A set of color-coordinated baby clothes delights any new mom, but what does it have to do with health care? The answer from our medical programs in Bolivia: they may make the difference between survival and loss for newborns and their mothers.

For the past 18 years, a creative and determined group led by Dianne Van Goor in Sioux Falls, SD, has made 400-500 layettes every year, a labor of love, focused on improving the survival rates of rural Bolivia’s babies and moms.

Dianne and friends making layettes in South Dakota.

Throughout the summer Dianne, along with family and friends, scours garage sales and thrift stores, searching for infant clothing in good condition and hauls their finds to Dianne’s basement. After Dianne launders them, they begin the process of sorting onesies, caps, socks, blankets, wash cloths, and small, soft toys into matching sets and packing them into 2.5-gallon zip-lock bags. Before sealing them, Carol Moon adds her calligraphy “God bless you” (in Spanish: que el señor les bendiga) card. We include layettes in every shipment to Bolivia.

Donating layettes to health care organizations in Potosi, Bolivia, April 2020.

Mano a Mano clinics use these layettes as incentives for women to give birth there. According to the Bolivian Health Ministry, maternal and infant mortality declines by up to 50% when the delivery is attended by trained personnel in a clean environment. Dr. Sergio Zegarra, when he delivered babies in a Mano a Mano clinic, let it be known that new moms who gave birth there would receive a layette. But, he said, “When the family leaves the clinic with the new baby, I remove the most beautiful piece of clothing from the bag and tell the mom I will give it to her when she returns for her post-natal checkup. The blanket, cap, or whatever I hold back becomes a powerful incentive for her to return. I have treated many post-partum problems that could have had serious consequences if the mom hadn’t kept her appointment. These layettes help us save lives.”

Donating Layettes for Newborn Triplets

A newborn (triplet!) with a layette set from Mano a Mano.

Recently, a nurse approached Mano a Mano on behalf of a set of newborn triplets. Recognizing that the parents have minimal financial resources, the nurse asked if Mano a Mano could assist with layettes, anything that could help the family cope with the daunting responsibilities that face them. When Maria Blanca Velásquez returned with 3-4 layettes for each of the triplets, the nurse responded, “These babies had nothing. They will leave the hospital feeling like princes.”

We send a special thanks to those who have spent countless hours creating layettes that are ‘fit for a prince.’ The group includes: Dianne Van Goor, Marcie Muckey, Crystal Dougherty, Denny Van Goor, Pam Bartels, Brent Bartels, Dayne Bartels, Ellyssa Bartels, Missy Krueger, Greg Krueger, Blake Krueger, Cody Krueger, Mark Francis, Kay Schaeffer, Ruth Lee, Rita Vogt, Veronica Stoneall, Carol Moon, Carol Van Maanen, and many others whose gifts of funds and clothing gave life to this project.

A number of the South Dakota volunteers, including Dianne, traveled to Bolivia with Mano a Mano in 2006; here they are sorting medical supplies sent from Minnesota at our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia’s warehouse in Cochabamba.

If you are interested in forming a “layette group” in the Twin Cities, please let us know.

More Mano a Mano Volunteer Spotlights

Below are a few more features of Mano a Mano volunteers that are so crucial to everything that we do. Are you interested in getting involved? Please contact us!