As many of you know at MPI Nica we have a pool in our backyard.
We have a lot of pool parties as rewards for the community members in our programs. For many of them this is their only chance to learn/practice swimming. Right now is getting to be the end of our first term and it's party season! Here are some photos from Steph's Children's English Class (we split up the boys from the girls in hopes for a little less chaos during the fiesta... it sorta worked).
Bi-weekly the women of CedroGalan meet and have an hour long fitness class.
The women come to class in the same clothes that they wear during the day: knee-length skirts, jeans, and sandals (which they often slip off for class, participating barefoot) and they never complain. Before they knew that we had a set of free-weights they suggested we fill old plastic water bottles with rocks for weights. Their enthusiasm and willingness to learn how to exercise continues to inspire me to plan new work-outs and different fun ways to get in shape. We do a mix of cardio, yoga/stretching, and muscle work in class. I remember the first class when I tried to get the ladies to do some sit-ups, and it just wasn't going to happen. But, recently we've started doing up to 50 sit-ups in one class! They may not be the most co-ordinated group of gals, but I've seen them improve drastically in the past 4 months.
Back home I played with my university's Women's Ultimate Frisbee team named the UVixens (the short form of my university's name is UVic). Last week they sent over a box of donations (shoes, sports bras, shorts, t-shirts) for the women that participate in the class and we gave them out as Premios last Wednesday.
A Premio is a reward/prize that we give out to people that participate in our programs regularly. A Premio will often be a thing that a person needs for the program but can't normally afford on their own. For example, shorts or running shoes for fitness class. It was so great to be able to reward the ladies for all of their hard work with some much needed exercise apparel!
What is holistic community development? Well, that's a really good question. I feel like it's a lot like the phrase 'sustainable living': you hear it all the time and you use it in sentences, however you don't really know exactly what it means. Firstly, it can mean different things for different people and different organizations. For MPI, it is the base of which we do all of our work. We recognize that if we run an English class for children, if the children aren't healthy, how can they focus on learning? So, paired with our English and Art classes. We faciliate a teeth-brushing program and also help with a feeding program. We believe that by helping all aspects of a person's life (health, education, creative, happiness, social, etc...) that's when a person will really be able to grow.
Another aspect of holistic community development is how we nurture and utilize a Program Director's unique strengths and skills. For example, a current PD, Steph Barnett majored in Spanish and Developmental Education. She uses those skills to run a children's english class, and also volunteers at a pre-school in the community. On the other hand, Trent Draughon (another PD) who is more tech savvy than most of us, teaches the computer class.
I never knew much about holistic community development before I started working with Manna Project, but now that I do, it just makes sense.
Marcos taking some notes in Steph's english class
You can't tell by this photo
but this class is one of the hardest to teach.
The children are very rambunctious.
But, through Steph's masterly skill of working with children in Spanish
Last Sunday we celebrated Will's 23rd b-day with a nice dinner, cake, and of course a Spiderman shaped piñata! It's also a Nicaraguan tradition to crack a raw egg on the head of a person when it's their b-day. The Nicas say it's for good luck... and of course we wanted Will to have all the good luck he could! jejejejeje.
Here are some pictures from the celebrations.
Jaquie, Spiderman, & Will
Marcos blissfully trying to hit the Piñata and William watching seriously in the background preparing himself for the battle to get candy
Will really enjoyed it!
It was little Jaquie's b-day too
so she got a good luck egg on the head too
Lester making sure there was no left over candy hiding in Spidey
My first experience with MPI was as a Summer Volunteer in Quito, Ecuador in 2009. A fellow Summer Volunteer and good friend of mine, Rebekah Ann Chappell has been living in Costa Rica for the past 14 months, working and volunteering as a dance instructor. This past week we were lucky enough to have Bekah visit us in Managua and teach a dance camp for girls in CedroGalan. The classes included basic ballet, jazz, and songs from High School Musical. Needless to say the girls absolutely loved it. Bekah's lessons focused on exercises that would help teach the girls body awareness as well as dance technique. The week passed way too fast and it was really sad to have to say good bye to Bekah this morning as we dropped her off at the bus stop to head back to Costa Rica. This past week I couldn't help but think about how great it would be for a the community to have permanent dance classes. I really hope that a future Summer Volunteer or PD will have a dance background and the skills to implement such a program.
