prevention, glucose level tests and women’s health and prenatal care.
Social enterprise addresses such things as economic development, employment and training.
Education means providing nutritional and health awareness programs for the people of Naco.
One of the activities undertaken with pride? The community, family and school vegetable gardens.
With diabetes being such a problem, growing their own vegetables helps mitigate the problem for the residents. These gardens also were a lifesaver to the people of Naco when the COVID pandemic hit and shuttered many businesses. Carlson reported that ”San Jose Garden supplies vegetables and fruits to over 300 families in Naco, Sonora. The acre and a half organic garden is supported by a composting worm farm, a greenhouse, a cistern and water tank, miles of irrigation lines, three buildings to serve as equipment storage, an office, and even a bathroom!”
One thing interesting to see is the numerous compost piles scattered throughout the area. These are used in the various vegetable gardens in the area.
The NWI is a charitable organization, and like all charitable organizations, is in need of financial and volunteer support to continue its marvelous program.
Carlson recently sent out a call for help to keep the program operating for the people of Naco.
Obviously, funds are needed, as are volunteer services and in-kind donations.
Service clubs might want to consider undertaking a specific project at NWI or simply making a financial contribution. A group may want to consider visiting NWI to see what goes on — I guarantee you will be very impressed.
On one of my visits, the staff was expressing its feelings about the help NWI had been given. After several individuals had commented, the last speaker said, “You have given us hope!”
Let’s continue to do that in 2023!
Contact Naco Wellness Initiative at P.O. Box 1648, Bisbee, AZ 85603 or the website, nacowellness.org