Best of the Decade: 10 Mano a Mano Milestones of the 2010s

We’ve been sharing some year-end highlights over the past month as 2019 comes to a close; here are a few:

The end of 2019 also marks the end of the past decade! These past 10 years have been very impactful for Mano a Mano and the communities we partner with, and we are grateful to everyone that works towards achieving our ultimate goal of improving people’s lives. We’d like to highlight 10 milestones and big events from 2010-2019 below. Each milestone is made possible by many people, over many years, working together. None of these projects were easy, and there are always lots of challenges and roadblocks along the way. On projects like the Ucuchi Water Reservoir and the El Palmar Road, the communities had been trying for decades to have access to water and transportation. Thank you to our staff, our partners and supporters, and the communities that make it happen!

These milestones are just a small representation of the work that we do; it was hard to narrow this down! If you have any favorites, feel free to mention them in the comments.

1. Celebrating 25 Years in Operation (2019)

2. Dedicating Our 100th Clinic Project (2013)

Mano a Mano’s 100th clinic project – an infant-maternal hospital in Mizque. The Mizque clinic is located in the department of Cochabamba, 150 km from the city of Cochabamba. Mizque has approximately 26,000 inhabitants.

In collaboration with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia, we dedicated our 100th clinic in the community of Mizque in 2013. 100 clinics was a huge milestone at the time, and we continue to build new clinics: at the end of 2019, we have now completed 170 clinics. This is our most recent clinic built in Tocopilla.

3. Building and Growing the Center for Ecological Agriculture (2012-2019)

Mano a Mano started building our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2012. The goal of the CEA was to demonstrate good agricultural practices in action for rural Bolivian communities, and the site has been growing over the past 7 years to include many more tools & techniques. Also, 3 out of 4 Mano a Mano’s counterpart organizations are now on the same site as the CEA, which helps with integrating many of our projects, such as the sorting and distribution of donated supplies shipped from Minnesota.

Initially, the land where the CEA was built was nothing special, but with the hard work of Mano a Mano staff and volunteers it has continued to grow. More than 3,000 people have visited the CEA in 2019.

The top photo is the site of what would become the Center for Ecological Agriculture in 2012; the bottom picture is from 2019.

4. Expanding the Capacity of Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program (2018-2019)

Mano a Mano’s Caravan taking one of its first flights in Bolivia in March 2019.

Mano a Mano’s Caravan airplane began flying in Bolivia in March 2019. After purchasing it in Minnesota in the summer of 2018 and months of training and prep, it was flown from Fleming Field in the Twin Cities to Cochabamba, Bolivia last October. The plane greatly expands the capacity of our our aviation program to provide transport for emergencies, weekend health clinics, cargo, and people to remote areas of Bolivia.

5. Mano a Mano’s First Water Reservoir in Ucuchi is Now Part of an Ecotourism Park (2005-2019)

Blanca Velasquez from Mano a Mano rides a swan boat on the Ucuchi Reservoir during a visit in September 2019.

Fish farming on the Ucuchi Reservoir, September 2019.

Mano a Mano completed its first water reservoir project in 2005 in Ucuchi, a community just outside of Cochabamba. 3,600 people directly benefit from the project. In its first year after completion, 640 hectares of land were being irrigated, as opposed to 250 hectares previously, and personal incomes went from $150/year to $300/year. In 2013, Mano a Mano completed an expansion of the channels to improve the collection channels that direct water to the reservoir, in order to increase the volume of water.

Mano a Mano’s water reservoir in Ucuchi, Bolivia.

In 2017, the Cochabamba newspaper Los Tiempos ran an article about the San Isidro Ecotourism Park, and Mano a Mano’s Ucuchi water reservoir is an integral part of the park. We are happy to see the impact that this project continues to have, more than a decade since its dedication.

6. Building a 37+ Mile Road in El Palmar, Bolivia (2014)

In late October 2014, Mano a Mano dedicated one of our most challenging projects – 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.

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

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 that the road made possible.

All of these new projects – the schools, bridges, housing, and electricity – show 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 infrastructure of a road was put in place, it can open up many new possibilities.

7. Mano a Mano Co-Founder Segundo Velasquez an Opus Prize Finalist (2012)

Our co-founder Segundo Velasquez was a finalist for the 2012 Opus Prize, which was held at St. Kate’s on November 8, 2012. The Finalist award included a $100,000 prize for Mano a Mano (the Star Tribune wrote an article about Mano a Mano and the award, as well as the Pioneer Press). We are always grateful to receive recognition, and awards like the Opus Prize help bring more supporters for the work we do (along with the award money!).

8. MELA and Mano a Mano Bolivia Conclude 10th International Course on Acute Care (2017)

Medical Educators for Latin America (MELA) and our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia completed their 10th international course on acute care for medical professionals in Bolivia in March 2017, and MELA continues to travel to Bolivia a couple of times a year to partner with Mano a Mano Bolivia on health education. Everything Mano a Mano does is driven by our community-based partnership model, and that same model applies to working with nonprofits and other organizations that can improve the projects and programs we provide. Thanks MELA!

Dan Texidor, PA-C, teaching The Use of Ultrasound in Acute Care during a MELA conference in 2017.

From MELA’s Newsletter:

“A MELA team of 20 volunteers made the trip to Cochabamba for the tenth course on acute care given with our co-sponsor, Mano a Mano Bolivia, March 28-30. There were approximately 300 Bolivian doctors, nurses, and dentists attending the course. For me, it was a fantastic experience! In addition, some of our team were able to join a Jornada de Salud (Mobile Clinic) in the community of Tables Monte and see patients in rural Bolivia. Other team members were able to visit a clinic constructed with MELA support, and and learn about the challenges of providing care in a resource poor country.

MELA volunteers, Mano a Mano Bolivia staff, and Acute Care attendees at the 10th Course on March 28-30, 2017 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

9. Chari Chari Bridge Wins 2013 Innovation in Sustainable Civil Engineering Award (2013)

We were happy to see the footbridge built in Chari Chari, Bolivia win the 2013 Innovation in Sustainable Civil Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers!

Chari Chari footbridge

This Chari Chari bridge was built by Bridges to Prosperity in collaboration with Mano a Mano. Materials for this bridge (and others in Bolivia) were shipped from the US to Bolivia by Mano a Mano in St. Paul, MN, and our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo provided its heavy equipment to level the groundwork on both sides of the river for the bridge.

Loading cable for the Bridges to Prosperity bridges in a Mano a Mano container in the summer of 2011 (when we were still in our old warehouse in Eagan, Minnesota). Each spool of cable weighed more than 1,000 pounds!

As with organizations like MELA, Rotary Clubs, and Unity Church, we are happy to partner with Bridges to Prosperity and other organizations on projects like the Chari Chari bridge. Working together helps expand the impact we can have for communities in need.

10. Mano a Mano’s Local Volunteers in Minnesota: Videos with TPT (2019)

To continue the theme: partnerships are what make Mano a Mano projects work. With only 2 full-time staff in the US, it was great to work with TPT to highlight the volunteers from different backgrounds that come together to deliver medical materials to Bolivia. These 2 videos highlight our volunteers from Unity Church and our Social Work Interns from Metro State: