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We interviewed Gabriela Gatica Laborde, Executive Director at Ronald McDonald House Charity Mexico.

Updated: Apr 3

What is the story behind the Ronald McDonald Foundation and what is its core mission?

The Ronald McDonald Children's Foundation Mexico emerged 26 years ago with the mission of improving the well-being and health of children and adolescents with complex diseases and in vulnerable conditions.

We opened the first Ronald McDonald House in Mexico City two years after our establishment as an organization, and since then we have supported over 136,000 children and adolescents from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, providing comprehensive support during a medical crisis such as finding out that your child has a complex disease.


Within this main mission, what would be the long-term objectives?

Our long-term objectives are focused on continuing to expand our range of programs nationally, hand in hand with allies interested in childhood. We are convinced that cross-sector alliances are much more powerful to leave no one behind, all within an umbrella aligned with family-centered care, as we know that when families are actively involved in their children's treatment, there are better outcomes for their health.


Could you describe some of the key programs the foundation offers to support families?

The organization operates in three different programs:

Ronald McDonald Houses, where we positively influence the recovery of sick children, helping parents focus solely on the treatment and healing of their children, without worrying about the logistical and economic problems that come with traveling away from their usual residence.

Family rooms are spaces that we set up in public hospitals, where hospitalized children can continue studying with the support of a multigrade teacher or engaging in activities that distract them from their health condition, in a dignified and suitable place. On the other hand, parents have a cozy space to feel comfortable and rest while their children study or play.

Local programs are initiatives we develop to respond to the needs of children locally. In the case of Mexico, we operate: a. Healthy Eating Program - which focuses on postpartum and pregnant women with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life. Through this program, we also provide balanced food rations to primary caregivers in hospitals. b. Backpack of Hope - aims to strengthen socio-emotional skills in primary caregivers. c. Cart of Hope - focuses on the development of soft skills in hospitalized children and adolescents.


How do you select and prioritize the programs you implement?

The programs are implemented according to the local needs of children; we have partnerships with 24 pediatric hospitals, and they guide us in making the necessary social investment and expanding our reach.


Could you share concrete examples of how the foundation has positively impacted families' lives over the years?

Luz Adriana, 9 years old, is from Chilapa Guerrero. At 7 months of age, she suffered a severe infection and fevers. In her village clinic, she was prescribed antibiotics and temporarily improved; however, shortly after, she returned to the hospital with trembling and swelling in her hands. Doctors referred her to the National Institute of Pediatrics in Mexico City where, after a month of studies, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, a disease that causes inflammation of the joints, pain, stiffness, and loss of movement. It can affect any joint but is most common in the knees, hands, and feet. This disease has no cure, it can only be controlled, so Luz Adriana must go to consultation and treatment every two months to receive intravenous medication. Thanks to the diagnosis and treatment, the pain has decreased, and her quality of life has improved. The hospital social worker referred Luz Adriana and her mother to the Ronald McDonald House in Mexico City so they could stay in a comfortable and suitable shelter while she receives medical treatment. Her mother comments: "We are very grateful for the support they give us. Thanks to all the people who support the Ronald House, when we come for treatment, we have a place to go, a room to rest, bathe, three meals, and daily transportation to the hospital. I really value the support."


How do you measure the success of your programs?

The social impact of our programs is measured through a matrix of indicators that we review monthly, monitoring our operational progress.


What kind of collaborations do you have with other organizations or companies to carry out your programs?

Our main ally is the network of pediatric hospitals with whom we have a close relationship to carry out our mission. We also have very close allies in the business field such as McDonald's and its franchisees, who join our foundation's activities year after year and donate part of their income to operate. Civil society organizations also help us reach more children and adolescents like Michou and Mau.


 How do you select and establish these partnerships?

In some cases, these are companies that have a business relationship with McDonald's, and in others, they are companies outside the McDonald's system that approach us to volunteer and/or get involved with a social cause.


What are some of the biggest challenges the foundation has faced and how have they overcome them?

The biggest challenges we have faced in the last four years, in addition to the pandemic, are related to obtaining funds outside the McDonald's system since the demand for our services grows month by month, and many families request them, so we work tirelessly to leave no one behind and ensure that all people are supported by the organization.


How have you adapted during unexpected events such as pandemics or other crises?

We implemented very robust health safety protocols and migrated all in-person activities online... we decided to see an opportunity within the situation, and that helped us move forward...


How do you involve the community in your efforts?

Every month, we receive people who come to volunteer for our programs, and from there, they become more and more involved with the cause.


Are there opportunities for individuals and companies to get involved as volunteers/donors?

Yes, definitely, as a civil society organization, we primarily need two things: Money and time from people committed to improving the social fabric of our country through social causes.


What are the goals and visions for the future of the Ronald McDonald Foundation?

Our goal is to achieve a world where all children have access to the medical care they need, and their families are supported and actively involved in caring for their children.

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