Monday, August 30, 2010

Teen Talk

Time already for our second guest blog: meet Ashley! Programatically, Ashley will be working with the teen center, women's exercise, children's English, and community liaisons with Manna. Today she's getting us up-to-date on happenings with teens:

Joseph, Ashley, Juan, and Jasson at the Manna Center

Hi there, I’m Ashley Hanson, a member of the super exciting group of ’10-’11 PDs. I am from Chagrin Falls, Ohio but definitely headed south for school at Vanderbilt (the weather is just so much nicer there), where I majored in Human and Organizational Development. I focused particularly on international and community development, which has led perfectly into our work here in Ecuador.

I have had the privilege of working with the teen center, which has been a complete blast. Some would say that it’s just a bunch of young teenagers playing video games, but it is so much more. Teens begin arriving at the library at 2:30 in order to stand by the desk and point at the clock, anxiously awaiting the opening of the teen center at 4:00. In addition to the beloved video games, we frequently play chess, ping pong, and a plethora of board games. Some of the teens serenade us with their guitar and vocal skills, at times passing along their knowledge so that we can all play together.

During an interview for our upcoming promotional video, one of the teens who recently became acquainted with the centro discussed how important it has been in his life. He explained that the teen center gives the teens a place to hang out, have fun with friends, and stay safe. Before that, at times I’ve questioned that depth of the impact that the teen center has in the community, but he made it clear that it has been integral in his life and in the lives of many of his friends and family. It makes it even more rewarding and encouraging to hear such positive feedback!

Jasson and Cynthia with their projects at one of our August workshops

As Hannah mentioned, we have also partnered with the Departamento Nacional de Jóvenes, a section of the Ecuadorian government that deals with children and adolescents. We have held 2 workshops already: the first one focused on discovering identity, and the second exploring teens’ rights and responsibilities. We played games, had discussions, and even incorporated some art. Our final workshop with just our group is this Friday. For our next event, we will meet with a broader group of 2,500 adolescents so that they can collectively work to make an impact using their rights. It is really exciting to be able to work together with the government toward improving the lives and situations of adolescents here in the valley.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Happy Birthday to our Jefa!

Wednesday we made a midweek trip into Quito to celebrate the 30th birthday of our wonderful country director, Bibi! After something of a disappointment in arriving at Café Toledo to find that the live music started 2 ½ hours later than we’d been led to believe over the phone (the band wasn’t even there yet), that we were the only customers in the restaurant at 8pm, and that food and drinks cost Stateside prices, Bibi decided to move the party down the street to a Thai/Japanese restaurant in La Mariscal. Over an assortment of Pad Thai and sushi roll dishes, we were able to properly commemorate Bibi’s big day!

Of course, a single day of festivities doesn’t suffice when it’s in honor of Bibi. We extended the celebration to Thursday night at the Manna House, giving it a home-grown flavor of kitchen-baked cake and dining table happy birthday singing.

Happy birthday, Bibi! We're so happy to share in your 30th with you!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Special Thanks

This past week we have been fortunate enough to have a visitor here to help us with promoting and marketing for MPI. Brooke Kingsland is a senior at Duke University and was kind enough to take time out of her busy summer schedule to help us out with promotional videos for Manna. We certainly demanded a lot of her during her time here hoping that she could make videos for future PDs, our donors and one for Ecuadorian volunteers as well. During the week she interviewed many PDs, took part in exercise classes and even encouraged a visit to Mindo, Ecuador which included canyoning and intense hikes of steep mountain passes. Although she returns to Duke in just a few days, she was still fully committed to her time here and we cannot wait to see the final products! So, from all of us... Thank you so much Brooke and we hope you enjoyed your stay as much as we did!!
Now for some fun photos:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jack returns to Ecuador!

Today we have our first Guest Blog of 2010-2011 from Jack! Let me introduce- on second thought, he can speak for himself...

Guest post! Hey everyone, my name is Jack Butler and I am part of the 2010-2011 squad of PDs. I hail from Rockville, MD (right outside of D.C.) and graduated this past spring from Vanderbilt University with majors in Human and Organizational Development and Economics. This is actually my second trip to the Manna house in Ecuador; I volunteered here before for a month after my sophomore year of college. I knew I wanted to be a PD after that month, and spent my senior year helping to recruit Vandy students for the year-long PD position with Manna. It’s great to finally be here, and I am genuinely thrilled to be spending my year with such a bunch of enthusiastic, inspiring, and fun people.

