Mano a Mano – 4 out of 4 Star Rating on Charity Navigator

Mano a Mano – 4 out of 4 Star Rating on Charity Navigator

We are happy to share that Mano a Mano International Partners has recently been given a 4 out of 4 Star Rating – the highest possible rating – and an overall rating of 96.05 out of 100 from Charity Navigator!

We are rated 4 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator. Here's the link.

We are rated 4 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator. Here’s the link.

Charity Navigator

From the Charity Navigator website: “Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator has become the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities. In our quest to help donors, our team of professional analysts has examined tens of thousands of non-profit financial documents. We’ve used this knowledge to develop an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 8,000 of America’s best-known and some lesser known, but worthy, charities.”

Only 20% of Charities Rated Receive 2 Consecutive 4-Star Ratings

In the letter from Charity Navigator to Mano a Mano sharing the 4-star rating, they wrote:

“We are proud to announce Mano a Mano International has earned our second consecutive 4-star rating. Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that your organization adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Only 20% of the charities we rate have received at least 2 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Mano a Mano International outperforms most other charities in America. This “exceptional” designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Mano a Mano International from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

Competence and Accountability

These are 2 words that have always been extremely important to Mano a Mano; they represent 2 of the 8 key concepts of our founding philosophy. (These concepts are gone into great detail in Mano a Mano’s book, which is available for purchase here.) These concepts are important whether we are talking about our finances and accounting for our US audits, or keeping communties informed and engaged while building projects in Bolivia.

We are proud to be recognized by Charity Navigator with this 4 star rating.

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Mano a Mano staff meeting with community residents to discuss the Wirkini Water Reservoir project currently being built. Community meetings are a regular part of our process before, during, and after building projects.

First Half of 2015 – 7 Things We’ve Done So Far

First Half of 2015 - 7 Things We’ve Done So Far

2015 is flying by! With half of the year gone, we wanted to share a few notes and updates of what we have been doing this year, thanks to you, our generous supporters. Here are 7 projects that we have done so far in 2015; click any of the headers for more information about each project:

1. Hosted 63+ Travelers from the US to Bolivia

So far this year we have had more than 63 travelers from the US travel to Bolivia. These travelers represent a number of different groups going for many different reasons:

  • volunteers from MELA hosting an Acute Care Conference and Advanced Trauma Workshop with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia
  • Minnesota teachers hosting education workshops with teachers with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional
  • Unity Church members visiting Mano a Mano projects
  • Teachers and students from the University of Minnesota visiting Mano a Mano projects to initiate research projects with us
  • Rotary Clubs visiting projects their clubs have helped to fund
Group of Mano a Mano travelers visiting the Wirkini Water Project currently under construction, March 2015.

Group of Mano a Mano travelers visiting the Wirkini Water Project currently under construction, March 2015.

2. Raised $43,000 for the CEA at our Festival Bolivia 2015 Event in May

3. Made Progress on Wirkini Water Reservoir

Wirkini water reservoir, June 2015.

Wirkini water reservoir, June 2015.

4. Built a New School in Challacota

The Challacota school is Mano a Mano's 53rd education project in Bolivia.

The Challacota school is Mano a Mano’s 53rd education project in Bolivia.

5. Built a New Clinic in Central Unificada 2 de Marzo

Inauguration brochure for Central Unificada dedication on March 21, 2015.

Inauguration brochure for Central Unificada dedication on March 21, 2015.

6. Gaining Ground Wins First Place at MIPA Book Awards (and E-Book Underway)

Joan and Segundo at the Midwest Book Awards in May.

Joan and Segundo at the Midwest Book Awards in May.

7. Provided Emergency Air Rescues and Weekend Health Clinics

Sonia, with her newborn son Josue, on the Mano a Mano plane heading home.

Sonia, with her newborn son Josue, on the Mano a Mano plane heading home. This was one of the first flights of 2015.

