Update By Mano a Mano Volunteer Sam From Our Center for Ecological Agriculture – August 2016

Editor’s Note: The post below was written by Sam Klein, a volunteer from the US that will be working with Mano a Mano Internacional in Bolivia for the next few months. This was written in early/mid August 2016 about the first week of work at the Center for Ecological Agriculture for Sam and volunteers from Oxford Development Abroad. We are planning on posting more from Sam over the next few months about activities at Mano a Mano.

Update By Mano a Mano Volunteer Sam From Our Center for Ecological Agriculture – August 2016

Five pieces of wood nailed together can turn a farmer’s life around in the community of Jaracullpa, Bolivia.

Making an adobe brick at the CEA.

Making an adobe brick at the CEA.

These pieces of wood, when arranged to mold adobe bricks, help farmers build greenhouses that enormously expand the options of crops that they can grow.

Mano a Mano engineers and volunteers collaborated to construct one such greenhouse this week at their Center for Ecological Agriculture, or CEA. (Click here to see examples of the 100+ greenhouses Mano a Mano has built in Bolivian communities.)

The greenhouse will be a model for the ones in the Andes mountains. Starting on Friday, Aug. 19, Mano a Mano will spend 18 of the following 20 days in the Tapacarí region of Bolivia, northwest of Cochabamba, to aid farmers in rural communities there with greenhouse construction. In addition to Jarocullpa, the organization will be visiting the communities of Chojllara, Ñuñumayani, Rodeo, and Wajrawayuni.

The group will primarily be roofing the greenhouses in the communities, while the farmers are expected to have already constructed the walls with adobe bricks on their own (as part of Mano a Mano’s partnership model). The roofs are made of a hard yellow plastic that maximizes heat absorption.

These subsistence farmers grow very few crops, primarily relying on staples like onion, corn, and potato. That sort of limited variety can be dangerous, because if a disease or pest affects even a single crop a whole year’s harvest is lost. Furthermore, the crops that Andean farmers can grow provide little nutritional value beyond carbohydrates.

Greenhouses offer a way to extend the crop variety of these farmers. The main reason for the limited selection is the extreme temperatures that farmers face at altitudes upward of 3,800 meters (12,467 feet). Freezing temperatures at night prohibit growing many vegetables. The greenhouses, however, contain heat inside and little is lost to the outside.

Once equipped with a greenhouse, farmers can grow vegetables such as cabbage or tomato, thereby improving their nutrition and expanding their crop variety.

The volunteers currently working on the greenhouses are from Oxford Development Abroad, a non-profit in its fifth year of collaboration with Mano a Mano. The volunteers from Oxford said that the project helps them gain a better appreciation for their own lives, not just allow them to help in rural Bolivia.

“Where I live, you have internet access, you have hot water, you have plenty of food, everything is really accessible, and here they just have absolutely nothing,” volunteer Leah Williams said. “It just gives you an insight of a different way of living and makes you more appreciative of the things you have at home.”

ODA volunteers, hard at work at the CEA.

ODA volunteers, hard at work at the CEA.

At the CEA, Mano a Mano engineers and ODA volunteers worked on building a greenhouse of their own. Forming bricks, by placing the mud and straw mixture in a wooden mold, was one of the final steps in the construction process.

Greenhouse construction at the CEA began by marking off a rectangular area of ground and digging a channel about half a meter deep and about quarter a meter across. This channel was filled with a mixture of stones and mud to hold the stones together; this formed the greenhouse’s foundation.

Foundation of the greenhouse at the CEA

Foundation of the greenhouse at the CEA

Nearby the foundation, volunteers dug a pit in the ground and shoveled the earth into a large pile. As the days progressed, Mano a Mano added water to a hollowed out area in the pile to form mud. At first, this mud provided part of the foundation. Later, as the quantity of mud increased, it became drier and provided mud for the adobe bricks.

Williams said that using adobe bricks is something that she’s unused to.

“At home, if for example you wanted to build something you would launch a website and order a bunch of cement in or something,” Williams said. “That would be the end of it and you’d have your cement. But here, you’ve really got to go out and get all the ingredients yourself.”

