Building Wells in Omereque, Bolivia

Building Wells in Omereque, Bolivia

In small, isolated rural Bolivian communities, water is a challenge even in the best of times; the rainy season lasts 2-3 months, and the rest of the year is very dry. The past 2 years have seen severe droughts throughout the country (last year a state of emergency was declared at about this time for the worst drought in 25 years, with more than half of the 339 municipalities declaring a state of emergency; this year is not much better), making water projects a priority.

For more than a decade Mano a Mano has built large-scale reservoirs to help farmers retain water year-round. In recent years we have also been building wells to better meet the immediate needs of communities. We have heard that these wells that we have built in the Omereque area – more than 45 so far, with more to go – have helped farmers save their crops this year.
The surface wells consist of digging a well near a river basin.

The surface wells consist of digging a well near a river basin.

Wells are lined with cement rings and covered with a solid lid. Pumps are used to extract water to irrigate fields.

Wells are lined with cement rings and covered with a solid lid. Pumps are used to extract water to irrigate fields.

Wells in Omereques – Pictures

Congratulations Sister Marilyn Lacey – Opus Prize 2017 Winner!

Congratulations Sister Marilyn Lacey – Opus Prize 2017 Winner!

Congratulations to Sister Marilyn Lacey, who won the 2017 Opus Prize last week at the annual Opus Prize event, held this year at Regis University!

From the Regis University website: “Lacey founded Mercy Beyond Borders in 2008 to bring dignity to women and girls in South Sudan and Haiti through education and job training. To date, Mercy Beyond Borders has helped more than 1,400 women and girls recognize their inherent worth and unique talents.”

Read more about last weeks’s Opus Prize event 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

Thanks Bridge View School for the Wheelchairs

Thanks Bridge View School for the Wheelchairs

Mano a Mano picking up wheelchairs at Bridge View School, October 12, 2017.

Mano a Mano picking up wheelchairs at Bridge View School, October 12, 2017.

Thanks Bridge View School for the donation of child’s wheelchairs today! These wheelchairs will be included in our next shipment of supplies from St. Paul to Bolivia; once they arrive in Bolivia they are distributed to people in need throughout the country.

Distributing Wheelchairs in Bolivia

Here’s a specialty wheelchair that was donated to a child a few years ago, during a distribution event at Mano a Mano’s hangar in Cochabamba, Bolivia:

From Minnesota to Bolivia: Distributing Donated Medical Supplies

Mano a Mano collects donated supplies in Minnesota and ships them to Bolivia, where they are distributed to people and organizations in need throughout the country.

Check out footage and interviews from our most recent large-scale distribution of supplies in October 2016 at the Mano a Mano warehouse in Cochabamba, Bolivia, when more than 90,000 pounds of supplies were given away:

Video Credit: William Wroblewski

The Program that Started Mano a Mano

The surplus program is the program that started Mano a Mano more than 22 years ago; with the dedicated support of hundreds of volunteers in both the US & Bolivia, we have collected and shipped millions of pounds of supplies since 1994.

Our most recent shipment was in August 2017; check out pictures and learn more about that shipment here.

70 Students from Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture

70 Students from Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture

Yesterday, 70 Students from the Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac visited Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture.

The Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) provides low-cost, low-tech training for rural Bolivian farmers; as part of its training it also hosts kids from the city and surrounding urban and peri-urban areas to learn more what life is like in rural areas, and about topics like the environment and climate change. Over the past month, Mano a Mano has hosted hundreds of students to tour the CEA.

For many of these kids, this is their first time seeing a farm, and simple things like learning where milk comes from can be an eye-opening experience.

The animals at the CEA are always the favorite part of the tour.

The animals at the CEA are always the favorite part of the tour.

Pictures from Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac Visit

70 Students from Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture, October 10, 2017.

70 Students from Unidad Educativa Santa Luisa de Marillac Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture, October 10, 2017.

Mano a Mano Agronomist Victor showing students the difference between apples and peaches in the fruit orchard at the CEA.

Mano a Mano Agronomist Victor showing students the difference between apples and peaches in the fruit orchard at the CEA.

Mano a Mano Agronomist Camila teaching kids about crop rotation.

Mano a Mano Agronomist Camila teaching kids about crop rotation.

1,485 Kids Have Visited the CEA in 2017

So far this year, more than 1,485 kids have visiting the CEA, which is a 43% increase from the number of kids that visited for all of 2016:

  • 2017 – 1,485 students have visited the CEA (through mid-October)
  • 2016 – 1,040 students visited the CEA
Students visiting the CEA, August 2017.

