Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mano a Mano Adventures

I have been volunteering for many years for an organization, Mano a Mano, which has its US base here in Saint Paul --- and does amazing work in Bolivia, primarily with indigenous people, who have many needs in areas with huge geographic challenges -- mountain villages at 4000 meters for example.

This organization began by collecting medical supplies that were being disposed of by hospitals, clinics, and individuals. Now the organization also builds health clinics, schools, teacher housing, reservoirs, and roads. It truly is a Non-Governmental Organization. For my international readers, that is a term used to describe an organization that does activities usually associated with work that should be done by the government.

Here is Minnesota we sort medical supplies that have been gathered primarily from the Twin Cities area. However, there is a group from North Dakota that also gathers and then ships things to Saint Paul for Mano a Mano.

Boxes usually have a mixture of things and we dump them out on a table and then begin to sort them into 12 categories of materials. Volunteers from many different organizations and even without any connection to an organization -- just people with good hearts -- help to do all this sorting. For example, I have often shared a sorting session with a high school student who shows up after school on afternoons. Also this year two volunteers sponsored a soup and sort -- one made a big container of soup and then other volunteers would show up between 5:00 - 6:00 in the evening, enjoy a bowl of soup and then help sort for about 2 - 2.5 hours more.

Boxes are loaded on a pallet and then wrapped in packing plastic, too, so the boxes don't fall off the pallets during the storage and shipping processes.

When Mano a Mano has raised enough funds to pay for the shipping then there is container loading. This happens about once a year.

First containers are brought to the Mano a Mano warehouse.

Then the loading begins.

Once a foundation is built, then wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches are loaded on the top.

My job was to make sure I got a record for everything that was loaded. On the box shown in the picture one can see a paper label. A matching one is kept in the Mano a Mano office and used to generate the final manifest that will accompany each container as it makes it way to Bolivia.

Here's a full container.

It took Thursday afternoon and all day Friday to load the four containers.

On Saturday afternoon there was a picnic. A wonderful volunteer brought a pizza oven and made pizza on site.

It was a great three days when many volunteer hours came together into four containers! Now it all will soon start again!

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