Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Party

As a holiday send-off for all our library regulars (and some new ones as well), on Saturday the Ecuador PDs hosted a Christmas party with themed drinks, games, and prizes. If attendance is a measure of success, our party was a hit, and a good sign for the next quarter. It was also an important chance to say goodbye to the kids who we will not see until January, after our upcoming 3-week vacation. Thank you to all adults and children who attended, and ¡Feliz Navidad!
By the numbers: with over 120 people officially signing their name at the door, we estimate that there were around 170 people at the Christmas party

Meet Pedro, the new Manna ping pong champion

'Tis the season for... arts and crafts

New faces in the teen center

Emily, a library regular, with her Christmas snowman

Everyone loves chess in the teen center, especially these jóvenes from Emily and Taylor's nutrition class

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Swap: Nicaragua!

And for our next blog we have and update from our oldest MPI site, here is Samantha with a day in the life of a Nicaragua Program Director:

Hi! My name is Samantha and I’m a member of MPI’s Nicaragua team. This week, MPI Nicaragua is excited to share a bit more about what we do here at Manna’s oldest site. Rather than rattle off a list of programs, we thought it might be fun to share a Thursday in the life. Below is a typical, if slightly busy, Thursday in my life. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

7:30 a.m.: Wake up, sneak out of my room so as not to wake up my roommate Carrie, and head to the kitchen. There I find Elena, our amazing cook, finishing up a batch of French toast. We have a cook Monday through Thursday to allow us to focus on programs during our four busy days of the week.

9:00 a.m.: Pile into the micro with all nine fellow PDs to head to La Chureca (Managua's trash dump). The drive to Chureca takes about 20 minutes, and provides an interesting cross-section of life in Managua. At one main intersection, two familiar men propel themselves onto the hood of the micro and begin cleaning the windshield. We keep a stash of cookies in the glove compartment for such occasions, and these guys always remember us, making sure to shake everyone’s hand through the windows before the light turns green.

9:45 a.m.: We arrive at the clinic and community center in La Chureca after a brief but incredibly sweaty walk. On Tuesdays, I help Jesse teach our brand-new kids’ English class in Chureca’s Esperanza School. Thursdays, however, I still work with Jenny and Karen, my older, more advanced students. Unfortunately, Karen was unable to come this morning due to a university soccer game, and Jenny is nowhere to be found. On the walk to Esperanza we run into Milton, one of our students. His regular teacher, Matt, is busy, so I offer to work with Milton. Milton is 17 years old and recently moved out of Chureca, but returns to the dump to hang out with friends because he feels that people outside are too fresa (pretentious). Milton knows everyone in Chureca, and offers to help me find Jenny’s house to check in and schedule our next class.

10:10 a.m.: Milton and I find Jenny’s house, and, in lieu of ringing a non-existent doorbell, we peer over the fence (constructed with black trash bags). We see Jenny’s head peeping out of a structure on the other side, and realize that she’s in the shower. While rinsing shampoo out of her hair, she tells us with a smile that she’ll be ready to meet next Tuesday.

11:00 a.m.: I conclude a short but productive lesson on the past simple tense with Milton. After finishing our discussion on Lil Wayne vs. Eminem and giving him a homework assignment, I meet up with the other PDs (who have been walking around talking to moms in our Child Sponsorship Program) and we make our way back to the micro.

12:30 p.m.: Arrive at El Farito, the community center where we work in the local community of Cedro Galan. Thirty kids promptly spill through the gates and line up to wash their hands before sitting down to collectively scream/sing their prayers and eat (“GRACIASSSSS SEÑOOOOOOOR POOOOR TU AMOOOOOR!!!”). I have a great talk with Armando and Gerald as they inhale their arroz con pollo.

1:15 p.m.: To incentivize and reward kids for helping with Comedor cleanup, every two weeks we put on a venta in which helpers who have earned “dolares” can purchase items ranging from silly bands to crayons or—for the big spenders—a Frisbee. The venta runs smoothly this afternoon, without any tears or drama!

1:30 p.m.: Today, I stick around for Fiona and Christin’s Kids English class. I sit at the back table with Agdiel, a 16-year-old with a severe mental disability. Agdiel is great today, super quiet and well behaved. We draw squiggles and participate when Fiona shouts call-and-response questions (“IS HE ON THE BUS?!” “YES HE IS!”)

2:30 p.m.: On the way back to the house, I pass by Jorge, one of the students in our Kids English class at Salero. Even though he’s with his cool friends, Jorge still waves to me! Yes!

