Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog Swap Week!

Exciting news readers! While talking to a few Program Directors we came up with the brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea of doing a blog swap. Manna Project is an international organization with two other sites, one in Guatemala and one in Nicaragua. Guatemala's site was started just 7 months ago and we here in Ecuador wanted to share a little about what they have been doing since their founding. Hope you enjoy!

Ecuador Readers,

My name´s Hudson and I man the blog up in Guatemala for our newest MPI site. Hannah´s writing a post for us this week about the amazing work her team´s done in Ecuador this year and she invited me to share an update on how we’ve filled our time since we started in July.

Just eight months ago, MPI Guatemala was only a ten page proposal and a tentative job for the six of us who walked out of the airport in Guatemala City. We had three weeks to attend language school, find a house, and start a round of classes that would begin
to introduce us to the community.

A month later, we were assembling furniture between hurried meetings about our first classes. A local elementary school had invited us to teach fourth through sixth grade English, and we were overwhelmed in equal parts with excitement and apprehension. The classes were a huge success.

Jared and Ginny teaching English classes!

Through the school we were able to secure relationships with the teachers and gain valuable confianza in the community. We learned that the kids had no constructive opportunities in the summer (October – January), and started an education camp to help meet this need. Over 120 children attended.

Kat and Dana (Country Directors) give a charla to the kids.

At the same time, we laid the groundwork for a community recycling program that will eventually turn plastic bottles and chip wrappers into the bricks for a new addition to the school.

Then Christmas came, and we stopped to catch our breath. Our first forays had served over 150 students and given us valuable time to become friends with community leaders and learn where else we could help. Then it was back to work.

We launched a student health program focusing on clean habits and reproductive education.

On the English side, we revamped our curriculum so it was written entirely in Spanish, allowing us lesson plan with each grade´s teacher. That means next year they´ll already have the lessons and the curriculum – a key first step in moving towards long-term sustainability. We also expanded our English classes to a second elementary school. There, we have a teacher´s English class and offer an after school program for interested fifth and sixth graders. Plans are also in the works to start a small business program, to sell Mayan products back at Vanderbilt, and to introduce a women´s exercise class.

Overall, the pace has been daunting and the progress consistent and rewarding. We´ve hit dozens of roadblocks and reevaluated our expectations and programs at a couple junctures, but we feel we´re proving that Manna is an organization worthy of trust, one with the community´s best interests at heart. We look forward to further growth and future progress, and we´re proud to have been able to draw on the insights and models from Ecuador and Nicaragua.

If you´re ever in Guatemala, we´d love for you to drop in to see where we work, and until then, drop by the MPI Guatemala blog for weekly updates.

All the Best,

Hudson and the MPI Guatemala team

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