Exchanging Supplies with HERO Fargo

The Mano a Mano Surplus Program

Collecting supplies destined for the landfill and distributing them throughout Bolivia, where we know they can be put to good use, is the program that started Mano a Mano in 1994:

Exchanging Supplies with HERO Fargo

Working with our staff in Bolivia, we are pretty careful in making sure that the supplies that we accept in Minnesota are needed and useful in Bolivia, and we try to seek out donations of those supplies that are in high demand (here is a list of our high priority items). Occasionally, however, we do receive some items that just don’t quite make it onto our shipments; there are also certain items that we just can never get too much of (for example: gloves, gauze, any wound care supplies).

We are happy to be able to work with HERO Fargo as one way to help bridge the gap. Their mission is “to collect and redistribute donated healthcare supplies to help those in need,” and for the past few years, every month or two HERO drives from Fargo to St. Paul with a truckful of supplies to give to Mano a Mano; we try to re-fill their truck with supplies that they are actively looking for.

Supplies dropped off by HERO at Mano a Mano, April 2017.

Supplies dropped off by HERO at Mano a Mano, April 2017.

It’s a win-win for both of our organizations: we get to exchange supplies with each other that better fit our priorities.

Thanks HERO!

Exchanging Supplies on May 24, 2017

HERO dropping off and picking up supplies at Mano a Mano on May 24, 2017.

HERO dropping off and picking up supplies at Mano a Mano on May 24, 2017.

HERO dropping off and picking up supplies at Mano a Mano on May 24, 2017.

HERO dropping off and picking up supplies at Mano a Mano on May 24, 2017.

HERO_April 2017HERO made a delivery and pick up from @ManoaManoIntl yesterday. They brought back a truckful! Thanks Mano! https://t.co/HD4YBE10j2 pic.twitter.com/Xw4X5p3iEH

— HERO (@HEROFargo) April 13, 2017

Thanks Pizza Pack Volunteers!

Thanks Pizza Pack Volunteers!

Last night we had an open volunteer time to sort supplies at Mano a Mano; thanks to everyone that helped out! (For a schedule of upcoming events & activities like this one, check out our events calendar here.)

From our Volunteer Warehouse Manager Ray:

“A shout out this evening to all the volunteers, many shown here, who helped out at tonight’s Pizza Pack at Mano a Mano. We processed well over 250 pairs of crutches and dozens and dozens of walkers. The warehouse is filling up fast thanks to folks giving up a couple of hours of their time to help others they will never know thousands of miles away.”

Pizza and Pack volunteers at Mano a Mano, May 23, 2017.

Pizza and Pack volunteers at Mano a Mano, May 23, 2017.

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 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.

All of the supplies that volunteers sorted and prepped yesterday will be included in our next shipment to Bolivia, which we are starting to plan for August. There are currently 4 containers en route to Bolivia from a shipment in February of this year.

Work on the Maldonado Water Reservoir Has Started

Work on the Maldonado Water Reservoir Has Started

Work on the Water Reservoir in Maldonado has started

Work on the Water Reservoir in Maldonado has started

Mano a Mano has recently started the clearing/cleaning of the site where the reservoir levee will be constructed. All the black soil from this whole area will be removed and ultimately replaced. After the clearing/cleaning is accomplished, personnel will be digging 4 meters into the ground (and 3.5 meters wide) to remove unwanted soil in order to replace it with the proper mixture of clay, gravel, and moisture in preparation for the construction of the levee wall.

Water Projects like this One Are in High Demand

With the severe drought currently affecting Bolivia, water projects like this one are especially important to help rural communities manage their resources.
Mano a Mano Engineer Boris Rodriguez working at Maldonado, May 2017. 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 Rodriguez working at Maldonado, May 2017. 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.

Site of Maldonado reservoir.

Site of Maldonado reservoir.

14 Photos from February 2017: Starting Survey Work on the Water Project in Maldonado, Bolivia

Mano a Mano’s Most Recently Completed Water Project in Wirkini

Ivo Velasquez from Mano a Mano’s counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo talks about the impact our newest water reservoir project in Wirkini will have for the communities in the area; we completed this reservoir in October 2016. The reservoir provides access to water for more than 2,000 people in the 5 communities in the area. People were extremely happy with the completion of the project, saying that the reservoir is the “inheritance that they will give to their children.”

