Each of Mano a Mano’s five counterpart organizations started as a pilot project, “living” in the home of that organization’s founders until it was firmly established. When our new office building on the outskirts of Cochabamba is finished, each organization will have accomplished a major milestone: each will have its own permanent space.
In spite of COVID-related interruptions, this building project is moving forward. Roof construction begins this week. The carpentry crew will use ropes to hoist 5-foot metal bars up the front of the building and onto the flat surface of the top floor, then weld those bars into roof beams. Once beams are in place, they will install corrugated metal, the finishing surface of the roof.
Mano a Mano Internacional in Bolivia will use half of the first floor space, having easy access to the nearby warehouse where the medical cargo shipped from St. Paul is received, sorted, and distributed.
The top floor will be used for meetings, gatherings for visitors, training courses, and workshops. Having permanent office space for the Mano a Mano organizations in Bolivia moves us another step forward in the long-term sustainability of the organization as a whole.
Mano a Mano’s First “Office” – Joan and Segundo’s House in Mendota Heights, Minnesota
9 years ago this week, we were busy moving into our new office/warehouse space in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, and moving out of the home of our Co-Founders Joan and Segundo Velasquez in Mendota Heights, which was our headquarters for our first 19 years of operation! We went back with Segundo to visit our old office as part of a video project in partnership with TPT – Twin Cities PBS in 2019; the video includes footage from when Joan and Segundo were featured as part of the KARE 11 “Eleven Who Care” award 20 years ago (Kare 11 footage is at the 2-minute mark):
Pictures From Our First Office in Mendota Heights – the Early Years
Mano a Mano’s Combined Office/Warehouse Space in St. Paul, Minnesota
Moving out of Joan and Segundo’s house, and into our own space in 2013, has been transformational for Mano a Mano as an organization. Mano a Mano has become a space for hundreds of Minnesotans to volunteer and learn about community-based international development taking place in their backyard. In our new space, we are now able to host larger groups of volunteers, and manage a larger amount of donated supplies. In addition to shipping supplies to Mano a Mano’s programs in Bolivia, we have been able to donate supplies to organizations and people in need in the Twin Cities, as well as ship supplies to other countries. (We have had to limit the number of people in the building during COVID, but we have continued to distribute the same number of supplies to Bolivia over the past few years when compared to the previous years.)
The Building in Bolivia – A Shared Space at 291 Junin esq. Ecuador in Downtown Cochabamba
If you have been to Bolivia with Mano a Mano at any point in our history, you will have undoubtedly spent time at the building at 291 Junin esq. Ecuador in the center of Cochabamba. This Velasquez family apartment building has hosted volunteers and served as offices for a number of our counterpart organizations for more than 30 years.
Mano a Mano Bolivia’s Office/Warehouse
Our first counterpart organization formed in Bolivia, Mano a Mano Bolivia, focuses on health and education projects, including building health clinics and schools, and was founded in 1999. They have been in their office/warehouse building for 2 decades.
Mano a Mano Aviation Hangar at Jorge Wilstermann Airport
Mano a Mano Apoyo Aereo focuses on our aviation program, primarily emergency air rescues and transport, and was founded in 2006. We have been in this hangar since our start.
Celebrating the Initiation of the “Punata Regional Complex”
Mano a Mano celebrated the initiation of the “Punata Regional Complex” – a comprehensive project in the Cochabamba Valley’s Punata region over the next three years that includes a 3rd expansion of the Laguna Sulti agricultural water reservoir (complete); a new public school (50% complete); a deep well for potable water (complete); a three-mile road; infrastructure needed for moving our aviation program from the Cochabamba airport; and preparation for a rural Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA).
Heavy Equipment, Vehicles, and Planes
Mano a Mano is made up of 5 counterpart organizations focusing in different areas of community development – health, education, economic development, food security and nutrition, and more – with the same mission of “Partnering together – Hand in Hand – to transform the health and well-being of Bolivian communities in need.” Much of this work is made possible by having the capacity needed as an organization to be able to adequately partner with and provide support to Bolivian communities. This means having professional staff, heavy equipment and machinery, and sites and warehouses. With these components available, communities and their municipal governments can partner with Mano a Mano on community projects with realistic and achievable budgets, which is further leveraged with funds raised in the US that kickstart every project. (Read more about our partnership model here.)
Our aviation program is another example. Since our Cessna Caravan arrived in Bolivia 3+ years ago, this plane has increased the capacity of Mano a Mano’s Aviation program to transport more people & more cargo, more efficiently. Having our own aviation program, we can subsidize the costs of providing emergency flights and weekend health clinics for people in need, for free, by charging for private flights for people and cargo.
In order for Mano a Mano to work with Bolivian communities on the projects they request, we need to have the capacity to do so. Everything we do to improve the sustainability of Mano a Mano as an organization makes it possible to do more with the Bolivian communities that we partner with. We have come a long ways as an organization since 1994, and we look forward to the future!
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