despite varied foot-ware the girls in CedroGalan still all were able to
Maria and Laurita learning a little bit of Jazz
Every class this week started with sitting in a circle and talking about respecting each other while learning how to dance
Bekah liked to call this one the "Michael Jackson"
Twice a week Manna Project Nica helps out with a feeding program that is hosted by the Augusts. Kathy August and Halle August are a married couple that have been doing mission work here for the past 7 years. They were an integral part in the starting of MPI Nica and even helped us find the Manna House to rent when we were just starting. The Augusts own the spaces that we use to run the majority of our programs in Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua. Not only do the Augusts do phenomenal work in the community, but they're also the nicest people you'll ever meet.
After a good nutritious meal from the feeding program, MPI runs a little teeth-brushing program, where we give out toothbrushes and toothpaste to the children. Although it is only a small program and a small part of what we do, it is still very important. Many of the children here do not brush their teeth on a regular basis. For many families the extra cost of toothpaste is too much. It's crazy how you can bear witness to so much poverty, yet when you hear a simple explanation that a mother has to choose between toothpaste or food, you suddenly feel like you're seeing life here for the first time all over again.
Will making sure the right kids get the right toothbrushes
Jimmy, Hamilton, & Daniel
(don't mind Luke in the background, he has a bronchial-pneumonia right now)
When I first arrived in Nicaragua I was ambivalent about drinking the tap water. Before departing I had dutifully gone to the travel clinic where I updated all my shots and of course got thoroughly warned about all of the exotic sicknesses that can be contracted in Latin America. Many of these sicknesses can be acquired by drinking contaminated water. In the Manna house I noticed that the old PDs were drinking from both the tap and a purified water jug. I asked around about this and learned that the tap water in Managua is reportedly treated the same way that tap water is in the United States. So, the argument here has been that maybe the water won't make you sick now, but in ten years or so maybe then you'll start seeing the consequences. In response to that worry I went to asked about drinking tap water in Managua to Amira to which she replied, "I've been here for 10 years and I've been drinking the tap water and I'm fine." Nonetheless, this does not carry off to outside of Managua, where bottled water is a must.
During my first two weeks in Managua while I was signed up for intensive Spanish school, I did a homestay. During my homestay I quickly learned something about the water realities for the people and families living in Managua, that most nights at around 6pm the water is turned off. After the water is turned off they use barrel that is filled during the day to flush the toilet, wash dishes, etc. There were many a nights were I would return from a day of 4 hours of Spanish school and an afternoon of exploring the city to a big bucket of water for a shower. Don't get me wrong, at that point I was thankful to be able to get clean. But, that experience got me thinking, if the water is regulated and restricted in such a way in the main city, what is it like for people living in more rural areas? After a little bit of research I've learned that there are many pueblos (villages/neighborhoods) that still do not have safe drinking water, not only in rural areas of Nicaragua, but in Managua too. Many of the community members that we work with in CedroGalan and La Chureca don't have working toilets or running water. Without a proper sewage system, human waste will often contaminate water in the surrounding neighborhood, leaving the inhabitants permanently with parasites and in a weakened state.
Although Managua is on the right track with proper water sanitation with tap water, it still has a lot more development that needs to take place in order for all of Nicaragua's inhabitants to have access clean and safe drinking water.
Principe(or Prince in english) here, like many Nicaraguans,
has no choice but to drink untreated groundwater
the floods in La Chureca contaminate the roads and water
with harmful parasites and bacteria
To learn more about Blog Action Day and what you can do to help give the world access to clean water
Every Tuesday and Thursday in CedroGalan we host a children's Creative Arts Class that teaches everything from painting and jewelry making, to drama. The class size averages at around 12 children from ages 2-12yrs old. With such a wide range of ages in the class lesson planning has proven to be especially difficult. To accommodate all of the students many of the lesson plans are modified to be easier or more difficult. For example when we do beadwork, we use giant beads that are easy to put on string (for the little ones) and tiny seed-beads with tiny holes that are more difficult to work with for the older students. At many of the children's schools art is not considered an integral aspect of an education, so it is a little tricky trying to teach creativity. The children have little patience or confidence in their ability to make artwork and often can be heard saying "no puedo" or "I can't do it." We combat this with lots of encouragement and a regular exposure to all things creative. The program has been running for two months now and we are very slowly beginning to see improvements in these areas. My hopes for this program is to foster and nurture the arts in a place where they are often overlooked.