Students visiting the CEA, August 2017.

Training, Tools, and Tours for More than 4,000 People Through the Center for Ecological Agriculture in 2016 (from 2016 Annual Report)

Bolivian farmers touring Mano a Mano's Center for Ecological Agriculture on the outskirts of Cochabamba with Mano a Mano agronomist Camila Yavira Garcia.

Bolivian farmers touring Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture on the outskirts of Cochabamba with Mano a Mano agronomist Camila Yavira Garcia.

Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) provides training and tools to improve food security & nutrition for Bolivian farm families. The tools available include cisterns and other small water projects, greenhouses, livestock pens, and biodigesters. The training includes on-site workshops at the CEA, as well as training provided directly in communities. The CEA has continued to grow and become more and more of an integral Mano a Mano program. In 2016, below is a rundown of the activities at the CEA:

Watch a Video Tour of the Center for Ecological Agriculture:

Princeton University Bridge Year Students Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture

Princeton University Bridge Year Students Visit the Center for Ecological Agriculture

We were happy to have students from this year’s Princeton University Bridge Year Bolivia program stop by Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) on Friday!

Students from Princeton's Bridge Year Program stop by the CEA on October 6, 2017.

Students from Princeton’s Bridge Year Program stop by the CEA on October 6, 2017.

Working with Lindsay from Princeton’s 2016-2017 Program

Mano a Mano had the good fortune to have Lindsay Emi from last year’s Bridge Year Program volunteer with us. During her time she wrote many blogposts for our website; you can read them all here.

Here is a section of Lindsay’s last post written in Late April 2017:

“But what was truly especially rewarding were those moments of speaking with Mano a Mano’s beneficiaries, and really struggling and learning and pushing myself to understand and communicate small parts of their stories and lives through my writing, through these articles. I loved seeing people come through the CEA, a space I am so proud of and honored to have helped maintain. The workshops and tours really impressed and inspired all the visitors I met; farmers talked enthusiastically about the most useful things they learned, whether it was composting or interplanting, or marveled at how productive and healthy our crops were. The children told me about how they wanted to start gardens at their houses. As the months went on, I began to understand more, literally but also culturally, I became more knowledgeable about the CEA and our work and the vocabulary I could use to describe it, and I grew as a volunteer, as a student of complex, difficult issues like development and sustainable aid, and as a writer, story-teller, and communicator.

There were a lot of reasons I came to Bolivia, but of all of them, maybe the biggest was that I was interested in learning narratives of culture and people. I hoped to find and maybe better understand cross-sections of stories, culture, art, and lived experiences. And I wanted to learn more about story-telling—how I could use my knowledge and my privilege to serve others. Mano a Mano gave me that opportunity to see communities first-hand, meet their residents, hear their stories, and share my experiences in these communities and with these people. This was my first time writing this particular kind of piece, and there were so many challenges and lessons in my own little project. I know that I, an eighteen year-old American, see the life of Bolivian very differently than how he understands his own life, and every story I relay is through my own perspective.”

Lindsay with the mayor of Omereque, Hector Arce, receiving an acknowledgement letter from the community during a trip in March 2017.

Lindsay with the mayor of Omereque, Hector Arce, receiving an acknowledgement letter from the community during a trip in March 2017.

About Princeton’s Bridge Year Program

From the Princeton website:

“Princeton’s Bridge Year Program is a nine-month, tuition-free program that allows newly admitted undergraduates the opportunity to defer their enrollment for a year to engage in community service work in another country. While abroad, Bridge Year participants study the local language, live with carefully selected families, volunteer in organizations serving the needs of local communities, and engage in a variety of cultural enrichment activities.

Bridge Year offers a truly innovative approach to learning, one that is more experiential and more profoundly transformational than anything most students entering college will have encountered during high school. The knowledge, understanding, and skills gained through the Bridge Year serve not only to enhance a student’s undergraduate experience at Princeton, but also contribute to the overall strength of the University’s educational community.”

About the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA)

The CEA was started in 2012 with the goal of demonstrating good agricultural practices in action for rural Bolivian communities, and the site has been growing over the past 4-5 years to include many more tools & techniques. Also, 3 out of 4 Mano a Mano’s counterpart organizations are now on the same site as the CEA, which helps with integrating some of our projects, such as the sorting and distribution of donated supplies shipped from Minnesota.

Video Tour of the CEA

Take a tour of our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia with Mano a Mano agronomists Camila and Victor:

Video Credit: William Wroblewski