Thursday, December 8, 2011

MPI Ecuador

Our friends at MPI

Hey everyone, this is Heather Kryzak, one of the 7 Program Directors at the MPI Ecuador site. I am in charge of our site’s blog, (along with Watkins Fulk-Gray) and am writing to give our Nicaragua and Guatemala readers an update on how things are going here in the Chillos Valley.
We arrived here in July and spent our first two weeks living in Quito with host families, getting to know the Ecuadorian culture and taking some intensive Spanish classes. Then we moved into the valley and got started with a 3-week summer camp for kids. This was a great chance for us to meet the kids in our community and their parents and to start finding our way around the valley.

Since then we have been busy with our first quarter of programs, most of which we run out of our public-lending library and community center in Rumiloma. This space holds our adult and children’s English classes, children’s art, women’s exercise, adult’s nutrition and cooking classes, and a new computer class one of our PD’s Charlie started up this year. The library is also a safe space for children to come and play games, read, and get help with their homework. A special part of the library is reserved just for teens to hang out, play videogames and ping-pong, and occasionally watch movies on a Friday night.

In addition to the programs we hold in the library, the small business development program meets directly with local businesses giving them free consultations and help with accounting. Two of our PD’s work directly in a nearby high-school giving nutrition classes for children once a week. We also have an agriculture program that works with a local organic farmer’s cooperative and with another foundation nearby that has small organic garden plots.

We just said goodbye to our first round of short-term volunteers, a group of 5 girls from the University of Georgia who spent the week shadowing our programs and helping us with some manual labor. It was exciting and refreshing to get some big projects taken care of and hear some outside perspectives on what we are doing here.

The first quarter has flown by for us in a whirl of meeting new people and establishing lasting relationships in the community. As we wrap up and prepare for vacation we are also busy planning a Christmas party for community members in the library and a larger community celebration to be held when we return in January. We have found it to be important to hold events every once in a while to attract new faces to the center while letting everyone know we are still here and our programs will continue to go strong.

Thanks to Guatemala and Nicaragua for this chance to share a little bit of news from Ecuador. Check out our site’s blog: for more information on life in the Chillos Valley! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MPI Guatemala

Today's post is from our friends at MPI Guatemala, and aims to give Nicaragua readers an idea of the great work going on at other Manna sites. Later this week, I will also be sharing a post from the Ecuador folks. Thanks for reading!

What’s up Manna friends, family, fans and followers! My name is Cameron Roth and I am a Program Director in Sololá, Guatemala. Today, I have the distinct pleasure of sharing a little bit of our life in Guatemala. For starters, we live in the town of Sololá on Lake Atitlan. For those of you who have never heard of this little heaven on Earth, allow me to turn to my good friend Aldous Huxley (the casual author of everyone’s favorite high school novel Brave New World). Mr. Huxley describes Lake Atitlan as [Lake] Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing." Mr. Huxley, I agree with you.
However, Manna Project is about collaborating with and helping target communities abroad, not just living in beautiful places (although it is a plus). Our programs differ from those in Ecuador and Nicaragua as we run all of them through two schools, Central and Cooperativa. In Chaquijyá, about twenty minutes outside of Sololá on the Pan-American Highway, we work with kids teaching English, giving health talks, and working on environmental awareness. In Guatemala, English is a government-mandated subject, but as you can imagine most rural teachers do not speak a word of English. So we teach in La Primaría, which is 1st – 6th grade, and give English classes to 3rd – 6th graders. In addition, we offer after-school English for advanced and/or motivated students, and Teacher’s English so that they can begin forming their own curricula. Our health talks consist of preventative health measures such as proper dental hygiene, the importance of washing your hands, and good nutrition. Additionally, we are collaborating with women in the community to make soap from household items to provide it to the schools. When school is out, as it is right now, we run an educational summer camp as well. Easily the most fun part of the year, we have science experiments, sports tournaments, dance-offs, art projects and of course the daily game of cat and mouse.
Finally, we have just broken ground on construction of a four-room addition to the Central school. However, this addition is not your run-of-the-mill construction. Instead, we are constructing a second floor with plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash from the community. Each bottle holds about a pound of trash, and we plan to use about 13,000 bottles, so let me do the math…carry the one…that’s 13,000 less pounds of trash burned or thrown in a landfill! Wowzers!
Yes, life is wonderful here in Guatemala. I encourage all who have the opportunity to come visit the beautiful Lake Atitlan and the authentic Maya communities surrounding the lake. Every day, as we soak in the beauty of the “land of eternal spring,” we are reminded of how lucky we are to be here. The people are warm and passionate, and accept us although we may be a little bit different… and a little bit taller. It is a pleasure to build relationships and work together with the people in Chaquijyá. To keep up with the MPI Guatemala team visit us at!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nicaraguan Thanksgiving

