A Look Back At What We Did in 2016 – Mano a Mano 2016 Annual Report

A Look Back At What We Did in 2016 – Mano a Mano 2016 Annual Report

Mano a Mano’s biggest strength is our community-based partnership model – bringing many people together to accomplish things that none of us could do on our own. Every activity, every project new or old, every event, depends on the dedication & effort many people. Before we look back at what we were able to do in 2016, we want to thank you:

  • the communities & municipal governments in Bolivia;
  • the people, schools, churches, community organizations, and foundations in the US;
  • the people from many other countries that support Mano a Mano;
  • and, of course, the core Mano a Mano staff & volunteers at all 5 of our counterpart organizations in Bolivia and the US.

Without your support – every person coming together and doing their part – none of this would be possible. Thank you!

Annual Reports from Previous Years: 2013-2015

Check out our previous Annual Reports from the past 3 years (all financial statements, 990s, and previous year’s annual reports are available HERE):

2016 Annual Report

2016 in Pictures

Shipped 85,579 Pounds of Medical Supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia

We started in 1994 with the goal of saving surplus medical supplies from the landfill in Minnesota and shipping them to Bolivia, where we knew these supplies were desperately needed and could be used immediately. Collecting & shipping supplies continues to be an extremely important part of Mano a Mano’s programs.

In June 2016, Mano a Mano volunteers loaded 4 40-foot containers with 85,579 pounds of medical supplies. These supplies arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia in October 2016. Once supplies arrive in Bolivia, Mano a Mano staff & volunteers organize them for distribution to Mano a Mano’s network of clinics, other hospitals and organizations, and individual Bolivians in need. A few times a year, we host large-scale distribution events to distribute tens of thousands of pounds of supplies on a single day, like this one in October 2016:

Published Our Second Book: ‘La Familia: An International Love Story’

Mano a Mano’s book La Familia: An International Love Story by Dr. Mary Martin was published in April 2016. The book is based on her three years of interviewing and weaving Mano a Mano’s stories into a lovely, inspiring tapestry. La Familia provides a moving account of childhood challenges, intercultural pitfalls, and the ultimate creation of grassroots international partnership at its best. You can buy the book here.

La Familia: An International Love Story

La Familia: An International Love Story

La Familia joins Mano a Mano’s other book Gaining Ground: A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development, published in 2014 (you can purchase Gaining Ground in hard copy or digital form here). The 2 books complement each other well: La Familia details the Velasquez family and their story, and Gaining Ground is more of a ‘how-to’ relating to Mano a Mano’s partnership-based approach to development. Both books tell the story of Mano a Mano.

Completed a Large Water Reservoir in Wirkini, Bolivia

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. This water project took years to complete, but was finished and dedicated in October 2016.

Local women celebrate during the dedication of the Wirkini reservoir in October 2016.

Local women celebrate during the dedication of the Wirkini reservoir in October 2016.

The reservoir provides irrigation water to at least 341 Bolivian farm families in the area and irrigates 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.

More information about the Wirkini Water Reservoir:

Wells and Water Ponds – Responding to the Severe Drought

Water is a tremendous issue in Bolivia; in November 2016 the Bolivian government declared a national state of emergency due to the “worst drought in 25 years.”  At least 172 of the country’s 339 municipalities (equivalent of U.S. counties) and more than 125,000 farming households have been affected, with damage to nearly 290,000 hectares of crops and loss of 360,000 cattle.

Dedication brochure for the completion of 80 water ponds in December 2016.

Dedication brochure for the completion of 80 water ponds in December 2016.

Because of the need, water projects are a high priority for Mano a Mano and the communities that we partner with. In addition to building large-scale water reservoirs, we also build surface wells and small water ponds in communities where the smaller projects are a better fit. Through eight major water projects and 275 water ponds, more than 50,000 people have consistent, reliable access to water.

Training, Tools, and Tours for More than 4,000 People Through the Center for Ecological Agriculture

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:

Constructed New Health Clinics in 4 Communities

Through our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia, Mano a Mano builds clinics in order to provide isolated rural communities with access to health care. Mano a Mano constructs and co-administers our network of rural community-based clinics, whose services include vaccination campaigns, pre and post natal care and delivery, acute care for illnesses and accidents, identification and case management of diseases such as tuberculosis and chagas, and extensive health education.

With 4 new health clinics constructed in 2016, Mano a Mano’s network of clinics numbered 158 fully-functioning clinics throughout Bolivia at the end of 2016 – making health care available to well over 800,000 rural Bolivians. (Click here to see a project map.)

These are the 4 new projects completed in 2016:

  • Omereque (improvement of an existing clinic project)
  • Bombeo
  • Rodeo Bajo
  • Copacabana
Dedicating Mano a Mano's new clinic in Bombeo on June 16, 2016. Thanks to the Japanese Embassy for supporting this project.

Dedicating Mano a Mano’s new clinic in Bombeo on June 16, 2016. Thanks to the Japanese Embassy for supporting this project.

Completed 5 New Schools

Access to education in rural Bolivia is a huge challenge; Bolivian adults (25-65) in urban areas have on average 9.98 years of schooling, whereas Bolivian adults in rural areas have on average 4.85 years of schooling, one of the biggest gaps in Latin America. Education can have a big impact; each additional year of schooling can increase income by up to 10%, and a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age 5.

The first step in improving education for kids in rural areas is to decrease the distance to get to a school, improve school infrastructure & the learning environment, and have motivated teachers that are consistently available. This is why we build schools in collaboration with communities.

These are the new schools that were completed in 2016:

A few of the new schools and clinics completed in 2016.

Just a few of the new schools and clinics completed in 2016.

Provided Emergency Flights for 307 People & 49 Weekend Health Clinics

Last year, Mano a Mano’s aviation program provided emergency flights to 307 people, in addition to flying volunteer medical professionals for 49 weekend health clinics.

Since the program began, 3,224 ill or injured people have been airlifted from a remote area to an urban hospital; 311 weekend clinics have been supported with air transport.

Below is the story of one of these flights from 2016:

Fernando experienced a back injury and was taken to the hospital in Trinidad. Tragically, the hardware (bolts, screws, etc.) that was available to and used by the surgeon was faulty and began to fail shortly after Fernando went back home following the operation. Soon he was in excruciating pain. Bolts had loosened and could be seen right under his skin, pushing against the tissue in several places. When a local rancher saw him, Fernando had crawled into a fetal position, his only words, “Please save me.”

The rancher contacted a group of Norwegians who were working in the area and together they were able to order and purchase the appropriate hardware. Our aviation program flew to La Paz to get the hardware and then transported Fernando to a hospital where the surgery could be re-done. Physicians there said that Fernando would have died soon of infection. After successful surgery, Fernando returned to his family. Mano a Mano gave him a walker and wheelchair. Following his recovery, Fernando learned to hand-tool leather and is able to support his wife and four children.

When Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez was in the Beni in June, Fernando found someone to drive him to the town where Segundo was meeting and, using his walker, was able to walk into the building to greet him and thank Mano a Mano for saving his life.

Hosted 100+ Travelers

Mano a Mano’s counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional hosted more than 100 travelers in 2016. Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia also hosted many travelers, including health education conferences in collaboration with Medical Educators for Latin America and a number of volunteers from abroad. For us, it is important – and eye-opening – for our supporters to have the chance to travel to Bolivia and experience Mano a Mano projects and the communities that we work with first-hand.

These trips can range from a few days for a site visit to multiple months as a long-term volunteer. (Two volunteers that took part in longer visits in 2016 wrote regularly for our blog; you can check out Sam Klein’s posts here, and Lindsay Emi’s posts here.)

Volunteers in the US & Bolivia Contributed Tens of Thousands of Hours

Mano a Mano is a small organization. We only have 2 full-time staff in the US and a few dozen core staff in Bolivia. Without the commitment of our volunteers we would not be able to do a fraction of what we do.

This report provides a snapshot of what we did in 2016, but it does not show the commitment of Mano a Mano staff, who often work in very difficult conditions and always work with limited resources.

Mano a Mano Engineer Boris Roriguez working on the Maldonado water reservoir. As with many of our projects, the working conditions are difficult: it is about 14,000 feet above sea level, and it is cold, wet, and windy.

Mano a Mano Engineer Boris Roriguez working on the Maldonado water reservoir. As with many of our projects, the working conditions are difficult: it is about 14,000 feet above sea level, and it is cold, wet, and windy.

It does now showcase the communities, who put in thousands of hours of volunteer work on every Mano a Mano project, and are the drivers for making these projects happen (every Mano a Mano project always begins with a request from the community, and a requirement that they be actively involved throughout).

A local woman works on the Wirkini reservoir in 2016. The community is always actively involved in every Mano a Mano project.

A local resident works on the Wirkini reservoir in 2016. The community is always actively involved in every Mano a Mano project.

It does not highlight our volunteers, who support Mano a Mano in many different ways every day (check out our ‘Volunteer Spotlights’ features highlighting a few of our amazing volunteers).

From left to right: Ray, Mark, and Bob, 3 of Mano a Mano's most dedicated volunteers, with our co-founder Segundo Velasquez, at the Mano a Mano warehouse over the weekend, working on loading 4 containers with more than 85,000 pounds of supplies in June 2016.

From left to right: Ray, Mark, and Bob, 3 of Mano a Mano’s most dedicated volunteers, with our co-founder Segundo Velasquez, at the Mano a Mano warehouse, working on loading 4 containers with more than 85,000 pounds of supplies in June 2016.

A huge THANK-YOU to everyone that supports Mano a Mano!

How You Can Help

If you are interested in learning more about us, and how you can help, please feel free to contact us.

Stop by to volunteer.

Buy a book (all proceeds benefit Mano a Mano).

Share this page with friends & family. (There are sharing links at the bottom of this post.)

Make a donation.

Together, we can make a real change – in Bolivia, and coming together as supporters in the US.



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