My Speech From Mano a Mano’s Festival Bolivia 2016
At Mano a Mano’s event in late April 2016, I talked a little bit about my journey with Mano a Mano – about how I started here more than 10 years ago, and why I’m still here. I wanted to post it here for people that weren’t able to attend the event and might be interested (and thanks again to everyone that was there!). We just wrapped up shipping more than 85,000 pounds of supplies from our Minnesota warehouse (they are currently en route to Bolivia) – made possible by this April event. Also, one of our most dedicated volunteers from Bolivia – Charo, a nurse that spends many hours helping sort supplies and organize them for distribution in Bolivia, will be in Minnesota next week; you can meet her on Thursday, June 30 at our open house (more info here).
– Nate Knatterud-Hubinger, Executive Director, Mano a Mano International
Introduction & Welcome
Thanks for coming to our 7th annual celebration event! Each of these events has included a focus project that is supported through the funds raised; let’s take a minute to remember what your support at these events has made possible over the years:
- Year 1 (2010) – Santa Rosa Clinic – 3200 people that benefit.
- Year 2 (2011) – Pasorapa Water Reservoir – 540 people have access to water (which has now been expanded by the community).
- Year 3 (2012) – Providing emergency air rescues – more than 500 people receive emergency flights each year.
- Year 4 (2013) – Shipping supplies – Mano a Mano distributes over 100,000 pounds of supplies each year.
- Year 5 (2014) – Building schools in Esmeralda and Challacota – 350 students have access to education (plus teacher housing and community bathrooms).
- Year 6 (2015) – Building greenhouses in Jironkota – 104 greenhouses have been built.
- This year – Shipping supplies – our warehouse is full!
How I Started at Mano a Mano…
I have been with Mano a Mano over 10 years – this was my first job after college, and actually my first interview. I started as a part-time administrative assistant; and for the first 7 years the surplus program was one of my main responsibilities.
It’s been amazing to be a part of the growth of Mano a Mano over the past decade. When I started, we had essentially 3 programs – shipping supplies (which was our first program), building clinics, and building schools & community projects.
At the time, in 2005 – we had completed 59 clinics and 16 schools, and we had shipped 1.6 million pounds of surplus supplies; we had 1 counterpart organization (Mano a Mano Bolivia) and another just getting off the ground (Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo). Our clinics had 237,986 patient visits in 2005.
Now in 2016 – we have 5 counterpart organizations. As listed in the insert in the blue books at your table: We now have 155 clinics and 54 schools. We have built 7 major water reservoirs and 170 small water ponds, and nearly 1,000 miles of roads. Our aviation program – with 4 small planes – has provided emergency air rescues to over 3,000 people. We have shipped over 3.5 million pounds of supplies, and our clinics have over 1 million patient visits each year. And those numbers grow every day. Our programs have grown in response to the communities and what they are asking for.
Those numbers really are impressive. One number that has stayed pretty constant in that time is 2 – the number of full-time staff in the US.
The reality is that this job is extremely hard. Every single project – whether it’s building a clinic or shipping supplies – takes months, if not years, to plan and execute. There are always tremendous challenges in every project. At any given time we have between 5 and 20 bigger projects underway, and dozens of trips, workshops, and other programs. There are hundreds of Bolivian communities on our waiting list for projects. Nothing is easy. So why am I still here?
Because even with all those challenges, at the end of the day we get all of these projects done, and we are able to do a lot. Even though each project is tremendously difficult, there is no doubt that it will get done, that it will be used for its intended purpose, and that it will make an impact. In our 20+ years, no project we’ve started has not been completed (and they’re all still in operation today).
All of this is possible thanks to the amazing staff & supporters – in both the US & Bolivia – that make it work. I just want to highlight some of the people that are here tonight:
- Mano a Mano’s co-founders Joan & Segundo Velasquez
- Our Board – Nancy and Terry, Chris, Deb, Anneli, Dennis, Dwight & Peggy (not on the board but still traveled from Colorado to be here tonight!)
- Our Staff – our accountant Linda who’s been with Mano a Mano for 8 years; Walt and Carmen – our newest staff additions over the past year
- Volunteers & Donors – you are our base (Dennis has mentioned you already, but we cannot thank you enough)
- Not here but need to be mentioned – staff & volunteers in Bolivia, the communities & municipalities in Bolivia that partner with us and work so hard on THEIR projects
Partnerships – the Mano a Mano Model
This group of people in 2 countries comes together to create partnerships with many, many more people; our partnership model is our greatest strength. It’s what allows us to work in so many different areas, and it’s why we can get so much done with limited resources.
Mano a Mano – hand in hand – is about many different groups working together to achieve things that none of us could do on our own.
Partnerships are not just about pooling resources, it goes beyond money – there are many people & groups that have much more money than we do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean results.
Mano a Mano Projects
Partnerships in Action
You can see our many different partnerships in action when you look at this single wheelchair, which was distributed in Bolivia last November.
- It was donated by a hospital in the Twin Cities, that cared enough to call us.
- It was picked up by a Mano a Mano volunteer, that took the time to go get it.
- The wheelchair was packed, loaded into containers, and shipped by Mano a Mano staff and volunteers in the US, with the support of many donors in the US that pay for the shipping.
- Mano a Mano staff in the US & Bolivia spend months going back and forth dealing with the logistics of getting the shipment through Bolivian customs.
- Mano a Mano staff & volunteers in Bolivia spend more months organizing supplies and arranging distributions to people & organizations in need throughout the country.
- This single wheelchair was one of 190 wheelchairs in the last shipment, alongside tens of thousands of pounds of other supplies.
- Most of the supplies we send are distributed to Mano a Mano’s network of projects throughout Bolivia, which helps support an infrastructure of projects that impacts more than 1.5 million people every year.
Mano a Mano really is a bridge, connecting two cities, two groups of people, nearly 5,000 miles apart. I am not Bolivian. I am most definitely a gringo, I’m from St. Paul, and have lived here my whole life. Almost none of us here tonight are Bolivian either. Before Mano a Mano, very few of us had traveled to Bolivia, including me.
But we all want to make a difference, we all want to be a part of something bigger. Like shipping that single wheelchair, every project we do takes a lot of people working together, in many different ways. None of us can do everything, but we can all do our part. And when we work together, we can accomplish big things. Thanks to each of you, who in your own way is an integral part of Mano a Mano.