This week, I continue to steal blog posts from my fellow PDs. Here you'll find Fiona's most recent blog about our Thanksgiving here in Managua, which actually was quite successful. Enjoy!

Despite being in a foreign country where people don't really know what Thanksgiving is, we had a great Thanksgiving here at the Manna house! Each person in the house contributed by cooking at least one dish, and our spread was impressive - the only big item missing was sweet potatoes, which sadly don't exist in this country. Our meal included turkey, stuffing, squash risotto, cornbread, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, beets, apple pie, and chocolate pie. It was all delicious, and I particularly liked that every person made something.

We converted our office table into a dinner table, and it was the first time we've all sat around one table and eaten together. Props to my housemates for some great decorating, both of the table and of ourselves...we had pilgrim and indian costumes. See the picture above to realize how awesome we are. Spending time eating together, playing a game, and watching a movie made for an amazing Thanksgiving. :-)

There are many, many things I am thankful for this year...far more than I could ever list in this blog entry. But, here's a sampling of things, big and small, which I am particularly thankful for this year.
  • Communities, both here in Nicaragua and back in the US. In particular: the communities I have the privilege to serve in here, my housemates, and the young adult community at St. Clares back at home.
  • My Spanish being good enough to communicate what I want to, most of the time.
  • Bug spray. (things I am NOT thankful for: the crazy number of mosquitos)
  • The fact that the weather is a bit cooler nowadays, at least in the evenings, and that it's not raining all the time.
  • Hugs.
  • All the freedoms and opportunities that I've been given in my life in the US: education, a well-paying job, a fair political system, safety, etc.
  • Friends who constantly challenge me to grow, support me, and hold me to a higher standard.
  • Public transportation that allows me to explore this beautiful country.
  • Open doors and welcoming smiles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home Stays

This week, Jesse has shared his recent home stay experience. Here in Managua, we each do one four-night home stay in the community to expand relationships with students and community members. Enjoy!

Last week half of our group did homestays for four nights with different families in Cedro Galan. When we initially talked about doing homestays again I wasn’t particularly excited, although I really should have been. I wasn’t dreading it by any means but I didn’t really feel like I was going to accomplish much by doing it and it meant some inconveniences in terms of using internet, getting work done, and washing clothes among other things. However, this quickly changed after I decided who I wanted to do my homestay with. After some encouragement from Sam I decided to ask Samuel, a fourteen year old boy who sometimes comes to a couple of our programs, if he thought his parents would be okay with me doing my homestay there. Despite the awkward nature of asking someone I had never met if I could stay at their house for a few nights, the conversation with his parents went well and they said that they would be glad to host me. My attitude about staying in the community quickly changed and I became excited to stay with Samuel and his family.

Samuel is an extremely intelligent kid with so much potential. However, he has had some trouble at school in the past and is currently taking the year off. Because of this he has a lot of free time and spends it with older guys who seem to be anything but a good influence on him. He is also very susceptible to this influence because he lacks the self confidence necessary to make his own decisions and be his own person. Upon leaving, some of last year’s PD’s told me to watch out for Samuel and said that he was on the edge and could either become one of the “guys on the corner” or could actually realize his potential and become a productive, contributing member of society. The prospect of staying with Samuel and the opportunity to potentially be a positive role model for him was very exciting for me. I felt as if I was actually trying to accomplish something during my week at their house.

