ALAS meets with the Ambassador of Switzerland

On Monday 22nd of May, ALAS met with Mr. Jürg Benz, the Ambassador of Switzerland.

We presented our work and programs and highlighted how the Swiss Foundation for Global Health awarded Alejandro Paiz and ALAS the prize for "Outstanding achievements in the field of mental health".

Although no economic support could be made available, the Ambassador ensured he keep our organization in mind in case an funding opportunity comes up in the near future.

ALAS meets with the Ambassador of the United Kingdom

On April 28th, ALAS met with Mr. Thomas Carter, Ambassador of the United Kingdom, and Rita Grajeda, Projects and Human Rights Officer.

We introduced them to the mental health situation in Guatemala and to our programs aiming at tackling the difficulties the country is facing in the sector.

The Embassy was interested in supporting our cause and communicating about our programs, although they clearly stated they had no authority regarding economic support. Mr. Carter suggested he could try to introduce us to Grupo Progreso, a large national cement producer that runs a social foundation similar to Fundazucar, and to the Ministry of Health. 

We are thankful to the Embassy for having received us and provided us with their support.

ALAS meets with Fundazucar

On April 24th, ALAS met with Fundazucar, one of the largest social foundations in Guatemala that was founded by national sugar producers. We owe this great opportunity to Mr. Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, the Ambassador of France, who introduced us to the Foundation.

We met with Griseldo Say López, Executive Subdirector, who showed a special interest in our cause. Indeed, Fundazucar already runs a social hospital in Escuintla, and we are exploring ways in which ALAS and Fundazucar could collaborate and become long-term partners in order to provide mental healthcare in Escuintla and throughout the country.

ALAS sent a formal collaboration proposal to Fundazucar and is pending a response. We genuinely hope this is the beginning of a long-term partnership with one of the most important social institutions in the country

We are grateful that Mr. Say López agreed to meet us and took such an interest in our cause.

ALAS meets the Ambassador of Chile

On April 20th, ALAS had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador of Chile, Domingo Namuncura.

Mr. Namuncura and his advisors, Rodrigo Araya Mourgues and Miguel Angel Pablo Araya, showed a keen interest in our mission to improve access to mental healthcare in Guatemala.

During our meeting, Mr. Namuncura told us that Chile might be able to financially support our cause in the upcoming years (given that the Foreign Aid Budget for 2017 is already closed). The Ambassador and his advisors asked us to send a formal proposal so that they could try to back our project when 2018/2019 Foreign Aid Budget will be negotiated. However, they warned us that the upcoming presidential election in Chile might be a potential obstacle to Chilean financial support.

ALAS quickly forwarded the formal proposal and is now pending an answer from the Embassy.

We want to thank the Chilean Embassy for having taken the time to receive us and for having shown such interest in our cause.

ALAS received the visit of Sanofi in Sololá

On Friday 24th of March 2017, several people from Sanofi came to visit our programs in Sololá. We received Rony Calderon, the medical director of Guatemala at Sanofi, Marianne Mouly, an employee who has been supporting ALAS and who set up the activity on Sanofi's side, and a communication team who came to record a short movie about our activities.

The day was filled with activities as we organised several interviews, an educational workshop in one of Santiago Atitlan's primary school, our regular self-support group, and home visits to patients suffering from severe illnesses

ALAS, together with Sanofi, had an appointment with the Ambassador of France

On Thursday 23rd of March 2017, ALAS got the opportunity to meet with the Embassador of France, His Excellency Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, and his economic adviser, Mr. Marc Legouy. The meeting was scheduled by Rony Calderon, medical director in Guatemala for Sanofi.

During our meeting, we presented ALAS, our project to improve access to mental health in Guatemala, and the programs through which we hope to achieve our mission. The Ambassador and his economic adviser were very receptive and reacted positively. They invited us to participate to a cocktail on Wednesday 29th of March 2017, where we will have the opportunity to meets other NGOs working in Guatemala. Moreover, we invited the Ambassador to join us during the International Day for Mental Health in October, to which he answered favourably (subject to his other obligations)

ALAS is recipient of Stanford School of Medicine's Small Grant Program

One of ALAS's key programs is to Train primary care physicians in diagnosing and treating basic mental disorders. We are proud to announce that our training program received a financial support of $10,000 from Stanford School of Medicine. Indeed, we applied to Stanford's Small Grant Program in order to fund our project of "Integrating Mental Health into Primary Care in Rural Guatemala Through Task Shifting to Public Health Clinic Physicians". In this program, we shall gather and train public primary care physicians in mental health care, in partnership with Stanford and local public hospitals.

It is good to highlight that the project was highly rated by Stanford's reviewers, and recognized for its salience to department missions.

Click here to download the full notice 

ALAS won the "Outstanding achievements in the field of mental health" Award

The Swiss Foundation for World Health awarded the "Outstanding achievements in the field of mental health" prize to Alejandro Paiz, founder of ALAS Pro Salud Mental in early 2017. This award is a huge step forward for us as it formally and internationally recognize our efforts to improve mental health care here in Guatemala.

Here is what the prize said about Alejandro:

2016, Dr. Alejandro Paiz, ALAS PRO SALUD MENTAL, Guatemala. Dr. Alejandro Paiz is a young Guatemalan psychiatrist graduated with a scholarship from the Francisco Marroquin University´s Medicine school in 2002 and then from the Universidad San Carlos with honors with a specialization in general psychiatry. Dr. Paiz is one of the few psychiatrists of Guatemala currently working in the rural areas of the country and the only one working on social/comunitary psychiatry for vulnerable and poor population.
He started his psychiatry career in 2009 when he was offered the opportunity to create the mental health department, at National Hospital of Sololá which is the main city of the department in highland Guatemala. This is where he started to develop critical skills towards the clinical assessment, diagnostic, treatment of indigenous population along with education and empowerment of families with a member suffering from a mental disease. One of his biggest achievements was to facilitating access to treatment and medicine for the poorest families. During this period, he also developed training programs for educators, nurses and general practitioners on “primary mental health care”.
In 2013, Dr.Paiz decided to found the nonprofit NGO “Alas Pro Salud mental” in order to reach other patients excluded from the health public system in remote areas. As a matter of fact, with only a few quetzals for living, most of the patients cannot even afford to pay the transportation (by boat or bus) to be attended at the departmental hospital of Sololá. After 3 years of existence, through the dedication of Dr. Paiz, strategic partnerships with Universities and local hospital, Alas Pro Salud Mental can be considered as a model. Not only because it is the only NGO working in the field of mental health in Guatemala but above all because the project is sustainable. The approach to treatment includes providing medication and psychosocial support in partnership with local NGOs and families. It is low cost and sustainable because Alas build the capacity of existing health professionals and services rather than starting from scratch. It also build the capacity of participants by encouraging them to be members of self-help groups and create livelihoods opportunities to support their on-going recovery. Lastly, Alas reduce stigma by helping the broader community understand what mental illness is through events into schools, radio programs and distribution of posters. The convergence of those approaches in Alas’s model of work is what makes it unique in Guatemala.
— Norman Sartorius, MD, PHD