Each Project is a Partnership

In the near future, Maldonado will be able to benefit from improved access to water like the communities in Wirkini. Every project that Mano a Mano does is a partnership that includes many people working together (learn more about our partnership model here).

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

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

Learn more about other Mano a Mano water projects here.

Providing Wheelchairs, Walkers, and Medical Supplies to San Ignacio de Moxos, Beni, Bolivia

Providing Wheelchairs, Walkers, and Medical Supplies to San Ignacio de Moxos, Beni, Bolivia

Yesterday, Mano a Mano staff gave about 880 pounds of medical supplies to the Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos, Beni Department, Bolivia. These supplies included 50 boxes of medical supplies, as well as wheelchairs, crutches, and special small walkers that were given to a school for children with mental and/or physical challenges. The Temunakamu school (which means “God Loves Me” in the local Mojeño language) has 70 students, and we were happy to be able to support their work with needed supplies.

Mano a Mano providing wheelchairs and walkers to the Temunakamu school.

Mano a Mano providing wheelchairs and walkers to the Temunakamu school.

Using Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program to Distribute Supplies

Getting supplies to communities like San Ignacio de Moxos is not easy. The supplies themselves make a long journey to get there, starting with being donated, sorted, and packed at our warehouse in St. Paul, Minnesota. From there, they are shipped on ocean freight containers, going from St. Paul and eventually – many months later – arriving at our warehouse in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Once they are in Cochabamba, they are sorted by Mano a Mano staff and volunteers into more specific categories, and arranged for specific donations to specific people and organizations. Typically, people come to Mano a Mano’s warehouse to pick up their supplies, but in some cases we bring the supplies to them.

Organizing supplies at Mano a Mano's Cochabamaba warehouse earlier this week in preparation for distribution.

Organizing supplies at Mano a Mano’s Cochabamaba warehouse earlier this week in preparation for the San Ignacio de Moxos distribution yesterday.

For the donation in San Ignacio de Moxos yesterday, Mano a Mano loaded the supplies into 2 of Mano a Mano’s planes to fly the supplies to them. Many of the communities that Mano a Mano works with are very isolated, and due to Bolivia’s unique geography, it would take 2 or 3 DAYS each way to get there, whereas the plane takes a few HOURS each way.

Learn more about our aviation program below:

Thanks to Everyone that is a Part of this Process!

Mano a Mano depends on many, many amazing people working together to make it possible to achieve things that none of us could do on our own. Thank you to everyone that is a part of Mano a Mano!

Last Days at Mano a Mano Internacional

Editor’s Note: 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.

This is Lindsay’s 9th (and final) post; below are her previous posts:

  1. Mano a Mano’s Second Large-Scale Distribution Event in October: Ceremony and More Behind-the-Scenes
  2. My First Week at the CEA – Lindsay Emi
  3. An In-Depth Look at CEA’s On-Site Agricultural Training Workshops
  4. November 28-December 4: Two Kinds of Visits to the CEA
  5. When the Rain Won’t Come: Farmers Receive Agricultural Training and Workshops in Omereque
  6. February 13-19, 2017: Departures at the CEA
  7. Visit to Tapacarí: Greenhouses & Workshops to Improve Nutrition (March 7-8, 2017)
  8. “Beyond Sustainability” Travel to Omereque

Last Days at Mano a Mano Internacional

Lindsay Emi

As April finishes up, my time at Mano a Mano is rapidly coming to a close too. The weather here in Cochabamba is getting a little cooler, and after seeing harvests of corn, potatoes, apples, squash, alfalfa, and many other vegetables in the greenhouses, I’m watching a new cycle of growth begin at the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA).

My last day at work—April 28—is in just a couple of days. In May, I’ll be traveling more through Bolivia with my group before returning to the states, and in the fall, I’ll officially start my freshman year at Princeton as an alumna of 2016-2017 Bridge Year Bolivia.