Looking Ahead to the Second Half of 2015…

This is just a sample of our projects underway this year; there are many other clinics and schools under construction or in the planning stages, trips planned, community agriculture projects at the CEA, workshops and training, large water and road infrastructure projects, and surplus supplies being distributed or shipped, among others.

Our impact is only limited by funding. If you would like to support Mano a Mano, you can make a donation here.

Visiting a Few Mano a Mano Projects

Visiting a Few Mano a Mano Projects

Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez is currently in Bolivia, where in a few days he will be joined by nine Minnesota teachers, who will be hosting a professional development workshop for rural teachers in Arani, Bolivia in collaboration with Mano a Mano. This is the third consecutive year we have done this workshop in Arani; here is some more info from the pilot workshop in 2013.

Some of the travelers leaving this weekend stopped by the Mano a Mano office on Monday to pack 'a few' extra supplies to take with them.

Some of the travelers leaving this weekend stopped by the Mano a Mano office on Monday to pack ‘a few’ extra supplies to take with them.

This week, a group of Rotary members from Minnesota and Canada are in Bolivia with Segundo to visit some of the Mano a Mano projects that they have supported.

Over the past few days Segundo has been visiting a few Mano a Mano projects; here’s a couple of photo updates from his site visits:

Wirkini Water Reservoir

Mano a Mano is currently building  a water reservoir project in Wirkini, Bolivia. Construction began in May 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2015. 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.

Segundo’s note: Working on the Wirkini water Reservoir on a cold, wet, windy and foggy day. A couple of days ago the weather was great. Today it was horrible. We really need a couple more dump trucks  to maximize our manpower.  Soon the mayor’s office will send two dump trucks to help. The project looks great.

Wirkini water reservoir.

Wirkini water reservoir.

Ucuchi Water Reservoir Filled with Water

This water reservoir in Ucuchi was the first reservoir we ever built in 2005; 3,600 people directly benefit from the project. In its first year after completion, 640 hectares of land were being irrigated, as opposed to 250 hectares previously, and personal incomes went from $150/year to $300/year. (We have also done improvement projects over the years, like improving the water collection channels in 2014.)

Segundo’s note: Ucuchi water reservoir. Full and beautiful.

Dr. Galen Stahle’s Anxiety Disorders Conference

Mano a Mano volunteer Dr. Galen Stahle provided a free conference on diagnosing and managing anxiety disorders yesterday at the Universidad Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Segundo’s note: Galen’s presentation. There were actually many people outside the room; unfortunately we ran out of space.

Full house for Galen's presentation yesterday at San Simon University.

Full house for Galen’s presentation yesterday at San Simon University.

Anxiety Disorders Conference Today at San Simon University

Anxiety Disorders Conference Today at San Simon University

Dr. Victor Hugo Ortuno, who visited Mano a Mano in Minnesota from Bolivia last month, made the contacts and arrangements for Dr. Galen Stahle to be a guest lecturer at the public university in Cochabamba.
Dr. Ortuno prepared this flyer for the conference, which is free of charge for attendees and is taking place this afternoon. The interest among faculty and students is exciting.
Conference - Diagnosing and Managing Anxiety Disorders

Conference – Diagnosing and Managing Anxiety Disorders

Thanks, Galen and Victor Hugo for making this conference happen!

Almost a Decade at Mano a Mano (and Why I’m Still Here)

Almost a Decade at Mano a Mano…

In just a few short months, I’ll be hitting my 10-year anniversary of working at Mano a Mano.

It has defintely felt like a long time since my initial job interview in November 2005, which was for a part-time, Administrative Assistant position, and was my first interview after graduating college. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I showed up at the Mano a Mano office/co-founders’ home (it took a few passes driving past the house multiple times looking for a ‘normal’ office, like most people did when going to our old location for the first time). At the time, I had never heard of Mano a Mano, and I didn’t really have a good idea of who they were or what they did.

Where we used to store donated supplies - in cofounders Joan and Segundo Velasquez' backyard. Their home was our headquarters for our first 18 years.

Mano a Mano co-founders Joan and Segundo Velaquez’ home –  our ‘office’ for the first 18 years.

