Monday, November 23, 2009

Home Stays, Part II - Reflection on Life at "13.5"

For four days I went nowhere without being encompassed by a tangled mass of arms and legs and hugs and kisses and shouts of children ranging from 3 to 14 years old. Welcome to 13.5! I stayed with Tatiana, Gerald, and Maycol, three precious children from my English class. Everyday, they play with their extended family members who happen to ALL live in barrio 13.5, so my homestay brought back memories of growing up around my very large and noisy and wonderful extended family. Every morning the children walked to the local Catholic school while I stayed home with their mothers. In the afternoons, madness ensued upon the chavalos return. These children play with an unmatched enthusiasm.

From tree-climbing and mandarina-picking to pickup games of baseball and soccer, these kids don't stop. I was especially touched when they wanted to play Memory with Spanish and English words, something we often do in Kid’s English to practice vocabulary. Tatiana cut out squares of paper and wrote the spanish vocabulary while I wrote the english...pretty soon, all the cousins were learning how to say gecko, shark, dog, and duck (we're studying animals in kid's english). I can't claim that keeping the pace with such a lively bunch of youngsters didn't absolutely wear me out, but I will say that being around so much joy and energy perked up my mood and helped me focus on the good in life. For a week, it was like I could go back to being a kid again, surrounded by family and laughter and silly arguments and lots of gallo pinto.

In addition to taking me back, this week was a chance to get an inner look into the daily life of members of the local community. From sunrise to bedtime, I experienced life through the eyes of 13.5, a life which entailed cousins, playtime, clothes washing on the pila, singing our respective national anthems, and very cold bucket showers when the water ran low.

Jan Margaret Rogers
Program Director

Friday, November 20, 2009

Home Stays, Part II - Reflection

Sometimes we whine about the Manna House, which is actually palatial compared to the way most people live. We miss hot water, air conditioning, bug-free living, dryers, dish-washers, TV, and our own rooms. We spent the last week sharing houses the size of our rooms… much of our community lives with dirt floors, latrines shared by twenty people, bucket showers, and cooks over fires. I think homestays have been the best thing we have done yet, we solidified already close and solid relationships and also just had a really good time. The people in the community have become family and friends over the past few months.

We really were challenged by much of the homestay, the dichotomy between how we live and how they live is impossible to convey. As we discussed and wrestled with this I think we came to the ultimate realization that the critical difference between me living a more sparse life and the lives of our community members: For me, it’s a choice. For me, I choose whether or not to buy a new dress in order to save more money for sponsorship funds. For me, I choose whether or not to go to dinner out or eat more cheaply in my house. For these families, such a choice does not exist. No matter how much I restrict myself I will never understand what it is to live like these families. No matter how long we stay we will never fully understand the reality.

It was a great week, for many of us the end of homestays came too soon. I really do believe both we and our homestay families enjoyed the experience. It was great to spend day-in and day-out with the people who have become our families here.

Lauren Page Black
Program Director

Monday, November 9, 2009

Highlight: Chureca - Nica HOPE

Manna Project is proud to have built and to continue strong relationships with other non-profits active in La Chureca. These partnerships increase MPI's awareness of needs in the community and allow us to refer community members and interest to the appropriate organization. Love Light & Melody once again gives a view of life in Chureca and area NGOs with a number of videos highlighting the activities of a few of those organizations. The following video highlights Nica HOPE, an organization founded by former Manna Program Director Deanna Ford, which supports education and runs vocational training initiatives for women and children living in La Chureca.

For further information on Nica HOPE visit

Monday, November 2, 2009

Community Home Stays, Part I

Though the manna house is a valuable asset, living apart from Cedro Galan does prevent the Program Directors from fully understanding daily life in the community. In an attempt to further enlighten our team regarding the intricacies of life in Cedro, each of the ten PDs will, this week or next, live as those we are here to serve. The purposes of these community home stays are as follows:
  1. To provide a cultural experience for the PDs, increasing their knowledge and understanding of life in the community.
  2. To further understand the assets and needs of the community in order to better serve them.
  3. To further connect the community of Cedro Galan and Manna Project, building deeper and more personal relationships.
  4. To give families in Cedro Galan an opportunity to support Manna Project.
In order to further these goals, the PDs will be treated as part of the family rather than as guests, complete with household chores, and will continue to prepare and run programs as usual. While the home stay will doubtless bring its challenges, we know it will be a tremendously enlightening experience.