Check out what we have been doing together over the past month or so across our 5 counterpart organizations in Minnesota and Bolivia:

Preparing Wheelchairs for Distribution in Bolivia

In 2023, Mano a Mano shipped 9 containers from Minnesota to Bolivia, which included thousands of pieces of mobility equipment and hundreds of wheelchairs. In St. Paul, we break down wheelchairs as much as possible so that we can maximize efficiency and send as much as possible in each container – no wasted space! In Cochabamba, because wheelchairs must be reassembled, repaired as needed, and thoroughly cleaned before being distributed, Mano a Mano staff have a wheelchair repair space set up in their Cochabamba warehouse.

2024 Health Education Workshop Schedule

Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia already has a busy schedule set for its 2024 health education courses.

Laguna Sulti Reservoir Filling with Water – After a Very Dry 2023

The first week in January brought two all-day rains to Laguna Sulti, and a long-awaited reprieve from the severe drought that plagued this community, as well as nearly all others throughout Bolivia’s Cochabamba Valley over the past year. By January 5th, the reservoir was 2/3 full! The water level has reached about 3 feet from the overflow channel which guides water back into the Laguna Sulti River.

Deep Water Well in Progress in Chaupisuyu, Bolivia

Our 25th deep water well is underway in the community of Chaupisuyu, Bolivia. Chaupisuyu, population of about 600 people, lies in the moderately high Andes at an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet above sea level. Essentially all of its residents are Quechua-speaking subsistence farmers, and have waited for nearly two years for their well to be next in line on our long waiting list of requests.

Using Plexiglass Donated in Minnesota to Repair Heavy Equipment in Bolivia

Mano a Mano collects medical supplies, mobility equipment, and other in-demand items from Minnesota for shipment to Bolivia, where they are distributed to people and organizations in need throughout the country. The vast majority of what we send are pretty basic medical supplies and mobility equipment; there are also some unique items, like sheets of plexiglass. In 2022, Ivo Velasquez (from our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo) was visiting us in Minnesota, and while walking through our warehouse he saw a stack of plexiglass, a post-COVID distancing donation from a local school, which led to questions about whether we could find more. “Yes. We picked up only what we thought could be used. The rest were being discarded,” was the reply. Then this from Ivo, “The glass in many of our heavy machine cabs has been broken by branches and debris. We currently shape metal sheets onto the cab sides to protect the operators, but metal obstructs their view. Plexiglass can be molded to any shape. It’s transparent and hard to break. We could make long-lasting windows from these sheets. And it’s nearly impossible to find it in Bolivia.” After a phone call to the donor, their rush to pull plexiglass sheets from the dumpster, and a quick trip back to the school, we retrieved enough sheets to repair every broken machine window and improve safety for our workers in Bolivia. This is only one of many examples of “thinking outside the box” that happens when staff who work in vastly different environments have an opportunity to focus their trained eyes on the same object. This week, Ivo sent us a few photos of one example of this plexiglass being used to repair a broken window in one of Mano a Mano’s pieces of heavy equipment.

Unloading Containers in Bolivia that Recently Arrived from Minnesota

Mano a Mano’s shipment of 3 containers sent from Minnesota in August 2023 arrived at our Cochabamba, Bolivia warehouse in late December 2023, where our staff and volunteers have been busy at work unloading the containers to organize supplies for distribution to people and organizations throughout the country. Amelia Wray, a volunteer from the Princeton Novogratz Bridge Year Program this year in Bolivia, wrote about the container unloading experience.

Thank You For a Busy and Successful 2023!

In 1994, Mano a Mano Co-Founders Segundo & Joan Velasquez came together with friends & family to address 2 problems: in Minnesota, hundreds of thousands of pounds of usable medical supplies and equipment are thrown away each year; in Bolivia, basic supplies were desperately needed and we knew we could put these supplies to good use. At the time, Bolivia had one of the highest rural poverty rates in the world, and despite making progress, it continues to be the poorest country in South America. Over the years, we have grown into 5 counterpart organizations that have kept the same “mano a mano – hand in hand” approach – connecting resources in the US & Bolivia with strong community-based partnerships – to construct hundreds of sustainable community projects throughout Bolivia. We ensure that each project is well-equipped and maintained, and that training and education programs are also provided.

Backpacking Soramerika Video

Nice to see this video from a group that recently spent some time traveling in Bolivia, including time spent volunteering with Mano a Mano! (You can see some Mano a Mano clips in their travel video below.)

Meeting with Communities

Mano a Mano’s mission is: “Partnering together – Hand in Hand – to transform the health and well-being of Bolivian communities in need.” This means LOTS of meetings, like this recent one pictured here just outside of Cochabamba, held in our mobile office made out of containers sent from Minnesota.

Flying on the Mano a Mano Plane

Check out a recent landing in Oruro on the Mano a Mano plane with pilot Ivo:

Putting a Trailer Sent from Minnesota to Use

A few years ago, Mano a Mano received a donated trailer that we sent to Bolivia. We received this picture of the trailer at work this month at our headquarters in Cochabamba, Bolivia:

This time, the trailer was being loaded at our Cochabamba office/warehouse with a boat and lathe for transport to a Mano a Mano community worksite. The trailer is strong and sturdy, and is used all the time to transport parts, cargo, tools, and whatever else we need across our various community projects in Bolivia. (Also, all of the containers in the background are from our shipments from Minnesota.)