My Speech From Mano a Mano’s Festival Bolivia 2016

My Speech From Mano a Mano’s Festival Bolivia 2016

At Mano a Mano’s event in late April 2016, I talked a little bit about my journey with Mano a Mano – about how I started here more than 10 years ago, and why I’m still here. I wanted to post it here for people that weren’t able to attend the event and might be interested (and thanks again to everyone that was there!). We just wrapped up shipping more than 85,000 pounds of supplies from our Minnesota warehouse (they are currently en route to Bolivia) – made possible by this April event. Also, one of our most dedicated volunteers from Bolivia – Charo, a nurse that spends many hours helping sort supplies and organize them for distribution in Bolivia, will be in Minnesota next week; you can meet her on Thursday, June 30 at our open house (more info here).

- Nate Knatterud-Hubinger, Executive Director, Mano a Mano International

Introduction & Welcome

Thanks for coming to our 7th annual celebration event! Each of these events has included a focus project that is supported through the funds raised; let’s take a minute to remember what your support at these events has made possible over the years:

    • Year 1 (2010) – Santa Rosa Clinic – 3200 people that benefit.
    • Year 2 (2011) – Pasorapa Water Reservoir – 540 people have access to water (which has now been expanded by the community).
    • Year 3 (2012) – Providing emergency air rescues – more than 500 people receive emergency flights each year.
    • Year 4 (2013) – Shipping supplies – Mano a Mano distributes over 100,000 pounds of supplies each year.
    • Year 5 (2014) – Building schools in Esmeralda and Challacota – 350 students have access to education (plus teacher housing and community bathrooms).
    • Year 6 (2015) – Building greenhouses in Jironkota – 104 greenhouses have been built.
    • This year – Shipping supplies – our warehouse is full!

How I Started at Mano a Mano…

I have been with Mano a Mano over 10 years – this was my first job after college, and actually my first interview. I started as a part-time administrative assistant; and for the first 7 years the surplus program was one of my main responsibilities.

Me among the boxes in Mano a Mano Bolivia's warehouse in Cochabamba in 2006 - I had taped each of these boxes in Minnesota, so it was gratifying to see them in Bolivia!

Me among the boxes in Mano a Mano Bolivia’s warehouse in Cochabamba in 2006 – I had taped each of these boxes in Minnesota, so it was gratifying to see them in Bolivia!

It’s been amazing to be a part of the growth of Mano a Mano over the past decade. When I started, we had essentially 3 programs – shipping supplies (which was our first program), building clinics, and building schools & community projects.

At the time, in 2005 – we had completed 59 clinics and 16 schools, and we had shipped 1.6 million pounds of surplus supplies; we had 1 counterpart organization (Mano a Mano Bolivia) and another just getting off the ground (Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo). Our clinics had 237,986 patient visits in 2005.

Now in 2016 – we have 5 counterpart organizations. As listed in the insert in the blue books at your table: We now have 155 clinics and 54 schools. We have built 7 major water reservoirs and 170 small water ponds, and nearly 1,000 miles of roads. Our aviation program – with 4 small planes – has provided emergency air rescues to over 3,000 people. We have shipped over 3.5 million pounds of supplies, and our clinics have over 1 million patient visits each year. And those numbers grow every day. Our programs have grown in response to the communities and what they are asking for.

Those numbers really are impressive. One number that has stayed pretty constant in that time is 2 – the number of full-time staff in the US.

The reality is that this job is extremely hard. Every single project – whether it’s building a clinic or shipping supplies – takes months, if not years, to plan and execute. There are always tremendous challenges in every project. At any given time we have between 5 and 20 bigger projects underway, and dozens of trips, workshops, and other programs. There are hundreds of Bolivian communities on our waiting list for projects. Nothing is easy. So why am I still here?

Because even with all those challenges, at the end of the day we get all of these projects done, and we are able to do a lot. Even though each project is tremendously difficult, there is no doubt that it will get done, that it will be used for its intended purpose, and that it will make an impact. In our 20+ years, no project we’ve started has not been completed (and they’re all still in operation today).

Map of Mano a Mano projects, taken from our website.

Map of Mano a Mano projects, taken from our website.