The more I learned about it, the more impressed I was, and over the years Mano a Mano has continued to expand its impact.

When I started in 2005, Mano a Mano had been essentially focused on 2 projects – collecting donated supplies in Minnesota to ship to Bolivia, and building clinics and schools in rural Bolivia. Through the end of 2005, Mano a Mano had built a total of 59 clinics and 16 schools, and had shipped 1.6 million pounds of donated supplies. At the time, we had the US office – which was then named Mano a Mano Medical Resources – and one fully operational counterpart organization in Bolivia - Mano a Mano Bolivia (our third counterpart organization, Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo, was founded in 2005 but was just getting off the ground).

My first trip to Bolivia in 2006 (I'm the gringo on the far right).

My first trip to Bolivia in 2006 (I’m the gringo on the far right).

Ten years later, Mano a Mano’s scope has grown dramatically. We recently finished our 151st clinic and have built 53 schools. Our network of clinics has gone from a total of 237,986 patient visits in 2005 to around 1 million patient visits in 2014, and we continue to ship thousands of pounds of supplies from Minnesota (in 2014 we shipped the most pounds since 2007). We have expanded to building large-scale water reservoirs and road projects; providing emergency air rescues and weekend health clinics through our aviation program; and providing training and low-cost tools to improve agriculture, among other projects.

Mano a Mano now has 5 counterpart organizations (the US office, Mano a Mano Bolivia, Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo, Mano a Mano Apoyo Aereo, and Mano a Mano Internacional), and each organization has moved into a new facility in recent years or is in the process of doing so currently. Building capacity in-country is extremely important to us, and our 4 counterparts in Bolivia have Bolivian Boards and staff and are fully-formed nonprofits in Bolivia.

…And Why I’m Still Here (and Excited About the Future)

It’s been very rewarding to be a part of Mano a Mano over the past 9+ years and see the impact that we – working together with the many people that partner with us - have been able to make. There are a lot of things that make Mano a Mano stand out, and I wrote about a couple of those a few years ago: “5 Things that Make Me Most Proud About Working at Mano a Mano.” There’s more detail in that post (which you can read here), but the 5 things that I highlighted were:

  1. Accomplishing so much with so little.
  2. The dedication and ability of the Mano a Mano staff.
  3. The Mano a Mano partnership model.
  4. Our volunteers.
  5. Being able to make just about any project work.

What was true a few years ago is just as true now; I’m very proud of how far Mano a Mano can stretch our resources, the partnership-based model that we use for every project, and our extremely dedicated staff and volunteers in both the US & Bolivia.

Of course, there are plenty of challenges as well: fundraising (every small nonprofit’s #1 challenge), complying with the many government requirements for nonprofits in Bolivia and the US, making partnerships work amongst many different people on our many different projects on a daily basis, and trying to get all of this done as a very small staff can be overwhelming at times. We have dozens of active community requests for each of our projects in Bolivia, and currently just don’t have the capacity to meet everyone’s needs. In reality, nothing about what we do is easy or without complications, but Mano a Mano continues to push forward and get things done, no matter how challenging things can be.

One of our more challenging projects in recent years - a 37-mile road in El Palmar, Bolivia that was dedicated in October 2014.

One of our more challenging projects in recent years – a 37-mile road in El Palmar, Bolivia that was dedicated in October 2014.

As the organization’s scope has evolved over the years, so too has my role: starting out as a part-time then full-time Administrative Assistant, then Manager of Daily Operations, then Director of Communications & Research, and now being Associate Director (and currently the only full-time staff member in the US). Working at Mano a Mano has been a very interesting journey so far, and to me there are very few other organizations that can compare with the impact we make and how far we are able to make our limited resources go.

Thanks to everyone that has been involved in Mano a Mano in one way or another over the years, and I’m looking forward to what we can do together in the future!

Members of Duluth Rotary on a trip to Bolivia with me in 2011.

Members of Duluth Rotary on a trip to Bolivia with me in 2011.

Nate Knatterud-Hubinger, Associate Director