In short, my stay with the Davila family was great. Samuel’s mom, Doña Norma, is one of the sweetest people I’ve met. She is also a fantastic cook which certainly made my homestay even more pleasant. Although Samuel’s dad wasn’t around very often during the week due to his demanding job as a security guard I did get to meet him and spend a short amount of time with him and he too is a very quiet but welcoming man. They run a “venta,” or little store, out of their home that Doña Norma usually tends but that Samuel assists with. Each evening after dinner Samuel and I would watch the news at 7:00 and then an episode of House, one of Samuel’s favorite shows, at 8:00 before going to bed. One day it rained all day and we weren’t able to leave the house at all so we just sat and talked for hours. We talked about a variety of subjects including school, nature, food, sports, and science. In all, it was a fantastic week.

I feel like I was really able to connect with Samuel throughout my week at his house. I don’t maintain any illusions that I will be the determining factor that causes Samuel to go more consistently to our programs, do better in school when he returns in February, and become a successful member of the community here. However, I do think that my stay there did some good. It at least laid a stronger foundation for a relationship that I hope to maintain and expand upon. Hopefully our friendship will grow throughout my remaining time here and I can continue to provide an extra little push that could help him take a step or two in the right direction. And at the very least, we both had a great time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Presidential Elections

With United States presidential elections one year away, voters and candidates are already keeping a keen eye on the evolution of the presidential race. Few Americans are aware, however, that Nicaraguan’s presidential election is right around the corner—this coming Sunday, to be exact! Incumbent Daniel Ortega is a founding member of the ruling FSLN party (Sandinista National Liberation Front), and has amended the constitution to run for a third term. The FSLN is the socialist party that came to power after the Sandinista evolution of the 1970s, during which time Ortega served his first term as president.

Ortega’s opposition is divided between four candidates, two of which are supported by the majority of remaining voters. Fabio Gadea represents the PLI party, the right wing independent party that has merged with the more liberal MRS party to form an opposition coalition to the FSLN. Arnoldo Aleman is the candidate of the right wing PLN party, and previously served as one of the nation’s two PLN presidents in the 1990s.

While anticipation of the November 6th election was already apparent when we arrived in July, campaigning has now reached an all time high. Last Wednesday, we were puzzled by low attendance in our kids’ classes before learning that the FSLN had bussed all children in our area to a Managua amusement park. Sandinista rallies took place all weekend, with Ortega supporters proudly sporting t-shirts with Ortega’s youth slogan “Amor, paz, y vida,” while hanging posters throughout the community. Opposition supporters were out in full force as well, holding rallies of their own in Managua and paying door-to-door visits to garner support for the PLN and PLI. While cheering for Jesse during his Saturday soccer game, a red dog reminiscent of Clifford kept us company. We quickly deduced that the PLN had hosted a rally near the soccer field that morning, during which they opted to dye our furry friend a bright shade of PLN red.

For more information on the Nicaraguan presidential elections, we recommend the following article in Nicaragua Dispatch, an English language online Nicaraguan newspaper:


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rain, rain, go away...

Cola was not a happy camper

Farito "road"

The day after we last updated our blog, it started raining. We’re still in the rainy season here in Nicaragua, so we can normally expect one to two hour thunderstorms every afternoon. This rain, however, was different. It began in the afternoon, but unlike our standard daily thunderstorms, it simply didn’t stop. The aguacero continued for nine days, drenching crops, flooding roads and houses, and prompting President Ortega to declare a national state of emergency.

Here at the Manna house, we initially complained at having to deal with power outages, an inability to effectively dry laundry, and our two miserable, soggy dogs. However, after venturing into Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua and witnessing the damage wrought by the storm, we realized that our rainy woes were small in comparison to others. A large tree fell near Salero—the community center in which we work in Chiquilistagua—taking power lines and electricity for much of the surrounding community with it. In La Chureca, flooding forced seven families to spend several nights in the local school. Here in Cedro Galan, the road to Farito frequently became a large river with a sizeable current, making the walk to classes unsafe if not completely impossible. We were thus forced to cancel several programs last week, and those classes that we did have were marked by unusually low attendance. Fear of sickness and the necessity to deal with the effects of heavy rain render many Nicaraguans reluctant to leave home during storms.