All of this is possible thanks to the amazing staff & supporters – in both the US & Bolivia – that make it work. I just want to highlight some of the people that are here tonight:

  • Mano a Mano’s co-founders Joan & Segundo Velasquez
  • Our Board – Nancy and Terry, Chris, Deb, Anneli, Dennis, Dwight & Peggy (not on the board but still traveled from Colorado to be here tonight!)
  • Our Staff – our accountant Linda who’s been with Mano a Mano for 8 years; Walt and Carmen – our newest staff additions over the past year
  • Volunteers & Donors – you are our base (Dennis has mentioned you already, but we cannot thank you enough)
  • Not here but need to be mentioned – staff & volunteers in Bolivia, the communities & municipalities in Bolivia that partner with us and work so hard on THEIR projects

Partnerships – the Mano a Mano Model

This group of people in 2 countries comes together to create partnerships with many, many more people; our partnership model is our greatest strength. It’s what allows us to work in so many different areas, and it’s why we can get so much done with limited resources.

Mano a Mano – hand in hand – is about many different groups working together to achieve things that none of us could do on our own.

Partnerships are not just about pooling resources, it goes beyond money – there are many people & groups that have much more money than we do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean results.

Mano a Mano Projects

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A Mano a Mano clinic. There are many clinic projects throughout the developing world that sit unused or incomplete.

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Mano a Mano’s water reservoir in Sancayani. Large-scale water projects are very challenging, with many issues that can’t always be solved with more resources.

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Arrival of Mano a Mano containers to our Cochabamba warehouse in March 2016. The process of shipping & distributing supplies to people in need is a long & complex process.

Partnerships in Action

You can see our many different partnerships in action when you look at this single wheelchair, which was distributed in Bolivia last November.

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Wheelchair waiting to be distributed at Mano a Mano’s hangar in Bolivia.

  • It was donated by a hospital in the Twin Cities, that cared enough to call us.
  • It was picked up by a Mano a Mano volunteer, that took the time to go get it.
  • The wheelchair was packed, loaded into containers, and shipped by Mano a Mano staff and volunteers in the US, with the support of many donors in the US that pay for the shipping.
  • Mano a Mano staff in the US & Bolivia spend months going back and forth dealing with the logistics of getting the shipment through Bolivian customs.
  • Mano a Mano staff & volunteers in Bolivia spend more months organizing supplies and arranging distributions to people & organizations in need throughout the country.
  • This single wheelchair was one of 190 wheelchairs in the last shipment, alongside tens of thousands of pounds of other supplies.
  • Most of the supplies we send are distributed to Mano a Mano’s network of projects throughout Bolivia, which helps support an infrastructure of projects that impacts more than 1.5 million people every year.

Mano a Mano really is a bridge, connecting two cities, two groups of people, nearly 5,000 miles apart. I am not Bolivian. I am most definitely a gringo, I’m from St. Paul, and have lived here my whole life. Almost none of us here tonight are Bolivian either. Before Mano a Mano, very few of us had traveled to Bolivia, including me.

But we all want to make a difference, we all want to be a part of something bigger. Like shipping that single wheelchair, every project we do takes a lot of people working together, in many different ways. None of us can do everything, but we can all do our part. And when we work together, we can accomplish big things. Thanks to each of you, who in your own way is an integral part of Mano a Mano.

Mano a Mano Surplus Program Video (Debuted at Festival Bolivia 2016)

Join Us and Our Bolivian Guests on June 30th for an Open House at Mano a Mano

Join Us and Our Bolivian Guests on June 30th for an Open House at Mano a Mano

Please join Mano a Mano for an open house on Thursday, June 30th from 5.30-7pm at our office/warehouse (925 Pierce Butler Route, St. Paul, MN 55104 – click here for a map and contact info). This event is a low-key get-together to meet our Bolivian guests and spend some time with Mano a Mano friends. No RSVP needed.

You are invited to our open house-

We will be joined by 2 guests from Bolivia – Jose Luis, an aviation mechanic with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Aviation and Charo, a nurse that volunteers with Mano a Mano helping to organize the supplies we send to Bolivia and manage the distribution.

Jose Luis, at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Jose Luis, at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Charo, in Mano a Mano's warehouse in Cochabamba preparing supplies sent from the US for distribution in Bolivia.

Charo, in Mano a Mano’s warehouse in Cochabamba preparing supplies sent from the US for distribution in Bolivia.

We hope to see you there! If you have questions please feel free to contact the office – phone: 651-457-3141, email: carmen@manoamano.org.

