In 2020, Mano a Mano shipped 175,777 pounds of medical supplies and equipment from Minnesota to Bolivia. We are currently preparing to make our first shipment of 2021 in late March, which will include around 60,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment.

Mano a Mano Internacional distributed 7,024 mobility aids in Bolivia last year, which included the following items:

  • 426 wheelchairs
  • 418 walkers with seats and wheels
  • 1,757 walkers
  • 2,345 pairs of crutches
  • 2,078 canes

A large-scale distribution of supplies at our Cochabamba warehouse in 2020.

That is a LOT of supplies! While many of these supplies are donated via larger distributions by the truckload, some items have a longer journey.

Donating a Wheelchair for Pascuala in Beni

Pascuala is a member of the Tsimane community in the department of Beni, located in the Bolivian Amazon. She has been unable to walk for the past 12 years due to a tumor in her spine. She lives with her 6 children. She uses a wheelbarrow to get around. The wheelbarrow is much less stable than a wheelchair, and she occasionally falls out. She depends on her family to push the wheelbarrow. It’s difficult.

Transporting a Wheelchair for Pascuala from Cochabamba to Beni

Mano a Mano selected a wheelchair for Pascuala and brought it to the Mano a Mano Aviation hangar at the Cochabamba airport. It was flown from Cochabamba to Trinidad, then from Trinidad to San Borja, then by car from San Borja to the jungle, then volunteers went on foot from the jungle to Pascuala’s community of Yucomo (an hour and a half walk).

Wheelchair for Pascuala arriving at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba.

Pascuala Receiving Her Wheelchair

When Pascuala hears that the wheelchair is on its way, she leaves her farm to return to her home to receive her wheelchair from Mano a Mano, with her husband and granddaughter alongside.

Pascuala sitting in her wheelchair for the first time.


One of Many Wheelchairs Sent

This is one wheelchair of the 426 we sent in 2020, as part of 7 40-foot containers filled with 175,777 pounds of supplies. It started as a donation to our office in St. Paul, Minnesota; it was then shipped from Minnesota to Bolivia; it then went from Cochabamba to Trinidad to San Borja to Yucumo. This one wheelchair went from being on the verge of ending up in the landfill in the middle of North America, to now having a new life in the middle of South America.

A wheelchair donated by Mano a Mano in 1999, 20+ years ago. We have sent thousands of wheelchairs since 1994.

It’s fair to ask for this one wheelchair: is it worth it? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy a new wheelchair in Bolivia? For Mano a Mano, we work in many different program areas, and many of these pieces fit together and complement each other. When we ship a container of supplies, for every dollar it costs to ship, we are able to send an average of $14 worth of items (and that is an extremely conservative value; in reality it can be more like $20-30 worth of supplies per $1 of shipping costs). It costs about $30-$50 to ship a wheelchair. And we did not fly the Mano a Mano plane to San Borja just to transport this wheelchair; flights are planned out so that we are maximizing flight time as much as possible. For example, if we are flying volunteer medical professionals for a weekend health clinic, we will make sure to transport cargo to fill the extra space.

Volunteer medical professionals traveled to Tentayapi to provide medical care for local residents there and from 2 neighboring communities. Along with transporting the volunteers, Mano a Mano also brought along some medical supplies and equipment to donate in Tentayapi.

Mano a Mano Projects in 2020: Working Around the Pandemic

2020 was a very difficult year, but despite the challenges Mano a Mano continued with our mission of creating partnerships with impoverished Bolivian communities to improve health and increase economic well-being. Learn more about each of our major programs and its work last year at the links below: