Who is Tia?

10648188_10152837545225281_6335118067317543355_oTia uses a ‘teach them to fish’ model to train and equip villagers, who live hours from the nearest doctor.  They learn to deliver babies, treat diabetes, handle first aid cases and most importantly, how to tackle their problems together, as an organized community. Our model is sustainable because the local governments commit to resupply the Tia medical kits and provide continuing education.

Thanks to generous donors, like the Ingebritson, Armstrong, Libman and Pakis families, Tia now serves around 192,000 people for less than $5 a person, including overhead.

¿Quién es Tía?

Tía aplica el modelo de “Enseñar a Pescar”, con el cual capacita y equipa a los habitantes (leer mas) Continue reading ‘Who is Tia?’

Kathryn, Tia Volunteer


We bumped along the dirt road. A golden disc of sunlight backlit layer after layer of purple mountains framed with glowing pink fog.

As we climbed higher into the mountains, I peered out the van’s window at rolling hills covered in spikey blue agave that would soon be made into mezcal. We were headed toward a town called Zapotitlan de Vadillo, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Guadalajara.

If you’ve never heard of Zapo. De V., that’s okay. Most Guadalajarans haven’t either. I certainly didn’t know it existed until I agreed to join Laura Libman and The Tia Foundation medical brigade on this trip to bring health care to underserved communities in rural Mexico.

There were over a dozen of us packed into two rented vans—several doctors, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a nurse, Tia staff, and a few people who just wanted to help, like me.

We bounced around another turn. Impossibly, yet another mountain came into view. We continued along the winding, pot-hole-ridden road past grazing cow, cacti the size of large trees, narrowly missing a stray dog poking its head out of a roadside bush.

As we reached the crest of a mesa, I thought, “We’re literally on top of the world.” Then of course, the fog faded a little to reveal the outline of yet another towering ridge. That’s about how the last several hours had been: one unbelievable view after another, interspersed between dusty roads, hair-pin turns, and plummeting cliffs.

Since we’d arrived in Zapo. De V., we’d started our days with a homemade, locally-cooked breakfast and a drive into the mountains. Today’s trek was long, giving me time to think over the week so far.

We’d treated hundreds of patients. Taught 84 local health workers everything from the Heimlich maneuver to burn treatment to broken leg setting. And we’d put together botiquines (medical kits) that would serve thousands more.

When I thought about it, it blew my mind.

I helped do this. Me.

I have no medical experience, like Doctors Temok and Guillermo; no psychology expertise, like Fabian. And I wasn’t a trained nurse or nutritionist like Linda and Katherine. On top of that, my Spanish is embarrassing. I hadn’t known anyone on this trip until a few days ago.

Somehow, I’d found my little niche as honorary brigade pharmacist because what I could do was keep Tia’s boxes of pharmaceuticals organized and read scribbled doctors’ handwriting to ensure patients got the right dosages.

So when the vans finally pulled to a stop outside the tiny, sparsely furnished centro de salud, I hopped out automatically and started unloading boxes to set up my farmacia in the back room. Then I helped complete consultations with several dozen more patients.

That afternoon, instead of rushing down the mountain after consultations to teach, we hurried down to celebrate. Students would share cauldrons of birria, pots of beans and rice, piles of warm hand-made tortillas, and coolers of horchata and tamarind juice to thank us for our help. We’d take photos with locals like we were celebrities and find each other on Facebook.

Then, we’d fall into hard beds in shared rooms for a few hours of much-needed rest before piling back into vans headed for Guadalajara.

I knew I’d be dog-tired, but I didn’t care. My week with the Tia volunteer brigade was no vacation. But it was an unforgettable trip that changed thousands of lives for the better—including my own.

Won’t you come join us next 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/


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/



The line of patients stretched out the door. People held scraps of paper in their hands, waiting for their numbers to be called.

Belinda’s petite figure, dressed impeccably in slacks, button-up, and boots, immediately stole the room. She’d pinned her long silver hair up under a wide-brimmed hat. She smiled as she entered the clinic, her genuine joy radiating throughout her face in perfect, concentric lines.

There was no way to tell Belinda’s exact age. She didn’t remember when her birthday was. What everyone present could see, however, is that her beauty had not left her as youth had, but happily remained in her bright eyes, wide lips, and sun-pinked skin.

After waiting her turn, Belinda sat to give her name, answer some health questions, and have her vitals taken. She told Tia’s volunteers she’d had headaches for a few months and last night she’d had a nosebleed.

Tia volunteers took Belinda’s temperature and heart rate, but it was her blood pressure that sent alarms through the brigade: 181 over 115.