After a 2 year absence from Ecuador, I can’t help but notice the significant number of developments that have occurred in a relatively short period of time. The biggest change has been the introduction of the library and the teen center. I had no idea that this program was in the works, but a few short months after I left in the summer of 2008, the MPI team in Ecuador devoted a huge amount of time and resources to securing a location, getting books, painting and decorating the rooms, and more. When I first saw the library a little over a month ago, I was really blown away by the success of such a young program. There are many families in Rumiloma (the neighborhood where the library is located) whose children come to the library every day to read, play board games, and socialize with new friends. It has been a pleasure to discover the success of the teen center as well; with the draw of video games (each child is allotted an hour per day), ping pong, 2 acoustic guitars, and a few other things, lots of local teens come to hang out in a healthy environment. The success and impact that MPI Ecuador has had through the library and teen center has reassured me that we are part of a program and formula that truly achieves tangible results.

Today, on our last day of summer camp, our campers gave us some encouraging words that further suggest that MPI Ecuador is making strides in the right direction. In a final talk, we asked our 8-13 year olds what they truly thought of our summer camp, if they planned on coming back next summer, and if there was anything they would change. They all firmly acknowledged their intent to return next summer and confirmed that the majority of the field trips, games, and activities had been lots of fun. One of the biggest complaints: summer camp needs to be longer than 3 weeks! I think I can live with that. I would say that I am going to miss these kids, but luckily I can count on seeing most of them every day next week in the library or the teen center.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Camp Graduation

Our summer camp is set to end on Friday, and it seems to have flown. The kids have been fantastic, and it has been wonderful to get to know them and their families better as we prepare to start classes in a few weeks. On Friday we’ll be holding a graduation ceremony for all of our attendees, during which they’ll receive diplomas and CDs containing pictures we’ve collected from the last three weeks. Led by Christian and Laura, they have learned a great deal about the environment and made pledges to do what they can to protect it. This is exciting because littering is a big problem in Rumiloma (indeed, everywhere) and we and Christian and Laura would like the kids to see the link between what they do with their trash and how clean and pleasant the cancha (the field outside the Manna library) is, both for them to play fútbol on and for the cows who graze there daily.

Last Thursday (as Hannah said, Friday was a feriado, or vacation day, and we didn’t have camp) we took the kids on their second field trip. We went to el Museo Interactiva de Ciencias, the Interactive Science Museum, also in Quito. The museum is set into a hill, and its extensive converted-textile-factory-building houses an extremely varied and fascinating swath of rooms devoted to many definitions of “interactive science.” One enormous room was maintained to be cold and damp to house the factory’s actual antique textile machines to display the textile-making process of a century ago. One of the kids’ favorite sections, though, was the psychology room (gratifying to me given my undergraduate degree). As our guide demonstrated the spinning optical illusions on a wall, the kids were duly impressed to turn to find my face spinning out of control. It’s quite a hilarious experience to watch a group of children’s eyes, enraptured, grow wide staring at a spinning wooden circle and then have them burst out into yells and laughter upon turning to look at you. I took the opportunity to snap some photos from my stance as part of the illusion.

Congratulations, boys and girls of Manna and Añamisi’s Curso de Vacaciones! We hope to see you at our art and English classes come fall; and, of course, at our library playing Uno and Othello every afternoon!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Travelers galore...

After being together for a month, three of the PDs decided to travel to the beach this long weekend (Friday being a holiday because of dia de independencia). The three of them (Zoe, Luke and Becky) left on Thursday night and will not be back with us until Monday morning. It was strange cooking for only six people but the weekend was wonderfully relaxing (and surprisingly quiet). Jackie and Shawn have rejoined us from their travels and Bibi's family will be stopping by for dinner tonight, so once again we're cooking for a full house (12 or so).

I stayed behind this weekend because Ashley, Sam and I had a teen workshop at the Centro on Friday night. There is a big teen's rights movement happening in Ecuador and we are trying to get the young teens from our Centro to get involved and have a say in this movement. It is incredible the work they are doing and rewarding to hang out exclusively with the teenagers from the area even though they try to trick us into watching super inappropriate movies after the workshops.
Angela working with the teens in the Centro.

Fulfilling embarrassing punishments because I lost a game.

We are all eagerly awaiting Bibi's family for dinner. It is exciting to have guests here and many of us have presents that her family has generously agreed to carry with them in their suitcases. (I'm getting my Kindle tonight - finally!). After we all spend some time together tonight Bibi will depart for the jungle with her family and we will have another visitor for the week. Brooke Kingsland will be joining us from Duke University and we cannot wait to work with her. More updates to come soon!

