Until this summer, neither the 400+ inmates – nor the wives and children who live in Cochabamba’s San Antonio prison with them – had any access to dental care. When Mario (not his real name), a skilled craftsman, saw that so many of his fellow inmates suffered from constant toothaches and emergency abscesses, he acted to correct the situation.

Mario had heard about Mano a Mano from a family member. “Si Dios quiere (if God wants), Mano a Mano will help us and maybe businesses will too,” he told the others. And he was right.  

Now the residents of San Antonio prison have access to fully equipped, sanitary, and professionally staffed dental services.

Dental clinic in the San Antonio prison, July 2023

But this was not a simple undertaking. Mario began by writing donation request letters to local Cochabamba-area businesses that sell cement, tiles, paint, plumbing supplies, etc. His convincing letters resulted in enough donated construction materials to build ample facilities. Mario and fellow skilled workers contributed all the labor required to construct a well-built, durable facility.

Laying the floor tiles for the new dental room in the San Antonio prison

Mario contacted Mano a Mano again once the rooms were finished. Now this facility serves dozens of patients every week, using equipment that once served patients in a St. Paul, Minnesota dental office. The clinic is staffed by a fully trained, licensed dentist who is imprisoned at San Antonio.

Supplies for the dental clinic.

Photos From Dirección General de Régimen Penitenciario

The Dirección General de Régimen Penitenciario posted a few photos from the dedication of this dental clinic a few days ago:

Mano a Mano Provides Supplies to About 20 Other Prisons in Bolivia

In addition to providing medical and dental supplies to the San Antonio prison, Mano a Mano distributes needed items to about 20 other prisons throughout the region.

Mano a Mano constructed a full primary care clinic in El Abra Federal Prison located on the outskirts of Cochabamba, in 2001.

Mano a Mano’s Recovered Resources Program

Mano a Mano’s recovered resources program – the program that started Mano a Mano nearly 30 years ago – collects donated medical supplies, mobility equipment, and other items in Minnesota for shipment to Bolivia, where they are distributed to people and organizations in need throughout the country. Instead of being thrown away in Minnesota, these in-demand items are put to good use in Bolivia. We shipped 220,704 pounds of supplies and equipment from Minnesota to Bolivia in 2022 (and are currently preparing for our second shipment of 2023 in late July).