Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Amelia Wray, a volunteer from the Princeton Novogratz Bridge Year Program. Mano a Mano’s shipment of 3 containers sent from Minnesota in August 2023 arrived at our Cochabamba, Bolivia warehouse in late December 2023, where our staff and volunteers have been busy at work unloading the containers to organize supplies for distribution to people and organizations throughout the country.

Unloading Containers in Bolivia that Recently Arrived from Minnesota – Amelia

From the bustling warehouse nestled in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota, a shipping container embarked on a profound journey. Laden with tens of thousands of pounds of donated medical supplies, it carried not just physical necessities but the collective goodwill of a community spanning continents. Approximately 4,600 miles later, it took the last leg of its arduous journey and breached the front gates of the Mano a Mano CEA, where it has found its home for the foreseeable future.

The container’s journey is not just measured in miles but in the stories it carries within its metallic walls. The volunteers who meticulously packed it back in Minnesota have left an indelible mark on its contents. Every bandage, wheelchair, and crutch bears the imprint of their commitment to making a positive impact on lives that they may never directly encounter. 

To some, opening a shipping container might seem a mundane task. But to me, and to the other eager volunteers of the CEA, it’s anything but. If I had to describe it I would say it’s akin to unwrapping a gift on your birthday, or better yet, cracking open a treasure chest after months of searching. You know it’s filled with riches, but the excitement comes from the mystery of what exactly lies within. With each unexplored pallet and packed medical bag, there is a sense of uncovering precious gems, gems that will undoubtedly be invaluable resources for those in need, only adding to the excitement of discovering further treasures within.

The impact of this first day spent sorting and organizing cannot be overstated. It is a tangible representation of a community transcending borders and coming together to address pressing healthcare needs. 

Another magical part of this process is realizing that each and every piece of equipment that we take from the container, came from regular, humanitarian citizens, who saw the opportunity to help and took it. Many of these items came from basements, trunks, and garages, but now these donors are a crucial link in a chain of compassion that stretches from the United States to Bolivia.

In the end, the container’s journey from Minnesota to Cochabamba is more than a logistical feat; it’s a narrative of interconnected altruists, bound together with common purpose. It invited us all to reflect on the impact we can have when we extend our hands across borders and share the journey of hope and support.

Photos of Containers Arriving – December 2023/January 2024

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Noemi is one person benefitting from Mano a Mano’s Physical Therapy Center in Cochabamba, with equipment sent from Minnesota.