While some worked outside on the foundation and bricks, others from the group remained inside occupied with soldering.

Soldering at the CEA

Soldering at the CEA

Part of roofing greenhouses in the countryside entails putting gutters on the roofs. The brief rainy season means that during much of the year, such as the winter going on now, little water is available. By putting gutters on the greenhouses, farmers can conserve water when it is available.

Mano a Mano's agronomist Camila with an ODA volunteer working on a greenhouse at the CEA.

Mano a Mano’s agronomist Camila with an ODA volunteer working on a greenhouse at the CEA.

Engineers and volunteers worked on these metal gutters throughout the week, soldering ends on them to ensure that no water will be able to slip through cracks. This is intended to minimize water waste in the Andean communities that Mano a Mano works with.

Other tasks for volunteers included transporting rocks for the foundation, as well as other more general upkeep jobs for the CEA including watering plants and distributing fertilizer.

Volunteers pile rocks into wheelbarrows for the greenhouse's foundation.

Once the greenhouse construction is complete – the goal is 42 new greenhouses in total – Mano a Mano hopes to ensure a long-lasting impact on the communities where they are implemented. For example,  before Mano a Mano offers to help build a greenhouse, each community has to sign off that they will use the greenhouse for its intended purpose.

“One of the things I’ve noticed since being here, is that the thing that they do best is they actually help make sustainable projects,” Williams said. “Even once they’ve left and their influence is gone, the locals can sustain it so it helps them for generations and generations. And I think that’s really good. Helping people help themselves is the best way.

Working at the CEA

Working at the CEA

More CEA Photos From Facebook

Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA)

Watch the video to learn more about the Center for Ecological Agriculture; you can also learn more HERE.

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

Below are a few pictures from our teacher trip to Bolivia in June 2016. This was Mano a Mano’s 4th year of hosting teacher trips to Bolivia. Minnesota teachers travel to Bolivia with Mano a Mano to participate in workshops with Bolivian teachers.

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia - June 2016

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

Daniel has a way with the kids. They love doing cat's cradle with him! From the Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia - June 2016

Daniel has a way with the kids. They love doing cat’s cradle with him! From the Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

This year focused on a week-long teacher training project in Santivanez, a new community for this project. Our Minnesota teachers presented workshops for 80 Bolivian teachers in a community that has 15 schools. They had opportunities to observe and participate in classroom teaching and then teach workshops on language arts, math, and communication among parents, teachers, and students. Minnesota teachers spend months preparing the workshop lessons and pay all of their own expenses.

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia - June 2016

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia - June 2016

Minnesota Teacher Trip to Bolivia – June 2016

Thanks to everyone that participated in this project!

17 More Pictures from the Teacher Trip on Facebook

Interview with Mano a Mano Co-Founder Joan Velasquez

Mano a Mano co-founder Joan Velasquez was interviewed by the Minnesota chapter of The American Association of Teachers of Spanish & Portuguese (MN-AATSP) for their May 2016 Noticiero newsletter. The interview focused on Mano a Mano’s June 2016 teacher trip to Bolivia.

Arani, Bolivia - community where Mano a Mano's teacher trips have been based.

Arani, Bolivia – community where Mano a Mano’s teacher trips have been based in previous years.

From the MN-AATSP website:

“The American Association of Teachers of Spanish & Portuguese (AATSP) is a national professional organization for educators which promotes the study and teaching of the Spanish and Portuguese languages and their corresponding Hispanic, Luso-Brazilian, and other related literatures and cultures at all levels of education.

AATSP-MN is a state chapter whose mission is promoting the Spanish & Portuguese languages and cultures, supporting educators, and recognizing student excellence through various events in the state of Minnesota.”

Read the Full MN-AATSP Interview with Joan Here

The PDF version of the interview is available here:

MN-AATSP Interview with Joan Velasquez

Page 1 of Joan's interview with AATSP. Read the full interview at the link above.

Page 1 of Joan’s interview with AATSP. Read the full interview at the link above.

Previous Teacher Trips

Check out more information about the first 3 trips below (each headline is clickable).

