“This is Everything:” Medical Donations on November 17th

“This is Everything:” Medical Donations on November 17th

Editors Note: This article was written by Morgan Harden a recent graduate of Kenyon College. She has degrees in Spanish Literature and English, with a creative writing emphasis, which she uses to write, translate, and share stories. Drawn to its story and collaborative model, she began volunteering remotely for Mano a Mano after her graduation. This work eventually led her all the way to the organization’s epicenter in Cochabamba. After her time volunteering in Bolivia, Morgan will be headed to Argentina to begin her Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship.

Morgan Harden (right) volunteering at Mano a Mano's Center for Ecological Agriculture, October 2017.

Morgan Harden (right) volunteering at Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture, October 2017.

Morgan wrote about four of the recent recipients of medical supplies below:

Gabriela’s New Wheelchair

“Ciao,” Gabriela waved excitedly to me, as her dad lowered her new wheelchair towards the waiting car. This morning, eight families from around Cochabamba met at the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) to collect medical donations. Gabriela and her parents was just one of the families who arrived. All piled into her father’s taxi, Gabriela and her parents traveled nearly an hour from Tiquipaya to get her first wheelchair.

Gabriela was born with meningocele, or a protrusion of membranes that cover the spine and portions of the spinal cord, due to a bone defect in the vertebrae. Because of this, Gabriela has never been able to move her feet and often suffers from weakness and fractures in her legs. Though the blockage was removed in surgery, alleviating some of her symptoms with physical therapy, Gabriela will likely never gain full function of her feet.

However, you never would’ve known it, looking at the little girl. She sat contended on her mother’s lap all morning, playing with the brightly colored purse around her neck and her favorite toy, a plastic insect. As she approaches her third birthday, Gabriela needs a wheelchair to give her more mobility to move around (and make trouble), like other kids. When she was fit with her wheelchair, the change was almost instantaneous.

As her parents bent over the donation paperwork, Gabriela sailed around the room. Though her hands barely reached the wheels, she pushed herself (with the plastic bug along for the ride) all about the room, running herself into boxes of supplies and giggling at the soft collision. Gabriela smiled up at her parents, who could only turn to Juan, the donation coordinator at Mano a Mano, saying “this is going to change her life so much. Thank you.” All of us stood for a moment, looking at Gabriela, who was still running circles around us. Needless to say, she didn’t waste any time exploring her new capacity for mobility or mischief.

Gabriela, with her parents, in her new wheelchair.

Gabriela, with her parents, in her new wheelchair.

Wheelchair Donation

“Go to Mano a Mano, my friends told me. They’ll help you get what you need,” another woman answered, when I asked her how she’d found out about Mano a Mano. The woman, who chose to remain unnamed, came to the CEA, needing a new wheelchair. At fifteen, she had a terrible accident, which damaged her spinal cord, leaving her with no mobility in her feet. She’s been in a wheelchair ever since.

Taking a break from the flurry of action, I sat down next to her for a moment to talk. When I asked her how long she’d had her previous wheelchair, she answered, “I can’t even remember, but it feels like it’s been an eternity.” And her wheelchair betrayed the wear: the seat was threatening to cave in, the footrests rusted, and the left wheel wobbling. Unwilling to let her accident limit her, she continued to go out every day to sell wares in the streets, even as her wheelchair began falling apart underneath her.

It was like a scene from Cinderella, as she tried out different wheelchairs. It took a couple of tries to find one that would support her feet and give her maximum mobility. However, once we found the right chair, if was obvious to everyone working. It was a perfect fit, if you will. Her feet slid easily into the rests, as she took a seat. She even seemed to sit up straighter.

She zipped away from us in her new chair, only to turn back and return just as quickly, with a gleaming smile. Jaime, one of Mano a Mano’s regular volunteers, turned to me and said, “looks like she’s got a new car!” Seating in the front seat of a taxi, as her husband loaded her new wheelchair into the trunk, she motioned me towards the window. Grasping my hands between hers, she whispered, “It’s perfect, just perfect. I don’t even know how to thank you.”

“It was nothing really…” I began to say, a little overwhelmed by the rush of gratitude, aimed exclusively in my direction.

She didn’t even let me finish the sentence, cutting me off with another tug of my hands, “no, really, thank you. This is everything.”

Braces for Efraín

Efraín picking up braces at Mano a Mano.

Efraín picking up braces at Mano a Mano.

Placing one of his new braces out in front of him, Efraín took a few cautious steps. Within a few seconds, he was already moving from person to person, shaking hands vigorously. He wore an infectious smile, shining to match the gleam of his braces. As Efraín sat down to the paperwork, his wife leaned towards me. “He’s not quite as young as he looks,” she confessed, with a laugh. “Trust me, it’s been a long road.”

When he was twenty-six, Efraín was caught in a transportation accident and suffered damage to his spinal cord. The accident left him completely bedridden, unable to perform even the most basic tasks. However, Efraín never gave up hope on his rehabilitation. After two years in bed, he made enough progress with physical therapy to use a wheelchair. He was in the wheelchair for years, still training with the hopes of walking again. With eight more years of work, Efraín regained enough mobility to walk with the help of braces. Although Efraín still has 48% difficulty, meaning nearly half of his body has mobility issues, he is determined to continue making gains. His new braces, which replaced a pair with nearly a decade of wear, will certainly support this continued progress.

