Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sarah's Good-Bye Message

The time has come to say goodbye to my Manna family and I’m not ready. I need more nights sitting around the kitchen table, listening to Dance All Night and playing Catch Phrase. I need more meetings with Andres at the Patronato, where instead of discussing our upcoming business class, he waxes poetic about his high school days in Texas. I want another hike from hell, where we all arrive on the other side not knowing whether to shower, sleep, or drink first and end up doing a group stretch by the fire with our token German friend, Klaus.

I won’t bring up any more memories because there are far too many to recall and each one hurts more with the approach of Saturday’s flights home. I’m going to arrive in the US and I’ll be so happy to see my mom and dad, take a long, hot bath, and probably cry in the cereal aisle at Whole Foods. And yet I see it coming a mile away: we’ll be sitting around the table for Christmukah dinner and my brother will pass me the not-so-tender chicken and I’ll say “Grasmas!” and no one will get it. I’ll tuck away to my room and watch videos of Chris Brown dougie-ing or Beyonce singing Listen and Joey won’t be there to break it down and Polly won’t be there to sing in her big-black-mama voice.

I’m going home to another job and another life and I have Manna to thank for these new opportunities, for giving me international development experience, strong ties to community members, and travels to new places. And yet I don’t know how to thank Manna for the greatest present of all: you guys. I miss you already. Have a blast at Carnaval, keep tickling Mateo, and please, exterminate those damn cockroaches.

I love you all too much for words.

Paz y amor,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


What a weekend that was!

Hey folks!  Sitting down with my morning cup of joe reflecting on an amazing retreat we just returned from in Quilotoa.  Resting about 14,000 feet above sea level, this amazing crater lake was formed about 800 years ago after the collapse of a volcano and expands about 2 miles at its widest.

Arriving Saturday midday, we spent the afternoon huddled around the wood stove with cups of tea for our group discussion on changes in our programs after the holiday vacations and the cultural differences we have encountered so far here in Ecuador.  After a lengthy but quality conversation and dinner, we retired to our room for a good nights rest.

Sunday morning we filled our bellies with a hearty breakfast and set off for the lake.  Only about a half-hour descent, we "chilled" on the beach below as the wind whipped the cold through the valley, taking photos, skipping rocks, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.  Going down was the easy part, going up is another thing.  After completing the ascent back to the hostal, we packed our bags and heading off for our next hike of the day.  Completing the trek from Quilotoa to Chugchilan took us about 5 hours, with an hour detour (maybe my fault..) and stopping for PB&J and tuna sandwiches.  The 10.25 km hike took us high on the ridge of the crater, dropping us down through the sandpits, into another small village where we purchased lollipops and continued our journey.  Feeling the burn of the workout and sun at this point, we thought we were closing in on our destination. Wrong.  With another 6.5 km to go we strolled the main road, the only road, to our next descent.  Squeezing our bodies through tight corridors of rock and sand, we dropped another thousand feet or so into the valley below.  Meeting an nice family who offered Joey and myself some pineapple soda, we continued onward, and upward.  Seeing Chugchilan atop the valley walls seemed like an insurmountable task.  Crossing the bridge below and up through the fields of the locals' farms, we finally returned to civilization.  Walking through the town of Chugchilan was short, but not in terms of sights.  Families were out in the streets, grills were fired up with chicken and plantains, Ecuavolley (their version of volleyball which consists of three players to a team with rules somewhat similar to the original sport); the streets were alive with all 30 families that make up the entire village.  Exhausted but feeling accomplished, we enjoyed our dinners and retreated to our rooms for some much needed rest.
With all this adventure and sight-seeing, you would think that we were done.  Little did we know that one of the most enjoyable, or at least memorable experiences would consist of a milk truck.  The only transportation out of town from Chugchilan, besides the 4 am bus, is a small truck that drives the mountain roads collecting milk from the locals.  Jamming ten of us into the back along with the workers and other travelers, space was tight but we all seemed to be enjoying it.  Getting a little bored, I decided to help out and be part of the crew.  Riding fireman style on the back bumper my job was to run and collect the milk containers, measure the volume, hand it over to the worker who would then fill up the large barrels of fresh cow juice.  The other guys decided to participate too.  Before you knew it, we had three Americans riding rear bumper, hopping off and scrambling to find the containers which were either hidden on bank ledges, hanging from some apparatus, or just sitting there on the side of the road.  What a way to travel and to be part of the whole experience.  Laughter filled the back of the truck regardless of our sore, tired muscles.  We loved the milk guys so much, we decided to stay on until the next town where we would be connecting via bus back to home base. 

