HISTORY OF THE FLYING SAMARITANS

The Flying Samaritans had their beginnings in 1961 when two aviators landed in the remote town of El Rosario on the Baja Peninsula to avoid strong winds and dust storms that had developed. The people of El Rosario were extremely cordial, sharing their food and offering accommodations for the night. They were treated with such kindness that the aviators asked what they could do in return. The locals indicated they were in great need of clothing, especially for the children. One month later the aviators returned with clothing and gifts for families. Among those who made the return trip was a Medical doctor who brought his medical bag and asked if anyone needed attention. At the time many of the villagers were unemployed and ineligible for government medical benefits, and the nearest medical services were over 140 miles away. The doctor received permission to return and continue his medical services. Because there were no roads south of Ensenada in those days, he enlisted the help of pilots and owners of small aircraft to expedite the journey. The Flying "Sams" have grown in number with chapters in Arizona and California. They now have well over 1000 volunteer members who have established and support more than 20 clinics in Baja. The volunteers of the Flying Samaritans pay their own expenses to travel to a clinic in Baja one weekend each month. Since the Flying Samaritans is an all volunteer organization with no paid staff, every dollar received through donations goes directly to help the work of the Flying Samaritans in Baja Mexico

 

How the Phoenix Chapter Began.....

In 1989 seven Flying Samaritans from the Phoenix area were traveling each month to Tucson to attend meetings and leave on trips to Baja. Tucson had the only Arizona Chapter of the Flying Samaritans. By mid 1989 this was getting old, so Marilyn Berton and others started the process of forming a Phoenix Chapter. Their first task was to find a clinic location. Clinic searches were made by landing at small Mexican towns and meeting with the local officials. After several trips they decided on a clinic site. Miguel Aleman was suggested by the Mexican Health Services organization. Miguel Aleman is located on the mainland of Mexico about 40 miles west of Hermosillo. The town consisted of mostly migrant farm workers and was in great need because, being migrants with no local employer paying their wages, they were not entitled to use the local Mexican clinic facility. The first Phoenix sponsored clinic was in January 1990.

In October 1990 a donation of $1500 from American Express gave the Phoenix group the financial boost they needed to get started with mail, equipment and so forth. In January 1991 Phoenix became an "official" chapter and selected the name Los Amigos, which was felt truly represented the Chapter's warmest feelings.

In June 1992 the Los Amigos Chapter was advised that they could no longer hold clinics at Miguel Aleman. Although it is not known for sure, it is suspected that on mainland Mexico there were some conflicting political issues.

For the next several months Los Amigos continued to serve the populations in Mexico on a temporary clinic basis at various locations, including Mulege` in Baja Sur. The Chapter was floundering without a permanent location for a clinic. Marilyn worked to hold the group together with events, newsletters and an occasional Mulege` clinic. When a general membership meeting was held in September 1993 and only 4 people showed up, Marilyn suggested that the Los Amigos Chapter be closed. But, when no one supported that idea, it was decided to take no action at that time. In December on a vacation trip to Mulege one of the pilots took some friend to San Juanico to check on their camper and deliver some Christmas Presents. While touring the town the pilot saw a small clinic building that was not being used and asked about it. It had been a Flying Samaritans clinic at one time but was no longer used. Doing our home work we got permission from Flying Samaritans International to take over that clinic. With the help of the Mulege Rotary organization we were invited to set up a clinic there. 

In February 1994, we were invited to a whale-watching trip at Lopez Mateos, the Rotary and the community leader of Lopez Mateos asked the Los Amigos Chapter to serve their town. They hosted a tour of their clinic and provided a fish fry luncheon complete with turtle soup. The town suffered an 80% unemployment rate because the cannery had reduced employees from 1200 to 100. In September, 1994 the Los Amigos Chapter held their first clinic in Lopez Mateos. In 1995 the Flying Samaritans expanded their clinic to the community of Las Barrancas.

What happened to San Juanico ???  We served both clinics for almost two years until there was no runway.  A part of the runway was on land owned by the ejido (much like our Tribes). So with a little help from an American living there that wanted to develop the land on a bluff over looking the ocean and move the runway up there enough trouble was stirred up that the existing runway was closed and a new runway was never built. The Aero Medicos from Santa Barbara California maintain a runway and a clinic much like ours in the town of Cadaje that is within driving distance for the people of San Juanico.

Since 1990 membership in the Los Amigos Chapter has grown from 7 to over 300 volunteers.   Golf tournaments, original dinner theater productions, raffles as well as corporate and personal donations have helped raise the necessary funds to refurbish and build a permanent clinic building on land donated by the cannery.  Over the past few years, donations have made it possible to add additional dental units, dental equipment, a chiropractic facility, medical equipment,  a pharmacy  and  supplies needed to make the clinics run  efficiently.   If you would like to be a part of the giving go to our web page  Help us Help and make a donation.

The Phoenix based Chapter travels to Baja ten months out of the year providing general medical, dental, optometry and chiropractic care for up to 350 patients each month. Occasionally patients with serious ailments that cannot be treated locally have been transported to the U.S. or elsewhere in Mexico for specialized care.