From our Volunteer Warehouse Manager Ray Wiedmeyer on a Mano a Mano donation made in the Twin Cities last week:

“What do you do with a few thousand syringes filled with sterile water? Sending them to Mano a Mano in Bolivia never made sense, especially if they might expire first. And what I didn’t want to do was put them in the trash. I held on to them for months searching for a place they would be of use. A chance reading of a newspaper article steered me in a positive direction. A phone call to Jack over at Southside Harm Reduction Services hit the jackpot.

They were delighted to get the water and I learned about a world I knew near nothing about. You see harm reduction is a more palatable way to say needle exchange, the sometimes controversial program where you save drug user’s lives by helping to ensure that they have safe methods of using. Basically you increase the chance that the user is able to live long enough to hear the message of the volunteers on how to get help. That first realization was probably a narrow way of looking at the work this organization was doing but it was my way in.

Two evenings spent at Southside making brown-bag kits with volunteers dedicated to this life-saving activity gave me an inside look at the work that was being done in the Franklin Ave neighborhood where they concentrate their efforts. I learned how clean syringes, alcohol swabs, a strip of rubber, band-aids, antibiotic salve, a cooker, and cotton balls are used. And I learned how the sterile water, one of the more expensive additions to the kit, makes things safer, hopefully saving lives for another day.

The lesson: Never underestimate how small acts can help make things better locally for those you will never meet.”

Recognizing Ray and Karen’s Volunteer Work in Minnesota and Bolivia

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our March trip to Bolivia with 13 travelers from Minnesota was canceled; this trip would have left the US one month ago today and arrived in Bolivia on March 14th. Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional, which manages the Recovered Resources program there, had made plans to honor the indispensable work of our Volunteer Warehouse Manager Ray Wiedmeyer and Karen Abraham in support of this program – both in St. Paul, Minnesota and Bolivia. A major distribution of supplies to 29 hospitals, clinics, and other facilities had been scheduled to take place during the trip. Mano a Mano Internacional prepared plaques for Ray and Karen to be awarded during the distribution ceremony by a representative of the Bolivian Health Ministry. ManComunidad, a collaborative of 8 municipalities located in southern Cochabamba and northern Potosi, decided to also award plaques and flower leis to Ray and Karen during the distribution ceremony. Given the developing social distancing recommendations in place at the time, the distribution took place outdoors without a formal ceremony. Two Minnesota volunteers who were in Bolivia at the time, Andrea and Matt, accepted the awards.

“With sincere thanks to Ray Wiedmeyer and Karen Abraham, who are for our institution indispensable volunteers. For your generous dedication to Mano a Mano’s cause to bring hope for better health to those people in Bolivia most in need through medical supplies. ‘If you change one life, you have changed the world forever.’ Cochabamba, March 14th, 2020”

We are so grateful for everything Ray does! Here are just a few posts featuring Ray and Karen’s volunteer efforts with Mano a Mano from recent years (the list could be much longer!):