Reframing Community Development Workshop

Reframing Community Development Workshop

Yesterday, Mano a Mano hosted a workshop titled “Reframing Community Development: A Conversation among Faith Leaders in the Twin Cities.” The workshop was hosted by Mano a Mano co-founder Joan Velasquez, Ph.D., and Janel Kragt Bakker, Associate Director of Collegeville Institute; and used Mano a Mano and sister church relationships as case studies to discuss international community development.

Workshop Presentation

This presentation below was the basic framework for the event on May 20th at the Mano a Mano office in St. Paul.

Gaining Ground Book for More Information

Thanks to those that attended! If anyone is interested in doing similar events with Mano a Mano, we would be happy to discuss. Mano a Mano’s book, Gaining Ground: A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development, gives a more detailed look into our community-based development approach (the book is available here) that was covered briefly in the workshop and presentation yesterday.

Gaining Ground recently won first place in the Inspirational Book category at the Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) Midwest Book Awards last week. Our co-founders Joan and Segundo Velasquez, and our Bolivian visitors who were in town, attended the awards ceremony, and we are thrilled for Gaining Ground to be recognized!

Joan and Segundo at the Midwest Book Awards last week.

Joan and Segundo at the Midwest Book Awards last week. Photo credit: MIPA Facebook page


Center for Ecological Agriculture Video

On Saturday night, Mano a Mano celebrated 21 years in operation and gathered with Mano a Mano friends at the Earle Brown Heritage Center for Festival Bolivia 2015. The event went very well, and thank you to everyone that helped support the event!

The focus of the evening was highlighting our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA), which provides low-tech, low-cost tools and training that improve food security and nutrition for rural Bolivian farmers, using an ecologically sound approach. On Saturday night, we premiered this video which gives a great firsthand glimpse into what the CEA does.

Center for Ecological Agriculture Video

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.

What Does the CEA Do?

Some of the tools available through the CEA.

Some of the tools available through the CEA.

The CEA achieves 4 distinct goals for Mano a Mano:

  • implements low-cost, low-tech tools for Bolivian communities
  • provides training and demonstration of sustainable farming techniques at the center (the ‘open book’ to show farmers what is possible)
  • provides a place for Mano a Mano to test and pilot different projects before implementing in the field (the ‘Mano a Mano lab’)
  • integrates Mano a Mano as an organization (3 out of our 4 counterpart organizations are building their offices or warehouses on the same land) – it serves as the ‘Mano a Mano hub’ in Cochabamba

CEA Pictures for Festival 2015

We are very excited for the possibilities at the CEA. We will be sharing more details about the results from our event on Saturday, with proceeds going to support the CEA’s projects.

Wirkini Water Project Update – May 2015

Wirkini Water Project Update – May 2015

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

Wirkini water reservoir.

Wirkini water reservoir.

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.

Community volunteers helping out alongside Mano a Mano staff and heavy equipment.

Community volunteers helping out alongside Mano a Mano staff and heavy equipment.

More Pictures on Facebook

More pictures from the Wirkini water reservoir contruction are on our Facebook page HERE.

Wirkini water reservoir under construction.

Wirkini water reservoir under construction.

More Information on Wirkini Reservoir

Wirkini, Bolivia

Wirkini, Bolivia

El Palmar Road Project Update

El Palmar Road Completed by Mano a Mano in October 2014

El Palmar road.

El Palmar road.

In late October 2014, Mano a Mano dedicated one of our most challenging projects to date – a 37+ mile road project in El Palmar, Bolivia, a small community in the department of Chuquisaca, province of Sud Cinti, municipality of Culpina (there were 7 dedication celebrations, in 7 communities along the new road!). As with all Mano a Mano projects, this road was a huge collaborative effort, with financial support from:

  • Mano a Mano International Partners
  • our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo
  • the Gobierno Autonomo Municipal de Culpina
  • the communities themselves
  • Caterpillar Foundation
  • Lored Foundation
  • Open Road Alliance

El Palmar Road Project Update – New Schools, Bridges, Housing, Electricity

Mano a Mano staff were recently back in the El Palmar area in April 2015, and there is a lot of activity going on, in large part thanks to the road. (Even before the road was finished, there were many events going on that were only possible because of the improved transportation.) Now that buses and trucks can travel to these communities on a daily basis and connect with larger markets (mostly in Tarija), there are a number of large projects underway:
  • new school and teacher housing project in El Palmar
  • 3 new bridges
  • electricity installation project
  • new housing for families along the road
Traveling on the new road in El Palmar.

Traveling on the new road in El Palmar.

Building a Road Has a Huge Impact

The core goals of building this road, for Mano a Mano, were to improve access for residents to larger markets and improve families’ incomes, while also drastically reducing travel times (before the direct route the new road provides, travelers would have to drive hundreds of kilometers out of their way to travel around this impassable region; driving from St. Paul, MN to Omaha, NE to reach Fargo, ND would be an approximate U.S. equivalent). But we are very impressed by the many other projects underway that the road made possible.

