Dr. Roberto

When Dr. Roberto walked into the Centro de Salud, you noticed. Everyone did. Even among a brigade of lab-coated doctors and volunteers, he stood out as the man who quietly took charge of the situation. It didn’t matter what the day brought—corrupt federales barking up the wrong group of volunteers for a bribe, a lesson on how to deliver a baby without a hospital, or enjoying homemade tortillas and posole  while conducting health interviews in private homes. Dr. Roberto steered the ship.

It helped that Dr. Roberto’s six-foot, broad-shouldered stature towered over almost everyone. It also helped that he had a friendly face and an infectious smile—and that he knew how to use them. They helped soften his no-nonsense commands to set up the patient intake table here, la farmácia over there, and a quiet area for psychological services out back.

Even with exams in full swing and the line, dozens of patients long, moving right along, it was hard to lose sight of Dr. Roberto. If you did, it was because we was taking a rare break.

On these occasions, you might find him squatting to pet a stray dog, making kissing noises at the pooch and paying no mind the mud squishing onto his tennis shoes like chocolate frosting on a cake.

Or, you might find Dr. Roberto sitting on a tree stump, smoking a cigarette, baseball cap turned backwards and a plaid shirt and jeans peaking out of his open lab coat. He’d be contemplating the sweeping mountain views before him. Or perhaps simply enjoying a few moments of well-deserved rest.

Typically, a Tia brigade would leave Guadalajara before dawn and travel by van for several hours on the first day of a trip. They’d rush to their first community, set up for consultations, and help as many people as possible in the few short hours allotted.

Then, Dr. Roberto would give the order to pack up and head to town where the group would teach skills like splinting broken limbs with things you’d find around the house and how to recognize and treat dehydration. All who want to learn are welcome.

On these trips, some of the brigade returned again and again, while others had no idea what to expect.

Dr. Roberto’s first brigade was years ago, and he was hooked ever since. Most communities Tia visits see a doctor once a year or less. All the communities have a Centro de Salud, but these small, spartan clinic rely on unpaid medical students who travel around to serve many communities. It’s community service, required as part of medical education.

Roberto loved it. “Most students hate it,” he’ll say, if you ask him. “But I’d rather be out here in the dust and mugre, where people need us, not in an office.”

Nine years after his first brigade, Dr. Roberto is Tia’s Medical Director and boots-on-the-ground coordinator in Guadalajara. And we couldn’t do any of it without him.

The author of this and other stories to be featured here is Katherine Casna.  After traveling into the field on a Tia project, Kat generously donated these lovely stories to make our work come alive to our friends and donors.  Thoughtful and brilliant, Ms. Casna is a freelance writer who can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-casna-freelance-writer/


The Tia Foundation’s first Supervising Promotora

“The day I first met Rosie, I was sitting on a bench eating a carnitas taco, taking a break from scouting El Reparo for a potential brigade trip.” Said Laura Libman, Tia’s founder, CEO, and president. “She asked me if I needed help.”

“Necesitas ayuda?” said Rosie.

After talking for a bit, Laura revealed why she was in town and asked Rosie if she’d attend a class if the brigade came to teach one in the town center. Rosie grinned. Of course she would.

Several months later, Rosie graduated at the top of her class. From then on, she’d be a Supervisor Promotora and health leader in her community.

But that was just the beginning.

As Rosie spoke with the other mothers, aunts, sisters, and daughters in her community, she realized there was a gap in her current ability to help them.

Verduras?” said one woman during one of the weekly sewing circles Rosie hosted. “What vegetables? The only good produce around here is in Sayula. It’s too expensive. And who has time to make the trip?”

Access to nutritional foods is a serious problem in rural Mexico. Most breadwinners work as subsistence farmers or cattle workers for large ranches, but fresh produce is often hard to come by for individual families. Most people can’t afford a car or the time it takes to ride a bus into town—if there’s a bus to take. Coca-Cola and Takis corn chips are much easier to come by, so they’re staples in many homes.

When Rosie went home to her own family that night, she pondered ways to get more nutritional foods into the bellies of her neighbors—as well as her own husband and four children. She thought about it all week and finally, just before it was time to greet her sewing circle again, she got an idea and presented it to her friends minutes later.

“We’re going to get more vegetables to El Reparao, and we’re going to start right this minute,” she told them.

Rosie laid out plans for a community-run co-op. Her sewing circle would embroider gorgeous table clothes and bed linens together each week, just as they’d done for years. Once the sewing circle had enough crafts, they’d ask designate someone in the community to drive into town and sell them—then use those funds to buy fresh groceries and distribute them among the sewing circle.

Soon, more families wanted to join the co-op too, even those without skilled embroiderers in the family. People could donate their time to help sell the crafts, money to help buy supplies, or their cars as transportation.

If you’re ever in Guadalajara, take a day trip to Sayula some weekend. You may find some of the co-ops delicate handywork to take home—and help this entrepreneurial Promotora prevent malnutrition, diabetes, and heart disease in her community, one verdura at a time.

The author of this and other stories to be featured here is Katherine Casna.  After traveling into the field on a Tia project, Kat generously donated these lovely stories to make our work come alive to our friends and donors.  Thoughtful and brilliant, Ms. Casna is a freelance writer who can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-casna-freelance-writer/

Graduation Day in San Julian!


This afternoon Tia will have 12 new Promotores in San Julian, Jalisco, bringing our total number of Promotores to 592.  Tia’s Promotores in San Julian will be serving about 12,000 people, which means Tia is now serving about 192,000 people in Mexico.  All 12 passed their course examinations and we are looking forward to the ceremony and the party to follow.  Felicidades a todos! (Congratulations to all!)

We ran into one of our Promotoras, Marisela, who was trained during our project in San Juan De Los Lagos a few years ago.  She works in the Casa de Salud (tiny clinic) in Santa Rosa de Lima, where the municipal doctor last visited in October.  Laura and Roberto were so happy to see her taking care of her neighbors there!

Thank you PHX & SF!


A huge thank you to our friends who came out to support us at our events in San Francisco and Phoenix!  We raised over $11,000 combined at the two fun cocktail parties.   In a few weeks, the people of San Julian will be thanking you too, when Dr. Roberto, Laura and the Tia Brigade arrive to train new Promotores (Community Health Workers) and provide free health care to those who need it most.  Our Promotores will staff a small clinic that the local people are raising the money to build.  It will mean 24/7 care for all the villagers in the surrounding area.  No more mothers dying in their husbands’ arms on the side of the road because there was no safe place or trained person to deliver their babies!

Thank you so very much for your time and kind generosity!  Keep checking back to see how we are putting your donations to work, saving lives.