We are very excited to announce that we have closed on a new combined office/warehouse space in St. Paul, MN that will be Mano a Mano International Partners’ new home! Our new address will be 925 Pierce Butler Route, St. Paul, MN 55104:
Why We are Moving
We have an impressive infrastructure in Bolivia; we have built 136 clinics throughout the country, with 448 doctors, nurses, and dentists on staff in these clinics. Our schools, community bathrooms, roads, aviation program, and water projects are also built with long-term sustainability and maintenance in mind. In total we have built over 300 infrastructure projects throughout Bolivia, and all of these projects are still in operation today, even though we do not provide ongoing funding.
At the same time, Mano a Mano’s US office has operated on a shoestring. As our programs have continued to grow in Bolivia over our 18 years in operation, our US office has continued to operate out of Mano a Mano co-founders Joan and Segundo Velasquez’ home. We have always worked with the mission of building capacity in Bolivia, but the reality is that this exclusive focus has hampered our long-term sustainability as an organization. Every infrastructure project that we do in Bolivia is requested by the local community, and they are heavily involved throughout the process, which includes providing significant funding for the project. But none of these projects are able to get off the ground without the seed money that is first provided by US supporters. Mano a Mano has a backlog of more than 300 requests from communities for the variety of projects that we do, which is a 15-20 year backlog at our current pace. We can only respond to these requests, which have a proven impact in Bolivia, by raising more money in the US; to be able to raise more money we need to be able to expand our US capacity.
Recognizing these limitations, we have initiated a focus on growing our US operations. In July 2012 we hired a third full-time staff member, and we are now moving into a combined office/warehouse space in St. Paul. This new warehouse and larger staff will allow us to expand our local capacity by creating a home for our programs and provide us with the opportunity to reach out to more people. Mano a Mano began in 1994 with the goal of collecting surplus medical supplies destined for the landfill in Minnesota and shipping them to Bolivia, where we knew they could be put to use; this was our first program. As we have responded to the need and started a wide variety of projects in Bolivia, the role of our US office has expanded as well. In addition to the Medical Surplus Distribution program, Mano a Mano US has the following roles:
- Medical Surplus Distribution: the program that started Mano a Mano. We have maintained an average of 100,000-200,000 pounds sent each year, but in order to supply our ever-increasing number of clinics and other projects we need to collect and ship more supplies to meet the need. We have also expanded our distribution program and now ship a significant amount of school supplies, construction tools and equipment, and specialty items for specific projects, such as a valve grinder, aviation tools, or bridge-building supplies.
- Research & Evaluation: with more than 300 projects in place it is important that Mano a Mano tracks and evaluates its current projects in order to improve the process for future projects. We have a partnership with the University of Minnesota, and work with a number of students and professors from other schools to help us with this program. This spring will be our second year of participating in a course with William Mitchell College of Law as well.
- Fundraising and Donor/Grant Management: we depend on a large number of individual donors, churches, civic organizations, and foundations in the US to carry out our work. It is a large effort to write dozens of grant proposals and reports, maintain relationships with our current supporters, and also continue to work on expanding our reach and finding new sources of support.
- Volunteer Experiences and Trips to Bolivia: although our ultimate goal is to improve lives in rural Bolivian communities, through carrying out this mission we are able to have a dramatic impact on the lives of our US donors and volunteers by connecting them to a unique people and country that are relatively unknown. Trips to Bolivia are a vital component of showing how much of a difference a small group of people in two countries can make. Almost all of our most committed donors and volunteers have traveled to Bolivia. In 2011, US volunteers contributed 19,759 hours and Mano a Mano arranged trips to Bolivia for more than 50 people. In 2012, we have arranged trips for more than 70 people.
- Education & Outreach: in conjunction with providing meaningful volunteer experiences, we aim to add to the body of knowledge on how to effect positive change in a developing country. In addition to exposing people in the US to an effective development model, we also partner with local organizations to provide education in Bolivia. Doctors and nurses from Regions Hospital have traveled to Bolivia 5 times to provide International Acute Care continuing education workshops for Mano a Mano’s medical professionals (they have a 6th trip planned for spring 2013), and we are planning on replicating this program with a training/continuing education program for the teachers in our schools with teachers from the Twin Cities who are traveling to Bolivia in summer 2013.