Putting Donated Traction Equipment to Use in Bolivia

In Mano a Mano’s last shipment of donated supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia in January, we included some traction equipment that had been donated by Avera McKennan Hospital in South Dakota. The shipment arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia earlier this summer (shipments take a long time to work their way through Customs, usually 4-6 months) and the supplies and equipment have been in the process of being organized and distributed by our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Internacional.

We received the notes below about how this traction equipment is being put to use in Bolivia.

Dr. Victor Hugo and Mano a Mano Internacional staff & volunteers organizing the traction equipment.

Dr. Victor Hugo and Mano a Mano Internacional staff & volunteers organizing the traction equipment at our warehouse in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Note from Mano a Mano Co-Founder Segundo Velasquez about the Traction Equipment

[Mano a Mano Internacional Director] Maria Blanca has decided that the traction equipment is way, way too valuable to just give to a hospital. She has decided that hospital personnel will have to get some training, which will include a video presentation, manuals (that Mano a Mano volunteer Tracy obtained from the Internet) and hands-on assembling. Maria Blanca says this traction equipment is “una joya de equipo” – a jewel of equipment, and we need to closely monitor its use.

This is really important.

Our volunteers should know how important and useful each piece of steel, each box of medical supplies, every item we send is.

The steel pieces we loaded in our St. Paul warehouse, not too long ago, become jewels in Bolivia. This wonderful traction equipment, specifically designed for traction cases, in Bolivia, will replace a mishmatch of home-welded sets of pipes that two separate hospitals own. The miscellaneous pieces of steel we picked up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will now be used by various hospitals to provide safer and improved health care.

Thank you to Kevin, Diane, Pam and Missy and Avera Hospital for making this possible…..now some hospital in Bolivia will have these “joyas de equipo.”

Note from Tracy, Mano a Mano Internacional Volunteer (helping to organize supplies in Bolivia)

In my opinion, these traction frames are even more valuable because they AREN’T fierros (iron) like we commonly call them.  They’re aluminum, they’re modular, and they’re SUPER light.  The manual that I referenced is really part catalog, part manual.  Each situation is different for orthopedic doctors.  You start with the frame and then add on accessories where needed.

My first experience back in Bolivia was in 2003, when I got piano tuning tools into the hands of somebody who now makes a decent living by tuning pianos.  It always impresses me that when the right tools fall into the right hands, amazing things can happen.

It all starts with the sorting process in St. Paul.

Shipping Supplies is Extremely Important to our Programs

This is an example of the process Mano a Mano goes through with every item that is donated in the US. Once the containers with donated supplies arrive in Bolivia, our staff and volunteers go to work organizing everything and identifying the best use of each piece. The vast majority of supplies – the wheelchairs & orthopedic supplies and primary care medical supplies – go to our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia to distribute to our network of clinics (we will surpass our 150th clinic built in the near future).

Mano a Mano Bolivia donating a wheelchair in Cochabamba.

Mano a Mano Bolivia donating a wheelchair in Cochabamba.

Other supplies, like this traction equipment, are distributed to Bolivian hospitals and other non-profit organizations that help those in need, free-of-charge.

Collecting and shipping supplies is not easy. It takes a LOT of volunteer and staff hours to pick up donations, sort and pack them at the Mano a Mano warehouse in Minnesota, load 40-foot containers, manage the process and paperwork for shipping and customs, unload containers at our warehouse in Cochabamba, Bolivia, re-organize in Bolivia and identify where items should go, and organize distributions.

But all of the work is well worth it when we see the impact it has on people’s lives in Bolivia.

Shipment of supplies in 2013 being organized at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba in preparation for distribution.

Shipment of supplies in 2013 being organized at the Mano a Mano hangar in Cochabamba in preparation for distribution.

Help Us Ship Two More Containers

If you would like to support our distribution program, we are hoping to ship 2 more containers to Bolivia very soon. All of the donated supplies are ready to go at our Minnesota warehouse, we just need the funding to be able to ship them (we could ship at least 3 containers right now with the amount of supplies we have in our warehouse).

We are currently running an Indiegogo Campaign – “Reduce Waste in the US, Improve Lives in Bolivia” to raise the funds needed to ship the containers.

Your support makes a big difference – every $1 you donate ships $15-$25 worth of supplies.

CLICK HERE to visit our Indiegogo Campaign and learn more, or you can click the widget below.


Thanks to everyone involved in these shipments, from staff and volunteers sorting and packing supplies in the US & Bolivia to donors that make these shipments possible – we couldn’t do it without you! We have been able to ship more than 3.5 million pounds since 1994, thanks to your help.