We recently received the report below by Lasse H., a current volunteer with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional in Bolivia. It describes the training of a group of physical therapists from all corners of Bolivia who received orthopedic and related supplies from Mano a Mano’s last shipment of supplies sent from Minnesota. The training offered is part of Mano a Mano Internacional’s management of the Bolivian side of our Recovered Resources program.

Our Recovered Resources program staff in Bolivia, with support from a few dedicated Mano a Mano volunteers in Minnesota with relevant experience, developed this training in response to physical therapists who told them that they had only seen pictures of the types of braces, supports, and other items we made available to them. They requested training on how to correctly use these valuable gifts. Juan Urquidi and Mano a Mano Internacional manages that program. The event described below reflects the evolution of this training and the continued demand for it from throughout the country.

Physiotherapy Workshop #6 – June 30,2023 (prepared by Lasse H.)

Cochabamba – On June 30, 2023, the 6th Physiotherapy Workshop organized by Mano a Mano began. This workshop covers a wide range of topics related to therapy and the lives of people with disabilities. A total of 25 physiotherapists from various locations in Bolivia, including Santa Cruz, Tarija, and Potosí are participating in the workshop.

The workshop starts on Friday morning with a communal breakfast. Participants gradually arrive, and some already know each other from previous workshops. The breakfast lasts until 8:30 a.m., after which our director, Ben Samuel Martinez, delivers welcoming remarks.

Following that, there are two presentations before lunch. The first presentation, given by Alan Israel Martinez, addresses the topic of pressure ulcers, which occur when patients remain in the same position for too long. The presentation discusses the prevention and treatment of these wounds. Prevention measures include regularly changing the position of patients. If that’s not possible, special support surfaces that have been developed specifically to prevent these wounds should be used.

The second presentation focuses on pressotherapy, which is used to promote lymphatic and venous circulation. This is followed by a communal lunch where participants exchange personal experiences and discuss the newly acquired knowledge.

This workshop places great emphasis on engaging participants in discourse. One attendee, Yamil Toledo, 27, states, “It helps broaden horizons and opens the mind to new approaches.” This is his first time attending a workshop by Mano a Mano, and he primarily works with elderly patients at a rehabilitation center in Tarija. “I think the organization is great, although the bathrooms and showers are a bit far,” he says with a grin. Since the building where the participants are accommodated is not yet finished, they have to use the bathroom in the courtyard. This can be particularly uncomfortable at night when it gets quite cold.

After lunch, a presentation on the correlation between disability and poverty in Bolivia takes place. Magistre Javier Mendoza delivers this presentation. He highlights the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in escaping poverty. In Bolivia, there is still no real systemic support from the government, so it is crucial for communities to take initiative in promoting inclusion. Often, people with disabilities are not hired because they first need to apply for a disability card. However, the Bolivian bureaucracy is very slow, making this process more challenging. Another hurdle is that disabilities are sometimes still treated as illnesses.

Following this presentation, another talk on patient evaluation with a particular focus on the central nervous system and the brain is conducted. Afterward, dinner is served and the therapists have the opportunity to reflect on the day.

The next day begins with a communal breakfast to prepare for the day ahead. However, instead of presentations, participants share various experiences with their patients. This is also a measure to stimulate dialogue among the participants. After this exchange, at 10:00 a.m., there is a presentation on our program for donating medical supplies. Before lunch, there is another presentation on mechanical aids such as walkers or wheelchairs. This presentation is followed by practical exercises to reinforce the acquired knowledge. These practical exercises include different techniques for walking with crutches or canes, and the proper use of walkers and wheelchairs. This is especially important for therapists to effectively demonstrate to their patients how to utilize these aids.

To lighten up the day, there is half an hour of Zumba after lunch. Following Zumba, only one more presentation takes place. It focuses on manual therapy with a focus on babies and young children. Once again, there is a practical part after the theory. However, this practical part is slightly sabotaged by an electronic baby doll that emits various sounds. Among them, the word ‘mom’ can be heard when the speaker explains an exercise with the doll. This provokes laughter, and it takes a while for everyone to calm down and resume the explanation.

“The presentations provided valuable technical information.”

Paula Adriana Carvajal, lecturer at the University ‘Siglo XX’ in Potosí.

The third and final day begins with breakfast, followed by a lecture on inclusion and integration. This lecture particularly focuses on facilitating daily life and improving access to education and communication. Subsequently, a demonstration of a technical aid for moving heavy patients takes place.

The last presentation of the workshop addresses the topic of oxygen therapy, presented by Lic. Juana Rodriguez. She explains the different methods of oxygen therapy and their advantages and disadvantages. After the workshop, Ronni Argadoña says, “This workshop has helped me update my knowledge, which will enable me to better assist my patients.” The workshop concludes with the distribution from Mano a Mano of medical supplies to various rehabilitation and physiotherapy centers, as well as the issuing of participation certificates.

Pictures from the 6th Physical Therapy Workshop

Learn More