Tia Foundation

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The Tia Foundation is a group dedicated to trying to find health solutions in rural Mexico. Laura Libman, Founder and President of Tia Foundation talks about the organization’s mission.

Jose Cardenas: Arizona's base TIA foundation is an organization to train healthcare workers. I talked to the founder and president of the foundation. Joining me to talk about the organization is Laura Libman, founder and president of the TIA foundation. Welcome to "Horizonte."

Laura Libman: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: Before we talk about what the foundation does and the situation in Mexico, give us a little bit about your background. It's rather unusual in terms of what you're doing right now.

Laura Libman: Well, I started out as project manager consultant doing global project management on knowledge engineering, which is sort of a high-tech area. It is a bit of a career switch. I went back to school and studied at Thunderbird, the school of global management, to get an MBA.

Jose Cardenas: And instead of going into the business world, you had plenty of opportunities, ended up with this program in Mexico. How did that happen?

Laura Libman: I grew up part of my childhood in Mexico. I have more family in Mexico than in the states.

Jose Cardenas: Your mother is Mexican?

Laura Libaman: Yes. I loved my time there and time on the ranch where I got to meet a lot of the people and grew to love Mexico very much.

Jose Cardenas: How did that love translate into establishing this health program?

Laura Libman: Well, I knew that I wanted to do something with Mexico after I finished at thunderbird. So I lived in various communities in the mountains to try to get a feel for what were the biggest issues. And in most cases, the sort of precipitating event that brought them into the spiral of poverty was health related. An injury or mother dying in childbirth. Something health related precipitated it. And it was them telling me what they needed.

Jose Cardenas: And you ended up working in rural villages. In central Mexico.

Laura Libman: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Tell us about the program that you've established.

Laura Libman: Well, what we do, we have a fabulous partner in Guadalajara. The university there. And we partner with their medical school, community medicine program. And they have brigades that we were able to take to the communities and provide one-on-one training to the community health workers. So we have trained so far 98 community health workers, each serve around 300 or 400 people. So serving about 30,000 rural villagers.

Jose Cardenas: And we have a group picture of some of them who have been in the program. The whole philosophy, the biblical teach them how to fish rather than give them fishes. How has it worked out?

Laura Libman: Really well. They've learned a lot in the realm of health and preventive education in health, but a lot of our communities, all of them, have taken that lesson and the confidence they've gained in what we call a self-development model, the teach them to fish model, and transfered it to other areas they wanted to improve quality of life in their communities. Water, access to education or infrastructure.

Jose Cardenas: Give us an example of some of the success stories that you've had.

Laura Libman: One of the ones that comes to mind is an amazing woman, her name is fawna and she was excited to start our program. Wasn't able to finish her education when she was young. Her family was poor and she had to work. She married young and was so thrilled that her village had elected her -- all of our villages elect their own health workers. And within three weeks after completing a rigorous curriculum and practicum, she's given her medical kit. She was woken in the middle of the night by her best friend's husband rushed over with her medical kit and successfully delivered a breech baby.

Jose Cardenas: You mentioned a medical kit. We've got one on the screen right now.

Laura Libman: They have about $500 worth of medical supplies. I.V.'s and what she needed in this case was a medicine to slow breathing. After she successfully delivered the baby, the woman started to hemorrhage. So she sent the husband to find a doctor. The nearest doctor was a dentist miles away. It took five hours for them to return. She saved her friend's life and the life of the baby and as it turns out, there was a stillborn and if she hadn't been there, her friend would have died.

Jose Cardenas: She saved several other lives in the weeks immediately following.

Laura Libman: We have anti-scorpion venom in the kit. She saved several lives with that. And elderly woman and a baby. She taught her children CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Her son was at school and saved one of his classmates with the Heimlich maneuver.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk a little bit about the swine flu virus and the impact it has had on the program, in Mexico and the program itself.

Laura Libman: The H1N1 virus has caused delays for our projects. That's true. We were slated to do another project in April. It got postponed to may and then June and now the end of August. Partly due to closures and the need for the brigade to combat the virus. But the happy news is as of last week, we don't have a single case in any of our villages, and we really credit that to a lot of the preventive education given through our program and that they do on their own. Hygiene practices, hand washing, and how to recognize disease and care for it.

Jose Cardenas: The impact that programs like this have on immigration from Mexico to the United States?

Laura Libman: It's amazing. If you go to our website -- TIAfoundation.org. And Thunderbird did a field study of a control group not receiving teach them to fish assistance and a group that was, and the group that was had four time rate of immigration.

Jose Cardenas: A modest investment cuts down on the immigration to the United States. The other point, the unintended, unexpected positive consequences of having these women in this program?

Laura Libman: Uh-huh, first of all, we don't specify gender. They're chosen by the villages and we use a gender non-specific word in Spanish.

Jose Cardenas: But because of this program, they become leaders?

Laura Libman: Yes, female leaders and instead of being lower-class citizens, they're now respected members of the community who are organizing efforts in the community to improve other aspects.

Jose Cardenas: It's a wonderful story. We thank you for joining us.

Laura Libman: It's a pleasure.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you.

Laura Libman:Founder and President of Tia Foundation;

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