Mano a Mano’s aviation program brings healthcare into sparsely populated remote communities whose location is hours or days away by land or river from the nearest health services. Since 2005, we have served these communities through:

  1. “Pop up” weekend clinics (or five-day events, when possible) for which we transport volunteer health care professionals to provide primary medical & dental care, health education, and referrals to specialists, if needed;
  2. Emergency rescue of ill and injured individuals, transporting them to urban hospitals for life-saving treatment;
  3. Transport of in-demand cargo: medical supplies, mobility equipment, food, and other items.

Weekend Health Clinic in Puerto San Lorenzo, Bolivia – November 2023

Francis Rojas shared this post about a recent Mano a Mano weekend health clinic, which is shared below (lightly edited):

Once again, Mano a Mano spread its wings of solidarity to bring dignified medical care to an isolated community nestled in the TIPNIS jungles in Bolivia.

Mano a Mano volunteers getting set up.
Mano a Mano volunteers welcoming patients.

In a secluded corner of the Bolivian jungle, where impenetrable vegetation gives way to the small community of Puerto San Lorenzo, Mano a Mano not only provided quality medical care but also wove bonds of solidarity and collaboration.

The team, consisting of seven volunteers from Cochabamba, embarked on a journey in the Mano a Mano plane to Puerto San Lorenzo, where, from the outset, the community welcomed them with open arms and great joy.

The volunteers who joined this mission were strategically chosen medical professionals to address the most immediate needs of the residents. Among them were two general practitioners, two physiotherapists, and two dentists—all with a strong willingness to attend to as many patients as possible according to their needs.

Elders, children, and women led the queues at the medical center to be attended to, although young people and parents were also part of the crowd. Suddenly, it seemed like the entire community had gathered, creating a warm atmosphere.

Outside the medical center, serving as a waiting area, one could witness a noble and welcoming scene that reflected glimpses of their daily lives. Despite the challenges of living isolated in the jungle, the residents are closely knit, finding joy in the simplicity that nature inherently offers.

Adults engaged in conversations, children played “ball” using a lemon as their makeshift toy. Young people arrived alone or with their parents, some carrying a radio or a cellphone that added a bit of music to the day for everyone.

This two-day event saw doctors tirelessly attending to patients for approximately 8 hours each day, totaling over a hundred patients.

Among the cases treated, many muscular problems were highlighted, directly linked to the fieldwork carried out by the residents—ranging from hunting and plowing to long horseback journeys.

In women, various cases of arthritis were detected, and many were entering menopause. Children and young people mainly sought attention from dentists, although it was also noted that most children were infected with the same fungus, possibly due to contaminated water.

Puerto San Lorenzo has around 200 inhabitants who struggle daily to make their living. To obtain supplies, they must undertake long journeys to larger communities or directly to the Beni department, which is not easily reachable, especially when the river, their main route, is dry.

If the need is urgent, men do not hesitate to embark on horseback journeys that can last for days. For most of the year, they survive by hunting, planting, and cultivating, activities that can also lead to diseases within the community due to the poor quality of the water they have access to.

While Mano a Mano’s primary goal on this journey was to provide medical care, upon witnessing these needs, we took action to supply Puerto San Lorenzo with provisions and other essentials, including gasoline for electricity.

“We all like it when they come because we don’t see many people who are not from here. Also, when we get sick, we can’t do much, and now they can finally see us… our children,” said José, a community member, about the visit from Mano a Mano. Similarly, Roxana, a girl living in Puerto San Lorenzo, declared, “I don’t want them to leave. I always wait for the plane to come here, and you come and attend to us, and we play. We want you to come always.”

Pictures from this Weekend Health Clinic

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program