2013 Teacher Trip – 9 Travelers

Minnesota and Bolivia teachers during a workshop, 2013.

Minnesota and Bolivia teachers during a workshop, 2013.

2014 Teacher Trip – 7 Travelers

2015 Teacher Trip – 11 Travelers

New School Pictures From Inauguration in Comun Pampa, Bolivia

New School Pictures From Inauguration in Comun Pampa, Bolivia

Below are pictures from the inauguration of Mano a Mano’s 58th school project dedicated earlier this month in Comun Pampa, Bolivia. Every project that Mano a Mano does, including this school in Comun Pampa, depends on many people working together. The Comun Pampa School project was a collaboration with:

  • the Alcaldia of Aiquile
  • funding from donors in the US
  • our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia
  • the communities of Comun Pampa

Thanks to everyone that was involved in improving access to education for the students and teachers in this community!

New school pictures in Comun Pampa, August 2016

New school pictures in Comun Pampa, August 2016

New school pictures in Comun Pampa, August 2016

New school pictures in Comun Pampa, August 2016

More Inauguration Pictures

There are more new school pictures from the inauguration HERE.

Learn More About the Comun Pampa School Project

CLICK HERE to learn more about Mano a Mano’s school project – why we built this project, why new schools are important in these communities, pictures from the construction process, and more.

Mano a Mano Fundraiser at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc. This Weekend

Mano a Mano Fundraiser at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc. This Weekend

This Saturday, August 27th, 2016 from 9a-4p, the Eyres are hosting a fundraising event for Mano a Mano and Heifer International at their nursery in Woodstock, Illinois. Below is an excerpt from their website about the event this weekend:

“Rich and Susan Eyre, along with Rich’s recently deceased mother Margaret Eyre, have been longtime supporters of Heifer International (HI). This is a non-profit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty and caring for the earth. HI provides livestock, trees, training and other resources to help struggling families build sustainable futures. Proceeds from the sale of hostas go directly to the charity. A wide selection of hostas will be available.

 

Several years ago the Eyres expanded their charitable efforts to include Mano a Mano International Partners, a small yet powerful organization working to improve lives in rural Bolivia. Their work focuses on building hospitals, schools, roads, and irrigation projects. Sales of colorful handicrafts made by Bolivians benefit the charity. Previous efforts raised enough funds to build and dedicate a school in Sora Sora in honor of Margaret Eyre.”

Thank You Richard and Susan!

Richard and Susan Eyre have been extremely dedicated supporters of Mano a Mano over the years; here is just a short list:

The Margaret Eyre School Project

The Margaret Eyre school project in Sora Sora was completed in June 2016. Sadly, Margaret Eyre passed away earlier this year, but we are happy that this project in her honor is complete and will provide access to education and a better environment for students and teachers in Sora Sora for a long time to come.

Sora Sora school

Sora Sora school in honor of Margaret Eyre – putting on the finishing touches in early June 2016

Sora Sora School

Sora Sora School

Margaret Eyre School – Repost from December 2015

Below is a repost from last December 2015 with more information about the Margaret Eyre school project in Bolivia with Mano a Mano:

About a year and a half ago, Mano a Mano friends Richard and Susan Eyre started working on raising funds to build a school in honor of Richard’s mother – Margaret Eyre. Richard and Susan have been amazing supporters of Mano a Mano and extremely active – appearing on radio shows, hosting craft sales, traveling to Bolivia, among many other things – and this effort was no different.

At the office, at least once a month we’ll open the mail to find a new stack of checks from the Eyres and their friends to go towards the school project.

We raised enough funding to select a community and get started on the project – a 4-classroom school project in Sora Sora, a small community of about 1,800 in the province of Chapare, municipality of Colomi, department of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

In Deember 2015, Mano a Mano’s co-founder Segundo Velasquez traveled to Chicago to present a plaque for the project to Margaret Eyre.

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Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez presenting a plaque to Margaret Eyre in Chicago, December 21st, 2015

Note from Segundo About the Visit

Margarita, friends, and family who contributed to the construction of this school project were touched with the gesture and the special trip made to Chicago. Margarita is 97.5 years old and she is still pretty sharp. Margarita supported her son, Richard Eyre when he was serving in Bolivia in the Peace Corps and has supported Mano a Mano in the recent past.

