The information below was submitted by Jim McIntosh who has served as director of the Centro Social Franciscano since 2006.
COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — It was a good year in Bolivia.
At the Centro Social Franciscano, we took over a 100-year-old, decaying convent at the beginning of the year and have turned it into a thriving center of services for the poor. The soup kitchen is in full operation every Saturday. The medical clinic is open every morning, and the dental clinic has now expanded its hours to include mornings and afternoons. We are ready to add a psychological counseling service three days a week.
Upstairs, we built an apartment for a missionary couple that lives in the center and watches it at night. We also have a medical laboratory built and ready to begin.
Unfortunately, our funds ran out when we completed half of the renovation work upstairs. But on that front, too, there is exciting news. At the end of November, we received a $1,000 donation from the Pax Community in McLean, Va. In the same week, someone walked into the Poor Clare monastery and gave an envelope “for the social center.” It contained $4,000, a virtual fortune here where most people live on $2 per day.
Expanding a Dining Room
With that $5,000, I can complete the work upstairs and add a third dining room that the Poor Clares are giving us for the soup kitchen. They were bothered to see that the people do not fit into the two dining rooms and some had to sit on the ground to eat. They decided to give up one of their parlors so we can add a third dining room. Odds and ends, such as lowering the front step into the center to better accommodate the disabled and the elderly, can also be done.
For the upstairs, we just signed an agreement with a foundation that cares for young burn victims. The treatment for severe burns can be up to a year — six months as an inpatient in the hospital and six months on an outpatient basis. For children from Cochabamba, this is no problem, but children from the countryside can’t afford a room in the city and so return to their homes in the campo. This leads to severe scarring and possible loss of the burned areas.
The foundation has been searching for a place where five to 10 children from the campo can stay during their six months as outpatients. Now that we have begun to renovate the upstairs at the center, we will soon have a place where these children can stay for the rest of their treatment. It is an exciting project that will enable us to help very poor and suffering children.
Toothbrushes for Children
Recently I was speaking to one of our dentists about the poor dental health of the children who come to the soup kitchen. The Feast Day of the Three Kings is the traditional time to give presents in Bolivia. We spoke about how it would be nice to give each child a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, along with the toy they will receive. We also want to buy some concentrated fluoride, which the dentist can then apply directly to the children’s teeth.
The cost is fairly low. A toothbrush can be bought for one boliviano (about 15 cents). One hundred can be bought for $15. Toothpaste is a bit more. A small tube costs four bolivianos and a full tube for eight bolivianos.
Contributions should be sent to the FMU at the address below, with a note saying the money is to help the children in Bolivia with dental health.
Franciscan Missionary Union
4 Jersey St.
East Rutherford, NJ 07073-1012
In photo above, Br. Jim, second from left, is shown with the kitchen staff outside the Centro Social Franciscano in Cochabamba.
—Br. Jim, who worked in the Communications Office until relocating to Bolivia in 2006, thanks contributors in advance for “anything you are able to send.” The Cochabamba center is featured in the December 2007 issue of The Anthonian magazine.