Mano a Mano built its first school project in Bolivia in 2003 in Sisi Palermo. Since then we have built another 46 schools throughout Bolivia, and we continue to build 2-4 new school projects each year.

The Importance of Working Together

As with all of our projects in Bolivia, every school we build starts with a request from the community. They agree to volunteer to help with construction, and they agree to take over administration and maintenance of the school once it is complete. Communities and their municipalities have proven to be very capable of ensuring these projects last over the long-term; with 47 schools built, every one is still in operation today, with no ongoing funding from Mano a Mano.

A typical school project for Mano a Mano - this one was built in Putucuni in Fall 2012.

A typical school project for Mano a Mano – this one was built in Putucuni in Fall 2012.

However, very few of these projects could get off the ground without seed money raised in the US. Having some funding available to prove to the community that the project will happen allows our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia to build the project and leverage additional funding from sources in Bolivia – the community, the local municipality, churches/other organizations, and others.

The Need

The need for schools in Bolivia is great – dozens of communities are currently on Mano a Mano’s waiting list (as well as 100+ on the waiting list for clinics, roads, and water projects). The majority of communities that we work with are indigenous Quechua communities in isolated rural areas in the Andes Mountains. Even with recent improvements to the Bolivian economy as a whole, most of these improvements do not extend to these small rural communities. Bolivia has the highest rural poverty rate in the world – 94%, and most rural Bolivians eke out a living subsistence farming with a daily income of less than $1 a day.

The education gap between Indigenous Bolivians and the rest of the country is huge: Indigenous Bolivians have on average 5 years of school, while the rest of the country’s population average 10 years of school (Cabrol, Marcelo, and Szekely, Marcel, eds. Educacion para la transformacion. Banco de Desarollo Interamericano, 2012., 16).

Typical example of a classroom in rural Bolivia.

Typical example of a classroom in rural Bolivia.

These are the communities that Mano a Mano focuses on working with. Not only do they have the greatest need, they are also the most likely to be ignored. The population is usually around 500-4,000 people, which is often deemed too small to build an infrastructure project, and the location’s geography presents many of its own challenges; in some cases Mano a Mano has to build or improve the road just to be able to drive to the location.

Transporting supplies can be a challenge! This pic is from a road project we are building in El Palmar.

Transporting supplies can be a challenge! This pic is from a road project we are building in El Palmar.

Mano a Mano can only build new projects with additional funding, and some amazing Minnesotans are answering this need to support a school project in Bolivia.

Joey Temali, Claire Temali, and the Temali Family

Joey is in the seventh grade at Highland Park Middle School in the Spanish Immersion Program. In December of 2009, the Temali family (Mike, Laura, Joey and Claire) spent one month visiting Bolivia and volunteering with our counterpart organizations. He was immersed in what can only be described as the inequality of life between what he is accustomed to here in the US and how it compares to that of Bolivia.

When the family returned, the Temalis contacted Mano a Mano and pledged to raise enough money to build a school, making a $30,000 commitment. After talking to Joey and being amazed at his ability to articulate his experience, we knew right away that Joey was going to prove that youth have a role to play in making a difference in the world. He and Claire started a letter-writing campaign to schools throughout the metro area to see if he could garner support to help raise the money needed to build a school.

Last month, Joey received his first response and invited us to present his project to the Minnetonka Spanish Immersion Elementary School who had raised $703 in a penny war. To date he and his family have raised over $1,000 toward their goal (which includes funds from both Joey’s and Claire’s allowance).

Starting in May, Joey’s own school Highland Park Middle School will also be involved in the project!

We have officially named the Temali family project, Ninos a Ninos (children to children) and are working on developing school participation packets to help support his efforts.

Joey Temali (far left) with the students at ISLA in Minnetonka being presented a check to help build a school in Bolivia!

Joey Temali (far left) with the students at ISLA in Minnetonka being presented a check to help build a school in Bolivia!

Minnesotans Making a Difference

There are many others involved with the Ninos a Ninos project. Ivet Garcia and Miss Minnesota Latina participants have organized fundraisers and school supply drives for the project. School supplies are desperately needed in Bolivia; teachers have told us that many students only have one notebook, and they write in pencil so that once it is full they can go back and erase all the pages to have more paper.

School Supply Drive from Sunday, April 28

School Supply Drive from Sunday, April 28

Unity Church held a penny war to raise money for school supplies.

Penny War_March 3 Service_Unity_2013

Volunteers at the Mano a Mano office have been organizing school supplies into kits.

Olivia School Supplies Sort

Mano a Mano volunteers Charles Skrief and Andrea Bond made a video interviewing Jatun Kasa community members about the difference the school Mano a Mano built in 2009 has made in their lives (they will be talking about their experience next week on May 8 that is open to the public).

Do You Want to Help the Ninos a Ninos Project?

We are hoping to involve as many people as possible in this project. Please contact our Office Manager Dana Dallavalle if you are interested in collecting school supplies (and helping us ship them to Bolivia), getting your school involved, or you are interested in contributing to the project.