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El Salto: on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile

Back in the 1950s, a small group of people gathered in an economically depressed part of Santiago de Chile, in the Recoleta district, to begin a medical dispensary. The staff consisted of several volunteers and a doctor who saw patients two afternoons a week for free. Over the years the initiative grew into the Polyclinic and Center for the Family, which people in the neighborhood refer to familiarly as El Salto. The complex now includes primary medical care, along with specialties in pediatrics, gynecology, a department of mental health, a complete dental service, two programs for recovering alcoholics, and a school of basic education for adults.

“Along with health care,” says Juanita Arteaga, director of the project, “we want to provide work training through workshops, courses, and basic classes for adults. In total, almost 14,000 persons have already been helped by El Salto.”

The polyclinic, a recent installation, provides care in the areas of pediatrics, gynecology and rheumatology. A small fee is charged, and patients have access to medical examinations, a pharmacy service and, if necessary, x-rays and scanners.

The workshops at El Salto began with the aim of providing housewives from the area with Christian formation, along with the opportunity to receive work training and earn an income while at home. The afternoon they spend there each week is a chance to relax with their neighbors and learn new skills such as painting, dress-making and hair dressing. The women are very grateful for the spiritual formation they receive. “I recognize here the influence of St. Josemaría,” says Anita Pereira, a pediatrician who for the past 15 years has worked every morning in El Salto. “One sees here great care for details in work and the dignity and affection with which people are treated, in a friendly and tidy place.”

Romana, No. 58, January-June 2014, p. 144.

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