I did a variety of work over my time at Mano a Mano. A lot of my day-to-day work was the kind of unglamorous behind-the-scenes work that I expected to do—half-days at the CEA with no workshops or school visits, just me and a couple of co-workers or volunteers, or small side projects at the office when I didn’t have an article to write. But there were days of traveling too, to Omereque, Pasorapa, Tapacari, Wirkini, countless more communities. I had time to chat with school children and farmers and try to answer their questions, both at the CEA and in communities, and I attended probably over a dozen workshops. I saw large donations, ceremonies, and dedications of projects, held in the very communities and towns that our projects had served. And I had this personal project of my own—this small series of articles, written from my own experiences with Mano a Mano.

Lindsay Emi (top left) with Mano a Mano's "Beyond Sustainability" travel group in Omereque, Bolivia, March 2017.

Lindsay Emi (top left) with Mano a Mano’s “Beyond Sustainability” travel group in Omereque, Bolivia, March 2017.

To be honest, I had fun with all of my work, no matter what it was—even at the CEA on days with no special events, I took time every day to chat with my bosses or fellow volunteers, and I learned a lot about agriculture, gardening, and sustainability in an incredibly beautiful place. And of course getting to travel with my co-workers was always enjoyable. I’m sure I enjoyed this year so much in large part because of the staff—my coworkers and bosses at Mano a Mano Internacional—who, from the beginning, welcomed me as part of the team, were always endlessly patient with me and my Spanish, and took time to teach me, befriend me, find work for me, and give me honest and constructive feedback. I will never forget all the times they encouraged me to feel as though I was really a part of the Mano a Mano Internacional staff or thanked me sincerely for the work I was doing, no matter how menial it could sometimes seem, because, they told me, everything I did at Mano a Mano, whether I was helping to maintain the CEA or writing these blog posts, was impactful and important–to them, to the organization, to the people we served.

Environmental training workshop in Huertas, Omereque, Bolivia on December 21, 2016.

Environmental training workshop in Huertas, Omereque, Bolivia on December 21, 2016.

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.

Students from Cochabamba visiting the Center for Ecological Agriculture.

Students from Cochabamba visiting the Center for Ecological Agriculture.

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.

But among the difficulty of learning effective service work, the chance to see and understand sustainable service work done successfully—to see the emotions, gratitude, and kindness of the people Mano a Mano had worked with—was inspiring. One of my very favorite memories will probably be the trip to Tapacari. The scenery was really quintessentially, stereotypically Bolivian. We were at 14,000 feet altitude, the air was freezing and the sky was so bright, and from so high up, I could see all kinds of communities, houses, fields, livestock, and yellow-roofed Mano a Mano greenhouses throughout the mountains and in the valleys below. It was one of my last trips with Mano a Mano. I had to take surveys with the farmers for impact assessment. It was something I never thought I’d be doing or even be capable of doing. I spoke with the farmers about their families, their agriculture, their diets and nutrition, their ideas about the city versus their own community, their hopes for improving their lives and their children’s lives.

Mano a Mano greenhouses (yellow-topped buildings) now dot the landscape in Tapacari.

Mano a Mano greenhouses (yellow-topped buildings) now dot the landscape in Tapacari.

The fact that they treated me with such respect and patience (and sometimes humor) as I fumbled through that survey, that they shared their lives with me honestly, was so humbling and something I won’t forget. And those farmers—and every person I worked with through Mano a Mano—exuded gratitude for Mano a Mano, its staff and workers, its support, and the finished project, built and completed collaboratively. I saw atajados, bridges, health clinics, roads, greenhouses, reservoirs, schools, and much, much more. These projects have changed thousands of lives and inspired so much hope.

I will always be grateful that Mano a Mano has given me the chance to be a part of their work too. It has been an honor and a blessing, and one of the most humbling and meaningful experiences I’ve had. I hope to come back and revisit Cochabamba and Mano a Mano Internacional one day, and I would encourage anyone involved with Mano a Mano who has the means to do so should come and see first-hand the powerful impact of the work that happens in the US and here in Bolivia. The kindness of all the people whom I’ve worked with here—from the staff to the international volunteers and to, of course, the Bolivians and beneficiaries I’ve met in communities, workshops, and the CEA—has moved me and inspired me to continue to learn as best I can about the many complexities and intersections of development, poverty, and story-telling, and to continue to serve my own community and the international community at large.

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.