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Donations Help Upgrade Dental Care in Bolivia

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — The dental care at the Franciscan center here has improved in recent weeks due to generous donations from supporters of the Province’s Franciscan Missionary Union.

Contributions of nearly $1,000 have enabled dentists to offer free toothbrushes and other supplies to patrons of the Centro Social Franciscano, as well as to purchase a cabinet to store their equipment. 

Thanks to the help of people who responded to an e-mail appeal made in December by Jim McIntosh, OFM, director of the center, more than $850 was raised. The three dentists who donate their time to the Centro Social Franciscano are very excited, according to Jim.

Before Christmas, Jim had talked with the dentists about an idea to help with preventive dental care.

They discussed the possibility of giving children who frequent the soup kitchen a lecture about oral hygiene and presenting each of them with a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. Their goal was to raise $250 for this program, said Jim, who was pleased with the result.

“Today, the dentists are buying the toothbrushes for the children and have bought a quantity of fluoride and other instruments we were missing,” he said.

Jim said he had recently learned the extent of the center’s need for equipment.

“The dentists showed me some of the mirrors and picks they had been using. They appeared chipped and in terrible shape. In addition, the dentists had only four complete sets of tools so they could only treat four patients in the morning or afternoon without having to wait to re-sterilize the instruments. They were able to buy a number of new sets. So now, not only are all in good condition, but also they have extra sets of all the instruments.”

The dentists were also excited to buy a cabinet to store all the instruments and medicines. Thanks to the money that donors helped the center raise, the consultorio looks very professional and the dentists are able to provide much better care to the poor of Cochabamba, Jim said.

Bolivia-Large_0062“The donations made to the FMU are very much appreciated,” Jim said.

Each week, approximately 200 people eat at the soup kitchen, which is open on Saturdays. “They are about evenly divided into adults and children,” Jim said.

People come to the soup kitchen at 10:30 a.m. for an hour of instruction.  “This might be on catechesis, women’s rights, or the health of the family.”

This weekend, the dentists taught the children how to brush their teeth and provided a free application of fluoride. As the children left the center, each was given a free toothbrush, toothpaste and plastic cup, Jim said.

Several other projects are currently in progress at the center.

“We are constructing a new dining room for the soup kitchen and also improving the front entrance to make it easier for the elderly and sick to enter the center,” Jim said.

Donations toward the center’s services and construction projects are being accepted by the Franciscan Missionary Union, 4 Jersey St., East Rutherford NJ  07073-1012. 

An article about the center in Cochabama appeared in the December 2007 issue of The Anthonian, the quarterly magazine of St. Anthony’s Guild. It is called “The Blessing of Sharing.”