Belinda never got a numbered sliver of paper, but instead moved immediately to an exam room to lay down. Brigade members quickly moved in and out of the room, periodically consulting Tia’s medical director, Dr. Roberto Martinez.

Dr. Roberto’s prescription was captopril, a medication commonly used in emergency situations because it could quickly coax a person away from hypertensive crisis. Belinda swallowed the pill and laid down to wait.

But Belinda’s headache continued and her blood pressure stayed put. Another pill was produced and swallowed.

When a third pill became necessary, Dr. Roberto spoke quietly with the brigade pharmacist, a volunteer from Phoenix.

“How much captopril do we have?”

“Just the one bottle,” she said, pulling it from her pocket. “And there are only a few more pills inside.”

Dr. Roberto grimaced. “Keep that bottle in your pocket and don’t give them to anybody but me.”

Hypertension is a common problem in the rural areas of Mexico. For a community largely comprised of farmers and ranchers, fresh produce was notoriously difficult to come by. When fresh vegetables were available, family cooks typically salted them heavily.

Still, a life lived high in the mountains had probably served Belinda well. Elevation tends to lessen the severity of high blood pressure.

“How long do you think she’s had high blood pressure?” said the pharmacist.

“A long time,” said Dr. Roberto.

Three captopril later, Belinda’s blood pressure finally began to drop. The smile returned to her face.

There was talk among the doctors about making room in the vans for Belinda. There was a better clinic down the mountain a bit in the town of Zapotitlan de Vadillo, where the Brigade would teach medical care classes to people from several local communities. Unfortunately, with that much captopril in Belinda’s system, traveling to a lower elevation could bring her blood pressure down too far.

Instead, the brigade made room for two local women who planned to join the afternoon class. They’d volunteered to return with more captopril and other medications that evening.

That afternoon, the brigade taught the Promotores how to handle hypertension emergencies—and how to prevent them.

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/

I Heart Tia Events in PHX & SF

Our Annual I Heart Tia Fundraiser will be held in San Francisco and in Phoenix in early February.  Both events will feature a great silent auction featuring artisan items from Mexico such as rebozos (silk shawls), alebrijes (spirit animals) as seen in the movie Coco, and Huichol beaded bracelets.  Plus Disney Park Hopper Passes, gift certificates for great local restaurants and services, bottles of fine tequila and so much more!  Tia’s Director of Medicine, Dr. Roberto Martinez Ibarraran will also be on hand to share updates from the field.

On the evening of Tuesday, February 5th our San Francisco event will be held in the Design District and will coincide with the Thunderbird First Tuesday Alumni Chapter gathering.  The Phoenix event will be on Saturday, February 9th at 6 p.m. at a lovely private home on the top of Moon Mountain with views of the city lights.  Entertainment will be provided by some of the members of Mariachi Pasion, Phoenix’s own all female mariachi group.  We’d love you to join us at either event.  Please text 602-694-8100 or email tionate@cox.net for more details or to RSVP.

End of the Year Newsletter


2019 is almost here!  Before we welcome in the new year, read our end of the year news summary.  We have had a busy year and it’s all thanks to your support.  With our biggest graduating class ever, Tia Promotores now deliver healthcare to over 206,000 people! The Tia Foundation was awarded the GuideStar 2018 Platinum Seal of Transparency for nonprofits with outstanding transparency, ethics, and impact.  Click the link below to read about these stories and much more in our latest newsletter!

2018 End of Year Newsletter

Our Summer Newsletter is Out!

40046997_10156446184450281_7719589023135563776_oOur Summer Noticias Newsletter is now available and details our recent trip to Zapotitlan de Vadillo.  Our incredible VEAs are featured and there are lots of cool photos too.  Check it out by clicking here: Summer Newsletter Or go to: https://tiafoundation.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/newsletter081418.pdf

About Tia Foundation

A 501(c)3 non-profit, the Tia Foundation endeavors to provide health-related development strategies, not relief. “Tia”, meaning “aunt” in Spanish, seeks to use our experience, resources and knowledge to link villagers to the means to do for themselves. Learn More...

Teach Them to Fish

Invest in Tia with Confidence!

Study Shows Four Fold Drop in Immigration from Mexico

A Thunderbird School of Global Management field study found a four fold drop in immigration from areas in Mexico that benefited from rural community development programs. Thus, an indirect result of Tia’s program efforts encourage people to remain in their home communities and invest in the future of Mexico

Are You Broke But Still Want to Help?

Three fast and easy ways! Learn More...


Tia Project Photos