Monday, November 25, 2013

The 2013 LtN Cup

The inaugural LtN Cup was held this past Saturday in conjunction with our partner Lacrosse the Nations. To say it was a success is an understatement. The kids left every ounce of energy they had on the field and, thanks to some incredibly generous donors, we were able to reach our goal and raise over $6,500 for LtN’s feeding programs and the forwardHEALTH clinic.

The girls kicked things off on Saturday. They were split into two teams and played four extended quarters over the course of the day. After the first two quarters the score was 5-0. Although both teams gave it their all, Las Estrellas had too much firepower and won 7-1.
Las Estrellas showing off the hardware
The boys were divided into two groups – Club Hope and Chiquilistagua (Chiqui) – with eight teams total. The teams played each other in a round robin tournament to decide the top four teams, two from each group. In the Chiqui group the two top competitors swapped goals in fierce battle. Meanwhile, in the Club Hope group, the teams were so evenly matched that the last spot in the semis was decided by goal differential.
Battling for groundballs
The semis did not disappoint. Both games were extremely competitive and were decided by one goal. The championship game was more of the same with Club Hope holding a one-goal lead for most of the game. With about a minute to go Chiqui had several close calls but could not tie the game and Club Hope clinched a victory by two goals
Club Hope kids celebrating the Championship!
Afterwards we all sat down together and shared every kid’s favorite meal – pizza. Once our bellies were sufficiently stuffed with za’s we handed out prizes to the Top Goal Scorer (boy and girl), the Best Defender (boy and girl) and trophies for the two winning teams. All of the players who participated also received a medal as a reward for their hard work and sportsmanship.

In the end the LtN Cup really wasn't about wins, losses or who scored the most goals – though the kid’s competitiveness was on full display. It was about coming together, having fun and doing something positive. After almost a month of planning, promoting and fundraising we were able to pull off an incredibly fun day for the kids while furthering our goal of providing quality health care in their community. 

To all of you who donated to make this tournament possible, THANK YOU. The day would not have been a success without your support.

For more pictures, visit the LtN Facebook page here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


by Kate Squires 

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Manna Project International’s presence in Managua, Nicaragua. Our Child Sponsorship Program, Girls & Boys Health classes, and Nutrition/Exercise program are all part of our holistic approach to health and wellness. This year is special to Manna as it celebrates its anniversary, but to the 12 Program Directors that live in Nicaragua, this year, this month means something a little different. Last week we opened the first MPI run and operated clinic in the community of Cedro Galan.  

Access to health care was the most urgent request when the community needs assessments were done just a year ago. Prior to the first interview with our nurse, a PD was walking up to the clinic site when she heard a girl screaming nearby.  She ran to find 7 year-old Sara having just fallen off of her bike. With an injured foot and no resources, it was a telling sign that our clinic couldn’t open soon enough. Over the next few weeks, a constant PD presence kept her foot clean, dry, and wrapped to prevent infection and severe scarring. We bartered cookies for cleaning and because of that she is now walking and will have no permanent damage. Sara is one of the many examples that we encounter daily in Cedro Galan.

One of the main reasons I chose MPI for my year of volunteering, was because of the impact that I would be able to see before starting my own journey in the health care world. Many of the patients we will see at the clinic are people that do not have the resources to travel to a hospital, or even spend the time to wait for a doctor. Everyday that the clinic doors are open, we have the opportunity to create change in a way that we were not capable of before last week.

Up until October 25th, 2013 we were worried just how long those doors would stay open. However, on October 25th, we successfully raised over $11,500 with the help of over 100 generous donors! The clinic has now met the needed budget for the next year because of the success of our 25 in 25 match event. We could not be more grateful for all of the donations and support we have received thus far.
Our next fundraising event will be held on November 23rd, 2013 in conjunction with our partner organization, Lacrosse the Nations. For more info on how to get involved check out the event here, LtN Health Cup. After 10 years on the ground in Nica, we are excited about how our presence and programs are evolving. We would not be the organization we are today without the help of supporters like you. With every donation you are making measurable change.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our first Mannamily retreat.

This Sunday is our 3-month mark, three months of progress, three months of challenges, and three months of working together. A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to talk about the accomplishments and challenges of the last couple of months at our very first PD retreat. With the amount of programs we lead we are generally all going 100 miles a minute and not usually in the same direction. So our first retreat gave us the chance to meet in a way that we hadn’t been able to since our July orientation in Miami. 

One Thursday, we all piled into the micro and departed to one of the most beautiful places in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo. Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake in between the cities of Masaya and Granada. When we arrived we were all shocked to see the georgous lake and home we would be sharing for the next two days. We quickly unpacked and sat down for our first meeting. Over the course of two days we were able to plan, evaluate, share ideas, and even have a little fun!

With all 13 of us together and the experiences we have had so far, we were able to set long-term and short-term goals for the remainder of our time here in Nicaragua. We had the opportunity to split into our program groups and evaluate what is and isn’t working and plan ahead based on the new knowledge we’d gained. We were able to do team building activities to get to know each other even better than before.

Since returning from our retreat we have implemented strategies to help us reach our goals. We are now having Spanish Thursdays, during which we are allowed to speak in Spanish and Spanish only. We have had the chance to implement new program ideas and new roles within each program. We have seen programs grow, shift, and evolve from the ideas we came up with in just two short days.

With our next retreat just two months away we are excited to see the programs continue to grow. We are hoping to see our Spanish vastly improve and are working hard to reach that goal. There will be different obstacles we face along the way, but again we will have to opportunity to evolve as time goes on. We know that with each new day there is an opportunity for us all to do great things together. Challenge accepted.

