Helping Martha Walk Again

Our volunteer warehouse manager Ray Wiedmeyer just got back from a trip to Bolivia with Mano a Mano Co-Founder Segundo Velasquez, and while he was there he was able to take part in this donation of supplies and support from Mano a Mano to Martha, enabling her to walk for the first time in 9 years.

We have shipped 205,675 pounds of donated medical supplies – 9 40 foot containers – from Minnesota to Bolivia this year.

Here is Ray’s Post About the Donation to Martha:

“I would like you to meet Martha, today’s blessing for the world. Like you, I too just met her. Yet I feel like I have known her for years. The reason is that I spent a couple hours with her today and I saw her open a new chapter in her life.



You see Martha is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. And that smile….that smile hides a world of courage and tenacity like I have never seen before. You see, Martha has been struggling with a disease since about the age of three; a disease that would turn her body against her in many ways and would eventually take away her ability to walk for she would lose both legs below the knees within a three year period as a teenager.

What does that mean for a Bolivian youth in Cochabamba? It often means setting aside any dream of a normal life. You see the streets of Bolivia are not wheelchair accessible. Transportation is not accessible. Getting to a job would be near impossible. So you are left to stay at home and depend a lot on others.

But only a month ago she heard from an acquaintance about a relatively new program started by one of Mano a Mano’s leaders…the indomitable Maria Blanca Velasquez (Segundo’s sister) who has been nurturing her church for over 40 years. Now I say a church but it is much more than just a church….for it now houses a clinic that changes lives. It all started when an American named Steve showed up at the church looking to do missionary work. That missionary work turned into learning how to build prosthetics after learning of Blanca’s dream to help amputees who were too poor to get the help they needed. Steve got that training and now works in that church building building more dreams.

But let me get back to Martha. About a month ago she heard about this prosthetics program at the church. Today Martha, accompanied by her husband and her 13 month old child, showed up to have her two new prostheses on for the very first time. Now Martha has not walked for over 9 years so you might imagine she might be a bit anxious. But that smile of hers should have told me something amazing was about to happen. Once fitted she arose and with the help of Steve and his assistant she walked. Not perfectly, but she put one foot in foot in front of the other and she walked across the large room…had the prosthetics adjusted and walked slowly back with one assistant and a crutch.



There was a break, a bit more adjustment, and she walked again with the help of another. We all were elated but none more than Martha. Finally after a bit more adjustment, and the installation of a strap, and the arrival of a walker, she was up again and this time she walked by herself….and after 9 years of not walking at all. We cheered her on, we, or perhaps it was just me, cried tears of joy and wonder and then Blanca circled us up and she prayed as we held hands.


And Martha, well Martha, turned a corner in her life today with more tenacity and courage than I could ever muster. She tells me she looks forward to getting out of the house much more often. She looks forward to looking for work and I believe she’ll be an expert walker when that child of her’s walks her first step and needs a mom to keep up with her. Martha, my new Facebook friend, keep on a walking!” – Ray Wiedmeyer