Mano a Mano Aviation

Last year, Mano a Mano’s aviation program provided emergency flights to 538 people, in addition to flying volunteer medical professionals for 40 weekend health clinics. Safety is the top priority for any aviation program, and we are happy to have dedicated staff like Jose Luis to ensure that our flights are as safe as possible.

Surplus Distribution Program

Collecting surplus medical supplies in Minnesota – saving them from the landfill – and sending them to Bolivia, where we know that they can be put to good use, is the program that started Mano a Mano more than 20 years ago. Charo has been volunteering recently with Mano a Mano helping to manage the organization & distribution of supplies once they arrive in Cochabamba.

These are some pictures from our recent shipment earlier this month that Charo will be helping to organize once they arrive in Bolivia:

Distributing Wheelchairs in Capinota, Bolivia

Distributing Wheelchairs in Capinota, Bolivia

Loading 85,000 Pounds of Supplies to Ship to Bolivia

Earlier this month, Mano a Mano volunteers helped load 4 containers with a little over 85,000 pounds of supplies. These supplies will be distributed to Mano a Mano projects, other organizations, and people in need throughout Bolivia.

Mano a Mano volunteers not wasting any space available to add more supplies!

Mano a Mano volunteers not wasting any space available to add more supplies!

Wirkini Water Reservoir Filling With Water

Wirkini Water Reservoir Filling With Water

Providing Access to Water in Wirkini, Bolivia

Work continues on Mano a Mano’s large-scale water reservoir in Wirkini, Bolivia. Wirkini is a small community located in the Province of Tiraque, Department of Cochabamba, and is about 12,700 feet above sea level in the Bolivian Altiplano.

Wirkini, Bolivia.

Wirkini, Bolivia.

The reservoir will provide irrigation water to at least 341 Bolivian farm families in the area and irrigate 269 hectares of land (average family size is 6, for a total number of beneficiaries of 2,046). Water is typically only available in the Bolivian Highlands for the 2-3 month rainy season, and the rest of the year is a struggle for farmers to have water access for their crops and livestock. These water reservoir projects retain water and provide water access year-round, which allows for farmers to grow more and better crops, which in turn increases family nutrition and household incomes.

This project is being overseen by Mano a Mano’s counterpart organization Nuevo Mundo, with active participation from the community and local municipality. Mano a Mano staff work under very difficult conditions, and we are always impressed by their commitment and dedication!

More Information About Wirkini Water Reservoir

Wirkini water reservoir.

Wirkini water reservoir.

Volunteer Opportunities & Events in June/July 2016

Volunteer Opportunities & Events in June/July 2016

Over the past week, Mano a Mano volunteers loaded more than 85,000 pounds of supplies onto 4 containers for distribution in Bolivia. We now have a little more space in our warehouse, but the donations keep coming in, and we need volunteers to help sort these supplies in preparation for the next shipment.

Volunteer Times in June & July 2016

We have two times each month scheduled for June & July; you are welcome to join us from 5-8p for Pizza/Salad & Sorting. RSVPs are appreciated but not required.

WHAT: Sorting & packing donated medical supplies in preparation for shipment to Bolivia

WHERE: Mano a Mano office/warehouse, 925 Pierce Butler Route, St. Paul, MN 55014

WHEN: The following dates from 5-8p:

  • June 14
  • June 28
  • July 12
  • July 26
Volunteers sorting school supplies at the Mano a Mano warehouse a few weeks ago.

Volunteers sorting school supplies at the Mano a Mano warehouse a few weeks ago.

Mano a Mano Open House with Guests from Bolivia on June 30th

Also coming up later this month, Mano a Mano is hosting an open house on Thursday, June 30th from 5.30-7pm at our office/warehouse. We will be joined by 2 guests from Bolivia – Jose Luis, an aviation mechanic with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Aviation and Charo, a nurse that volunteers with Mano a Mano helping to organize the supplies we send to Bolivia and manage the distribution. You are welcome to join us.

Jose Luis, at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Jose Luis, at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Charo, in Mano a Mano's warehouse in Cochabamba preparing supplies sent from the US for distribution in Bolivia.

Charo, in Mano a Mano’s warehouse in Cochabamba preparing supplies sent from the US for distribution in Bolivia.

Contact Us to RSVP for Any Upcoming Events

If you are interested in coming or have coming, please email Carmen: carmen@manoamano.org.

All Events on the Mano a Mano Calendar

Any events such as these are always available on Mano a Mano’s event calendar, which you can see HERE.