Outreach in Latin America

An outreach project that has contributed to Public Health for 26 years

In  the Rimac district of Lima, the CASA DE LA FAMILIA has been functioning for 26 years. On the 19th of January 2016, the city of Lima honored Bibiana Maza, the founder of this psychoanalytic project, by presenting her with a gold medal and diplomas. The Casa de la Gamilia welcomes infants and children with their parents or other accompanying adults. Upon arrival staff ask the name of the child (children). They do not ask the adult's name nor the age of the child, they simply greet. The objective is to provide anonymity and to avoid being intrusive.

The frame is as follows:

Children must be accompanied by an adult, there is a charge of 2soles (.79 Can) per family and the facility welcomes a maximum of 35 children per day.Certain toys and activities are reserved for specific sections.

The Casa is divided into the following sectors: mothers and babies, toddlers to 3-4 years, an area for painting and drawing, an area for puzzles and board games, a kitchen and open area for physical activity (volley ball, slides, cars etc.)

The staff are trained to ¨ser y no hacer¨ that is, to be and not to act. The staff comrises of psychologists, psychoanalysts and psychology interns. They first greet the child ,even the baby and  focus on playing with the child all the while being present and available to the accompanying adult. Links are woven gradually and as time passes the adults frequently express their concerns and anxieties that include- violence, employment issues, handling crying and anger, developmental issues, sexuality, depression, addictions etc., The Casa does not report to other agencies  such as Children's Aid.

The staff does not respond quickly to the caregiver's initial demand but attempts to decipher its underpinnings. Nor do they interpret or use psychopathological language, teach or give advice.  They welcome, tolerate aggressiveness, contain and allow everyone to set their own pace. This approach offers a structured experience that can lead to the creation of a new and lasting  dynamic between parents and children. The Casa is a space that permits going beyond the daily problems associated with  poverty. It does so by offering a space that lends itself to the urgent need to be heard, listened to and verbalize.

A weekly seminar-supervision, that is attended by all the staff, focuses on the elaboration and theorizing of a psychoanalytic approach and allows for a coordinated front with the families.

Although this is far from the couch, containment of anxieties and psychoanalytic listening contribute to the participants feelings of being understood. It opens up the possibility of their putting into words their concerns and defining more clearly their demand.

In the center of Lima, the Casa staff is also involved with the orphanage and with an adolescent maternity ward. In those settings the staff supports the institutional staff along with the children and adolescents by their presence and listening skills.

From the onset, this project has been self-financed. The IRAEC in Paris has been both a source of inspiration and for many years, of funding. Claude de Rouvray, a Parisian analyst, has supported the Casa through ARPE and through her supervisions.

Gerardo Chavez, Bibiana Maza's husband has contributed by offering many of his works of art in order to raise funds, There are currently some screen prints available for purchase at - [email protected]

I feel privileged as a psychoanalyst to be participating in this project for the next six months. I wonder how a 9 million inhabitant city with a high level of poverty has managed to offer such a service for the past 26 years... it is certainly a source of inspiration.

Carole Levaque
Lima Peru