As relief efforts continue throughout the country, however, there is some good news: the sun is out!!! Clothes, roads, and crops are finally drying out, and moods are improving. Here’s hoping that we’ve made it through the worst of the rainy season!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Retreat and Quarterly Review

Beautiful beach sunset

Getting ready for a delicious meal of lasagna

Today we’re lucky to have a guest post from Fiona about our recent staff retreat to the nearby beach town of Pochomil. If you’re interested to read more, Fiona posts regularly at Enjoy!

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to take a few days, get out of the Manna house, and reflect on the past 3 months. It is crazy how quickly the past three months have passed - I still have some days where I feel like I just arrived! Particularly in the past few weeks, I have been very, very busy, and sometimes it's easy to miss the bigger picture when I am so busy with the details. Having a few days to relax as a group, reflect on where we've been and what we've accomplished, and discuss what our goals are for the next few months was both beneficial and enjoyable.

As a group, we made a list of our successes and the things that we are most proud of from the last couple months, and I'd like to share a few of them with you:

Community relationships - it has been a huge blessing to get the chance to connect with the families who live in Cedro Galan, Chiquilistagua, and La Chureca. I have really enjoyed just having the opportunity to spend time with them, learn more about their daily life, and understand this country and these communities better. I don't have as much time to do this as I wish, but I really enjoy the time I do spend in the community.

Good transition and continued high attendance in programs - due to the turnover with Manna PDs each year, it's sometimes difficult to have continuity in programs and to maintain attendance as things change. Many people have remarked that we have done a good job picking up where last year's PDs left off and continuing forward with each program. It has been great to see our program attendance remain high, and in some programs even increase.

Our first milk day without the old PDs, the day where we hand out food for the month to our child sponsorship kiddos, went off incredibly smoothly. A lot of this had to do with two qualities which kept coming up again and again as successes: everyone's ability to be proactive and to be flexible. A combination of these two is definitely needed here - as a group, we've been able to do quite a bit due to everyone being proactive, and have a clean house, a restructured English program, and some new partnerships to show for it. However, as with everything here in Nicaragua, nothing ever goes exactly as planned, and flexibility is key. :)

There's many more, but those are definitely a few of the highlights for me from the past few months.

We also took the opportunity to make some goals for the next few months. They ranged from small things, like trying every flavor of ice cream at the store next to Farito and keeping the house clean, to bigger goals like reaching out to more families in the communities, saying thank you more often, and planning ahead more for our programs. I hope that, in a few more months when we have our second retreat, we're able to look back on these goals and count them as our successes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chase Community Giving Awards Update #1

Thanks to your support, we’re off to a great start in the Chase Community Giving Competition. We’re extremely excited at the opportunity to win $1 million, and our goal is definitely within reach. As of right now, we’re in third place, but are only 150 votes behind the leading organization!

For those of you who are just now joining us, Manna Project has been chosen as one of 25 organizations competing in the Chase Community Giving Awards. Voting started today, and we need your support in order to win! If you haven’t already, please take 30 seconds to go to this link and cast a vote for Manna Project.

You can also help us raise awareness by attending our facebook event! Just click here to join the 6,000 people invited to attend!

One million dollars could change the lives of thousands of children and young adults in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Here in Nicaragua, additional funding would enable to us to expand our child sponsorship program in La Chureca, meet the growing demand for additional English classes in Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua, and further develop new programs such as our microfinance initiative and women’s exercise classes.

Stay tuned for more updates on our progress in this exciting competition, and thank you again for your invaluable support!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We Need Your Help!

Hello everyone! We have some very exciting news to share! Two years ago, Manna Project participated in the Chase Community Giving competition, and won $25,000. This year, we’ve been invited to participate again, and we have the chance to win up to $1 million!! We are extremely grateful for the chance to compete, and excited about all the ways that the money could help the communities we work with in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Guatemala. Here in Nicaragua, the money would allow us to provide more financial support to the clinic in La Chureca, more microfinance loans to start-up businesses in Cedro Galan, and much more.

We need your help to win! The week-long competition takes place on Facebook, and voting starts today. Can you take 30 seconds to help us? All you have to do is go to this link and cast a vote for Manna Project. If you have 30 more seconds to spare, can you help us even more and send this information to your contacts to encourage them to vote, as well?

