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!