Exhausted? Yes. Sore? For sure.  Feeling accomplished and enriched by all these experiences? Most definitely.  This week we are closing down the library, finalizing our semester with a good library cleaning, writing up quarterly reports, program meetings, etc.  Secret Santa is tonight and we will be saying bye to most of the group as they return stateside for the holidays with friends and family.  Joey and myself are staying in Ecuador, traveling to Colombia and making the most out of our time here in South America.  One of our group members will not be returning come the new year.  Sarah will be returning home and continuing her passion for non-profit work.  We will miss her for her translating skills and huge contributions to the Small Business Development program, as well as for her love of reggaeton and dancing.

Check back in with us later this week.  All the best to everyone who has been following us throughout the year.  Have a safe and happy holiday break!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Break Group: Afterthoughts..

After some minor internet disturbances, we are back to blogging.  Here is a follow-up from one of the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving break volunteers, Andrew Legan. 

Our first two days in Ecuador introduced us to a world of spontaneous
catch phrase tournaments and mystery meat street foods.  After touring
Quito and the surrounding area, we six Vandy volunteers were excited
to get to work renovating the Teen Center.  Our work began on Tuesday
and finished on Friday.  During that short time, the Teen Center
received a new dartboard, expanded space for activities, Koosh
basketball, corn hole game supplies, a new paint job, and much more.

Friday’s debut of the Teen Center was a success, bringing both old and
new faces to the Center.  The jóvenes thoroughly enjoyed the new goods
and the renovated room.  The party proceeded virtually without
discipline problems (except for a stuffed animal’s mysterious loss of
a leg) and served to show the kids how cool the Teen Center can be.
Hopefully, from now on, the Teen Center will be the popular place for
any idling teens in Rumiloma.

All in all, our week with MPI was an excellent introduction to a new
country and to new friends.  Although we were only there for a week,
in hindsight the trip seems like it lasted a month thanks to
everything the Program Directors had planned for us.  Our excitement
complemented the energy of the PDs, and our two groups mixed
perfectly.  We returned to the US with an expanded perspective on
service and with new friends in the Chillos valley.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Teen Center: Before and After

The new and improved Teen Center has been open for a week and there has been in a noticeable uptick in attendance. We've already had two big events as well. Our party to open up the new space last Friday was an awesome time. We had about 12-15 kids come through with the biggest draws being the new koosh hoop and dart board. We're getting a new xbox and new N64 games so I'm sure the new video game corner will re-take its rightful place as the most popular area. Peter, Joey, and I are planning on having an all-night video game party with the projector. We thought about inviting the kids but realized we should probably test everything to make sure it works properly first. You know, for the kids and all. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking for me.


Dirty, disheveled, a downright downer

 Jenny: Sad and Lonely



 Getting some teen help with the projector screen

New paint, new lights, new friends

Some of our volunteers, PDs, and the boss. 
I need a haircut

Video game and computer corner plus some cornhole
Our new permanent contrct

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Internet Excuses/Volunteer Group

We've had some shaky internets over the past couple of weeks so prepare yourself for a slew of posts spanning our Teen Center revamp with our great volunteer group from Vanderbilt to a new video chronicling a day in the Ecuador PD's life. We'll start out with a post written up by Colin, one of the volunteers that were here last week.

Earlier this week, an awesome group of six Vanderbilt students arrived to spend their Thanksgiving break with us.  So far, it's been an incredible time.  We started off the week by spending a couple days touring around Quito and other sites in the area.  Some of the highlights included the Oswaldo Guayasamín Museum, the markets at La Mariscal, old town Quito, and the equator line(s) at Mitad del Mundo, "lines" being plural because there is one that is purely a tourist attraction and one that is actually the equator line.  Unsurprisingly, the real equator, complete with shrunken heads, is the better attraction.

