All children lose their milk teeth and grow adult ones, don’t they?
Not in San Martín. So many living in shantytowns have stubs protruding from their gums, and live with the pain of decayed teeth every single day.
But one small and amazing charity has been slowly and surely seeing to thousands of villa kids every year, giving them free treatment and helping them to smile again. (A child with stubs does NOT smile.) Which is ideal, until it is forced to shut its clinic.
Foundation Todos Juntos, which works in the northern Buenos Aires suburbs, has had to close the doors to one of its three clinics thanks to a gang war, among other issues. Such a bloody shame.
I came across Fiona Watson, who runs Todos Juntos, in 2009, more or less. A friend, Tim Phillips, was going to run an ultra-marathon, and asked myself and fellow journalist Matt Chesterton, to come and check out the slum-based clinics and see that his hard-run cash would be going to the right place.
It was. We were escorted around two clinics, in not one but two of the San Martín slums, one of them located next to the vast and stinking rubbish tip, which is crawling with kids hunting for scraps. Filled with donated toys to help make the “going to the dentist” trauma slightly less awful, all Todos Juntos’ equipment has been paid for by generous donations over the last eight years. If it hadn’t, then of course none of the three clinics would exist.
But one of these vital little dentists has had to shut down, because, in the words of Fiona: “It’s been a difficult year for our third clinic: closed three weeks for major renovation in April, closed twice in September (once for gun violence and another for flooding) and now, in October, closed yet again due to drug gang wars finally making their way right through the walls of our clinic.
“But this time sadly, it seems closure of our Sonrisa III will be permanent. It has been the most difficult, heart-breaking decision to take but the safety of our dentist Dr Rodrigo was seriously at risk.”
If you can donate 50 pesos, $10 or £10 or know a corporation looking to back a charity, it will all help in supporting a foundation that is still waving its magic wand to give children dental care at its other two clinics – even though the Argentine healthcare system (ergo, government) should be supporting them. That’s my opinion.
(In fact, one local politician, looking for election a few years ago, claimed he had personally set up Todos Juntos. Well, we all know politicians are liars, don’t we?)
Rodrigo the dentist, such a great, hard-working man who I know personally, is in this photo. Let’s help him to continue doing what he does best, and Fiona and them team – the tooth fairies – to keep running this phenomenal organisation.
More about Todos Juntos
2010 blog piece about teen patients Joel Antonio and Ninfa.
2012 Buenos Aires Herald article on Fiona, the founder.
“You can’t turn your back on this”