Yesterday three containers’ worth of donated surplus supplies from the US – medical supplies/equipment, school supplies, construction supplies, and more – arrived at the Mano a Mano Aviation hangar in Cochabamba to be distributed to Mano a Mano’s counterpart organizations and to other organizations (free of charge) that also work with those in need.
These supplies were collected, prepared, and packed for shipment last year by Mano a Mano volunteers in the US. The surplus distribution program was Mano a Mano’s first project in 1994, and it continues to be extremely important to support the infrastructure projects we build in Bolivia and ensure that they are equipped and maintained for the long-term.
The Challenges of Shipping
Representatives from the Bolivian Ministry of Health and Sports were also present; they were very helpful in assisting Mano a Mano get these supplies through Customs. Shipping to Bolivia is never as easy as just paying a shipping company and filling out a few pieces of paperwork. These shipments are a LOT OF WORK, both in the US and Bolivia, and we simply could not make these shipments work without the legal resources, staff time, and government support we have available in Bolivia. As an obvious example of the challenges, a successful shipment such as this recent one still takes over 6 months from shipping in the US until it is received in Bolivia.
The Value of a Single Wheelchair
A majority of the donated supplies are distributed to Mano a Mano’s network of health clinics throughout the country. But Mano a Mano also distributes many of these supplies to other organizations that work with those in need, and many of the orthopedic items (walkers, wheelchairs, crutches) are donated or loaned to individuals who make requests – our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia made 481 donations to individuals in 2012.
With this recent shipment, we were donating a wheelchair before we even got the supplies off the truck! As these supplies were being transported from the Bolivian Customs warehouse in La Paz to our warehouse in Cochabamba, the truck driver saw all of the wheelchairs and thought of his truck driver friend who became paraplegic after a vehicle accident.
The driver hired to transport our cargo from customs asked, pleaded for a wheelchair for his friend, who was unable to work since the accident and has seven children; their family makes do on the minimal income his wife earns from selling candies in the open market.
That night, the driver went about and obtained the needed information we require to make a donation – ID, photo, drivers license, name, age, and a bit of history on his medical condition.
Early the following morning, 6:30 am, as Mano a Mano started unloading the remaining wheelchairs, and after verifying documents, we issued him the “best” wheelchair. The driver, happy, called his friend and informed him of the donation. “Thank you” was the response of the lucky receiver. Now he no longer had to pay to rent the barely-operating old chair he was using. Now, he had his very own chair…
A single used chair! This is why we do it.
Another Shipment Coming Up Soon…
Thanks to everyone in the US and Bolivia that made this happen! After last month’s successful fundraiser, Mano a Mano is preparing to make another shipment in early summer; check back on our EVENTS CALENDAR once we have a time scheduled if you’re interested in helping out.
Check out more pictures of the arrival and distribution of the supplies on our Facebook Page.