After getting our feet wet and refining our Catch Phrase skills, we began our work at the Teen Center.  Despite the fact that the Center has lost some of its usual crowd due to technical problems with the videojuegos, it still has a lot of potential.  Hopefully we will see some new faces around after repainting the walls, adding a projector screen, bargaining with our carpenter amigos to help us build some new muebles, and purchasing a few more items, most importantly a Koosh basketball hoop.  The reopening party on Friday is destined to be a success.

We'll keep you posted!

So the posting was a little late, but you can get the general idea of how enthusiastic they were to get started. And yes, we did end up Koosh basketball hoop and the kids love it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rock Climbing!

Maria and Joshua demonstrating correct form.

Jessica scales the wall as Jefferson looks on impressed.

Steven enjoying the view.

What a beautiful day and view!

Just too cute to ignore.
Last Saturday the Teen Center team had a rock climbing field trip.  With the help of our good friend Joshua, a professional mountain guide, the team along with the teens set off for a morning of climbing cliffs.

Joshua knows this area close to our neighborhood where him and his climbing buddies practice and hone their skills.  Apparently the family who owns the property allows for climbers to enter for a small fee.  From there we descend down the steep hills, cross over the crashing cascades of a small river, and through the forest out into the open field where the cliffs stand tall.  

Jenni, Jefferson, our boss Heather and myself had a wonderful time watching the kids reach new heights.  Some had never been rock climbing before, but this was not obvious as nearly everyone scaled the face and reached the summit about thirty-five feet up.  Jenni and Heather were our belayers, while Joshua coached the teens through the cracks and crevasses.  After seeing Sebastien, one of the teens, master the toughest route, I decided to give it a go.  What a great workout and experience for everyone involved.  A definite success and a great shared experience, we returned home bug-bitten and tired. 

With little rest we welcomed the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving-break volunteer group that very night.  Look for more posts this week about their activities with us and at the Teen Center, where most of our efforts will be focused this week revamping the space, constructed organizational materials and games, and revitalizing the space for our teens.

Thanks for checking in folks - stay classy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The group minus Janine is off to Cotopaxi National Park for the weekend for hiking, good food, a hot tub, and the goal of teaching Polly how to ride a bike. Here's a little taste of our view.

The Vandy kids taking advantage of a nice photo-op earlier this year 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Haunted House

Hey Folks - Sorry it has been so long since our last post.  In all honesty, we have been partying too much; two weeks ago we had our Adult English midterm party and this past weekend we had our Casa de Espantos! We have been having way much fun that we almost forgot to tell you all about it! 

It is tradition to invite our Adult English students over for lunch and some much needed relaxation after the midterm.  Several types of humus with vegetables to dip complimented with a yummy pasta dish polished off with some delicious home-baked snicker doodles; the students left with empty plates and full stomachs.  What beautiful weather we had as well and we made use of our patio soaking up the sun while listening to music, conversation and laughter filling the air.

As for our latest fiesta, the team figured it would be a great opportunity to put on a haunted house for the community in celebration of Halloween. With Jell-O bowls filled with gummy worms as an appetizer, we then moved to our craft station where the kids made spiders from egg cartons, pipe cleaners, beads, and of course paint.  And finally we had our main event, the haunted tour. Turning the Teen Center into a haunted house took a lot of creativity and resourcefulness from all the group members.  Our efforts were not in vain as the library was filled with genuine frights and screams all evening. 

Jenni started the horror tour by first guiding the students through the tunnels to the witches lair.  Lucy did a phenomenal job at setting the tone as our house witch, telling a story of children who once visited the library in years past who had gone missing; “to this very day, the neighbors can still hear the children screaming!”.  This was my cue playing the token zombie role to thrash the curtains and enter the window in pursuit of fresh meat.  Jenni would then lead the students to a table where the eyeballs and brains of children past were displayed for touching.  Nothing more than peeled grapes and spaghetti to do the trick, the kids then got another jolt of terror when our boss Heather would grab their ankles from under the table.  Next Jenni would lead them the tomb where our library mummy, portrayed perfectly by Polly, who would then slide the tomb top off and rise from the grave.  If the kids were not scared by this point, which they were trust me, Joey would come rushing in as a masked lunatic from behind the group and all monsters would gather to usher the students through the exit tunnel back to safety.  Even the weather had its very own role as rain, thunder and lightning played into the ambience of the evening.

Exhausted with hoarse voices we returned home for dinner. Shortly thereafter some of the girls finished packing for a weekend in Cuenca, another principle city to the south that would be celebrating its Day of Independence all weekend long.  As you can tell, we have been busy working and having fun simultaneously.  Check back with us later on in the week to read about our adventures down here. 
Que te vaya bien!


We had a long weekend last week because  it was a feriado (holiday) so most of us traveled around the country with some going to Otavala and others to Cuenca. Upon our returns, we were all looking forward to getting home and settling in for the week. However, we came back to a blown wireless router and a sad, internetless house. This wouldn't seem like a big deal to some but a number of different factors made it a tough past couple of days. For one, we have lived here for almost four months and this is the first time we haven't had internet so it came as a big shock. Secondly, the service industry here is notoriously slow/flaky/non-committal. Basically it's tough to get any help right away so we knew it was going to a be a couple days. And finally, living in a foreign country, its nice to be able to keep up with family, friends, and the news back home. And as it turns out, there was quite an important event going on right during the middle of our internet blackout. We tend to avoid talking politics in the house since the group is pretty divided on the issues. That hasn't stopped us from watching the debates together and throwing an insult around every once in a while. Yet, when the time came, no matter partisan lines, we were all woefully and completely in the dark. We joked on Sunday that we would find out who won the election from the Ecuadorian paper "El Commercio" on Wednesday morning. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. While I won't personally say who I was routing for in the election, I will say that while internet has returned, my world is still sad and dark.

It is good to back on the blog though.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Art Paseo

Last Friday, 8 of our star art pupils joined Polly, Joey, Janine, Madeleine, and Heather on a field trip to Quito. After corralling the children through 2 long and crowded bus rides – no easy task – we arrived at Parque Carolina, where CIMA Kids, an environmental awareness organization, was hosting an interactive and educational event. After having collected more than 1.5 million bottles to recycle, a feat that has landed the group in the Guinness Book of World Records, they set up an environmental fair for local kids and school groups to enjoy. We painted a giant elephant, got a 3-D jungle tour, and climbed a ropes course… some of the daredevils even scaled the giant rock wall! The kids (and PDs!) had a blast learning about recycling and participating in all the fun activities. It’s always great to provide our students with an educational and entertaining afternoon outside their local neighborhood!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Manna Retreat to Baños

After five posts describing our Programs here in Ecuador, I figured our immense number of readers would want a break and want to hear about our first group retreat. On the first weekend of October, we traveled to the town of Baños, a spa city nestled on the edge of the highlands that run through the middle of Ecuador and the Amazon jungle that spreads to the East. After finishing up Saturday classes, everyone hurried home to do some last minute packing. Baños is a perfect weekend destination for us because there are tons of different activities and its only a quick three hour bus trip away. Madeleine, our wonderful social chair, found us a great backpackers hostel close to the center of town that was crowded with interesting travelers throughout the day. It was called Hostel Princessa Maria if you ever wind up there and are in need of a place to stay. After a quick meeting to learn the rules of the hostel, we all got fancy and headed out to our first of many delicious meals we had there. While Baños is known for its cascading waterfalls, sprawling mountains, and challenging hikes, we all came away being most impressed by the quality restaurants that are sprinkled throughout the tiny town. After dinner, we headed out first our first and only night out bouncing around to a couple of different bars that line the three block long bourbon street-esque main drag. Again, if you find yourself there, try to check out Leprechaun Bar. They love giving free drinks to gringos and you can sip them around the bonfire they keep burning in the middle of the bar. After a fun and eventful night, we were excited to tackle our activities the next day.

We split into two groups so as a whole we got a good idea of what Baños has to offer. My group of Peter, Joey, Jenny, Madeleine, Janine, Heather and I all rented bikes and went down the path that goes past all four waterfalls. I was under the impression it was off road a lot of the time, riding through jungle paths, barely missing jaguars and swiping snakes from your face. Turns out it was all on the road but that really was the only disappointment. It was essentially downhill the entire time, winding down through mountains that looked like the were the background for scenes from Jurassic Park or Lost. There were so many scenic stops for waterfalls and beautiful views that we had to keep flying past some in order to make good time. Some of my favorite parts was when the road split into a tunnel and separate bike path for bikes only that ran along the edge of the valley we were following and afforded some of the best sights of the day. About halfway through it began to rain but that didn't dampen any of our spirits as we were having a blast. We ended the ride by stopping a popular hike down to the Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron). As one would expect from the name, it was massive, powerful waterfall that you could literally crawl through the side of the mountain to get to its source. The pictures will succeed where my words fail.

One of the many gorgeous views

Climbing through the tunnel 

That tiny white dot to the right is a person.....yeah

The other group of Polly, Sarah, and Lucy went canyoning, which is one of the more popular activities to do in Baños. It is essentially rappelling down waterfalls. From what I hear, they got just as wet as we did but had more fun doing it. Again, I'll let their pictures speak for themselves since I wasn't there.

Quite a pose

Nice action shot

After a round of massages for some of the girls, we all met up in the hot natural springs that gives Baños its name. We went at six, right after they were all cleaned, but also right when everyone else - tourists and locals alike - visits. It was an interesting experience to tell people we did, but all in all, the water was too hot and the baths too crowded. After a quick shower, we had our last amazing dinner and then ended the weekend with a group discussion on development a lively/competitive round Ecuadorian jeopardy.

Told you they were crowded

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Children's English

Here's Jenni telling yall about Children's English. She's super nice.
          Hello Manna readers! I am Jenni, and one of the things I do is teach Manna’s Advanced Children’s English class. This class is held in our library every tuesday and thursday from 4-5:30pm. Knowing English is an extremely important and powerful tool in Ecuador. If you know English you have better career opportunities and generally speaking, can obtain a higher quality of life. It gives you more options. Because of this, our English classes are some of the most popular and fullest classes.

            Kids English is an interesting program because parents enroll their children for classes, not the kids themselves. The kids then are made to take extra classes when I am sure they would rather be playing with their friends after school. The largest class is Basic, with about 20 students, then intermediate with about 12 students, and then mine. I have 4 kids in my class and their ages range from 9-13 years old. I may be biased, but my students most incredible, sweet and smartest kids I know. They behave extremely well in classes, love to learn and pick up on everything so quickly! I am constantly amazed by how fast they can learn this difficult language. I LOVE my class!

            So I will admit that English classes can get pretty boring. The past few weeks in my english class have been very grammar heavy. We play games and have fun but overall its been a little dry. This week I introduced cooking/kitchen vocabulary and decided that it would be perfect to make something in class to make things more exiting. The kids deserved a fun day. I decided on no-bake granola bars: easy, can be made in a 1/2 hour, and delicious!

            During class I passed the recipe out to the kids and we translated it together, making sure to emphasize our vocab words (to measure, cup, teaspoon, mix, etc.). When I then announced we were going to make the bars their faces lit up: “Really, teacher?”. Then, they got even more excited when they realized the recipe called for peanutbutter. “You have peanut butter here?” they all asked. When I confirmed, yes, they all broke out in excitement. “I have never tried peanut butter before!!!” they all exclaimed.  They were so excited! They explained how they constantly see people eating peanutbutter out of the jar in American movies. It was pretty funny.

Explaining the recipe
Showing the kids how to measure 1 cup of cereal (in English!)

All of them wanted to help!

So much giggling as they press the bars into the pan!

They loved the peanutbutter/honey mixture we used to congeal the bars

Making the granola bars with the kids was incredibly fun. They all fought over who got to measure, mix, and press the bars into the pan. They all got to try peanutbutter, which I then explained you can buy here! (its just not very common to eat.) The bars sat while they took their weekly quiz and afterwards we all hung out and enjoyed our delicious granola bars.

This was by far my most fulfilling English class. The excitement from my kids, their enthusiasm to help and learn, and giving them an opportunity to try something new, really made me feel that somehow, in some tiny way, I was helping make their world a little better. And even if it was only for 30 minutes, that makes me incredibly happy.

- Love and peanutbutter -

Friday, October 5, 2012

Children's Nutrition

Here's Peter to tell you about our Chilren's Nutrition Program. And there are pictures!

Cueridos Amigos!  You got Pete this week writing about Childrens' Nutrtion class.  After a few meetings with the school director and some of the teachers, Manna’s Childrens' Nutrition class was incepted as part of the Natural Sciences curriculum at Chaupitena. We have three classes of seventh graders every Wednesday with about thirty or more students in each class.  The students and staff have been very warm and welcoming to Polly, Jenni and myself.

One of our goals this semester with the classes is to create an interactive curriculum that would enhance comprehension and be simultaneously fun.  With only three classes under our belt we have covered two food groups, grains and vegetables/fruit, and discussed the importance of healthy eating habits and what is a healthy overall diet. Every class begins with a brief review and quiz on last week's material then our charla or health topic of discussion with a relevant activities throughout.  The most challenging aspect so far has been keeping such a large class interested and focused on the material.  However, with three of us we do an excellent job of monitoring all the chatter, poking and prodding that comes with being eleven years old.

We all love to cook, and of course eat healthy, so incorporating some food preparation activities is on our plate this semester.  We all agree that this would be one of the most effective ways to get young persons interested and thus aware about healthy eating habits.  We are not sure yet if putting knives in their hands is the best idea, so we will start with forks.

We look forward to continuing our relationship working with one of the local schools in our community and getting to know a wider range of its members.  What it all boils down to is that it is fun for the students and that they are digesting the material. Speaking for the entire group this is definitely one of the most enjoyable and rewarding programs we are fortunate to be a part of...
As Polly says we “have never been so popular at recess!”

Polly, Jenni and the gang.

Sebastian taking meticulous notes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Small Business Development Program

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I wanted to post about our new and improved Small Business Development program but was waiting around for some pictures that never came. So here's a nice boring looking post about a very interesting new look at an old program. I'll let Sarah do the talking:

Hey everyone! Here in Ecuador we've been spending the last couple months turning our Small Business Development program from a consulting service for individual business owners into a full-fledge microfinance program. The road has been both rocky and exciting and we've been learning a lot. Our aim from the start was to run a first loan cycle as a test of our model and see how successful we could be at providing this service to the community (are we giving the loans to people who truly want to invest in their businesses? are they able to pay us back within the set timeframe? is this access to affordable capital actually making a difference to the revenue they make in their businesses and thus improving their standard of living?). We spent our first couple weeks meeting with community members who could guide us in the process, making visits to the director of a small savings and loans cooperative, to the manager of the local government offices of the Patronato for Social Progress, to the credit officer at a microfinance NGO - and luckily they were all eager to give us a hand and help us navigate the new world of microfinance (new to us, at least).  

As of now, our first microcredit project looks like this: Working with the Patronato, we are first providing a four-week course in agro-business planning and management to eight farming women from the semi-rural community of Jatumpungo. At the end of this course, the women interested in receiving a loan will submit a business plan and we will select a group of 4 women to give a loan to. They will be given a maximum of $400 per person, to be paid back over 4 months (corresponding with the growth cycles of their greenhouse crops) at an annual interest rate of 9% (which adds up to a total of $12). Our hope is that they will invest these loans in new and simple technologies for their greenhouses (irrigation, fertilizer, better tarps, etc) so that they can produce and sell more and start earning a significant income from their land. If this first loan cycle goes well, we will be seeking to reinvest in a new cycle, and hopefully our experience gained from this one will help us scale the project to reach more beneficiaries. 
That's all from Small Business for now. We are presenting our project to the president of the Patronato tomorrow morning - wish us luck!

