We were sad to receive the news last week that Dr. Víctor Hugo Ortuño Cárdenas passed away. Victor Hugo has been involved with Mano a Mano in many ways for more than 2 decades. He was the on-site physician at some of our earliest clinic projects in Tablas Monte, Candelaria, and Campo Via in 2001 (Candelaria has been expanded since then and we visited to hear from staff and community members a few months ago – in the video below).

From there he was responsible for the health education programs at Mano a Mano Bolivia for years, including managing the continuing health education workshops for doctors, nurses, and dentists in Mano a Mano clinics and community health promoter programs; these programs continue at Mano a Mano Bolivia to this day and are an integral component of our approach to community health.

Victor Hugo at a continuing health education workshop.

We have repeated this template for continuing education and training across all of our counterpart organizations and programs, including agronomy, physical therapy, training for heavy equipment operators and aviation personnel, and others. Victor Hugo was on the Board of Directors of Mano a Mano Aviation since 2010.

Victor Hugo teaching CPR for Community Health Promoters with a resucibaby in rural Bolivia – about 15 years ago.

He was a professor and instructor at Univalle, Universidad Tecnica Privada Cosmos, Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana, Tecnologico Nacional Andres Bello – College of Pharmacy, SAR Bolivia, and Universidad Mayor de San Simon, among others, where he frequently taught courses and workshops for first aid, Basic Life Support, and First Response.

We wanted to share a few stories, photos, and tributes in memory of Victor Hugo:

Mano a Mano Bolivia

In memory of Victor Hugo, posted on the Mano a Mano Bolivia Facebook page.

Nuestro homenaje al Dr. Víctor Hugo Ortuño Cárdenas – Mano a Mano Apoyo Aereo (Our Tribute to Victor Hugo)

Victor Hugo was on the Board of Mano a Mano Aviation since 2010.

Mano a Mano ha tenido pocos momentos tristes como éste. Hoy la familia de Mano a Mano despide a uno de sus miembros, el Dr. Victor Hugo Ortuño Cárdenas, cuyo cuerpo no resistió más la lucha contra la enfermedad. Su principal virtud, fue su disponibilidad al servicio de la sociedad, integrando varios grupos de voluntariado, muy amante de dar enseñanza en Atención Pre Hospitalaria y Búsqueda y Rescate, por ello mismo ejercía con profunda pasión su docencia universitaria.

Víctor Hugo formó parte del equipo de trabajo de Mano a Mano Bolivia y luego paso a Mano a Mano Apoyo Aéreo por unos años, siendo desde el año 2010 hasta su partida miembro del Directorio de Mano a Mano Apóyo Aéreo. Rendimos nuestro sincero homenaje al Dr. Ortuño por su trabajo y voluntariado en Mano a Mano, expresamos nuestra sentida condolencia a su familia.

Maria Blanca Velasquez Urey

English Translation

Mano a Mano has had few moments as sad as this. Mano a Mano says goodbye to one of ours, Dr. Victor Hugo Ortuño Cárdenas, whose body couldn’t fight anymore against his illness. His principal virtue was his commitment to serve the community, integrating various volunteer groups to provide teaching for pre-hospital care and Search and Rescue, and he showed the same passion himself through his university positions teaching and educating.

Victor Hugo was part of the team at Mano a Mano Bolivia, and later joined Mano a Mano Apoyo Aéreo, serving on the Mano a Mano Aviation Board since 2010. We pay our sincere tribute to Dr. Ortuño for his dedication working and volunteering at Mano a Mano, and we express our heartfelt condolences to his family.

Mano a Mano Internacional

Dr. Victor Hugo (second from right at the white table), during a distribution event of supplies sent from Minnesota at our Mano a Mano Aviation hangar at the Cochabamba airport in 2015.

Re-sharing this story from 2014:

In a Mano a Mano shipment of supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia in January 2014, we included some traction equipment that had been donated by Avera McKennan Hospital in South Dakota. The shipment arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the summer of 2014 (shipments take about 4-6 months to work their way through Customs) and the supplies and equipment were 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.

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

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 become jewels in Bolivia. This wonderful traction equipment, specifically designed for traction cases, in Bolivia, will replace a mishmash 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. Supplies like this traction equipment are distributed to Bolivian hospitals and other non-profit organizations that help those in need.

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.

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

Tez Steinberg – A Tu Lado

“I just saw the news that our friend and colleague Victor Hugo has passed. I’m so sorry. Please accept my deepest condolences. I hadn’t spoken with him in years, but throughout A Tu Lado’s work with Mano a Mano, Victor Hugo was an amazing collaborator, caring teacher, and kind friend for the work we shared together in Bolivia, and I know many are mourning his loss.

Sending you and your team a big hug.”