Until Friday...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy 22nd, Zoë!

This week we had our first birthday of the year! Zoë, the baby of the house, turned 22 on August 9th. Our celebration at La Guardía del Coyote, a Mexican restaurant in San José, featured circular, extremely cheesy enchiladas, foot-long burritos, and a delicious fruit crepe for the birthday girl on the house - for which we were required to provide photo ID verification of her birthday. So much for the surprise aspect. But it was delicious.

Happy birthday, Zoë!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My First Post (part 2)!

¡Saludos a todos! I am terribly excited to be joining Hannah as a new blogger for MPI Ecuador 2010-2011. The only thing that makes our beginnings here bittersweet is saying goodbye to the 2009-2010 PDs. That extraordinary group taught us a great deal during our brief coexistence at MPI Ecuador. I only hope we can make them proud as we take up the mantle of Manna and bid them good luck back in the States with school, new jobs, and loss of access to fresh fruit in Ecuador.

To quickly give interested parties an idea about me, my name is Noel León, I’m from Little Rock, AR, and I graduated in 2009 from Yale University with a degree in psychology. Seeing as Yale does not (yet) have a Manna chapter, I found out about MPI at a global volunteering fair in New York City in February, applied, and thankfully was offered the opportunity to join this fantastic organization down in Ecuador for the coming year. Now that we’ve been here nearly a month (wait, how did that happen?), have all moved into our rooms in the house, and are starting to pick up programs, the Valley outside Quito is really starting to feel like home.

Last week we started our three-week morning curso de vacaciones (summer camp) in conjunction with Fundación Añamisi, hosted at the Manna Library in Rumiloma. We help Christian and Laura from Añamisi as they run the camp three days a week, and we take over for the remaining two. To supplement Christian’s and Laura’s focus on environmental education, English practice, and games, we play more games with the kids and lead group creative arts projects like crafts music, or drama exercises. Friday, 5 PDs and Bibi took our kids on a paseo, or field trip, to the Indigenous Museum in Quito. The task of keeping track of 20 kids ranging in age from 3-14 on buses and the streets of Quito was initially daunting, but a couple of lovely moms accompanied us, and the many older siblings and cousins were a wonderful help in looking after their younger kin.

Organizationally, the great thing about camp is that it gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to our community. We are already fully staffing the library each afternoon and meet kids and their parents there, but camp allows us to more proactively engage with community members in anticipation of resuming most of our programs in September. We can show our commitment to this community on the heels of the old PDs’ departure and simultaneously better understand the needs and expectations of those community members who are thus far most involved in and dedicated to Manna’s activities. Judging by our first two weeks in the Valley, I have a great feeling about the year to come.

In sum, the 2010-2011 PDs are officially off the ground and running! Hannah and I will be coming to you with more information each week about goings-on in Ecuador, in addition to a guest blog from one of our seven other new colleagues and friends. If there’s anything you’d like to hear more about, please feel free to contact either one of us via this blog, or email Hannah or me.

Until then, ¡chao!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My First Post!

Hello readers! My name is Hannah Palin and I am one of the people who will be taking over the Manna Project blog this year. (Noel, the other blogger, will introduce herself in the next post.) I just graduated from Vanderbilt University this May with a double major in Spanish & Psychology. I participated in MPI through Vanderbilt’s campus chapter and decided that I would love to take a year off after college and to see another part of the world (especially before applying to grad school, or as I like to call it, big kid school). As of right now the new Program Directors (9 of us in all) are just getting settled into the Manna House and still learning about the organizational and programmatic roles we will be taking on this year. So far we have said goodbye to a few of the “veteran PDs” (NOT old PDs, they don’t like that phrase – just as I am sure I will not at this time next year) while some of them are still co-habitating with us. It has been a good transition, I know many of us were very ready to move into Conocoto after two weeks in Quito.

The first two weeks of our time here in Ecuador were spent in home stays with lovely families chosen for us by Luis, the owner/operator of the Guayasamin Spanish language school. If there is anything that will make you lose faith in your Spanish speaking abilities it is Spanish language school. I am pretty sure my Spanish is regressing as I pass the time attempting to remember whether or not I should use the pluscamperfecto or imperfecto subjuntivo. Is it conocer or saber that I am supposed to use when I am saying that I know something? Thankfully my profesora loved to play Scrabble and we passed the last hour picking Spanish letters out of a green bag. There is a large chance that she made up some vocabulary while we played because I usually had no idea what half the words meant.

