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.