We are very appreciative of your support in this competition and in all the other ways you support Manna Project, and hope to have great news to report about the Chase Community Giving competition when voting ends in a week! Thanks for your vote!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Things that made us smile this week, part two

After a two-week hiatus, we’re back! Sorry again for the delay in posting—most PDs went out of town last week during the holiday celebrating Central American independence, and we’ve been extra busy since our return! As promised, here are more anecdotes that made us smile this week.

· Watching Agdiel, who is extremely handicapped and generally unable to articulate sentences, answer a question asked in English correctly. –Davis

· A three-year-old Nicaraguan student asking if she may use the restroom in English during our Kids English class at Salero. –Davis

· One of our students, who is thirty years old, sprinting to the board during a game of Pictionary yelling the English answer at the top of her lungs, and telling us multiple times how much she had loved the class. –Davis

· Ariel, who generally struggles at math, confidently explaining to Flor, one of our best students, how to find the area of a circle; which we had just taught him. –Davis

· Watching our women’s exercise class do a zumba workout to Danza Kuduro in the water during our pool workout at the Manna house! –Anna

· This week my kid's English class at Colegio Cristiano La Esperanza in La Chureca was amazing. All of the kids were so motivated and focused on learning a hard concept. To see them eager to learn and willing to try with great attitudes even if it meant getting the answer wrong was awesome. The thing that left me beaming all day though was watching them succeed and the pride that showed all over their faces when they got the answers correct. –Jesse

· "Johnny," Luis Fernando's talking basketball, writing the correct answer to a question on the board in our Salero Kids English class. –Maggie

· Francisco, another student in our Salero Kids English class, telling us that we're his family when we got up at 6 am to watch him participate in his school's parade. –Maggie

· Seeing Douglas, a kid in our Child Sponsorship program, sprinting 50 feet down the street in Chureca because he's so excited to see us. –Maggie

· Seeing lots of my students at Mass today, and meeting the adorable little brother of one of my favorite students, William. –Fiona

· Delicious pizza and good conversation with fellow PDs at a nearby Italian restaurant. –Fiona

· Getting a chance to see the house and small store of one of our child sponsorship families in La Chureca. –Fiona

· Jose Raul, one of my math students, understanding how to simplify fractions! –Fiona

Monday, September 5, 2011

Things that made us smile this week

Davis playing Jenga with Janice and Arexa

Maggie and Henry

This past weekend, Fiona shared her most recent blog post, titled “Things that made me smile this week.” After reading her post, several of us in the Manna House were inspired to write similar blogs and emails for our friends and family. The idea is a great one, and helps to explain what makes our work so meaningful here in the communities of Cedro Galan, Chiquilistagua, and La Chureca. Together we’ve compiled a list of experiences that made each of us smile this past week. I thought I’d save some for our next blog post, so stay tuned for more smiles to come!

Things that made us smile this week:

· Randomly running into one of our teen English students, Francisco, at the market on my way to catch a bus, and him actually being excited to see us. –Fiona

· An amazing mother helping her three year old daughter to start learning English, by attending class with her and practicing outside of class as well. –Fiona

· Hearing Lesther, a two-year-old in our child sponsorship program in La Chureca, laugh for the first time. –Fiona

· Realizing that FOIL (an acronym we learned in high school algebra) doesn’t translate to Spanish, and deciding to use a sandwich as an analogy for binomial multiplication. While finding the product of binomials, Jose Antonio, my math student, now mutters “Here is the bread, here is the lunch meat…” –Sam

· The incredible drawings that 14-year-old Samuel makes after math and literacy and lets me take home. Samuel has dropped out of school for the semester and suffers from low self-esteem, so it’s great to see him create something he’s proud of. –Sam

· When our previously unruly girls soccer team responds super well to direction, and doesn’t complain about running suicides! –Sam

· Receiving a drawing of myself and Aydel holding hands. Aydel is a mentally handicapped boy in the community who is 16-years-old and I work with him on learning the alphabet and numbers. He can understand most everything when you talk to him but has a very difficult time saying anything. –Carrie

