Thursday, February 11, 2016

Soup and Sort

For those who read my blog and live in different countries, no soup and sort isn't a weird American English idiom. I am sharing about a volunteer event I've in which I participated last winter and now starting again this winter.

I do a number of different volunteer activities for Mano a Mano International. 
Mano a Mano works to improve the life of Bolivians, particularly those who live high in the Andes Mountains.

One activity, and the first activity of Mano a Mano when it began, is the collection of medical supplies that are being discarded or no longer of needed use. The supplies come locally or as far away as North Dakota and South Dakota.

Last winter two volunteers got the idea to start Soup and Sort.  Volunteers interested in helping to sort the donated supplies come to the warehouse around 5 PM.  One volunteer, who is an excellent cook, makes soup and brings it in a slow cooker. So that explains the soup part of this title. This week it was squash soup and very good. My small contribution to this event is to bring some cookies for a quick dessert. This week I decided to "bake" by shopping downstairs at the grocery store.

Now about the sort part of this title.Supplies come in all mixed up.
We literally dump a box of materials out on a table and begin to sort what's inside by several categories.

For example, diapers, underpants, and feminine hygiene pads all go into box 3. Once a box is filled, it is taped shut and the number marked on all four sides.

Filled boxes are loaded onto a pallet.

The next piece of processing is done one of the highly skilled volunteers counts the boxes and notes the categories of boxes in the group.  Then a whole pallet of boxes is wrapped in plastic, weighed, and then marked with a number. This helps greatly when it comes time to load containers. One knows what is loaded into which container and what the weight is of the loaded supplies.

Mano a Mano also received wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches.

The same skilled volunteer makes sure to count how many objects are in each of these cardboard boxes, and again, the box is marked with a number and weight. When it comes time to load the containers for shipping, the pallets are loaded first to form a foundation. Then someone climbs up on the loaded pallets and begins to place the wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers into additional layers and in the spaces between the pallets.

Another of my volunteer activities for Mano a Mano is digitizing records. I've been through about 1200 paper records now and find people have given donations from $5.00 to thousands of dollars. Also the internet makes it possible to send donations from other countries. I've found records for donors, for example, from Germany, France, and Canada.

This above is my hint for any reader who is able to send a bit of donation. A $1.00 donation provides the shipping cost to send supplies valued at about $13.00. It is not often one gets that much return on an investment. See if  you are interested to learn more and also there you will find a link for donations.

I've been to Bolivia. These supplies are going to places where people have nothing. These are populations that live on basically $1.00 per day. Mano a Mano has now built 155 clinics in places where never before that had there been a health clinic. And all of these clinics continue to function. The model used by Mano a Mano is that a village asks for help. This is not well meaning Americans coming into Bolivia telling the Bolivians what they need or should do.

In 2014 when I was in a Bolivian village I watched a father walking his little son to the clinic. The little one was obviously sick with some kind of respiratory infection. He just looked miserable. I asked what the father would have to do had the clinic not been there for his son. Answer: He would have to walk 20 kilometers out to the highway. Then wait for a trucker who might be willing to pick them up and then drive 3 hours into a larger city where there would be a clinic. And then of course they would have to make the return trip too. This all could might take two days, a hardship in itself.

That is what a difference a primary care health clinic makes in a village up in the Andes Mountains.

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