We regularly share updates about our day-to-day work here on our website and on social media. This post is to share in more detail what Mano a Mano does overall as an organization: our mission, how our work addresses the needs of Bolivian communities, the partnership-based approach we use, and how we are structured.
Mano a Mano’s mission is: “Partnering together – Hand in Hand – to transform the health and well-being of Bolivian communities in need.” Established in Minnesota in 1994, Mano a Mano has been guided by the simple, yet powerful premise that groups of committed individuals can reach across national boundaries to make a dramatic difference in the lives of others. The power of this premise has been demonstrated by the extent to which the organization has grown from a small, all-volunteer organization that distributed 500 pounds of medical supplies to Bolivia in 1994 to one that involves hundreds of Minnesotans and impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of rural Bolivians.
Five Mano a Mano Counterpart Organizations
We are a bi-lingual/bi-cultural organization, working within a collaborative, partnership model with four Mano a Mano counterpart organizations in Bolivia which we helped create:
- Mano a Mano Bolivia (MMB), focusing on community health and education
- Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo (MMNM), focusing on food security and economic well-being
- Mano a Mano Apoyo Aéreo (Air Support), providing emergency air rescue to rural communities, and air transport for Mano a Mano and other organizations with similar missions
- Mano a Mano Internacional, serving as integrator/connector across Mano a Mano organizations to host foreign visitors, process and distribute shipments of medical and school supplies collected in the U.S., and pilot new initiatives
Although each of these counterpart organizations is incorporated as a distinct legal entity in Bolivia, they operate collaboratively as sister organizations. Each organization has a legal connection to Mano a Mano International Partners in the U.S. through their by-laws and our membership on their boards of directors.
Our U.S. and Bolivian organizations must respond to the legal, economic, and cultural realities of their respective countries. Our intent and attempt is to work together through relationships based on mutual respect and accountability to each other. While Mano a Mano International Partners sets the organization’s overall direction in the U.S., our counterparts in Bolivia set specific program goals in partnership with benefiting communities and their municipal officials. By Bolivian law, each must establish and report to the national government its objectives, intended and actual outcomes and impact, and how they will be measured.
Our U.S. office establishes the total organization’s vision, mission, and general goals for the entire Mano a Mano organization, raises financial and in-kind resources, contributes additional expertise in program development and management, and provides subject-area professional knowledge and skills. The U.S. office in St. Paul, Minnesota operates with a full-time staff of two and an effective volunteer network. Mano a Mano also creates and directly manages programs in our St. Paul office that connect the local community to these cross-national partnerships. Thus, we see local residents and U.S. communities as beneficiaries, just as rural Bolivian residents are beneficiaries of Mano a Mano programs that operate in their communities.
Grassroots Development: Partnering with Communities
Mano a Mano International Partners is a grassroots organization that responds to needs identified by rural Bolivian communities. We do not simply make decisions and develop plans in the United States for implementation in Bolivia. Instead, we begin by listening to community residents as they approach us with identified needs, and to our Bolivian counterparts as we consider together how to best respond to these needs. Our decisions to expand our mission, develop new programs, or change direction are based on:
- Requests that emerge from communities
- Expertise that Mano a Mano has developed or that we are confident can be developed and that is required before a request can be accepted
- Capacity to position ourselves to respond to the need/request should the opportunity arise
- Projection of potential for raising funds to meet the identified need
The work of each Mano a Mano counterpart organization is accomplished through formal partnerships and informal relationships among the requesting communities, appropriate levels of Bolivian government, the relevant Mano a Mano counterpart organization in Bolivia, and may also include Mano a Mano staff, volunteers, and members of various communities in the U.S.
Mano a Mano has a strong track record of sustaining projects over the long-term. Since incorporating as a 501(c)3 organization in Minnesota in 1994, we have:
- Collected over 4,000,000 pounds of medical surplus in Minnesota and distributed it in Bolivia
- Built and established medical programs in 173 primary care community clinics that have 1,000,000 patient visits annually
- Built classrooms and housing for teachers in 64 communities, then constructed bathrooms and clean water access sites near the schools
- Constructed nine agricultural water reservoirs and 400 water holding ponds that serve 55,000 people, doubling food production for subsistence farmers who irrigate from them
- Constructed 1,200 miles of rural roads, giving farmers access to markets
- Created an aviation program that has airlifted 4,107 patients to emergency care
- Trained over 4,000 farmers in sustainable practices through our Center for Ecological Agriculture
Mano a Mano has completed nearly 400 community-based projects in rural Bolivia. All of our projects are based on a request initiated by the community with support of its local government. A written agreement defines the responsibilities of each partner and sets goals and timelines for the project. This partnership model leads to long-term sustainability of projects.
The Need: Who We Partner With
We primarily serve rural Bolivian communities whose subsistence farm families cultivate 1-2 acre plots and live on $300-$400 annually. The average household size is six and the average age is 16. Although Bolivia has seen some dramatic improvements in many standard of living indicators on a national level over the past decade, many of these improvements do not reach the small and isolated rural Bolivian communities that Mano a Mano partners with. We work with communities that request our assistance and which have strong motivation to solve a problem that they have identified and have strong motivation to resolve.
What Does Mano a Mano Do? Slideshow Overview
- Working Around the Pandemic: 2020 Annual Report
- 175,777 Pounds of Medical Supplies Sent From Minnesota to Bolivia in 2020
- Providing Access to Health and Education in Bolivia in 2020
- Flying in Bolivia During COVID: Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program in 2020
- Mano a Mano 2020 Water Projects: Working Around the Pandemic
- 2020 Summary of Medical Distributions in Bolivia
- Building Roads and Runways, Training Heavy Equipment Operators, and Dredging Rivers: Community-Based Economic Development Projects Completed in 2020
- Hydroponic Lettuce, Fodder, and Livestock at the CEA: Agricultural Experiments in 2020