We wished her a Merry Christmas.  They asked me thank everyone at Mano a Mano for your work in Bolivia….

Margaret Eyre, Segundo Velasquez, Richard and Susan Eyre, and friends.

Margaret Eyre, Segundo Velasquez, Richard and Susan Eyre, and friends.

Pictures from Sora Sora, Bolivia

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Sora Sora, Bolivia

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Schoolkids in one of the old classrooms that this project will replace (there are 4 new classrooms that have been built in Sora Sora, but there are 3 classrooms that are more than 40 years old and in need of improvement).

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Exterior view of the old classrooms.

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Partnership Model

As with every Mano a Mano project, this school project is a partnership with many different people coming together. Donors in the US, Mano a Mano (in this case Mano a Mano International in the US and our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia), the municipal government, and the community all play integral roles in making this project happen.

You can learn about our partnership model here.

Letter From Margaret Eyre

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I am still at Valley Hi Nursing Home and I am doing well there at 96 years old. My only complaint is that every day is the same. The holidays are wonderful and so many people and groups come to entertain us.

The ‘Margaret Eyre School’

One great piece of news is that Mano a Mano International is going to name a school in Bolivia  in my honor. If anyone would like to donate money designated to the ‘Margaret Eyre School’, send it to:

  • Mano a Mano International
  • 925 Pierce Butler Rte
  • St Paul MN 55104

Thanks to everyone for all the love, letters, visits, and calls. It makes me happy!

Love,  Margaret

Making a Difference in Rural Bolivia

Nice Article on Star Tribune About St. Paul Nonprofit CTI

Nice Article on Star Tribune About St. Paul Nonprofit CTI

We were happy to see the recent article on the Star Tribune about the St. Paul-based nonprofit Compatible Technology International (CTI). You can read the article here.

CTI is right down the street from Mano a Mano, and we actually bought a few of the grinders ourselves a few years ago to test out at our Center for Ecological Agriculture.

Using CTI Grinders to Make Peanut Butter for Flood Relief in 2014

Below is a slightly modified post about the grinders we purchased from CTI (here is the original post from February 2014):

In late 2013, Twin Cities-area resident Darrold traveled to Bolivia with Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez. During his trip he showed Mano a Mano staffmembers Blanca and Camila  how to use the grinder that he took with him as a gift for the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA). Staff experimented with it. During one of the strategy meetings for our flood response, a physician who was hired by our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia to spend a month in Beni mentioned that peanut butter would be the perfect food item to send, but she and others dismissed the possibility because of the expense. Camila and Blanca looked at each other but didn’t say anything at that point.

Instead, they returned to the CEA and experimented with using the grinder to make peanut butter. They even figured out that by adding more peanuts near the end of the process, they could make chunky peanut butter. (Blanca is a big fan of chunky peanut butter which is simply not available in Bolivia; Mano a Mano travelers often hand-carry peanut butter and other hard-to-find foot items on trips to Bolivia for Mano a Mano staff.) She bought small tubs, made labels for “Mano a Mano Peanut Butter”, filled the containers and plans to fill as many as possible to take to Mano a Mano Aviation for the food packages.

Mano a Mano agronomist Camila with our first batch of peanut butter! Taken March 3rd, 2014.

Mano a Mano agronomist Camila with our first batch of peanut butter! Taken March 3rd, 2014.

Tony, one of the Mano a Mano Aviation pilots, purchased containers for his family and friends. Segundo ordered 50 pounds to give as gifts for his next trip to Bolivia (instead of buying in the US and carrying it all the way to Bolivia). And thus a new initiative, a small business is born. Blanca told us that grinding enough for only a few tubs took hours, so Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo personnel modified the grinder for connection to a small motor. Their plan was to make as many tubs of peanut butter as possible to send with the physicians that Mano a Mano Bolivia dispatched and with Mano a Mano Aviation as they transport food packages into the Beni. Mano a Mano is covering the costs they have incurred for the motor and the purchase of peanuts and other supplies from our flood recovery fund.