· Watching the women in exercise class dance Zumba to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” and having the 3-year-old children imitate us! –Carrie

· Singing the weather song with my kid’s English class. (“What’s the weather? What’s the weather? What’s the weather like today? Is it sunnyyy, is it rainyyy, is it cloudyyy, out today!”) –Carrie

· Last week, Davis and I walked home with one of my Kids English students, Norlan. We realized that he walks one hour each way just to come to Farito English classes twice a week. We got a chance to meet his mom and I told her what a great student he is. He was so proud and was grinning from ear to ear. I am so thankful for students like Norlan! –Christin

· Watching Ariel from our loan program making cinderblocks using materials he bought with our loan; also meeting his family and getting to know him better. –Matt

· Hearing from Alejandro that the other students in his math class ask him for help with polynomial expressions—the subject we've been working on for the past few weeks. –Matt

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kids English

One of Manna’s central aims in Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua is to teach English to community members of all ages. To this end, we currently offer kids and adult classes, the latter including beginner, elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels. Adult classes take place almost entirely at Farito, and thus far have served as a great way to get to know community members in a classroom setting. Our three kids classes, in contrast, meet at both Farito and Salero, and expose us to a wider range of students in terms of both age and background.

In the past group of PDs, Steph was responsible for all kids English classes, which—to put it lightly—was no small feat. Initially, we all found the prospect of teaching a kids English class fairly daunting. Steph was able to gracefully manage and teach classes of nearly thirty kids thanks to her indefatigable optimism and extensive teaching background. Rather than assigning the kids English program to one PD, we quickly decided to divide the classes among ourselves, with two PDs leading each class of 20-30 students. In the past month, we have all received a hands-on crash course in classroom management, and are working to gain the respect and trust of our students.

Nicaraguan kids differ little from their North American counterparts; thus our classrooms are alive with frenetic energy, angst, hormones, and teenage drama. Herein lies both the difficulty and beauty of kids English: confiscating a love note mid-lesson is initially frustrating, but can also prompt a post-class conversation that yields new insight into a student’s life. Because our classes are meant to supplement school as an extracurricular activity, we strive to maintain attendance by make learning fun, engaging students with both games and songs. Despite our best efforts, however, the departure of the 2010-2011 PDs took its toll on attendance. Each year, some students are saddened and disconcerted by the absence of their old teachers, and opt out of class for a while. In the wake of this week, however, we can say that the transition slump has officially passed! Farito beginner’s English boasted an impressive (and loud!) 54 students on Thursday, while Salero classes are full and brimming with anticipation for our approaching pool party. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Encounters with the Unfamiliar

Syd with a less lethal victim, an iguana

The position of Program Director entails many responsibilities and privileges, one of which is living in the beautiful Manna House. As new directors, we’re starting to better understand how to maintain and take care of the house and our two Rottweilers, Sydney and Cola. However, just as we began to feel that we’d gotten the hang of things, the fauna of Nicaragua threw us a rather frightening curve ball. On Thursday night, Sydney, our beloved older guard dog, attempted to eat a giant toad that had decided to take a dip in the pool. When poor Syd began foaming profusely at the mouth, we realized that she had crossed paths (and fluids) with a cane toad, a particularly nasty amphibian whose poison is responsible for many dog deaths. Against the odds, and after many hours of care and worry, Syd pulled through. We owe a great deal to the plethora of online resources available, our own initiative, and two local veterinarians, one of whom came to the house twice to administer shots and an IV (thanks so much, Jeff!). We’re happy to see that Sydney has completely returned to her normal, voracious, and bipolar self. Watch out, world!

