Mano a Mano 2016 in Pictures

Mano a Mano 2016 in Pictures

These are a few pictures from Mano a Mano’s recent projects and activities, mostly from May-November 2016.

Mano a Mano works to create partnerships with impoverished Bolivian communities to improve health and increase economic well-being. We accomplish this mission through a variety of projects, including the construction of clinics, schools, water reservoirs and wells, and greenhouses; the distribution of donated supplies; and the provision of training & education programs.

We shared these pictures as part of a presentation during our Open House at the Mano a Mano office in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 30, 2016.

Climate Change & Sustainable Agriculture Workshop for Bolivian Farmers

Climate Change & Sustainable Agriculture Workshop for Bolivian Farmers

21 farmers participated in a 2-day workshop a few days ago at Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) in Cochabamba, Bolivia to learn about topics related to climate change and sustainable agriculture. The purpose of the CEA is to provide low-cost, low-tech training & tools to rural Bolivian farmers to improve nutrition and well-being for their families; training workshops like these are one way we meet this goal.


With the current drought in Bolivia, projects related to climate change, agriculture, and water are becoming more and more important.


Center for Ecological Agriculture

Learn More About the Center for Ecological Agriculture

Mano a Mano's Center for Ecological Agriculture

Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture

Why Did We Build the CEA?

At its base, Mano a Mano is a community development organization:

  • We partner with Bolivian communities on projects that they identify, focusing on the most basic needs that are currently going unmet.
  • We bring many different people together to complete projects that none of us could do on our own.
  • We focus on projects that are sustainable – we maintain strong relationships with communities but we try to help people help themselves and have them take control and ownership of projects. Ongoing maintenance and administration are handled by the communities.
  • We want our projects to be integrated and serve as springboards for other projects – sometimes through more projects with Mano a Mano, and sometimes through the Bolivian government or other organizations who build upon the base provided through our first project. For example:
    • With Mano a Mano’s 37-mile El Palmar road project that was completed in late 2014, the Bolivian government is taking advantage of the improved transportation and is currently building 3 new bridges, a school, new housing, and installing electricity along the road.
    • Often, when Mano a Mano builds a clinic, it is the first project in the community, with the understanding that if the community and local government meet their obligations and do well Mano a Mano will continue working with the community on other projects like schools and community bathrooms.
    • The first implementation project with the CEA – building greenhouses in Jironkota – builds on the clinic that Mano a Mano completed there in 2013.
Mano a Mano's clinic in Jironkota.

Mano a Mano’s clinic in Jironkota.

The CEA was a natural addition and complements many of our existing initiatives, while filling a need that was not being met with our previous projects. To give just one example, the clinic we have in Jironkota provides healthcare access for the area, but does not address some of the basic issues that cause rural Bolivian farmers to get sick in the first place – primarily nutrition and food security.

Congratulations Sarah Lance – Opus Prize 2016 Winner!

Congratulations Sarah Lance – Opus Prize 2016 Winner!

Congratulations to Sarah Lance, who won the 2016 Opus Prize last night at the annual Opus Prize event, held this year at Creighton University! Sarah is the co-founder of Sari Bari, an organization based in Kolkata, India. Sari Bari provides dozens of women who had been ensnared in the sex trade with new jobs in design and sewing through which they gain income, health care and access to education. Read more about last night’s Opus Prize event, and the two runners-up, here.

Opus Prize

The Opus Prize recognizes unsung heroes who are conquering the world’s most persistent social problems.

From the Opus Prize website:

“The Opus Prize is an annual faith-based humanitarian award, recognizing leaders and organizations that develop creative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The Prize is awarded in partnership with Catholic universities, providing new opportunities to inspire the next generation of servant leaders. From improving education in Afghanistan to supporting the families of incarcerated women in New York City, Opus Prize laureates are motivated by remarkable faith to create new opportunities for transformation.

The Opus Prize is more than just an award. It’s a promise to inspire students poised to impact the future. It’s when faith takes root and innovation happens. It’s an opportunity to champion change and be changed.”

Mano a Mano Co-Founder was an Opus Prize Finalist in 2012

The Opus Prize is a special award for Mano a Mano, since our co-founder Segundo Velasquez was a finalist for the 2012 Opus Prize, which was held at St. Kate’s on November 8, 2012. The Finalist award included a $100,000 prize for Mano a Mano (the Star Tribune wrote an article about Mano a Mano and the award, as well as the Pioneer Press).

