In 2023, Mano a Mano shipped 9 containers from Minnesota to Bolivia, which included thousands of pieces of mobility equipment and hundreds of wheelchairs. When our local St. Paul volunteers pack these items, along with tons of medical supplies, they disassemble many of the wheelchairs, mark spare parts separately, and pack several together in oversize boxes.

Mano a Mano volunteers loading wheelchairs and parts in a 2023 container shipment from St. Paul, Minnesota.

Why do they take on so much extra work? Their answer, “We want to protect these chairs from damage during shipping and use the container space as efficiently as possible.”

Each time fully packed containers arrive at the Mano a Mano Internacional warehouse in Bolivia, their staff and volunteers face the daunting task of unpacking and organizing this cargo.

Mano a Mano staff and volunteers unloading containers sent from Minnesota at our Bolivia warehouse, December 2023-January 2024

Because wheelchairs must be reassembled, repaired as needed, and thoroughly cleaned before being distributed, Mano a Mano staff have a small wheelchair repair space set up in their Cochabamba warehouse.  

Technician Jhonatan repairs and greases wheels for wheelchair assembly
Spare parts include bolts, washers, screws, bearings, legs, seats…everything required for an operational chair, is organized in this warehouse space.

“The majority of the chairs are in excellent condition; some are even new,” says Dr. Israel Martinez, who volunteers with this program. “But they don’t arrive like new. They have been disassembled in order to save container space, so more equipment can be sent to us. When containers are unloaded, we separate the chairs to one side; then we sort and store spare parts. Next, Jhonatan and Jhonny, our technicians, begin the work of assembling chairs, replacing any missing parts, or making new parts. Because you have sent sewing machines to us, they can fix seat belts, make padded backrests and cushions for the neurological chairs. They clean and disinfect all chairs before anyone receives them. When they finish this work, the chair is ready to provide life-changing mobility for an individual who is unable to walk safely without it. Those who live in the area are asked to return to Mano a Mano every three months so the chair can be maintained and repaired in order to extend its useful life.” 

Repair work in process
Reassembling a wheelchair
One wheelchair – sent from Minnesota, assembled, cleaned, and ready to go!

Hundreds of individuals with mobility challenges can now live lives of greater independence for themselves and their families. The video below is an example of one wheelchair donated by Mano a Mano for Gustavo in Trinidad in 2021:

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Recovered Resources Program

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.