everyone deserves home

Campaign raises funds for dental clinic that serves people in need

February 12, 2024

Times Colonist – February 4, 2024

A man whose family came to Victoria from Peru says the Cool Aid dental clinic provided his mother with much-needed care during a time of great financial stress.

The man, who did not want to be identified, said his family was in a tough financial situation after two medical emergencies that were not fully covered by insurance. “A month after arriving here, my mother fell and fractured some vertebrae in her spine,” said the man, whose family arrived in 2022. “And less than a year later, my wife was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. As prepared as we were, nothing could have prepared us for that.”

Dealing with the medical problems drained the family’s savings, so finances were tight when his mother ended up needing major dental work. Luckily, she was able to get that work through funds from a clinic bursary established in 2022.

The annual Everyone Deserves to Shine campaign to raise money for both the bursary and clinic began Thursday, with an anonymous donor getting it started by pledging to match all contributions up to a total of $50,000 during the month-long effort. The bursary has helped more than 330 people in need get access to dental care since it began. The clinic it supports is the only one of its kind for adults in the capital region, primarily serving low-income people but also catering to those on government dental plans as well as refugees and newcomers to Canada.

“The bursary fills a critical need for our patients,” said clinic manager Kathleen Quast. “More and more people are coming to us who do not have any coverage at all, and who are in dire need of care with no place else to turn.” Quast said the federal dental plan announced in December will make a difference to many of the clinic’s clients, but it will take time before all eligible adults can apply.

The man who moved to Canada from Peru said he heard about the clinic from a dentist friend in Vancouver, and after reaching out to Cool Aid, he discovered there was funding available to help his mother. “We were going through such a hard time and it was so unexpected,” he said. “This kind of help, it was really amazing.” He said the experience with Cool Aid “reminded us how different it is to live in a place with structure and empathy — some of the things that make a society better.”

His mother is doing well after treatment, the man said, and he and his family plan to give back to the bursary when their lives “settle down.”

Dental and health care are just some of the services provided by Cool Aid, which helps more than 12,000 people each year who are homeless or living in poverty. That number includes more than 7,000 people who attend Cool Aid’s community health centres across the Island.

Donations to the campaign can be made at coolaid.org/everyone-deserves-to-smile or by calling 250-383-1977.

jbell@timescolonist.com