Mano a Mano has sent millions of pounds of medical supplies, mobility equipment, and other items from Minnesota to Bolivia since 1994; these supplies are distributed to organizations and people in need throughout the country. Some of these distributions are more general distributions for organizations like hospitals, clinics, and other agencies; some are individual donations of basic wheelchairs or walkers or other mobility aids; and some items take a bit more focus.

In Minnesota, Mano a Mano collects donated medical supplies and equipment for shipment to Bolivia, where we distribute them to people and organizations in need throughout the country.

Meeting Specialized Equipment Needs of Severely Disabled Children and Adults in Bolivia

Municipal governments have the legal responsibility to serve individuals with disabilities. Their offices, health clinics that have a connection to Mano a Mano, and the National Program of Social and Legal Services for Persons with Disabilities have been referring patients to us. The children being served by this program come primarily from the barrios that surround the city of Cochabamba; their families have minimal material resources. Families who live in more rural towns lack the finances to travel to Cochabamba 2-3 times weekly for rehabilitation. However, we will provide specialized wheelchairs for these children, when possible.

Pamela, one of the 2 physical therapy students that is interning at Mano a Mano, works with 10-year-old Beismar, who is exercising with a standing frame sent from Minnesota, March 2022.

When a child is referred, Noelia (physical therapist) completes an examination; concurrently Melani (social worker) arranges a home visit to better understand the family’s financial situation. Based on their findings and recommendations, Mano a Mano decides whether the program can accept the child for rehabilitation services.

To date, 11 children have been enrolled in the physical therapy program. They have received specialized equipment and regularly scheduled therapy sessions three times weekly. An additional child received specialized wheelchair equipment, but could not be enrolled in the program because his family lives in Potosi, a one-way driving distance of about 10 hours.

Mano a Mano Staff That Make This Project Possible

We are grateful to our Mano a Mano staff that work on this project “Meeting Specialized Equipment Needs of Severely Disabled Children and Adults in Bolivia.”

  • Maria Blanca Velasquez and Ben Martinez from our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional provide direction and oversight of this project
  • Physical therapist Noelia Pinto Lopez works directly with each patient.
  • Social worker Melani Yucra conducts home visits for each referred patient to verify the family’s financial need.
  • Two physical therapy interns, one of whom is currently a student; the other has graduated and is interning to gain experience. Each will work with the program for six months. At this time, Noelia and the two interns devote all of their time to working directly with patients.
  • An equipment repair technician who repairs and modifies wheelchairs and related equipment.

You can see some of our Mano a Mano Internacional staff working on specialized equipment for people in need in this video, at the 3:40 mark:


Mano a Mano has held half-day workshops during the past four years to train physical therapists and other health care professionals on the use of the orthopedic and rehabilitation equipment that we collect and ship to Bolivia. A St. Paul orthopedist (and Mano a Mano volunteer) traveled to Cochabamba to initiate this training. Many of the items that we were distributing to health care facilities were rarely, if ever, available in Bolivia; even well-trained professionals lacked the opportunity to learn to use them correctly, thus our decision to organize these workshops.

We have now begun to develop training that builds on this previous workshop organizing experience. The intent is to offer much more advanced and complete training that focuses on patient rehabilitation, along with proper use of equipment and assistive devices. The first of these workshops was held at the new Mano a Mano Internacional office building on April 8-10. Workshops placed greatest emphasis on neuro-rehabilitation and respiratory therapy. Additional workshop subjects included early cognitive stimulation of the child, and prosthetics.

The response from workshop attendees was very positive. Program supervisor Ben Martinez reported that, “Participants came to previous workshops because they wanted the supplies and equipment. They came to this workshop because they wanted to learn how to improve their treatment of patients.”

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Projects Supporting Physical Therapy in the Twin Cities and Bolivia