Segundo Velasquez in Bolivia as part of the Opus trip in 2012.

Segundo Velasquez in Bolivia as part of the Opus trip in 2012.

Segundo’s Acceptance Speech at the Opus Prize Ceremony at St. Kate’s

Mano a Mano’s Second Large-Scale Distribution Event in October: Ceremony and More Behind-the-Scenes

This is a guest post by Lindsay Emi. Lindsay is a writer and student from Los Angeles, California. She is eighteen years old and a volunteer from Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program in Bolivia. She will spend six months in Cochabamba volunteering with Mano a Mano, and then attend Princeton beginning in the fall of 2017, where she hopes to study English and creative writing.

Mano a Mano’s Second Large-Scale Distribution Event in October: Ceremony and More Behind-the-Scenes

In mid-October, early Thursday morning, four semi-trucks arrived at the gates of Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA). They unloaded four shipping containers of donated medical supplies adjacent to the platform in front of CEA’s warehouse. These containers have in total roughly 85,000 pounds of supplies and materials, all collected and originating from the US, ready to be sorted and distributed to public hospitals across Bolivia.

“This is such an exciting day for me,” said Ray, visiting volunteer manager of Mano a Mano’s Saint Paul-based warehouse. As a longtime volunteer for Mano a Mano, Ray oversees and coordinates all donated supplies and volunteers in the US. According to him, he’s handled every single item in CEA’s warehouse and in the latest shipping containers at least once at Mano a Mano’s Minnesota warehouse.

Mano a Mano volunteer Ray Wiedmeyer (left) and Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez watch the celebration of Mano a Mano's water reservoir in Wirkini, October 2016.

Mano a Mano volunteer Ray Wiedmeyer (left) and Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez watch the celebration of Mano a Mano’s water reservoir dedication in Wirkini, October 2016.

How exactly does a wheelchair or walker from Minnesota end up in a Bolivian hospital? The process of getting a shipment from the organization’s warehouse in Saint Paul to the CEA and eventually to hospitals and individuals is a long one, taking up to a year and relying heavily on the time and efforts of volunteers in both the US and Bolivia. (This most recent shipment, Ray explained, came “relatively fast,” arriving in Bolivia just five months after being shipped in June.) These 85,000 pounds of necessary supplies come from US hospitals, clinics, individuals, and organizations such as Goodwill. In Minnesota, supplies are picked up and delivered by volunteers to the warehouse in Saint Paul, where, with volunteer help, items are stored and sorted into twelve different categories, including orthopedics, wound care, vaccination items, and others. Once everything is organized, the sorted items are palletized into eight-foot cubes, wrapped in plastic, and loaded into shipping containers. Each container can hold eighteen pallets, with bulky extras like walkers loaded into any excess space, and weighs roughly 21,000 lbs apiece when at capacity.


From Minnesota, the shipping containers travel by boat through the Panama Canal, arriving in Chile. The containers must first go through Chilean customs before they continue on to La Paz, where they are then meticulously inspected by Bolivian customs. With the previous shipment, Bolivian customs officers opened every container and every box. They counted and documented every item sent, down to individual needles and pieces of gauze; according to Ray, the shipping containers sent by Mano a Mano were so efficiently packed, customs had to bring in another container to repack all the items after documentation was finished. At last, the shipping containers are transported to the CEA for another round of unloading, sorting, labeling, and finally distribution.

After the cost of the container, customs taxes, and other fees are accounted for, the cost of transporting a single container totals over $20,000 dollars by the time it reaches Bolivia. However, given that the cost of a single basic item like a walker might cost between $80 and $100, the worth of the contents of each shipment, with its thousands of items, might be as high as $1,000,000. Additionally, many of the supplies and implements themselves are not as accessible in Bolivia, further increasing their value. “I worked once with a nurse in Bolivia, Charo,” Ray told me, “and she’s been in situations where she had to use cardboard for a neck brace or a wrist brace. Being a nurse, she’s been in situations where she just didn’t have what they needed, and they make do with what they do have.”

On Saturday, October 22, the second large-scale donation and distribution event of the month took place from 9AM to 1PM, and can be viewed in full here. At this event, Mano a Mano volunteers distributed thousands of pounds of medical supplies, including crutches, walkers, braces and prosthetics, surgical tools, linens, and other medical implements. Recipients of these supplies included both individuals and dozens of staff members from public hospitals, many of whom expressed profound gratitude for the necessary donations that will undoubtedly improve the quality of care and life for, respectively, either themselves or their patients.