Although it was the first time Efraín received a donation from Mano a Mano, it wasn’t his first experience with the organization. As a representative of the federation of disabled people, Efraín encounters Mano a Mano in his work regularly. To that end, he commented, “it’s so important we have Mano a Mano’s support. It makes all the difference, not just for me, but for lots of people.”

After a moment of contemplation and a renewed round of thanks, he added, “We’re trying to show our abilities, not lean on our disabilities.”

Crutches for don Guillermo

On Friday, don Guillermo was another recipient of a pair of crutches after an accident:

Photo from Nate Knatterud-Hubinger (1)

We Have Shipped 205,675 Pounds of Supplies in 2017

This year, with the help of many dedicated people, we have shipped 205,675 pounds of donated medical supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia, where we distribute them to organizations and people in need, like Gabriela, Efrain, and Guillermo.

There are always many more supplies arriving at our St. Paul, Minnesota warehouse, waiting to be shipped and given to people in need. If you would like to help us with our next shipment, CLICK HERE.

Water Filling in the Maldonado Water Reservoir

Water Filling in the Maldonado Water Reservoir

The Maldonado water reservoir, October 2017

The Maldonado water reservoir, October 2017

Water is starting to fill in Mano a Mano’s water reservoir project in Maldonado, Bolivia.

Mano a Mano staff started work on this new water project in February 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.

When completed, this project will make it possible for 96 subsistence farm families (about 600 people) to irrigate 250 acres of cropland and to water their livestock, as well as having water for household use. With the severe drought currently affecting Bolivia, water projects like this one are especially important to help rural communities manage their resources.

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.

Pictures from Maldonado – late October 2017

Wirkini Water Reservoir

At about this time last year, Mano a Mano was dedicating a water reservoir in Wirkini, Bolivia. The Wirkini project joins Mano a Mano’s 8 other large-scale water retention projects that benefit 131,062 people throughout Bolivia (51,062 directly). When complete, the Maldonado water project will join these other water projects. Our first water reservoir was built in Ucuchi, Bolivia in 2005 (this reservoir is the other project featured in the video) and has been consistently providing water to the community for more than a decade, even in times of drought like Bolivia is currently experiencing.

Mano a Mano Newsletter – November 2017

Mano a Mano Newsletter – November 2017

Get a quick snapshot of Mano a Mano activities in our monthly newsletter here.

Mano a Mano Blog Roundup: September-November 2017

Below are a few activities featured in our recent newsletter:

Give to the Max Day

Donating Supplies in Capinota, Bolivia, October 28, 2017. These supplies were shipped from Minnesota; your donation on Give to the Max Day will help more people like these get supplies that they are in desperate need of.

Donating Supplies in Capinota, Bolivia, October 28, 2017. These supplies were shipped from Minnesota; your donation on Give to the Max Day will help more people like these get supplies that they are in desperate need of.

Events at the Mano a Mano Office

  • Events at the Mano a Mano Office. Mano a Mano has 2 events coming up this month. Tomorrow, November 16th from 5-8pm we are hosting a Bar & Brownie Bake-Off. On Tuesday, November 28th from 5-8pm we are hosting a Soup & Sort volunteer session to sort donated medical supplies. Both events are at Mano a Mano (925 Pierce Butler Route, St. Paul, MN 55104). Please contact Carmen if you’re interested (carmen@manoamano.org).

3 Mano a Mano Planes, 3 Flights

  • 3 Mano a Mano Planes, 3 Flights. Mano a Mano’s volunteer warehouse manager Ray Wiedmeyer just got back from a trip to Bolivia with Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez. While he was there, he took a lot of pictures and wrote about some of his experiences. On November 1st, 2017, Mano a Mano’s aviation program had a very busy day, which Ray wrote about: “It was a busy day at the Mano a Mano aviation program. All three planes were out doing the work. One was taking a mother, father, and baby home to the Amazon after being in Cochabamba for two months. The baby had a large cyst surgically removed from her neck; an operation that could not be done at a small clinic. Mano a Mano provided the free air transportation back and forth while a church group provided the temporary housing and funding for the medical care.”
One of the Mano a Mano flights preparing for takeoff on November 1, 2017.

One of the Mano a Mano flights preparing for takeoff on November 1, 2017.

Travel to Bolivia with Mano a Mano in March 2018

  • Travel to Bolivia with Mano a Mano in March 2018. Mano a Mano invites you to join us on a unique journey to Bolivia to see projects that accomplished our original vision and so much more. Click the link above for a travel packet with more information.
Travelers visiting a Mano a Mano clinic in Omereque during our March 2017 trip.

Travelers visiting a Mano a Mano clinic in Omereque during our March 2017 trip.

Building Wells in Omereque, Bolivia

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

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

Students Visiting the Center for Ecological Agriculture

Students visiting Mano a Mano's Center for Ecological Agriculture on October 2, 2017.

