Chiapas, Mexico


Photographer: Janet Jarman

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Every week, Sergio Castro treats more than a hundred people in his clinic or in their homes in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state. He refuses to charge for his work, as he believes that putting economic stress on top of illness hinders healing. Now 75, Sergio moved to Chiapas from northern Mexico more than forty years ago to work as an agronomist and vet. Shocked by the extreme poverty he encountered, he started working with local people, building schools and installing water pipelines, acquiring the basics of first aid and medicine, and learning their languages and customs. Over time, more and more people began seeking him out for advice and treatment. Eventually, Sergio decided to dedicate himself full-time to helping them. Wary of doctors and other medical professionals, many of his patients refuse to visit hospitals for treatment. Instead, they turn to Sergio and his way of combining modern medicine with a sensitivity to local ways. Staff at local hospitals were at first suspicious of Sergio due to his lack of formal training. But many of them now recognise his knowledge and abilities. In recent years, many Mexican and international volunteers have come to work and learn with him, observing and helping out in his clinic and on his daily visits to bedridden patients in their homes.