This past weekend Mano a Mano held its 4th annual Festival Bolivia event. This year’s event took place at the Mendakota Country Club and was a great night; thanks to everyone that attended!

3 Events, 3 Successful Projects

Many of Mano a Mano’s main projects take place in Bolivia – our infrastructure projects in health, education, roads, water, aviation, and more. And in our first 3 years of the event, we built a clinic, a water reservoir, and supported our emergency flights program.

Recognizing Local Heroes – a Quick History of Mano a Mano

On this night we wanted to focus on the crucial role that our US volunteers play in making our projects in Bolivia possible. Today we are probably most recognized for the more than 300 infrastructure projects we have built in Bolivia. But Mano a Mano was originally founded in the US in 1994 to save surplus medical supplies from the landfill and ship them to Bolivia, where we knew they could be put to good use. Over the years we began to construct infrastructure projects in Bolivia to meet the needs that communities identified themselves and worked tirelessly to build alongside Mano a Mano.

Each new type of project flowed naturally given a community’s needs – with all of the medical supplies sent there wasn’t sufficient infrastructure to use these supplies so Mano a Mano began building clinics; once there was a clinic it was clear that health would improve more if there was better sanitation and education so Mano a Mano began building community bathrooms and schools; with those projects in place it was difficult to travel so Mano a Mano began building roads; without water Bolivian farmers wouldn’t be able to grow enough crops to sell and feed their families so Mano a Mano began building water reservoirs; with the difficulty in traveling in rural areas in Bolivia, especially in an emergency, Mano a Mano began an aviation program to provide emergency flights. All projects in Bolivia have begun with a community requesting a project to our staff in Bolivia, and we have been focused on building capacity in Bolivia throughout our history – all of our 78 core staff in our 4 counterpart organizations in Bolivia are Bolivian, as well as all members of their boards.

Through all of these new additions to our programs, Mano a Mano International in the US has continued to collect and ship donated supplies, which are critical to maintaining our infrastructure projects in Bolivia, as well as fundraising to support new projects in Bolivia. Every project that we do in Bolivia is a collaborative effort, and Mano a Mano’s role in the US is to provide the money that serves as the seed money to get the project going. These 2 programs – shipping supplies and fundraising – are huge efforts and depend on hundreds of US volunteers and donors who give nearly 20,000 hours of their time each year helping Mano a Mano. We have a staff of 3 in the US, and without our volunteers we would not be able to do anything!

Local Heroes

As part of the Festival Bolivia 2013 program, Mano a Mano recognized three supporters that have had a tremendous impact in the past year. The notes below are excerpts from Dan Narr’s (Mano a Mano Executive Director) introductions at Festival Bolivia on Saturday:

Carson Harris

Carson is the Director of toxicology and clinical services, associate program director for Regions Medical Toxicology Training Program, senior staff emergency physician, toxicology consultant for the Minnesota Poison Control System, and contributing author and editor of two textbooks on drug abuse and toxicology. Carson IS the local expert in toxicology!

I think Carson has been associated with Mano a Mano about the same amount of time as I have! After an initial immersion trip to see the programs himself and meeting Dr. Jose Velasquez at Mano a Mano – Bolivia he came back with a plan. Thus was born MELA (Medical Educators for Latin America), which was recently incorporated as a non-profit with their own board of directors. As they say the rest is history!

Carson and his team just returned from their 6th Annual Acute Care Conference where they offered training to 375 Bolivian health care professionals, giving instruction on cardiac arrest, diabetes, toxicology and autism.

Carson Harris with Mano a Mano Bolivia Executive Director Jose Velasquez

Carson Harris with Mano a Mano Bolivia Executive Director Jose Velasquez

Joey Temali, Claire Temali, and the Temali Family

Now for our youngest hometown hero, who is a rising philanthropic phenom putting his talents to work to bring attention to the need for schools for rural Bolivian children. Joey is in the seventh grade at Highland Park Middle School in the Spanish Immersion Program. In December of 2009, the Temali family (Mike, Laura, Joey and Claire) spent one month visiting Bolivia and volunteering with our counterpart organizations. He was immersed in what can only be described as the inequality of life between what he is accustomed to here in the US and how it compares to that of Bolivia.

When the family returned, the Temalis contacted Segundo and I and pledged to raise money to build a school, making a $30,000 commitment. After talking to Joey and being amazed at his ability to articulate his experience we knew right away that Joey was going to prove that youth have a role to play in making a difference in the world. He and Claire started a letter-writing campaign to schools throughout the metro area to see if he could garner support to help raise the money needed to build a school.

Last month, Joey received his first response and invited us to present his project to the Minnetonka Spanish Immersion Elementary School who had raised $703 in a penny war. To date he and his family have raised over $1,000 toward their goal, which includes funds from both Joey’s and Clair’s allowance. We have officially named the Temali family project, Nino a Nino (child to child) and are working on developing school participation packets to help support his efforts.

Joey Temali (far left) with the students at ISLA in Minnetonka being presented a check to help build a school in Bolivia!

Joey Temali (far left) with the students at ISLA in Minnetonka being presented a check to help build a school in Bolivia!

Don Neureuther

In November 2012, our Co-founder and President of Mano a Mano, Segundo Velasquez was chosen as a finalist for the 2012 Opus Prize. According to their guidelines, Mano a Mano is recognized as an organization that “is beating the daunting odds to bring about lasting social change to rural Bolivian communities. The recipients of this award have an unshakable faith [and] an entrepreneurial leadership that helps the poor and underserved transform their lives making real upward change possible while inspiring other to get involved.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this was an amazing event that was hosted at one of St. Paul’s finest institutions, St. Catherine’s University. Tonight I would like to invite the Executive Director for the Opus Prize Foundation, Don Neureuther, to share why Mano a Mano was one of the elite programs that was chosen to receive one of the three top financial awards.

Don Neureuther with Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez and St. Kates students and faculty during their trip to Bolivia in 2012.

Don Neureuther with Mano a Mano co-founder Segundo Velasquez and St. Kates students and faculty during their trip to Bolivia in 2012.


During this event we were able to raise enough funding to support a shipment of supplies to Bolivia within the next few months; special thanks to our local heroes, and thanks to everyone that supported Festival Bolivia 2013! We are already looking forward to next year!

Festival Bolivia 2013

Festival Bolivia 2013