What Worked for North Carolina Partners

Leading up to Partners' "What Works" Regional Meeting, we will be featuring a series of "What Works" blog posts to share the outstanding projects, programs, and methodologies that our chapters worked on this past year. Read below to find out what worked for the North Carolina/Cochabamba Partnership!

Autism Conferences

Linda Watson was one of the team of four professionals in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)who traveled to Bolivia in 2012 in the 2nd phase of the Autism Project, a collaboration of the North Carolina Partners of the Americas and the partnerships in the three major cities of Bolivia—Cochabamba, La Paz, and Santa Cruz.

The University of North Carolina faculty proposed conference content based on the needs identified during Lucia Mendez’ visit to Bolivia in 2009 (Phase I of the project). The conferences presented in Bolivia were extremely well received and helped to create improved awareness of the identification of autism and ways to help those with the condition.  But Ms. Watson remarked that the experience had given her a bigger vision that it will be important to give more than just conferences. She also commented that the parents’ organization and professional groups are not well-linked. At the conferences, the participants discussed the current strengths and weaknesses of dealing with autism.

Ms. Watson expressed how inspiring it was to see the level of commitment in that many stayed after a long day for additional discussion.

She noted the differences between what she sees in the U.S. and Bolivia, that in the latter there are fewer resources, thinner expertise, that children get identified later than in the U.S. as having autism, and that there are no special educational services in schools.

In Bolivia there is a stigma related to disability. Ms. Watson commented that families with children with Down’s Syndrome have led the way in gaining some acceptance and special services.

There now seems to be more awareness of the global aspect of autism. Universidad Católica has written a letter of collaboration and memo of understanding of its commitment to global education. It is intended that the next part of this multi-phase project would be to develop a strategic plan or long-range action plan to guide the efforts related to ASD for the next five to seven years.

High-efficiency Wood Stoves

Steve Gibson travels each year as an extension of the Farmer-to-Farmer program, continuing to offer training and expertise in techniques of beekeeping, which continues to expand each year.. By traveling to rural areas, new projects present themselves. One aspect of the trip in 2012 was to provide high-efficiency wood stoves to 24 of the 43 rural schools in the Anzaldo school district.  This area is part of the Caine river valley region, considered to be the neediest region in all of Bolivia. These special stoves are made in prisons. The Anzaldo School stoves also serve to demonstrate to the families a better way to cook than simply over open fires.  Safety, eye problems due to smoke, and conservation of fuel wood in semi-arid regions are all factors to consider. They offer up to an 80% reduction in fuel usage. This project addresses many issues, health and safety, conservation, environmental and family economics.  Also the municipality has in the past offered a cost share for families that purchase these stoves. The project continues to provide stoves to the other 19 rural schools, to serve as models, in the hopes that families.

Medical Surgical Team

For the 7th year, Carlos Vargas led a successful medical team visit in March with 5 plastic surgeons from North Carolina doing approximately 105 surgical procedures in over 45 children (which brings the total to over 710 procedures in 7 years!) and 2 endoscopic-laparoscopic surgeons performing 15 endoscopic surgeries.  An ENT surgeon saw and treated over 50 patients.

An outgrowth of the connections made through these medical project was the participation of Dr Jaime Montano in the American Fellows program for his one-month fellowship on breast diseases at the University of North Carolina.

He enjoyed the opportunity to experience the full complement of surgical, medical and radiation oncology specialists as well as a multidisciplinary conference each week.  He was able to spend time with each of the groups of physicians as well as very productive time with radiology and genetics colleagues. He spent a few days with breast radiologists and a pair of days with radiation oncology.  He was provided with extensive written guidelines in part developed at the UNC program that will serve him well as he develops the program in Cochabamba, Bolivia.