Students visiting Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture on October 2, 2017.

Education Minnesota Article – Minnesota Teachers Bring Training to Rural Bolivia

Mano a Mano Teacher Trip, June 2017

Mano a Mano Teacher Trip, June 2017

Work on the Road to San Lorenzo

  • Work on the Road to San Lorenzo. The 100 year flooding of 2014 in the tropical area of Beni devastated the minimal road and bridge infrastructure the communities of San Lorenzo and surrounding areas depended on. Even prior to this flooding, the community of San Lorenzo had been requesting assistance from Mano a Mano to build bridges and improve the road infrastructure the community of San Lorenzo relied on to access outside services. Mano a Mano’s heavy equipment has been in the area and responding to fix the damaged roadbed. The floods also washed away various bridges. Instead of building bridges, Mano a Mano personnel are installing cement rings (which were essentially donated from another project) as outlets for the water to escape under the roadbed.
Working on the road to San Lorenzo.

Working on the road to San Lorenzo.

Newsletter Archives and Sign-Up

Mano a Mano’s previous newsletters are archived here; you can also sign up to receive our newsletters.

3 Mano a Mano Planes, 3 Flights

3 Mano a Mano Planes, 3 Flights

Mano a Mano’s volunteer warehouse manager Ray Wiedmeyer just got back from a trip to Bolivia with Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez. While he was there, he took a lot of pictures and wrote about some of his experiences.

On November 1st, 2017, Mano a Mano’s aviation program had a very busy day, which Ray wrote about below:

1st Flight

It was a busy day at the Mano a Mano aviation program. All three planes were out doing the work. One was taking a mother, father, and baby home to the Amazon after being in Cochabamba for two months. The baby had a large cyst surgically removed from her neck; an operation that could not be done at a small clinic. Mano a Mano provided the free air transportation back and forth while a church group provided the temporary housing and funding for the medical care.

23244053_1905183519496721_8815430179886357414_n

23131015_1905184509496622_2687915313129111654_n

22886128_1905180812830325_1829763445323279208_n

Can you imagine flying, spending weeks in a major city, and having your child operated on when all you have known is your small Amazonian village? I bet that must have been pretty scary.

2nd Flight

The second plane off today took some missionaries into the back country. It’s paid flights like these that helps to make the free flights for others possible.

23131877_1905186586163081_5035525999533271087_n

3rd Flight

The third Mano a Mano plane out of the hanger today was off to the small village of San Pablo in the Amazon basin. For those who don’t know Bolivia very well there are two distinct regions….a large swath of the Andes mountains and a good sized chunk of the Amazonian rain forest. And I was able to tag along on this visit. The purpose of the trip was to have a meeting with the villagers, deliver Mano a Mano donated goods and school supplies, and bring back four Mano a Mano workers who had been doing road repair for the past few weeks. We also brought with us two 100 lb. hydraulic bulldozer shafts for the work crew and goods that had been ordered by villagers.

23032833_1905216639493409_6788259894878983172_n 22894152_1905216239493449_388215003713849368_n

My take was…..geeze, subsistence living in the jungle must be crazy hard. If you can’t afford airfare out you could go by foot, boat, perhaps truck for part of the way but it would take you weeks to get any supplies or to any substantial medical care. These folks are tough and very skilled I suspect.

About the pictures:
The building with the tile roof is the 3 room schoolhouse.
The building with the thatched roof is one of the small homes in the village…note the solar panel.
The meeting was held outside of the village on the only road around.
The large, and I mean large dump truck, was our transportation from the runway to the village.
The runway is a dirt strip in the jungle…pretty basic.

23172368_1905222139492859_7097234751483658667_n 22894468_1905221532826253_9196229611240243978_n 23031388_1905220566159683_2524477521316024955_n 23131768_1905219982826408_1881836198926436073_n 22894120_1905218542826552_3132921430041630616_n 23131011_1905218139493259_4159021157292775919_n 23031556_1905217729493300_2371496669029740881_n 23131709_1905217369493336_1301294566672083973_n

Environmental Issues & Principles of Agroecology Workshop

Environmental Issues & Principles of Agroecology Workshop

This morning we hosted 27 students from the Cuenca Educativa Guardana de Oruro for a workshop at our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA). The workshop topic was Environmental Issues & Principles of Agroecology, and included a theory and practical section. In the practical section, students prepared a pile of organic fertilizer.

This morning we hosted 27 students from the Cuenca Educativa Guardana de Oruro for a workshop at our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA). The workshop was Environmental Issues & Principles of Agroecology, and included a theory and practical section.

This morning we hosted 27 students from the Cuenca Educativa Guardana de Oruro for a workshop at our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA). The workshop was Environmental Issues & Principles of Agroecology, and included a theory and practical section.

The CEA provides training & tools for rural Bolivan farmers that help improve food security and nutrition. In additions to farmers, Mano a Mano hosts students, university courses, environmental organizations, community leaders, and foreign travelers to demonstrate simple, sustainable methods to improve peoples’ farms.

Video Tour: Center for Ecological Agriculture