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!