La Clinica del Pueblo may be a small grain of sand at the beach, but it is one that if it was not there it would be highly missed.
Getting involved with La Clinica
Forty-one years ago, in Mount Pleasant, Mauricio Silva became involved with the Central American Resource Center CARECEN after arriving to D.C. as an exile from El Salvador. During the same time Juan Romagoza started La Clinica del Pueblo but needed a legal structure in which La Clinica could function. As one of CARECEN’s board of directors, Mauricio Silva agreed to sponsor La Clinica del Pueblo while La Clinica obtained its legal status. “I was one of the founders of La Clinica del Pueblo in the early 80s” shared Silva.
More than twelve years later, during the early 2000s, Silva was called to join La Clinica’s board of directors. “I was in the board for six years; I was Vice President and President of La Clinica until I had to leave because members are not to serve for more than six years in the board.” He recalls those first six years as a board member to be challenging but very transformative. Some of their biggest tasks were obtaining the status of a Federally Qualified Health Center, finding a substitute for Juan Romagoza, and revising La Clinica’s first slogan: “Free Health Services for all.”
“If we had given free services for all we probably would not have survived as an institution. That is why we changed it to health services to all according to their needs. Which then implied a lot of institutional change and a lot of work.”
His Passion for La Clinica
After stepping down from the board Mauricio Silva continued to financially support La Clinica. He shared, “The more I am involved in La Clinica the more I am convinced of the important role that La Clinica plays in providing health services in an adequate and culturally appropriate way to a certain population. A population that would most likely not receive those services if La Clinica didn’t exist.”
Silva explained, how the preventive and supportive programs that La Clinica offers, are truly a different way of providing health services. Specifically, because they culturally meet the needs of the people they are serving.
“When I see the stigma and the discrimination that still exists in Central America and Mexico surrounding the LGBTQ Community and then I see the transformation that people go through with La Clinica through programs like the Empoderate program, that is impressive to me. Similarly, with Entre Amigas, when you hear the stories of the women, several of my colleagues come from that program, they are so proud of it! Those are the beautiful things of La Clinica.”
Among the services that La Clinica provides, Mauricio, as a patient in a hospital, witnessed firsthand the barriers language can pose when it comes to health services and shared with us the importance of proper interpretation services.
He states “There was a health worker providing medicine to a Spanish speaking person and when the patient was confused about the medicine he was getting. The nurse asked if the name in the prescription was his and the patient responded it was not his name. Which meant she was proving another patient's medicine due to a lack of interpretation. That really opened my eyes and made me realize how important the Language Access services that La Clinica offers.”
Around three years ago, when Alicia Wilson was stepping down as the Executive Director of La Clinica, Mauricio Silva, was asked once again to join the Board of Directors. This time he faced three special challenges once again. The first being to assign a new executive director, the second was putting La Clinica back on solid financial footing and the third was leading La Clinica through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Next steps after La Clinica
After thirty-eight years, of serving and witnessing La Clinica’s growth, Mauricio Silva, returns home to El Salvador. He is eager to return home and ready for his new journey. He will be teaching at the Jesuit University in El Salvador and will continue serving on two boards. One being The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in Washington D.C., and the other being in El Salvador. He hopes to continue writing and serving his community back home.
Mauricio will always be part of La Clinica due to his legacy and hard work. He invites those who are interested in being part of our mission of building a healthy Latino community to join us in making change.
“We always receive more than we give. La Clinica del Pueblo may be a small grain of sand at the beach, but it is one that if it was not there it would be highly missed, especially in the Washington D.C. area.”