Aerial view of a section of the El Palmar road.

All of these new projects – the schools, bridges, housing, and electricity – are showing the wide-reaching impact that a road can have. The new projects are being funded and built by the Bolivian government, municipal governments, and others; Mano a Mano has no direct involvement. Once the basic infrastucture of a road was put in place, it can open up many new possibilities.

Here is a quick look at the new projects taking place in El Palmar:

El Palmar School

The new school will provide access to education for 500 students in the El Palmar area and surrounding communities. It is funded and being built by the National and Municipal governments.

New El Palmar school currently under construction by the Municipal and National government. All materials were transported on the new Mano a Mano road.

New El Palmar school currently under construction by the Municipal and National government. All materials were transported on the new Mano a Mano road.

3 New Bridges

3 new bridges are being built in the area, which are especially needed during the rainy season when the rivers dangerously overflow and sometimes flood. The new bridges will provide a much more consistent and safe means of transportation. The bridges will cross the Pilaya (near Canon Verde), Ipirenda, and Pilcomayo rivers.

The Pilaya river, and location where one of the bridges is being built. Driving through the river is the only way currently to cross.

The Pilaya river, and location where one of the bridges is being built. Driving through the river is the only way currently to cross.

Location of the 3 bridge projects.

Location of the 3 bridge projects in the El Palmar area.

New Housing

With the ability to transport materials, the government is building new housing for some area residents.

One of the new houses built.

One of the new houses built.

Focusing on Basic Needs to Improve Rural Bolivian Communities

At its core, Mano a Mano is a community development organization; we partner with Bolivian communities and work with them to build projects that they request  - whether it is a road, water project, school, clinic, community bathrooms, or small-scale agricultural project – to improve their quality of life. But once the project is completed, it becomes their project. The community is in charge of maintaining and administering the project. While we definitely stay involved, it is up to the community and their municipal governments to take advantage of the projects – we are focused on helping them to help themselves.

Dedication ceremony for the El Palmar road project, November 2014.

Dedication ceremony for the El Palmar road project, November 2014. More pictures from the dedication are available HERE

This road was by far one of the largest and most challenging projects we have ever done. While we typically do not do projects of this scale, as they can really stretch our capacity as an organization, it is extremely gratifying to see the positive impact that this project is having for the roughly 18,000 residents in the area, and to see the response from the communities and local & national governments as they take advantage of opportunities that the road provides. This is really what we hope for with our projects – to build a base that can be built upon by the communities themselves.

Thanks to everyone that worked to make this road possible!

Why You Should Attend Festival Bolivia 2015 Next Saturday

Why You Should Attend Festival Bolivia 2015 Next Saturday

April 29th is the deadline to RSVP;  if you plan on attending please respond ASAP! (We will accept RSVPs later than that if needed, but the sooner you can respond the better.)


Join us for Mano a Mano’s 6th annual event on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota! This year’s event will be highlighting our new Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA), a project that supports rural Bolivian farmers with training and low-cost tools to improve food security & nutrition in their communities using an ecologically sound approach. The event will include a cocktail reception, wine pull, silent auction (with some great items!), Mano a Mano staff from Bolivia traveling to Minnesota to attend, interactive displays featuring Mano a Mano’s projects, a 3-course meal, and a program showcasing the impact the CEA is having in rural Bolivia.

Silent Auction Items

There are some great items available this year! Here’s what is up for auction on Saturday, May 9th:

Handmade Kayak

At 17 feet long and 20 inches wide, this beautifully crafted kayak is a replica of a boat collected in 1834 at Avagait, Greenland, now residing in the Danish National Museum.

The kayak can be custom fitted to match the winning bidder’s leg length and knee height. The kayak will weigh just under 35 pounds, making it a sensible choice for wanting to easily transport it to the water’s edge. Images can be found here.

Bolivian Dinner with Mano a Mano Co-Founders Joan and Segundo Velasquez

Joan and Segundo Velasquez are an integral part of Mano a Mano. They shaped Mano a Mano’s past and continue to work toward Mano a Mano’s future in the most inspiring ways.  Enjoy a Bolivian dinner for four guests with Joan and Segundo.  Hear their stories first hand and get to know our two newest board members Anneli Borst and Dennis Anderson.

To honor Joan and Segundo’s hard work, Anneli and Dennis will be hosting the meal at Anneli’s Minnetonka home.  The menu will include Aji de Pollo with rice. Dates are flexible.

Classical Piano Performance by Joseph Caswell

Joseph Caswell, age 11, will appear at your private party, corporate event, or fundraiser and play a 30-minute program of classical piano masterworks by some of the greatest composers of all time, such as Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, and Liszt. (Joseph will also be performing at the event on Saturday, May 9th.)

Joseph Caswell

Joseph Caswell

The program can be slightly longer or shorter to meet your needs. A grand piano is preferred, but not required, for ideal sound. Please book at least sixty days in advance.  Must be used within one year.

