Monday, January 20, 2014

Impressions of a Week in Nicaragua

Every January Professor Jackie Brennan from Worcester State University brings her occupational therapy students to Nicaragua as part of her Learning and Service in Nicaragua course. They volunteer with special needs children and visit our programs. This past week we hosted 7 volunteers and asked them to reflect on their experience.

We came to Nicaragua for the week to work with the children at Tesoros de Dios, a school for children with disabilities in Managua. We collaborated with the physical therapists, teachers, and other staff at the school to assist them in providing the best care for the children there. Both the staff and the families were very welcoming and appreciative of our presence. Not only was this an educational experience it was rewarding to volunteer our time with the children at Tesoros de Dios.

Our stay at the Manna house was comfortable and the staff was welcoming and accommodating. They went above and beyond, assisting us with travel and translations. Not only did they assist us with our scheduled activities, they invited us to accompany them in their community based activities. This gave us a chance to experience the local culture and speak with families in the community. It was an amazing experience to see first hand the impact the group of Program Directors has on the community. Whether it be allowing kids to explore their creative ways at Camp J.A.M., provide medical care to those in need, or supporting the children of Villa Guadalupe by providing milk, iron, or food; the people of Manna give their all and better the lives of everyone they serve.

Overall, our week in Nicaragua is one we will never forget. We have all taken away much more than we gave and learned so much from the students and staff at Tesoros de Dios, the Manna PDs, and each and every community member we had the chance of meeting. It is with great pleasure that we return to the US to share with our families, friends, and classmates what a life changing experience this week in Nicaragua has been.

Click here for more pictures from their week in Nicaragua.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Looking back. Moving forward.

by: Kate Feeney

This month promises to be an exciting one here at MPI Nicaragua.  Although we were sorry to say goodbye to three of our 5-month fellow Program Directors, we are happy to introduce three new PD’s to take their place and join our Mannamily. We are all excited to get to know them better, as well as see how their energy and dedication help our programs grow. It is also exciting to see the new direction in which some of our programs are heading. After our last retreat in December, we discussed the positive growth of Women’s Computer, Business Development, and our Jewelry Cooperative will undergo in the following months.  Women’s Computer will be designing a more concrete syllabus with a more specific goal. They will aim to standardize a curriculum and target university-age girls and women seeking to enter the work force, providing the tools these women need to advance their careers or educations. 


Business Development will also undergo restructuring. Instead of a classroom-based curriculum, we will be revamping our microfinance program.  Three entrepreneurial community members will be chosen who will create business plans and receive short-term loans.  Our goal is to use these loans to augment already existing businesses and to have full repayment of these loans by August. 
Despite some vehicular technicalities on our way to the beautiful Playa Gigante, our retreat was overall successful and marked a change in how we have conducted retreats in the past.  This retreat we were responsible for doing research and creating presentations that focused on broadening our understanding of International Development Goals and where Nicaragua specifically fits into the larger scheme of world development.  More importantly, we discussed what role Manna plays here on the ground, and how our goals align with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (about which you can read here). 
These presentations were highly instructive, both to help us better understand Manna’s place in the greater world of non-profit organizations, as well as Nicaragua’s place in the international sphere.  Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in GDP per capita in Latin America, and while the education and infrastructure have both improved since the revolution, it is clear that Nicaragua still has a long way to go.  We also learned that water is not as efficient as coolant for the wellbeing of micro-van engines, but that is neither here nor there.

Our final night on retreat ended with a documentary on the history of Nicaragua as well.  Nicaragua was plagued with a dictatorship that fell in the late 70’s, and faced civil strife for nearly ten years after that.  Despite relative political stability since then, the country has also faced a serious earthquake and continuing poverty.  This documentary was the culmination of a retreat intended to heighten the PD’s awareness of life and culture in Nicaragua, to help us better understand the communities in which we work and the people with whom we have formed such personal relationships. Overall, the retreat ended a successful five months and we are all looking forward to see what the next seven have in store.