Distribution event at Mano a Mano warehouse, October 22, 2016.

Distribution event at Mano a Mano warehouse, October 22, 2016.

Mano a Mano president and co-founder Segundo Velasquez was present at this event. He offered words of gratitude for Mano a Mano volunteers in Bolivia and well-wishes for the recipients of the donations, and he also shared these words about the event: “The time and devotion taken by our Bolivian volunteers to receive, sort, and package the cargo for distribution in the part of all of you is admirable.

Ray and Segundo at the distribution event.

Ray and Segundo at the distribution event.

“I was impressed and in disbelief that so many organizations would drive so far to receive some of the donations—literally from the farthest points of Bolivia in the north and south. Even though people drove long distances, they indicated they were not expecting much. When many saw the amount of medical cargo prepared for them, they were shocked and excited to receive so much. Many groups drove the hospital ambulance to pick up the donation. Many had to make various trips and in some cases, like the people from Villazon, tied up all the equipment on top of the ambulance. They drove away with equipment towering over the ambulance.

“When many saw the amount of medical cargo prepared for them, they were shocked and excited to receive so much.” – Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez

Tying up supplies on the top of the ambulance.

Tying up supplies on the top of the ambulance.

“People were grateful for all the donations, and quite a few of the groups will present the donations in public to their people. I was informed that all donations were badly needed. I am amazed that the hundreds and hundreds of boxes and the equipment disappeared from the Mano a Mano facility in what seemed like minutes.”

Clearing out the warehouse on October 22.

Clearing out the warehouse on October 22.

After all the materials from the last shipment had been distributed and the warehouse had been almost fully cleared out on Saturday, all the Mano a Mano volunteers present gathered on the platform and unloaded the first few canes and walkers from Thursday’s shipment. As of this writing, two of the containers have been fully unpacked and the remainder of the supplies will be unpacked by volunteers and stored in the warehouse over the course of the next week. Small-scale donations of medical supplies, in particular equipment for orthopedics and physical therapy specifically, are set to take place in December. Another large-scale donation is tentatively planned for February. Meanwhile, roughly 4,100 miles away in Saint Paul, Minnesota, four more containers are ready and waiting to be shipped.

One of the many wheelchairs that were donated on October 22nd to people in need.

One of the many wheelchairs that were donated on October 22nd to people in need.

More Pictures from the October 22nd Distribution Event

More Information about Mano a Mano’s Surplus Program

Providing Instruments for Biopsies

Providing Instruments for Biopsies

Charo, a registered nurse with instrument specialization, provides post-natal care in one of Bolivia’s public hospitals. When her patients showed symptoms of cancer during a routine visit, Charo had to travel to a private hospital in another city, borrow the instruments, and return them after performing a biopsy.  Travel to a hospital is a hardship for these women; many could not wait the extra day or come back again and did not receive the needed care.

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.

Last year, Mano a Mano delivered all the required instrumentation to Charo’s hospital. Now Charo completes at least 50 biopsies weekly. Marisol, one of her patients, told us that it took her two days to get to the hospital. If she had not had her biopsy on the day of her exam, she would have had to wait at least two months before she could return. She is deeply grateful for her immediate care and the hoped-for negative biopsy result.

Mano a Mano’s Distribution Program

Mano a Mano collects donated supplies in Minnesota and ships them to Bolivia, where we know they can be put to good use by people like Charo. The vast majority of the supplies we send would be thrown away in the US; instead these supplies get a new life and can make a huge difference for thousands of people like Marisol.

Support Mano a Mano on Give to the Max Day and Help Ship Supplies to People in Need

Give to the Max Day – Minnesota’s day of giving – is coming up next Thursday, November 17th. 

The Scheduled Giving period for Give to the Max Day 2016 is underway! All gifts made using, now through November 16, will be scheduled to process on November 17, making those donations eligible for all Give to the Max Day prizes!

Our warehouse is full of supplies...Help us get these shipped and distributed to people in need!

Our warehouse is full of supplies…Help us get these shipped and distributed to people in need!

If you’d like to support Mano a Mano – and help us clear out our full warehouse in St. Paul, which is full of supplies ready to ship to Bolivia - click here to go to Mano a Mano’s GiveMN page.