“Maybe it stabilizes the operating table…? Or helps set broken bones somehow…?” Wendy and Vero, two Mano a Mano volunteers, traded theories about the use of a shiny, metal object between them. Oddities like this are not uncommon in Mano a Mano’s medical warehouse in Cochabamba. Eventually, we solved the puzzle; it was a surgical rib-spreader. 

Wendy and Vero originally visited Mano a Mano with their scout troop. With 16 years of scout experience between them, Wendy and Vero aren’t strangers to volunteer work. However, their visit to Mano a Mano was a little different. During that visit, they attended a talk on environmentalism and helped with the distribution of medical supplies. Afterwards Wendy and Vero felt so inspired, they decided to dedicate their week-long, winter vacation to volunteering with Mano a Mano. I found them on their first day at the CEA, sorting through donation boxes.

They opened each new box with curiosity, bouncing theories off of each other. When she graduates high school, Wendy wants to pursue medicine. According to her, volunteering with Mano a Mano let her see what kinds of things go into medicine. “It makes me really excited to start studying and find out what all of this is,” she said, as she pulled open another box. 

Vero, on the other hand, is interested in working in social work or biochemistry. Vero hoped her time with Mano a Mano would help her gain insight into both disciplines. Though she liked puzzling through donations, her favorite part of working at the CEA was seeing people receive donations. As she put it, “I love seeing how these donations make such a big difference in peoples’ lives.” 

Wendy, 16 & Vero, 18

By the end of the day, Wendy and Vero had organized and packed a large pile of boxes. With wide smiles and workshirts in hand, the volunteers headed towards the door. On their way out, I asked them how they felt about spending their vacation at the CEA, instead of relaxing at home. They answered simply, “as scouts, volunteering is something we grew up with. We were always taught that if we can help, we should.”

Mano a Mano staff & volunteers preparing supplies for a distribution event on December 17, 2018 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Thanks Morgan Harden, Mano a Mano Volunteer

This post was written by Mano a Mano volunteer Morgan Harden, during her time with Mano a Mano in July 2019.

Morgan Harden is a writer, teacher, and translator, from Charlotte, NC. She graduated from Kenyon College with a double degree in Spanish literature and English. She volunteered at Mano a Mano’s CEA in Bolivia for three months in 2017, before completing a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Currently, she serves as a ETA Coordinator with the Argentine Fulbright Commission. Her work with Mano a Mano has inspired her to pursue a career in non-profit work, with a focus on Latin America. She still visits Mano a Mano whenever she has the chance, though the CEA team pokes fun at her now-Argentinized Spanish accent.

Morgan with Mano a Mano staff & volunteers (bottom left in the picture) during her volunteer time in 2017.

Morgan’s Other Articles:

  1. “This is Everything:” Medical Donations on November 17th, 2017
  2. Where it Starts: Mano a Mano Workshop #1 at the CEA
  3. Food for Thought: Mano a Mano Workshop #5 in Japo, Bolivia
  4. Step by Step: Mano a Mano Workshop #3 in Chapare
  5. Down & Dirty: Compost Day at the CEA
  6. Packed Tight: New Shipping Containers Unloaded at the CEA
  7. Donated Medical Supplies Improve Health Care in Bolivia – Article at the Borgen Project