Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Aviation hosted a weekend health clinic in mid-June 2023 for 112 people in the community of San Lorenzo, municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos, department of Beni, Bolivia. Mano a Mano provided health, dental, and physical therapy services, and also transported medical supplies and mobility equipment sent from Minnesota for donation in the area.

Mano a Mano’s Cessna Caravan arriving in San Lorenzo.

Pictures from the Weekend Health Clinic

More About this Weekend Health Clinic (written by Mano a Mano Volunteer Lasse)

“On the morning of June 16, once again, a Mano a Mano aircraft takes off for a weekend clinic, this time in San Lorenzo (Beni). However, things don’t go as planned. Initially, everything goes smoothly, and we arrive almost on time for the authorities’ inspection. After half an hour, the plane is searched and ready for takeoff. However, five minutes into the flight, our pilot receives a call informing us that the landing strip in San Lorenzo is blocked by the authorities. As a result, we have to abort the flight and turn back. Fortunately, the runway is eventually cleared, and we take off for San Lorenzo with approximately a 90-minute delay.

San Lorenzo is a municipality with about 2,000 inhabitants or nearly 500 families, located in the Beni Department. It is tropical and lush green, a welcome change from the somewhat gray city of Cochabamba. The people in San Lorenzo rely on agriculture and animal husbandry for their livelihood. There are several small villages in the surrounding area, which can be reached on horseback within five hours. People from these villages also come to receive treatment from our doctors. The health center in San Lorenzo is the only one in the region; the nearest one is a six-hour drive away.

Upon our arrival at around 11:30 a.m., we are greeted with lunch. After lunch, the aircraft departs again for Cochabamba, and following a briefing, we begin setting up the facilities. The weekend clinic will be held at the health center in San Lorenzo.

During a weekend clinic, Mano a Mano personnel and supplies are flown to remote villages and communities with limited access to medical care. Typically, we stay there for 1-3 days, treating all patients who come with various complaints. The services are provided free of charge to the population, and in return, the volunteers are often offered food and accommodation.

Treatment and consultations begin at 2:00 p.m. Initially, there aren’t many patients present. Some have already gone home since we were expected earlier. From San Lorenzo, we have brought three areas of expertise: general medicine (two doctors), physiotherapy (three therapists), and dentistry (two dentists). However, by 3:00 p.m., all areas are bustling, particularly the dental section. Dental care is in high demand since oral hygiene is often lacking, and there are simply no dentists available in rural areas. Physiotherapy also attracts significant interest, as it is usually scarce, just like dental care. Many patients come with back problems caused by agricultural work and horse riding. Today, we work until darkness sets in around 7:00 p.m. After that, we have to stop treatments as the lights in the health center are not functioning, and we cannot treat patients without proper lighting.

On Saturday, treatments begin at 8:30 a.m. This time, we are already expected by patients, and the waiting area for dentistry is crowded. To shorten waiting times, we create a list so that individuals with other complaints can visit the physiotherapy or general medicine sections in the meantime. During the morning, a child with muscle weakness arrives. We had been informed beforehand that there are people with disabilities in San Lorenzo. Our physiotherapy team is well-prepared to assist such individuals. We had anticipated treating the disabled individuals on Friday. When Edgar arrives on Saturday morning, we are delighted to be able to help him. Due to his muscle weakness, he struggles with walking. We perform various exercises with him to strengthen his leg muscles. Additionally, we explain to his grandfather, Bernado, who accompanies him, how to continue the exercises at home. After the therapy, Bernado expresses his gratitude for our presence in San Lorenzo and for being able to help his grandson. He says, “It would be better if you were here every day” and laughs. In general, it can be observed that the people are happy about our arrival. Sebastián, 22 years old, also expresses his happiness for the treatment received. He works as an industrial mechanic and had a broken tooth. “I am very grateful that you are here. Normally, there are no dentists around.” He receives a filling and can return home after half an hour.

By noon, several patients with various disabilities have come to the physiotherapy section. One of them is Alberto, a 24-year-old with Down syndrome. His sister accompanies him to the therapy. Alberto has difficulty speaking but manages most everyday tasks without problems. He has never received physiotherapy or any other therapy for his disability. Therefore, a brief evaluation is conducted, followed by exercises to improve his coordination. These exercises are explained in detail to his sister so that they can be continued at home.

Treatments continue until 2:00 p.m. Unfortunately, we cannot treat all the patients in the dental section, despite the dentists working tirelessly without breaks. In total, we treated 26 patients in about 10 working hours. The most common problem was dental fluorosis. This is a problem which occurs if the child consumes fluoride at age 8 and younger. It leads to brown spots on the tooth. Afterwards, we quickly pack everything up and take it to the small airport in San Lorenzo. At 3:00 p.m., the plane returns to bring us back to Cochabamba. However, before that, several medical supplies are unloaded and left as donations in San Lorenzo. We land safely back in Cochabamba around 4:30 p.m. After unloading the aircraft, everyone goes home exhausted but with smiles on their faces.

In total, we treated 112 patients over these two days: 58 in general medicine, 28 in physiotherapy, and 26 in dentistry.”

Lasse bio: Lasse Heuner is a volunteer from Xanten, Germany. Lasse is interested in sustainability and development. He will stay until mid-August before returning to Germany to start studying mechanical engineering.

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Aviation Programs

Learn more about our aviation programs in Bolivia.