Sincerely, Tez Steinberg

Nate Knatterud-Hubinger, Mano a Mano International Partners

“With 5 counterpart organizations and many different projects and programs, Mano a Mano has a lot going on. Victor Hugo was involved with many of them, in many ways, over more than 20 years. In addition to his work with both Mano a Mano Bolivia and Mano a Mano Aviation, he has always been a trusted resource on our Recovered Resources program. When we have had medical professionals travel to Bolivia, Victor has been happy to arrange extensive tours at local hospitals, or set up guest lectures at local universities.

He has had, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on Mano a Mano. He will be missed.”

Just one example of something that Victor Hugo made all of the arrangements for – a guest lecture by Dr. Galen Stahle on “Diagnosing and Managing Anxiety Disorders” for the University of San Simon in 2015. The first day’s presentation drew a full auditorium of 250; another 100 people were outside hoping to be able to attend.

Mark Petzoldt, Mano a Mano Volunteer

“I remember traveling to Cochabamba, Bolivia in the years that Victor Hugo worked for Mano a Mano. He was always so friendly and welcoming at the warehouse and office. He was a great asset to the success of Mano a Mano Bolivia in the earlier years. He will be greatly missed.”

Joan Velasquez, Mano a Mano Co-Founder

“Victor Hugo developed the exemplary health care professional and health promoter training programs that continue to be a hallmark of Mano a Mano Bolivia. I had the privilege of spending many hours meeting with him in Bolivia during the program’s early years, listening to his perspective on how to make training available to those who work in rural clinics, and hearing his stories. He demonstrated passionate commitment to high-quality health care that respects culture and context. His work will live on through the lives and health of the people he served. We send our condolences and affection to his family.”

Segundo Velasquez, Mano a Mano Co-Founder

“Dr. Victor Hugo was instrumental in Mano a Mano starting the health care promoter program in each one of the medical facilities Mano a Mano built throughout the rural areas of Bolivia. In the same way, Victor Hugo traveled around the country of Bolivia providing ongoing medical training to doctors, nurses, and community residents about the importance and value of the health care programs established by Mano a Mano.

Dr. Victor Hugo was committed, dedicated and devoted to delivering the latest and newest information to his trainees and taking advantage of the opportunities to spread his teachings to entire communities. As somebody involved in making sure our program was effective, I was impressed seeing that Victor Hugo was not only covering the breadth of our programs but also reaching out to every corner of our terrain.

As we reviewed the reports, we could not help notice that one particular clinic, one community was definitely receiving much training. The beautiful outcome was that Dr. Victor Hugo was falling in love, not only with teaching, but also with the doctor assigned to this rural Mano a Mano clinic. They married and raised a beautiful child.

We will all miss this energetic, loving, caring, and generous doctor who worked alongside us to make good health care available even to those living in isolated communities of rural Bolivia. May you rest in peace. Thank you for all your never tiring work.”

Memorial service for Dr. Víctor Hugo Ortuño Cárdenas, December 2022.

Ivo Velasquez, Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo

“El Dr. Víctor Hugo Ortuño, desde muy joven, tal vez desde 25 años atrás estaba involucrado con los trabajos de Mano a Mano, con viajes de capacitación a los Centros Médicos rurales junto con mi hijo Gustavo Velásquez, buen aporte y buenos recuerdos. En una oportunidad, luego de una entrega de obra en Chuquisaca, retornaban en una movilidad con David Avilez, promediando 10 de la noche tuvieron un vuelco, el vehículo quedó muy dañado, David y Víctor Hugo solo tenían golpes, usaban cinturones, de lo contrario otro hubiera sido la historia, gracias a Dios no hubo daños personales mayores.

Como médico, muy buen profesional, con muchos sentimientos de ayuda al prójimo, excelente persona, lástima que se fue muy joven, deja una hija adolescente que necesita al papá y mucha ayuda. Descansa en Paz Víctor Hugo.”

English Translation:

“Dr. Víctor Hugo Ortuño, from a very young age, perhaps 25 years ago, was involved with Mano a Mano’s work, taking trips to rural medical centers for training together with my son Gustavo Velásquez – good work and good memories. On one occasion, after a project dedication in Chuquisaca, they returned in a vehicle with David Avilez and got into a rollover accident that night, the vehicle was badly damaged, David and Víctor Hugo were wearing seatbelts and only had minor injuries, otherwise who knows what would have been the story, thank God there were no major personal injuries.

As a doctor, a very good professional, with a strong sense of helping others, an excellent person, it’s a pity that he left us very young, he leaves behind an adolescent daughter who needs her father. Rest in Peace Victor Hugo.”

Memorial Service – December 10th, 2022 in Cochabamba

This video is from his memorial service in Cochabamba on December 10th, 2022: