Mano a Mano collects donated medical supplies, mobility equipment, and other items in Minnesota and ships them to Bolivia, where they are distributed to people and organizations in need throughout the country. Just last week, we made our first shipment of 2022, sending 79,698 pounds of supplies.

For each shipment, we purchase the shipping containers (rather than renting); this saves us money by ensuring we don’t incur large additional fees if the shipment takes longer (it takes up to 6 months to go from our St. Paul warehouse, clear Bolivian Customs, and eventually arrive at our Cochabamba warehouse), but the containers themselves are also very useful for our programs in Bolivia. We can sell them, use them for storage at our warehouse, use them as makeshift fencing, and turn them into mobile housing for our staff when they are working for weeks or months at a time on projects in isolated rural areas.

Mobile Housing

We are putting the final touches on turning 3 containers into mobile housing and offices for our staff as they work on large-scale construction projects in Laguna Sulti and the neighboring communities. These 3 containers will have 5 sleeping areas and 2 offices; the roof covering them will provide a meeting space.

In the video below Van Miguel Martinez talks about putting containers sent from Minnesota to use in Bolivia:

Storage for Supplies

A few of the shipping containers sent from Minnesota at our Cochabamba warehouse.

Of course, containers are still useful to have available for additional storage at our Cochabamba warehouse. We sent 180,180 pounds of supplies in 2021, and 931,986 pounds total from 2017-2021, with another 79,698 pounds en route; sometimes we just need more space! You can see how full our Cochabamba warehouse is in the video below with volunteers sorting supplies recently:

As Makeshift Fencing

An unconventional use of the containers themselves – as a fence for the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) (back left corner). In the foreground is a dirt mound at the CEA demonstrating the difference using terraces makes in managing water flow and preventing erosion. This picture is from 2014.

Training for SAR Bolivia

SAR (Search & Rescue) Bolivia uses a few containers from Mano a Mano for their training; in this video from a few days ago (you can see the “.org” of the “” we spray-painted on the container in the left-hand picture below) they use Mano a Mano containers as a base to practice their zip-lining and rapelling:

Making Use of Everything We Can

We do our best to get the most out of everything we do: we stuff every inch of the containers we send with as many supplies as possible to maximize space (“we don’t ship air!”); we use surgical tubing as strapping and extra crutches to make lifts; and we turn containers into useful items. Ultimately, we want to do the most we can with our available resources to help communities in Bolivia.