Issue - May 2008



May 2008
Editorial

In this month’s issue interviewing Latti Ugrinovic about FUNACC, Ross Eventon brings us Lucid Dreams, Charlotte Mayhew visits our friends of CBA and tells us about English in Cochabamba, Walter Sanchez and the history of bullfighting in Cochabamba, Alejandra Kolbe facing global warming...read more...

May 2008

FUNACC

Interview with Latty Ugrinovic, Fundación Nacional de Ayuda Contra el Cáncer

Heather Dieguez
Projects Abroad Volunteer
New York - United States

Cocha-banner: How was this foundation started?

Latty Ugrinovich: Well it began in the Hospital OncolĂłgico, when I worked there we had a good Ecuadorian doctor and all the comforts that we needed including a Linear Accelerator.

At that time I was administrator of the OncolĂłgico and a lot of poor people came and asked me to help get them treatment; I spoke with a doctor that had experience in working with charities and he proposed the creation of a foundation. With the help of some employees and some friends we began to make the statutes for the Foundation and organise the other paper work. We also had help from lawyers in the Prefectura, and we had legal representation. It was in this way the initiative began to help so many poor people that did not have the money to pay for treatment. We were lucky enough to make contact with a foundation in La Paz who have sent us most of the economic resources until now.

CB: Why only “until now?”

LU: Because now we want to make more and more projects and we want to have a big enough space but it is impossible. At the beginning we had 10 to 15 patients, but now we have 300! What this foundation sends to us today is little compared with the demand that we have, but thank God (He is so big) that we get some other donations. We owe the Oncologico 70.000 Bolivianos, and well, they always wait for us and they do not demand a lot, so we can pay back little by little the accumulated debts.

The most difficult problem is the large cost of the new medicines that doctors usually require for the patients; for example there is a new medicine and for each time a patient receives the treatment it costs us US$700, and that is only the cost of the medicine so you can imagine the rest.

We have patients where the treatment is around $1700each application, and the doctors indicate that they need to have about 12 applications. Plus there are the examinations before that which the patient needs to pay for.

CB: How do you raise money for the Foundation?

LU: As I told you we get the help for the foundation in La Paz and we also have a festival in El Campo twice a year. However, this does not raise as much money as we need despite the fact artists do not charge us and the locals do not charge us. We also hold raffles thanks to donations from various institutions which enables us to raise a bit more money. The problem though is that people do not want to buy a raffle ticket if they have already paid for their entry ticket.; the raffle is an incentive for people to come but the collection from these events is not very big.

Recently Verita Voskova, who is a wedding dress designer, organized a fashion show which raised about 32000 Bolivianos. She managed to raise a lot more than we did. This was to help the children who are sick with cancer. There is also an association of Bolivian ladies who help us sometimes with anything they have been able to collect.

I do not even have an office as we are a non profit institution and we live for the charity; it would be an expense that we cannot face because of payment of energy and other bills. All the money that we can gather is needed to pay for patients treatments so we meet in a room in El Hospicio (a Catholic Church) which is lent to us every Wednesday.

CB: Do you think that the community in Cochabamba is supportive with the foundation?

LU: Not really, we could see this when we organized the festival as we did so much work and only raised 12000 to 15000 Bolivianos. This money did not go far, it was not even enough for the treatment of one patient.

We also made T-shirts and we collected money everywhere but people were not supportive. We even went to the valley, but people are very indifferent to other people’s pain. This work is in no way easy and the maintenance of the equipment and the employee’s salary make it very expensive.

CB: How do you decide who is helped and in what way can you help them?

LU: On Wednesdays we meet at El Hospicio andpeople who are ill come to request help. The queue of patients waiting to be treated is so large that it goes round the corner of the block so sometimes we stay until 10 PM. After seeing a patient we send their information to the Hospital Viedma who make a clinical evaluation of the patient and they then send us a medical report. Separately the patient sends a request letter to apply for help. Then we request a photo and the social worker makes a report which enables the patient to get help if their economic situation is difficult. We never say no to a child that has cancer.

Every week we receive more patients, it is a sad situation as so many people need our help and it is very difficult to treat them all as it is so expensive.Especially now as patients do not only need chemotherapy, they also need radiotherapy which is even more expensive, however at FUNACC we have a special price. We have a lot of help with the distribution ofmedication and can get up to 30% discounts in medicine prices. We also sometimes havedonations of medication that is near to its expiration date.

We have all types of stories, we have a case of a gentleman that does not have the economic resources, but everybody refused to help him because his brother is a doctor in a public hospital in La Paz. This man (the patient) has a very serious case and he is also alone since he lost his parents and then his two children in an accident. So besides everything he needs psychologist’s support to face all his problems.

CB: Why is Radiotherapy so expensive?

LU: It is the chemicals and maintenance of the equipment that makes it so expensive, especially as we do not have the technology to carry out the maintenance ourselves. For example, a year ago something in the interim of the equipment was ruined and the technicians from Varian charged us US$15 to US$20 per hour from the moment they were inBolivia and then each replacement costbetween US$500 to US$1500 which is really expensive for Bolivia.

CB: How much success has FUNACC had in helping other people?

LU: With this illness it is never known if patients will live or not. One big success story though is a boy that was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his medication was so expensive that we needed the prescription to change to make it affordable. Luckily we were able to do this and today this boy has finished school which makes us so happy.

CB: Is cancer more common in men or women in Bolivia?

LU: It is more common in women, cancer of the uterus or cervical cancer is particularly common; nowadays it is even in very young women. We had a young woman from Oruro that came to us, she is31 years old and she is a single mother. This woman has cancer of the uterus and she needs chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. She used to work in Oruro in PAN (Plan Ayuda Nacional) but she is no longer able to and now she needs urgent help; she came toCochabamba and is living with a friend, but this support is temporary.

Sometimes though, when we have patient that arrives from the country or a nearby urban area andthey need a place to stay, we have help from the Archbishop of the Catholic Church, we also work with Solidaridad and the nuns welcomepatients when it is necessary.

CB: What are your future plans?

LU: Our future plans are to be able to assist more people. We also need to find out how we can get more money to help them. For example we could search the internet too see if we are able to collect more money there, although the problem is when we receive help from another organization, the risk is that we may also lose this support.

We have asked the foundation in La Paz to increase the resources we are given to be able to support more people.

There is also the possibility to be able to create a project in the Hospital Viedma or maybe even nearer. Our idea is to get lower prices for the treatment of radio therapy; and we are looking at the possibility to contact an NGO to help us finance one of these pieces of equipment and its maintenance. We want to make these treatments cheaper and accessible to everybody. In our group there is an architect and we are thinking about the possibility of sending her to Ecuador so that she can see and learn how the Foundation Folca works there, then hopefully she will have an idea of how to build something similar when she returns to Bolivia.

Lucid Dreams

Having experienced a lucid dream recently, I’ve decided to do some research on the topic. For the uninitiated, a lucid dream is defined as a dream in which the “dreamer” can assert conscious control over the characters and the environment and, most importantly, has the ability to realise that he or she is dreaming. Take my dream for example, which started normally...

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