Thank you to the Mano a Mano volunteers for helping put together layettes at our St. Paul warehouse last week!

Last week, this volunteer group spent an afternoon assembling over 100 layettes for newborns. Their tasks: select just the right combination of tiny onesies, infant outfits, and blankets that had been carefully washed, repaired if needed, and sorted into storage containers during the past several months; pack these organized sets into reusable plastic storage bags; pass them on to warehouse volunteers to store for easy access when shipping.  

What is a Layette?

Mano a Mano’s shipments of medical cargo include hundreds of infant layettes, destined for new mothers who come into contact with Mano a Mano in many different ways. (Such as coming to one of our clinics to deliver.)

For many of these women, the layette is an added incentive (and a complement to Bolivian Health Ministry programs like Juana Azurduy) to seek pre- and post-natal care and healthcare-attended deliveries, all of which decrease maternal and infant mortality.

The layettes include:

  • One swaddling blanket, ideally a 3-foot square made of soft cotton. Rural Bolivian moms carry babies on their backs and will use this blanket to carefully wrap (swaddle), not just cover, the baby.
  • one receiving blanket
  • one facecloth
  • one hat
  • four newborn outfits for clothing changes (these outfits may be a onesie, or a top and a pair of pants)
  • one pair of socks
  • one toy (preferably soft, no buttons or any item on which the baby could choke)
  • Extras are included when available: booties, bibs and burp cloths, dresses or knit sweaters, for example

The set is packed inside a large zip-lock bag, which in itself is useful to mothers and families in need. Mano a Mano collects these items through various means: garage sales, individual donations, church drives, linen supply companies, hotels, and others; volunteers then put the pieces together to make layette sets.

To support the layette project, the Mano a Mano office welcomes donations of these items for newborns though 3 months.

We especially need more blankets; we also seek volunteer knitters to make baby caps and soft toys, two items that are less frequently donated.

Volunteer Spotlight: Marian and Doug

Marian Heinrichs (right) leads the layette group that works at the Mano a Mano office. Her husband, Doug Skelton (left), volunteers along with her on this and many other Mano a Mano projects.
Doug has helped a lot with Mano a Mano warehouse maintenance and repairs over many years, including installing a dishwasher in 2018 that we were able to purchase as part of a BizRecycling grant, kitchen cabinets, etc.

Marian talked with us recently about her long-term commitment as a Mano a Mano volunteer and donor, and what inspired her to take on the time-consuming task of becoming a layette group leader:

As a post-natal care nurse and child psychologist, Marian Heinrichs feels drawn to giving children the best possible start in life. Becoming a close friend of Mary White, an enthusiastic advocate who had helped create Mano a Mano, opened the door to Marian’s long-term relationship with Mano a Mano.  

Knowing that Bolivia’s maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in this hemisphere, Marian found ways to channel her interests into hands-on action. For years she helped sort medical supplies. Then, she and Doug added price-tagging and selling crafts to their volunteer list. When she was presented with an opportunity to help her father apply funds to a project that would be deeply meaningful to both of them, she approached Mano a Mano about building a school in rural Bolivia…and, together, we did. Marian and Doug traveled to Bolivia for its dedication in 2011.

Mano a Mano’s completed primary school in Calachaca, Bolivia. Inaugurated in May, 2011, its dedication plaque includes this quote from Marian: “Education is the Solution” 

Once retired, Marian offered to take responsibility for overseeing our layette project.  She searched for sources of the items needed. She recruited Ellen Green (editor of Mano a Mano’s second book: La Familia – An International Love Story) to knit hundreds of baby caps. Marian washes every donated item and repairs those that are lightly damaged, then stores them in bins in the Mano a Mano office, ensuring that everything is ready for the group of volunteers to come together to create the layettes. This background work, about 95% of the task time required, results in the smooth functioning of this project – and makes it more fun for everyone.  

Marian is familiar with stories of how layettes are used as incentives for mothers to seek pre- and post-natal care and deliver their babies with assistance from trained individuals. From her point of view, this project presents another creative opportunity for healthcare providers to support women and give their babies the best possible start in life. Knowing that her work makes a genuine difference as babies begin their lives continues to motivate her work.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s also creative and gives me an opportunity to use my sewing skills. It’s tangible. And…it’s a lot of fun.”

The Next Step: Getting Layettes from Minnesota to Bolivia

In April, the layettes assembled by Marian’s group, along with hundreds more that have been put together by our three layette volunteer groups during the past few months, will embark on their long journey to Bolivia as part of our next shipment. After they arrive, our Bolivian counterparts will undertake the arduous task of unpacking the containers and organizing their contents for distribution to healthcare programs, schools, and other organizations throughout Bolivia.

They will be sorted into lotes, each destined for an organization according to its specific needs, license, and professional capabilities.

This set of sixteen lotes, each of which includes layettes, was distributed to primary care clinics in Bolivia last year.

Officials from the municipality in which the clinics are located take responsibility for picking them up and distributing them. To ensure transparency, each official signs the list of lote contents that Mano a Mano staff prepared. The clinic staff receives its copy from that official, another step to ensure transparency. The same process will take place when the about-to-be-shipped cargo, including layettes, reaches Bolivia within the next several months.  

Layettes in Pictures

Learn More About Mano a Mano Distribution of Layettes from Minnesota to Bolivia