There are only two seasons in Nicaragua. There is rainy season/Winter which lasts from May-Dec and there is dry season/Summer which takes place from Jan-April. Managua normally receives 182mm of rainfall in September. However last month there was at least 300mm of rain.
Amira, who has lived here the past 10 years has also said that she has never seen rains like this before. The roads in the community that consist mainly of mud and in some places strategically placed rocks are being destroyed by this rainfall. Children who have been playing in community roads that have morphed into small rivers have been tragic victims of drownings and a total of 40 people have died so far due to the heavy rains. Already isolated neighborhoods are becoming even harder to enter and exit. Coastal towns and towns that boarder the lakes are having to be evacuated. Sections of La Chureca have been flooded, leaving community member's small abodes in ruins. The heavy rains are literally crippling the city. They also have a large effect on the programs we run. When it rains here it's as if all of Managua's life is put on pause. People remain wherever they are and wait for the rains to stop. Many community members don't even own rain jackets and only a few have umbrellas. Although this season there has been much more rain than normal, I find myself confused to Managua's inability to deal with it. Houses are built right on the dirt and flood at least a little on a regular basis, the roads are still constructed poorly and get immensely damaged in the rains, and the people refuse to go out in it. However, there's not much we can do to change an ingrained cultural behavior, all we can do try to accommodate our programs to the weather and hope for the rains to recede.
Eroding road and stream made by rains.
Annual average weather graph for Managua.
Last night coming home after having dinner over at a community member's house.
As we have been working for the past few months here in community we have been noticing in our english classes that some of the children that we work with have been having trouble reading and writing. Sometimes when a child is having particular trouble in an english class we will resort to explaining a word or concept in Spanish, only to have it still be misunderstood. This has been something that has been bothering us for a while now. So, after much brainstorming we decided to re-start the children's literacy class. In December 2009 the literacy class was converted into a homework help class, a program that has since been cancelled due to a low attendance rate.
Creating this class has been an especially daunting task because none of us have any previous knowledge or experience with teaching literacy. However, we recognize literacy's importance and we are trying to address it none the less. We started by having a couple of meetings, creating goals, researching literacy, and developing a plan of action. Last week we made flyers advertising the class, which we handed out as we walked around Cedro Galán. As we were advertising last week Alba Flores, a young adult in the community even volunteered to help with class too.
On Monday we were thrilled when 13 kids came to the first class and we're hoping to be able to sustain that number.
Last week we had 5 days off work to celebrate both Nicaragua and all of Central America's Independence Days. So, we all decided to go on a family vacation to the Corn Islands!
The Corn islands can be found off the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and are a 1 and 1/2 hours flight away from Managua.
Great Corn and Little Corn are the two islands that make up this bonita island pair.
Great Corn has even been short listed as the most authentic Caribbean island around. But, Little Corn has no cars and many of the residents their never have to wear shoes (not even sandals).
The locals from Corn Islands speak a surreal mix of english, spanish and creole slang, sometimes all at the same time. I often found myself entranced hearing the locals speak, constantly asking myself, "i'm still in Nicaragua, right?"
We enjoyed snorkelling in crystal clear water, eating a plethora of seafood, exploring white sand beaches, relaxing, and of course eating lots of Eskimo ice-cream.
Our little trip has proven to be a great recharger and we're more enthusiastic than ever to be back working in Managua!
yield, crabs crossing!
Will, Ira, and Zac about to go spear fishing
sharks are one of many of the diverse species of marine creatures
that can be found around the Corn Islands
busy dock on Great Corn
the view from the lodge we stayed at on Little Corn