Monday, September 23, 2013

JAMmin' for Camp!

By: Kate Squires

Before the new Program Directors flew into Managua, there was a desire to create a fun and challenging learning experience for kids. A place where kids could use pastels, dance to music, or enter into a magical world created by Dr. Seuss. This was the purpose behind creating Camp JAM. The first month and a half of Camp J.A.M. has proved to be both a success as well as a growing experience for the kids of Cedro Galan. The J.A.M. in our name is not only letters but represents our weekly rotation J: juegos or games, A: arte, and M: musica.

Growing up in the United States it is so easy to think that kids all over the world shared similar experiences to mine whether it be coloring, eating dirt cups with gummy worms, or simply making musical instruments. This was a preconceived notion that quickly changed the day we told the kids we were going to eat dirt and mud. After learning the English words for worm, dirt, and mud the activity turned into an amazing time that enabled the kids to think outside the box and complete a lesson that challenged their creativity.  

Being in Nicaragua for almost two months has changed my perspective on what matters in life. I often think that we take for granted the accessibility of paper, books, or simply a friendly face. For the kids of the Cedro Galan community, Camp JAM is an escape where they be told a story, make tambourines, or simply laugh with their peers. It is a learning environment that allows these children to channel their energy and challenge them to think in ways they have never had to before.

Last week we learned about complimentary colors, shapes, pattern and animals. We did an art project that tied all three parts of the lesson together. That day we had a surprising but familiar face at camp. This new camper had previously given our English classes a hard time by throwing rocks into the classroom.  We explained to him that if he wanted to participate, he would have to listen to the lesson and not be a distraction to the other kids. He agreed and what followed surprised all of us. After placing pastels in his hand we soon saw that he was a fantastic artist and began creating amazing drawings. We all realized that Camp JAM was more than just a once a week time for the kids to play, but a way to change the lives of the Cedro Galan community members. It took a sometimes-problematic kid and gave him something to work on and be challenged by. To give them something to look forward to the next week and tell their families about: how they ate mud and worms today, or learned how to create musical instruments. Not all the kids at camp are like him, however, it shows the impact that we have on these kids. To give them resources they never would've been exposed to and a safe place to be themselves.

All of the PDs involved are excited to grow Camp JAM even further to include more kids and the possibility of having camp twice a week.  We are so pleased with the progress we have had over the last two months and cannot wait to see what the next year has in store!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Go Bravos!

One of the things I was most excited for when deciding to come down to Nicaragua for this coming year was the thought of helping to grow our Baseball program. While I was no little league all-star, I’ve always enjoyed watching the game and I still appreciate the beauty of well-played baseball; a cleanly fielded grounder, a seeing-eye single – it’s all an integral part of “America’s Pastime”. So needless to say, I was excited to come down to Managua and do my best to help teach some of the boys (ages 13-15) some of the fundamentals of baseball. Essentially, I wanted to help make baseball “Managua’s Pastime”.

Well, there was one thing I hadn’t realized. Nicaragua may be home to some incredible “football” players, but baseball around here is no joke; in fact, it’s the national sport. This was shown to us not through words, but through our second league game. With one out in the last inning of our 2nd league game, The Cedro Galan Bravos (that’s us!) were down 9-4. As a team, we put our rally caps on and scored 6 runs in the final inning to walk-off with a win! All twenty of us (plus our Manna cheering section!) stormed the field in celebration, and relished in our first league win. That tail end of our first official doubleheader brought us to 1-1 in league play, and put us in second place in the Managua league.

Since we’ve begun here, we’ve gone from practice once a week to practicing twice a week and we’ve been able to start league games in the Managua Youth Baseball League. So far, your Cedro Galan Bravos are only 1-3 in league play, but are slowly getting better! We’ve grown from 9 to 21 boys in a span of only a few weeks and are playing double-headers every Saturday. Most importantly, we’ve been working on in-game communication, batting practice, recognizing and hitting the cutoff man, and catching runners in pickles! Despite our less-than-perfect league record, it’s easy to see that the Bravos of Cedro Galan are making incredible strides this season…we’ll keep you updated as the weeks go on!

Monday, August 19, 2013

One Month at Home

This past week marked one month. One month that we were able to call Nicaragua our new home. One month of working alongside one another as a new Mannamily. One month of adventures. One month of successes with a few bumps along the way. But most importantly, one month of being able to serve and know the communities in which we work.

Over the last month we have been able to learn everything we possibly could about Manna and our new programs. We have begun to teach our new programs. We have begun to drive, and get pulled over, in Managua. However, our month started with one of most important tools, language. We spent our first week in Nicaragua in language school. We conversed, read, wrote, and laughed our way through the progressing of our Spanish. We were given the opportunity to travel on afternoon trips to some very memorable places, we climbed the Masaya Volcano, walked the streets of Granada, shopped in the markets of Masaya, hiked the trails of Chocoyero, and saw the amazing views from the mountaintops in La Concha.

After our first week, we were really able to dive in to all of what Manna has to offer. We shadowed programs led by last years group of wonderful PD’s then jumped right into planning, teaching, and creating. Some program highlights in our first month include: having our first Milk Day in Child Sponsorship, making huge strides in our Cedro Health initiative, creating and starting a new program, Camp J.A.M., and having our first official league game for baseball!

This week, as the last few PD’s depart and our new team is finally all accounted for, we will begin our second month. A new month that will bring with it more energy, teamwork, and ideas than the last. A new month that we will continue to grow not just as individuals, but as a team. We could not be more excited about the coming months and all the experiences they have to offer!