Volunteer Spotlight: Richard and Susan Eyre
By their description, Richard and Susan Eyre are “retirement wannabes,” who haven’t quite gotten there yet. The Woodstock, Illinois couple run a dwarf conifer nursery, Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, and manage rental property that they own. But Richard’s stint as a 1960s Peace Corps volunteer set the stage for the couple’s involvement with Mano a Mano, as they explain here.
How Did You Get Started Volunteering for Mano a Mano?
Richard: We were at a 40th Bolivian Peace Corps reunion. People were talking about how Joan and Segundo had won the Sargent Shriver award for projects created by returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV). That’s the highest award given to RPCV.
Susan: Joan and Segundo weren’t actually at the reunion, because they were so dedicated to Mano a Mano. We had a friend in Forest Lake, MN, Ron Moore, who was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia. We said, “Check out this Mano a Mano organization.” He called back and said, “Yeah, they’re doing some pretty good things there.” So we came up to Mano a Mano’s 15th anniversary party one October about nine years ago.
We were also active in Heifer International, and we were going down to Bolivia with them in 2010. We told Joan and Segundo that we would like to stop in Cochabamba and see what Mano a Mano was doing. So, we spent a week or ten days there. Segundo and Blanca and Ivo took us around. Of course we were getting more and more dedicated as we looked at the water projects and schools and clinics, and saw the incredible success they had with helping rural Bolivians. We saw what a clinic in the middle of a rural community can do — how the town grows around it. It’s just fantastic.
What Work Do You Do Now for Mano a Mano?
Richard: We organize these Bolivian fiestas. We buy Bolivian craft items from Mano a Mano. Then we sell them at our fiestas and give Mano a Mano all the money from the sales. We are also starting to sell our possessions. My marble collection and my art pottery collection generated over $13,000 and that was donated to Mano a Mano.
Susan: We also raised money in honor of Richard’s mom for the Margaret Eyre School in Bolivia. It took a few years to do, but we raised enough to get the school completed. Margaret died in January 2016, so I guess her last big fundraiser was her funeral. She went down swinging and earned a lot of money for Mano a Mano and her school. Now we have a school in her honor and that’s great.
Richard: But we don’t really care where the money goes. We don’t care if it’s a school, or a clinic, or anything else. It doesn’t matter to us. We don’t place any restrictions on the money we raise. We’re just fundraising. We’ve named ourselves ambassadors for Mano a Mano. We carry pamphlets and information wherever we go.
Susan: I’ve never seen any organization dream as big, or get the job done as efficiently as Mano a Mano.
What Do You Get Out of this Work Personally?
Richard: I’m fulfilling a promise from when I was in the Peace Corps. When those Bolivian guys only had two potatoes and they gave me the big one, or when there was only one egg in town and they gave it to me, I said if and when I’m successful I will try to help those people out if I can.
We’re committed to raising as much money as we can to support Mano a Mano. We’re good networkers, and our whole life has been dedicated to this idealistic stuff. So we’re glad and honored to try to help Mano a Mano, and we can’t think of a worthier effort to try to justify our existence.
Susan: What I think is great about Mano a Mano is that the Bolivian people volunteer to do a lot of the work on all of these projects. They are stakeholders. It’s wonderful, being part of a group that is helping people help themselves.
Benefit for Bolivia on June 3, 2017
Our next ‘Benefit for Bolivia’ is June 3, 2017 at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock IL, from 9am-4:30pm.
Click the link for a PDF: Benefit for Bolivia
More Mano a Mano Volunteer Spotlights
Below are a few more interviews with Mano a Mano volunteers that are so crucial to everything that we do. Are you interested in getting involved? Please contact us!