Fernando Landeros
Fundación Teleton

A National Fundraiser Helping Tens of Thousands

By Jan Hogewoning | Thu, 04/02/2020 - 19:15

Fundación Teleton, one of Mexico’s largest charity foundations, has played an important role in shifting attitudes on disability and expanding access to therapy for Mexico’s younger population with disabilities. Fernando Landeros, founder and president, believes foundations like this are vital in supporting the government’s responsibility to care for the those in need but should not supersede it. “We are here to complement the government’s role, not replace it,” he says.

The foundation has existed for 22 years. It is best-known for organizing a yearly fundraising event, which is broadcast on TV and watched by millions. Since its launch, the foundation has consistently exceeded expectations for the amount of funds raised annually. These funds are allocated to various purposes, the most well-known being the Teleton rehabilitation centers. To date, the foundation has built 22 centers across the country. Here, children receive rehabilitative therapy that makes significant improvements in their life. “Our rehabilitation system is the largest in the world. To date, over 374,768 people have participated,” says Landeros. “Normally, offering both a quality service and reaching a very large population is not a realistic goal for a foundation. But Teleton has been able to do both.” In addition to its centers, the foundation has also built a center for children with autism and a children’s hospital for the treatment of cancer. The latter has gained recognition for successful treatment results. 84.3 percent of all children leave the hospital cancer-free, a significantly higher rate than the national average and on par with the world’s best cancer centers, Landeros says. The foundation also has its own university, which offers degrees in the areas of occupational and physical therapy. This provides a source of certified therapists for the centers around the country. 

In part because of the scale of the foundation’s activities, it has at times been criticized for taking up what should be the government’s job. “We recognize that helping those in need is an obligation of the state, but NGO’s, foundations and charity institutions are there to complement the government in areas where it cannot cover the needs,” says Landeros.

Over the years, the organization has received crucial support from volunteers, local sponsors and the government, particularly at the state level. These are not only essential in realizing the construction of new rehabilitation centers, but also in successfully sustaining them over time.  Another area where alliances play an important role are the campaigns to promote the rights of people with disabilities. Landeros explains that two decades ago, the country had a different perspective on disability. It was still treated with pity, shame and even seen as a form of divine punishment. Over time, this segment of the population has become much more visible. As a result, attitudes have shifted to greater openness and equality. “The end goal for our foundation is to have a woke country,” he says.

Apart from individual citizen donations, the Teleton is in part dependent on donations from larger companies, which can lead to accusations of tax avoidance. Landeros believes that this reaction is cultural, given that in the US donating a part of a company’s profits to charity has a positive perception. “By creating a stronger legal framework for donations, the government could increase transparency while at the same time making it more attractive to donate without generating negative attention.” In Mexico, the amount a company can donate is limited, with which Landeros disagrees.

Changes to the way the foundation has operated over time includes the way it reaches out to the public. “Twenty-two years ago, you could send out your message on Channel Two, and you would reach the whole of Mexico. Today, you need to reach out through more platforms to get the message out there.”

Photo by:   MBP
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst