Wednesday, June 25, 2014

English: The Golden Ticket

by Shani Bennett, Summer 2 Intern

There are a wide variety of community members who attend Manna’s English classes each week. They range in age from 7 to 65. Many of the students realize that English is a tool that can broaden their horizons and open doors for numerous job opportunities.  Attending several of the English classes has granted me the opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated individuals I have ever met. 

Jimmy attends the level three classes faithfully each week. He told me he heard about Manna’s English Classes while eating at a local restaurant and decided to attend. Although Jimmy had taken out a loan to study English at a local school in Managua, he still wanted to gain more experience before he applied for a job at the call center. When I met him, we spoke in English for an hour. He told me he was in the final stages of his interview process at the call center. Jimmy carried a notebook filled with practice phrases he could use when conversing with customers.  He told me that he also spent nights rehearsing his English on YouTube. “The internet is a great tool,” said Jimmy. 

Before class ended, Jimmy expressed how happy he was to sit and talk with me because he didn't get the opportunity to converse with North Americans often. I smiled and told him I was glad that I was able to help. A few days later, I received a friend request from Jimmy via Facebook. A message followed shortly after. Jimmy had gotten the job at the call center! I was so happy for him. He would now be able to pay off the loan he had taken out to learn English as well as help support his family financially.

Although Jimmy probably won’t be attending English classes any more, I am glad that I got a chance to meet him. Jimmy and I live separate lives but we are both finding ways to better ourselves. Even if that means taking out loans to study something that we know will benefit us in the end. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Active Learning

by Evan Tiffany, Summer 2 Intern

I have been here for just over a week now, and some things about Nica life still surprise me. 

Brendan and I meant to take the bus to get to Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) at Club Hope this morning, but the bus was so packed that there was no chance we could get on. I shouldn't say no chance though. Upon arrival, 20 people or so managed to pack into the bus, already standing room only, shoulder to shoulder. We took the next one, which didn't have people hanging out the back door when we left. 

I am more and more impressed with LtN. This morning, the kids learned about the importance of listening. They are all under 14 years old, mostly probably under 10. We played a game of telephone, and simply sat still and listened to the things around us for 5 straight minutes. No talking, just listening. The kids took it seriously. We listed the things we heard, birds singing, people walking, cars passing by. Afterwards we did an exercise where we passed the ball in teams, and had to listen for a signal to change directions. 

My Spanish is getting better. I took three years in high school, which was about as effective as you would expect. However, everyone here is very understanding of people trying to learn Spanish. I've worked my way through conversations with strangers (with their patient help), which is a very cool thing. 

Walking around Villa Guadalupe with the Child Sponsorship group I have seen some very surprising things. I've never been to a place so dirty, which is understandable for a neighborhood right next to a massive dump. The kids are all skinny. The dogs are worse. The streets smell like sewage. 

But you know what? 

There is music playing from a house on every street. The kids laugh and smile and play with us. The adults have their share of trouble, yet many are still happy to chat with us. It's all very human, and in such a hard place to live, under such hard conditions, there is still a lot of happiness, which blows me away. It makes all of my problems seem very small. 

You may have guessed by now that personal growth is one of our group goals here. And it is definitely in progress. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

Lessons Learned

by Rachel Zolotarsky

Hi everyone, my name is Rachel and I’m one of the Manna summer interns for Session Two. After being only four days in, I feel as though I have been part of this mannamily (manna family) for much more than just those few days. Coming in to this experience I had several expectations, but the reality of Manna and the communities we work with exceeded any previous expectations I had. I especially feel a connection with two programs that Manna runs. The first being their English and Child Sponsorship programs. In Nica, knowing English is a gateway to an incredible amount of opportunities. The community members that take the English classes come out with great results. Of course the results vary and not everyone is a star, but most that I have encountered in the higher levels of 4 and 5 know enough English to classify it as a skill. With that skill, they can create a stable and comfortable life that brings them security and happiness. This program is evidence of how Manna and all those that volunteer, like the Program Directors and Interns, truly make a difference. 

The Child Sponsorship program quickly became near and dear to my heart. As with the English programs, I see the true impact that Manna makes in the community. When people know that there are others out there that care for their well-being, their view on life could change. Their view on life could become more positive and hopeful. I definitely see this with some families. Children’s days brighten up when Manna Program Director's visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays; it’s clear in their eyes. Parents smile seeing the people that help make the difference in their childrens lives. It’s heartwarming to see because the reality of their living conditions and their past in La Chureca must have an impact on their morale and their view on life. I think that Manna reaches their full potential with all of their programs and understands that change takes time. It’s important to be patient because nothing is instant, and that is exactly the lesson that I have learned thus far in my experiences this first week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top 5 Feelings

Session 1 of our Summer Internship program ended on Saturday. With that we said goodbye to our amazing interns and said hello to a new batch of energetic faces. Before leaving, Atima left us with her Top 5 Feelings from her month in Nica.

by Atima Huria

One of the most unique things about my experience in Nica has been the pace of life here; there’s never a sense of hurry or lack of time. But as I reflect on the last four weeks in this amazing country on my last day here, I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone by. Thinking about all of the memories I’ve made here brings back so many different feelings. So in honor of a popular game among the Manna PDs, here are my Top 5 Best Feelings, Nica version:
1.    Seeing the excited faces of all the kids. Whether it’s on the way up to Farito for Camp J.A.M. or a homevisit in Villa Guadalupe for Child Sponsorship, there’s no better feeling than seeing the children’s smiling faces run up to you and climb up for a piggy back ride. Camp Jam, a crafts and activities class for kids, has been one of my most favorite Manna programs. Though the children can get rowdy sometimes, it gives them something to do for an hour twice a week and an opportunity to express their creativity. On the other side, Child Sponsorship was more of a serious experience - ensuring that the kids enrolled in the program were receiving the nutrients and safe environment that they need to grow. I will never forget many of the kids that I met through these programs and hope to see them with the same excited faces in the near future.
2.  Being welcomed into the home of a Nica family: The willingness of so many families to open their homes is truly heartwarming. I know of no other place where you are welcome to visit someone’s home at any hour of the day and receive such good hospitality. The families in Cedro Galan are always happy to sit and talk with you, help improve your Spanish, have you over for lunch or dinner, or even invite you to spend the night with them. Forming relationships with community members has been one of the most rewarding experiences in Nica and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met so many inspiring people.
3.     Bonding with the Mannamily: While working in the community has been amazing, getting to know the Manna Program Directors and other interns has also been an eye-opening experience. Many of my most significant memories include relaxing on the roof with everyone after a long day in the community or bonding with certain people. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has personal stories to tell, for example, why they chose to work with Manna. But in the end we’re all here for the same purpose and I’ve learned so much from everyone in just a month.
4.     Being swarmed with patients at the clinic: Since being here in Nica, I’ve spent a significant portion of my time at the Forward Health clinic in Cedro Galan which opened in October of last year. A couple of weeks ago, we hit the 500 patient mark, which is a huge success for the clinic and is an indicator that we’re able to reach a large number of people in the community. Many times at clinic, we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who show up for consultas (consultations) and have to work quickly to enter patient history, symptoms, and take vital signs. While stressful, it’s also a sign that we’re able to offer affordable health care to many people and, hopefully, take a step towards improving the overall health of the community. Therefore, a busy day at clinic is always good day.
5.     Successfully teaching an English lesson: Before I arrived in Nica, I never thought that I would enjoy teaching an English class or have enough patience for it. But after assisting in three levels of English classes, I’ve learned to accept the challenge that comes with teaching. It can be really difficult to get certain grammatical points across to the students, especially for levels 1 and 2, which are taught in Spanish, but it’s a great feeling when a student finally understands and applies the lesson. English classes are also another way that I have felt connected to the community and been able to meet new people.
There are so many other memories and feelings that I have of Nica that I wish I could put into words, but these will have to do for now. While I’m sad to be leaving, I know that I’ll be back soon enough and will add to all of the unforgettable memories that I’ve made here. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have been an intern for Manna and I can’t think of a better way to have spent a month of my summer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Never Wanting to Leave

by Sarah Jurgensmeyer

Since my arrival in Nicaragua a couple of weeks ago, my experience has been a whirlwind of Spanish-speaking children, gallo pinto, and various English classes. While I spent my spring break volunteering here with Manna, my second trip to Nica has been completely different and much more eye-opening. As summer interns, we have been given greater responsibilities and been trusted with more independence. A succinct description of my time here: I never want to leave.  

Despite being in a country where I’m not well-versed in the native language, the people of Nicaragua and Manna have made me feel like I can take on the new challenges that each day presents. The PDs have been incredibly patient with us when we inevitably have (lots of) questions for them about each of our projects, and they’ve been teaching us in a sustainable manner that sometimes takes up more of their time, but ensures that we learn how to do the tasks more independently in the future. With their guidance, I’ve gained the skills and confidence necessary to take vital signs in the clinic (thanks for letting me practice taking your blood pressures over and over), instruct my own bubble-painting Camp JAM, and help teach an English level 3 class about the future simple tense.

The people of Cedro Gal├ín have also been amazingly welcoming, despite my apparent lack of Spanish-speaking abilities. I accepted right away that I had the worst Spanish in our group (I won’t deny it) yet in the community I have found many “teachers” who are quick to offer me patient assistance with learning their language. While I continuously make many laughable mistakes, such as accidentally telling Lorena that I had one apple left in Nicaragua instead of one week, they correct me with a smile on their face as they repeat the proper pronunciation of the word I’m struggling to say. Through their help, reading many English-Spanish dictionaries, and the assistance of my fellow summer interns my Spanish is improving slowly but surely.

My favorite memories have come from these relationships forged with the members of the communities in which we work. I have done two home-stays so far, and it’s an amazing opportunity to be invited into someone’s home to share their life for the night. They have such open hearts and it’s unreal how people I have known for only a couple of weeks can make me feel so comfortable by being so welcoming; never in the States have I been received this way. Getting to exchange stories and life experiences with my new friends is eye-opening and creates relationships that I think I will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

These past few weeks have presented me with challenges and occasions to step out of my comfort zone, which I have done my best to embrace. I can’t believe my time in Nica is almost up, and the thought of leaving this country and its people (as well as all of my friends in Manna) is so disheartening that I don’t think anyone should be surprised if I “accidentally” miss my flight. I know that I still have so much to learn from this place and these people; I hope (and plan) to return.

Adios. –Jurgs