3:15 p.m: Get home and help Carrie and Anna to prep for the women’s exercise pool party. Today all of the regular attendees of women’s exercise are coming to the house for a pool workout!

4:15 p.m.: After taking some amazing photos of everyone bouncing around the pool, Maggie and I watch Peter Pan and play Frisbee with Henry, Junior, and Jose, three boys who have tagged along with their moms.

5:30 p.m.: Time for Adult Beginner’s English! Fiona reviews object pronouns, and we do a worksheet in class to practice. We have a big class today, and everyone is a little more chatty than normal, but also excited to participate. We’ve recently decided to incorporate more listening activities, so we end class by asking students to fill in the missing lyrics of a Taylor Swift song. Unfortunately Love Story is way to difficult for our class, but everyone remains enthusiastic, especially after seeing Fiona and I sing along.

6:45 p.m.: Get home, eat a quick dinner, and get ready for Anna and Maggie’s Advanced English class. I don’t teach advanced, but enjoy going, as it tends to be very social and conversation-based. A lot of our close friends in the community go, and it’s invariably a good time.

8:30 p.m.: Get home from advanced, do some dishes with Fiona, and relax. Friday’s a light day—our only programs are computer class and girls’ soccer—so there’s nothing to prepare for!

If you'd like to keep up with Samantha and MPI Nicaragua's work, you can follow their blog. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blog Swap: Guatemala!

Every week you hear about what is going on here in Ecuador, but did you know that Manna operates three international sites in Latin America? Though all three sites are driven by the same mission, each site looks very different on the ground. This week you will hear from PDs in Guatemala and Nicaragua who will share their first hand experiences with Manna in their respective countries. Here is this week's guest blog from Cameron Roth of MPI Guatemala:

What’s up Manna friends, family, fans and followers! My name is Cameron Roth and I am a Program Director in Sololá, Guatemala. Today, I have the distinct pleasure of sharing a little bit of our life in Guatemala. For starters, we live in the town of Sololá on Lake Atitlan. For those of you who have never heard of this little heaven on Earth, allow me to turn to my good friend Aldous Huxley (the casual author of everyone’s favorite high school novel Brave New World). Mr. Huxley describes Lake Atitlan as [Lake] Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing." Mr. Huxley, I agree with you.

However, Manna Project is about collaborating with and helping target communities abroad, not just living in beautiful places (although it is a plus). Our programs differ from those in Ecuador and Nicaragua as we run all of them through two schools, Central and Cooperativa. In Chaquijyá, about twenty minutes outside of Sololá on the Pan-American Highway, we work with kids teaching English, giving health talks, and working on environmental awareness. In Guatemala, English is a government-mandated subject, but as you can imagine most rural teachers do not speak a word of English. So we teach in La Primaría, which is 1st – 6th grade, and give English classes to 3rd – 6th graders. In addition, we offer after-school English for advanced and/or motivated students, and Teacher’s English so that they can begin forming their own curricula. Our health talks consist of preventative health measures such as proper dental hygiene, the importance of washing your hands, and good nutrition. Additionally, we are collaborating with women in the community to make soap from household items to provide it to the schools. When school is out, as it is right now, we run an educational summer camp as well. Easily the most fun part of the year, we have science experiments, sports tournaments, dance-offs, art projects and of course the daily game of cat and mouse.

Finally, we have just broken ground on construction of a four-room addition to the Central school. However, this addition is not your run-of-the-mill construction. Instead, we are constructing a second floor with plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash from the community. Each bottle holds about a pound of trash, and we plan to use about 13,000 bottles, so let me do the math…carry the one…that’s 13,000 less pounds of trash burned or thrown in a landfill! Wowzers!

Yes, life is wonderful here in Guatemala. I encourage all who have the opportunity to come visit the beautiful Lake Atitlan and the authentic Maya communities surrounding the lake. Every day, as we soak in the beauty of the “land of eternal spring,” we are reminded of how lucky we are to be here. The people are warm and passionate, and accept us although we may be a little bit different… and a little bit taller. It is a pleasure to build relationships and work together with the people in Chaquijyá.

To keep up with the MPI Guatemala team follow our blog at!



Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Very Manna Thanksgiving (Part Dos)

Here are some photos from our second Thanksgiving feast which we celebrated on Sunday. We all had to work on the holiday itself so we wanted another chance to cook and eat, listen to Christmas music, and spend time with our Manna family.

We spent all day cooking and taste testing
A vegetarian elbow deep in turkey... talk about personal sacrifice
A picture-perfect turkey, despite our broken oven
Dinner is served
And our lovely desserts modeled by the lovely PDs who made them