On a lighter note, this past Friday we helped to host a lacrosse tournament with our new partner non profit, Lacrosse the Nations. Lacrosse the Nations utilizes lacrosse as a means of promoting unity, health, and sustainability in the U.S. and Nicaragua. As their partner, Manna will help to coordinate programs and serve as a liaison between local coaches and U.S. based directors. In order to get a better feel for LTN’s mission and work, we spent the better part of Friday at Salero, helping their current group of volunteers to host an impressive lacrosse practice and tournament for over 80 children, most of whom are from La Chureca. Thanks largely to our southern, midwestern, and western roots, few of us at Manna have experience playing lacrosse. However, many of the children from La Chureca have been involved with LTN for several months now, and were more than willing to show us the ropes. We look forward to working further with Lacrosse the Nations as they extend opportunities to children in need. In the meantime, we’ll be honing our lacrosse skills in preparation for the next tournament. J

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting our Sea Legs

A group shot at the women's exercise despedida

Hello! Sorry for the delay in posting—like all programs and responsibilities here at Manna Nicaragua, this blog has changed hands. We’ve recently said goodbye to all of the outgoing PDs, which has been a difficult process on several levels. Over the past month we new PDs have grown close with those on their way out, relying on them for emotional and practical support as we experience the transition that they went through exactly one year ago. While it is sad to bid farewell to the 2010-2011 team, I am incredibly excited to assume leadership of MPI Nicaragua with our new group of nine program directors. Although biographies and photos of our team can be found on our website, let me briefly introduce the new Manna Nicaragua team! Fiona Turett, Christin Stewart, Anna Gajewski, Davis Snead, Jesse Zimmerman, Carrie Torn, Maggie Thomas, and Samantha Wyatt (yours truly!) compose the new leadership of MPI here in Managua. But that’s not all! We are extremely fortunate to be joined by Matt Creeden, who has opted to stay on as a program director for an additional six months. His experience and wisdom will doubtless prove extremely helpful as we move forward in serving the communities of Chiquilistagua and Cedro Galan.

The past two weeks have been full of bittersweet despididas—in addition to the general bienvenida/despidida party that Megan described, individual classes and programs have put on specific events to thank and say goodbye to outgoing PDs. I was able to attend the women’s exercise despidida, in which women in the class prepared speeches, dancing, and food to express their gratitude for Megan, Steph, and Carly’s work over the past year. The snack of whole-wheat sandwiches prepared by the members of the class was nearly as touching as their speeches; a thoughtful reflection of the nutrition tips that Megan has offered throughout the year.

With Amanda's departure this morning, the last outgoing PD has officially headed home, leaving all responsibilities to the new team. While we still have much to learn about effectively running programs and meeting the needs of community members, I can confidently say that we already feel quite at home within the community. The joy of receiving a personal greeting or hug at the close of a class or practice cannot be understated, and even after only several weeks here, hugs and personal support abound. I look forward to detailing the development of both our programs and personal relationships here in Nicaragua as we strive to serve the communities in which we are so fortunate to live and work. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Bittersweet 'Despedida'

          The time has come to say goodbye to the program directors of 2010-2011 and transition into the new group of volunteers for the upcoming year, which always makes for a difficult yet exciting change.  Two nights ago in El Farito we held our annual despedida party, formally presenting the new volunteers to the community and giving the old ones a chance to say goodbye.  This year was unique in that we had the opportunity to introduce the new program director, Katie Messick, to the community as well.  Even though this happens every year, it still was no easy task for the program directors to bid farewell to all of the people they had become so close with this past 10-13 months.
          So the evening began with a trivia game that required the community to investigate into the lives of the new program directors, trying to discover which of the volunteers paired up with the list of trivia facts given.  Then after Amira introduced Katie and the new program directors, a handful of girls from the community performed both folklore and reggaetown dances.  Along with the help of program directors Steph and Carly, the girls were all dressed up for the occasion, wearing traditional Nicaraguan skirts and tops with makeup and hair to along with it; they all looked beautiful and danced wonderfully.  It was then time for each of the program directors of 2010-2011 to say their own special goodbye, which lead into the final and probably most anticipated event, the photo slideshow.  The slideshow was a brief five minute video of pictures that captured just a handful of the many memories and experiences that took place this past year.  The rest of the night was then spent eating cake and hanging out with the community members.  There were tears and there was laughter and of course photos being snapped in every which direction, making the entire evening absolutely awesome but definitely bittersweet as well.
A snapshot of the community members present.
Dayana dressed up in her traditional Nicaraguan folklore outfit.
The new program directors of 2011-12.
Steph and Carly dancing with some of the community members.