As the world concludes a difficult year, we are grateful for the difference we have been able to make for so many families in Venezuela.
We thank our friends for your continuing interest and support in our work!
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Recently, Foundation President Steven Bloomstein sat down to discuss the state of our work in crisis-torn Venezuela. He discussed the pandemic, expansion of the Foundation's public-private partnerships, and other topics. Some highlights from the conversation:
PRE-COVID-19 staff meeting. From left: Dr. Gustavo Bernasconi, Steven Bloomstein, Dr. Silvia Quijada, Dr. Adany Villaroel, Administrative director and lawyer Eduvigis Gomez, administrative assistant Denny DeFitt.

The obvious question – how is the Foundation doing given the coronavirus?

Using standardized metrics, this has been our most successful year in family planning and also in humanitarian aid. In the midst of Venezuela’s economic freefall and humanitarian crisis, we are actually growing. We recently opened offices in two Cumana healthcare clinics, and also in the city of Carupano to the east. This expands upon the family planning and medical services already delivered from our Foundation headquarters, doctors’ offices and a number of public sector facilities that, fortunately, are still functioning. We are very grateful to be thriving, both for the families that we serve and for the staff that we are helping to survive through this crisis. May I add that we can sure put to good use all the funding that comes our way right now!

Expanding in a crisis? Can only imagine the challenges.

In Venezuela, the question is, what obstacles have we not faced? Shortages of basic medical supplies, severe disruptions in electricity, telecom, and Internet services, and personal security issues create daily stress. Add to this a national shutdown and a devastating shortage of gasoline. The result is an infrastructure system – including public and private transportation – that is harshly impeded. This has a huge impact on getting our services to the people who need them. For example, the doctors, nurses, administrative staff and the patients we work with, all regularly walk or ride bicycles long distances in the tropical sun to get to their daily work and service destinations. It’s unimaginable and yet here we are.

How is the Foundation persevering?

By constantly shifting strategies and implementing short-term stop-gap measures to get us through from one problem to the next. The extraordinary adaptability of our administrative staff – and the medical teams we partner with – allows us to continuously adjust how, when, and where we deliver our services. We are determined to succeed against the odds. One thing is for certain – the unmet demand continues to grow.

 You mentioned Venezuela’s private healthcare clinics. How important?

Absolutely central. Our delivery model bridges Venezuela's public and private sectors. It offers a sustainable model of mixed public-private healthcare delivery. We believe this model is 100% replicable once the country emerges from its struggles and embraces a brighter future.

Why such confidence in this approach?

The people we work with! We mobilize Venezuelan doctors, nurses, rural auxiliary nurses, educators, sociologists, and social workers who understand the urgency and are willing and able to work. We offer them the tools to respond to the current humanitarian and family planning crisis. We support them with modest but fair compensation. Given Venezuela’s economic collapse, this helps these much-needed professionals survive the situation and motivates them to stay in Venezuela. The flight of professionals out of Venezuela, especially medical personnel, has been catastrophic. We are helping to stem the tide, even if just a little.

PRE-COVID: We take genuine pride in our medical teams, including this surgery unit at the Santa Rosa Clinic.
We work in several rural counties to deliver reproductive health services that would be otherwise unobtainable.

Let's step back for a moment. How have your objectives changed over the 25 years you’ve been operating? 

They really haven’t.  Our goals remain much the same. 
First, to provide immediate relief to the women and men of reproductive age who otherwise have very few options to control their fertility. To witness the consequences for families who cannot control their fertility is to understand this urgency above all else.
Second, on a strategic level, to offer family planning services as one critical tool to help Venezuela achieve the demographic transition necessary for becoming a developed country. This is our local contribution to the demographic stability that can help bring about the social, economic and environmental benefits necessary for our planet’s future.
And then of course, with our developed medical network, to provide as much humanitarian aid as we can in a time of real crisis in Venezuela.

 What about the Foundation's two other key programs – education and community development/sustainable livelihood?

They are vital components in our Recipe for a Thriving Community – a service delivery model which has now touched the lives of nearly 100,000 women and families. Once families gain control of their fertility, they invariably turn to education as the next step in improving quality-of-life. Parents - who might be illiterate themselves - are passionate about giving their children the best possible future through schooling. They know that education is the key to their children’s future, to sustainable livelihood, and to developing their community. 

Please support our work by donating here!
These children are having hernia repair operations at the PoliClinica Sucre where we work. Our Humanitarian Aid program offers surgeries for children and adults with chronically painful and potentially dangerous hernias, for women with breast conditions, and for a variety of biopsies and other outpatient interventions. These patients often have no other relief in sight, given the collapse of the national public health system.
A special thank you to the Erik and Edith Bergstrom Foundation for generously supporting our family planning services in this time of adversity. 
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“When we are dreaming alone, it is only a dream.
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    Dom Helder Camara

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