Joseph’s Bio:

At the young age of 11, Joseph Caswell has already been a featured performer at corporate and fund-raising events, including: Park Dental, JDRF, U of MN Diabetes Research, Minnesota Music Teacher’s Forum, and the Minnesota Boychoir.  Joseph has performed in the Young Artist World Piano Festival (YAWPF) Junior Honors Recitals and St Cloud State University Convocations starting at the age of 6.  Joseph has appeared in demonstration lectures with Dr. Paul Wirth and Tom Rosenberg, and played with multiple chamber groups in the Salon se Leve concert series.  He was awarded 2nd place and Honorable Mention in recent years in the Mozart Concerto Competition sponsored by the Minneapolis Music Teachers Forum, competing with students up to 18 years old.  This past summer, he won the YAWPF 12-and-under concerto competition and played a Mozart Concerto with the YAWPF Festival Orchestra, conducted by Marlene Pauley (conductor of the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra).  In the fall, he was awarded Honorable Mention in the MTNA Junior Piano Performance Competition for the state of Minnesota.  Joseph is in 5th grade at The Lighthouse School in Spring Lake Park.  In addition to piano he enjoys algebra, reading, attending theater productions, and singing in the Minnesota Boychoir with his 3 older brothers.  He is a chamber music student of Tom Rosenberg, a composition student of Sarah Miller, and a piano student of Dr. Paul Wirth.

Flight in a Cessna 185

Take a step up from everyday life and view your world from a new perspective, the air!   The Minneapolis and St. Paul skylines from the ground are nice, but seeing them from the air is breathtaking!    Enjoy a one-hour flight for three passengers around the Twin Cities in a Cessna 185.  Don’t forget to look for your home from the air!

The flight will depart from Flemming Field, 1725 Henry Ave, South St Paul, MN 55075.

Dinner & Wine Package

Wine and dine with this fabulous combination of delicious cuisine and libations. Indulge at two of Minneapolis’ iconic restaurants: Barbette and Red Stag Supper Club, with a $40 gift card for each venue, and enjoy two bottles of wine from Surdyks Wine and Cheese Shop to top off the experience.

Assortment of Hair Product and Fashion Tote

Enjoy an assortment of hair and beauty products from top brands, including RedKen, Matrix and Kenra. Give your hair a special treat with this superb collection, and travel in style with this silky fashion tote.

“City Lights” Painting

Admire the beauty that Minneapolis has to offer with this limited edition preproduction of the Lou Roman watercolor. The painting comes with the frame and a certificate of authenticity, and measures 28” x 38.” Offset lithograph, number 461 of 908. Image can be found here.

6 Gallon Portable Air Compressor

This air compressor is a perfect addition to any tool arsenal. Its six gallon tank and 150 psi output makes it ideal for projects around the home or on the job site.

Wine Pull and Gaining Ground For Sale

Wine Pull

Purchase a cork for $20, and take home a mystery bottle of wine! Everyone Wins!

Donors: Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop and Team Liquor, Wine & Spirits

Gaining Ground Book Signing

Gaining Ground: A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development

Authored by our very own Joan Velásquez, Gaining Ground is the inspiring case study of how this volunteer-based, grassroots organization is making history in Bolivia. It also offers an autobiographical look at the “how to” and “lessons learned” of our international development work. The book, published in 2014, is currently a finalist for the Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) 25th Annual Midwest Book Awards (in the “Inspiration/Gift Books” category)! Joan will be available to sign your book as well.

Staff from Bolivia Traveling to Minnesota to Attend Festival Bolivia 2015

We will have 3 of our staff from Bolivia in Minnesota to attend Festival Bolivia 2015:

  • Ben Martinez, staff member of Mano a Mano Internacional and heavily involved in daily operations at the Center for Ecological Agriculture – the featured project for Festival Bolivia 2015
  • Dr. Victor Hugo Ortuno, MD, Board Member of Mano a Mano Aviation
  • Ivo Velasquez, Project Director of Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo
Victor Hugo (with the mic) at a distribution ceremony at the Mano a Mano hangar to distribute donated supplies in 2013.

Victor Hugo (with the mic) at a distribution ceremony at the Mano a Mano hangar to distribute donated supplies in 2013.

Photo Booth, Mother’s Day Cards Available

We will also have a photo booth at the event, and you can purchase Mother’s Day cards with beautiful Bolivian photos for the next day.

Enjoy a Fun Night and Make a Difference in Bolivia

This is Mano a Mano’s 6th annual event.  By attending these events, through the first 5 years together we have been able to support the following projects:

By attending our event on May 9th, you can help make a difference for more people in Bolivia, and have a good time in the process!

One of the greenhouses (yellow-topped building) built through the CEA program.

One of the greenhouses (yellow-topped building) built through the CEA program in Jironkota, Bolivia.



If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation, you can DONATE HERE.