New Field Partner: Plasticos Foundation makes surgery affordable for families in Guatemala

It's always been part of the plan for Kiva to offer health loans to make surgery and medical care more affordable for the world's poorest people. Today, we took a big step toward that goal by launching a new partnership with Plasticos Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides reconstructive plastic surgery to low-income patients with health issues like cleft lips, burns, and more. 

While plastic surgery may not sound like a basic need, it's exactly that for thousands of people who find themselves discriminated against or ostracized from their communities due to their physical diffrences. Children with cleft palates and cleft lips have trouble eating and speaking, which has major implications for their development. And many stay home from schools to avoid being taunted by their peers. Similarly, adults with disabling or disfiguring conditions, have a hard time finding employment and are often unable to support themselves or their families.

Enter Plasticos Foundation. Since 1998, it has been training volunteer surgeons and other medical providers around the world to reach people who need care but can't afford to pay for it. To date, the foundation has sent volunteer missions to Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, India, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan and other locations. Founder Larry Nichter, a reconstructive surgeon for more than three decades, has led more than 60 of these missions. Altogether, they have overseen treatement of more than 3,000 patients.

Kiva is focusing on Plasticos' work in Guatemala for several reasons. Even though it is Central America's most populous country, it has no reconstructive plastic surgery programs of its own. Waiting lists for government hospitals are years long, and most patients can afford the cost of operations elsewhere. As a result, most people with correctable conditions have no options and face entrenched discrimination.

In Guatemala, Plasticos works very closely with Asimedic, an on-the-ground health care partner that it helped to establish. Asimedic tracks documentation and accounting for each patient while Plasticos determines which patients are eligible for surgery.

So where does Kiva come in?

Many patients prefer to take out loans to finance reconstructive surgeries. Through Plasticos, Kiva loans can now be used to help low-income families in Guatemala's San Marcos district create payment plans for surgical procedures. After these operations, previously-stigmatized children can return to school and adults can re-enter the workforce.

By combining reconstructive surgery with microfinance, Plasticos and Kiva are developing a local market for improved surgical care: patients who receive treatment are more likely to fine employment to repay their loans, while local medical staff can earn more for their work.

In addition to performing surgeries, Plasticos volunteers train local surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses in reconstructive surgical techniques and patient care. The objective is to create local expertise that can continue to make a difference after Plasticos volunteers leave.

When you lend to a borrower through Plasticos Foundation, you help them afford life-altering treatment that will make a lasting impact on their earning potential and future.


Have questions about Kiva Field Partners? Send them our way at

Photos courtesy of Plasticos Foundation.

About the author

Camille Ricketts

Camille brings her passion for storytelling to Kiva, where she helps create and curate online content. A longtime journalist, she started her career reporting on arts and culture for the Wall Street Journal in London and New York. In 2008, she joined San Francisco-based blog VentureBeat, writing about  green technology, policy and finance. Most recently, she worked in public relations for electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors. Outside of work, Camille volunteers as a web designer for maternal health nonprofit Saving Mothers. She holds a B.A. in women's history from Stanford University, where she also served as editor in chief of The Stanford Daily.