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“It’s funny, people always prioritize medical care. It seems like our [dental] work is not important. But it is! If your teeth hurt, it affects your whole life. On one jornada, I had five patients waiting for me even before the plane landed. They had been up all night expecting us. One of them had been crying all night from the pain, her eyes were red and swollen. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to relieve that kind of misery.” Carmen Duran is a dentist and a long-time volunteer with Mano a Mano in Cochabamba, Bolivia. For the past two decades, she has participated in Mano a Mano’s weekend “jornadas” — dental and medical blitzes in which volunteer health care providers fly in to remote jungle communities to offer much-needed dental and medical care. Mano a Mano caught up with “Doctora Carmen” on a recent March morning, when she was in Trinidad, Bolivia, readying for yet another Amazonian dental adventure.
Staff from our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo are in the process of transporting heavy equipment from our warehouse in Cochabamba to begin work on improving an aviation landing strip in Toro Toro, Bolivia. The first fleet of equipment was dropped off, and our staff then turned around with the trailers to go back to Cochabamba to pick up more machinery to transport to Toro Toro, so that we can begin work on the project this week.
Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia focuses on health and education, and despite the challenges of 2020, they completed 2 new schools and 4 health clinics; distributed medical supplies & equipment for COVID-19 support and basic health care; and provided continuing health education and educational materials (often virtually). Mano a Mano’s network of 173 clinics had 896,346 patient visits in 2020.
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.
When Mano a Mano has needed to repair or upgrade its computers, electronics technician and Mano a Mano volunteer, Larry Oberg, has been our “go-to guy”. But in 2020 Larry surprised us with a new project and a question: could we use repaired sewing machines in Bolivia? Our answer: Yes. In addition to the tons of medical supplies included in every Mano a Mano shipment of cargo to Bolivia, we send items that assist with other aspects of our programs. But why sewing machines? Mano a Mano receives thousands of pounds of donated, lightly used linens yearly; most are used for their original purpose by our health care programs in Bolivia. Those that cannot be used for their original purpose are repurposed to meet other needs. Every building constructed by Mano a Mano requires furnishings such as table coverings, curtains, or towels. Groups of volunteers select fabric from the used linens we ship, cut it to size and fashion something new, such as clinic curtains. Most volunteers in Bolivia don’t have their own sewing machines. Having machines at the Cochabamba office not only makes it possible to involve more seamstresses in this project, it also gives them an opportunity to improve sewing skills that are useful to them in their daily lives.
In 2020, Mano a Mano shipped 7 containers with 175,777 pounds – 87+ tons! – of medical supplies, mobility equipment, and other items to Bolivia for distribution to people and organizations in need throughout the country. Supplies sent from Mano a Mano International in St. Paul, Minnesota go to our counterpart Mano a Mano Internacional in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which are then distributed by Mano a Mano Internacional to organizations throughout Bolivia. Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Bolivia picked up a truckload of medical supplies and equipment from Mano a Mano Internacional in late February 2021, for distribution to Mano a Mano’s network of clinics and other organizations that Mano a Mano Bolivia partners with.
Many think of aviation as a luxury. But for rural communities in Bolivia, small aircraft often provide their only access to health care, literally the difference between life and death. Mano a Mano provides transport for people in need of emergency care; medical professionals to provide healthcare in rural communities during weekend health clinics; Mano a Mano staff, volunteers, and equipment as we partner with Bolivian communities on development projects; and the distribution of medical supplies and equipment. In spite of the unprecedented challenges of 2020 (all flights were grounded for multiple months, and our weekend health clinic program was halted for 8 months due to COVID-19 restrictions), our aviation program made 452 flights and transported about 95,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment in 2020.
Thanks HERO Fargo, and our Volunteer Warehouse Manager Ray for driving to and from Fargo to exchange equipment and medical supplies in early March! From HERO: “What a beautiful day to be able to load a truck of supplies for @manoamanointl. Mano a Mano is a partner organization out of St. Paul, Minnesota that HERO has been working with for many years. They bring us equipment to help stock our store front and we give them medical supplies that help people in Bolivia. Thank you Mano a Mano for being such a great partner.” We are getting ready to make our first shipment of 2021 with around 60,000 pounds of supplies from our St. Paul warehouse at the end of this month.