Every day after class the 9 of us met with Bibi, our country director, and some of the veteran PDs (almost wrote old PDs). We learned a lot about the programs that we would be taking over and also found that there is a plethora of diverse food in Quito. Every day the PDs would bring in some other exotic food for us to drool over – sushi, burritos, empanadas, salads, etc. In the evenings and on the weekends, we were left to our own devices and managed to find some fun things to do. A few days we went out to lunch/dinner but, the highlight of our time in Quito was a trip to a Liga versus Barcelona game (the two biggest soccer teams in Ecuador). We bartered for our tickets, bought jerseys in bulk and Brock and I were even highlighted in the Quito newspaper (see picture above in Jackie’s post). All in all, a great experience.

This week has been a little more program focused and I am sure that soon I will have amazing updates, especially because we have some more in depth talks with Bibi coming up in the next week. That, and we have summer camp that started this past Monday! Can’t wait to keep you all updated on our adventures. Thanks for reading.

BesosCiaoCiao (As Chet would say)…


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the beginning after the end

Everyone keeps asking what I'm going to miss most when I go home. After a number of things come into my head - the Andes, public transportation, Magnum bars - nothing strikes me as much as how much I'm going to miss the people I've grown close to. Manna's anthem is 'communities helping communities,' the latter referring to the six communities we work in and the former, and most important to me, the community we worked hard to form amongst the ten of us.

Working in Rumiloma has shaped me in more ways than I can count: I learned how to upkeep an organic garden, how to teach someone to read in a foreign language, what it means to understand and value a culture completely different than my own. Even though I have the utmost confidence for our PD successors, it is indescribably difficult to say goodbye to MPI. What's been equally difficult is watching all of my housemates leave for the states, one by one. And so, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them individually.

To Mike for his open-mindedness; to Erik for his daily bear hugs; to Haley for her compassion; to Sonia for her contagious humor; to Chet for his quick-wit; to Shawn for her adventurousness; to Sarah for her organizational leadership; to Krysta for her spirit, and last but absolutely not least, to Bibi for her patience, guidance, and unfailing, diplomatic leadership. Thank all of you for helping me feel comfortable in a foreign country, accomplish my personal and professional goals this year, and for helping me grow into who I am leaving Manna and moving into the future.

I also would like to thank all of you you so much for your dedication this year. Without your support, none of what we do would be possible. Since visuals do a much better job at summing up this past year than I ever could, please enjoy my version of 'the year in pictures' followed by the Despedida/Bienvenida slideshow we screened last week to say goodbye to our beloved community members.

A twilight view of our beautiful home city of Quito

All decked out for summer camp field trips

Water balloon toss at our January Celebration

Paola shows off her work during Art class

Bibi reads to Samantha and Ronny

Chester Polson, ladies man through and through

The graduates of the Alimentate Ecuador Nutrition Class

There is nothing I will miss more than family dinners...

Two of our favorite teens, Joseph and Carlos, atop Ilalo

Los Profes de MPI 2009-2010

Trying to keep it together as Bibi speaks at the Despedida

Forever in our hearts, Ecuador

Qué vive los años siguientes (to the years to come),

Monday, August 2, 2010

Radio Charla with the new PDs!

Guest Blog champ, Krysta Peterson, has provided us with one last guest blog. Tomorrow will be my last post as we pass on the reigns to the new bloggers, Noel and Hannah! Enjoy some parting words from Krysta, and Happy August!

"Good Morning Sangolquí!

As you all know, the new PD’s have infiltrated Quito and we are starting to pass our wisdom onto them. Last Thursday, I took 2 of the new PDs, Jack and Noel, to the Sangolquí radio station, Super K, to meet Oswaldo and give them a go at their first radio charla. Jack will be taking over my position as ‘radio head’ next year and let me be the first to say I couldn’t have passed this job down to a better person. With this enthusiasm for the job, I have no doubts he will take the position and our relationship with Super K to a whole new level!

Jack and Noel flawlessly gave July’s radio charla on nutrition. They were so relaxed and had not only me, but also the DJ Marcela, laughing the entire time. After their charla I don’t know who wouldn’t want to come hang out at the library with them this coming year! Manna is in for a great year if all programs are treated with such eagerness and motivation as Jack and Noel showed at the radio. I will admit I was worried to be passing on my programs, my babies, to the newbies but I can honestly say I am confident they will take care of business and do things I never even imagined.

Good luck this year Jack!"

Jack and Noel discussing nutrition

Krysta and Marcela, the SuperK morning DJ

- Krysta