Side note: We presented to the president and she loved the idea so we're moving forward with our plans .

Later this week - Children's Nutrition by Peter Wagner


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Children's Art

Here is the second program post on our Children's Art program by Joey Teevens:

            Ahoy there readers!  I hope you all find yourselves well.  Polly and I are posting here to update you on our first children’s art class, which took place this past Friday afternoon.  The children’s art program takes place once a week throughout our semester and consists of a general theme designed to allow the kids to learn more about different countries and cultures, as well as to explore their own creative abilities.  Our theme for this semester, appropriately enough, is South America.  Every week we will be introducing our students to a different South American country by making a presentation about its people and culture, culminating with a review of a specific art form or craft that we will attempt to replicate in the classroom. 
            Polly and I chose to begin the semester with Brazil.  We found a cool little Brazilian maraca craft for kids online and moved forward with the energy and rhythm worthy of a professional samba instructor.  We complemented our supplies of paint, popsicle sticks, glue, strings, and beads by purchasing paper plates, lentils, and kernels of corn.  Having thus acquired such an astonishing artistic arsenal, we commenced a creative carnaval with our children who were craving colorful creations.  With Brazilian music setting the mood in the background, the kids eagerly started to paint their paper plates.  Utilizing some construction paper, Polly had also managed to make small Brazilian flags and soccer balls (I did my best to make little pink and orange construction paper carnaval masks) and the kids glued them on to their plates once they were done painting.  To finish off the maracas, we gave each kid a handful of kernels and lentils to place between their paper plates, glued everything together, added strings (with beads on the ends of course), and voila!  Brazilian maracas!  I hope you enjoy these pictures of our little Picassos as much as we enjoyed getting in touch with our own inner-artists with them!  Until next time, cuídense and remember, a little bit of dried glue and paint never hurt anyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Small Business' New Microfinance Program

The Small Business Development Program is launching an ambitious small loans initiative beginning in October. In just under two months, we have revamped SBD from a small financial consulting program into a micro loan program. Teaming up with the local Patranato, or the local government social service, we have found a number of potential clients involved in agribusiness. Along with the Patranato and a local financial cooperative as our partner, we will be giving business classes throughout the month of October. At the end of the month, the clients will submit business plans laying out how they would utilize and then repay their loan. From this group, we will select the four most promising candidates to give loans of $400. Through this initiative, we are able to offer interest rates that are significantly lower than national banks and local financial cooperatives. Our program has already raised $1000 through a generous donation to get our initiative off the ground. We have set a goal of matching that through public fundraising so please click the link below to learn more about the program and to donate.


New Program Description Series

With the start of our English, nutrition, cooking, and computer classes, our schedules have finally been finalized and we have finally gotten into the swing of things. All our workloads just got heavier and our time more constricted, but everyone is thriving so far. Since we've finally started all our programs, it's a great time to begin a weekly blog write up describing each of our programs written by the director of that program. The series will include a description of the program, what is currently happening within the it, and what the director envisions for the it over their next year of shaping the program.  I'll be starting the series describing our Teen Center, which is run by Peter, Jenny, and myself. 

The Teen Center is a separate part from our library that only children 12 years old and above are able use. This provides their own unique, mature space that they can hang out in when they want to escape the potentially wild atmosphere that is the library. The space has a crafts, board games, a ping pong table, and the biggest draw, the video game corner. While it doesn't seem like much, it means so much for the kids that can enter, and even more to the kids that can't. I witnessed for my first time yesterday the pure elation that a kid gets when he can finally enter. Bryan had turned 12 the day before yesterday and couldn't wait to get in. I think I played ping pong with him for a solid two hours before he got tired of it, and God was he awful. We also hold events specifically for the teens. This mostly comes in the form of a movie night every month where we bring our projector and create a mini theater for the kids on a Friday night. Our first one is September 21st and the kids are already excited. While movie nights are great, we are going to expand upon the idea of a monthly event this year. 
For October, we are planning on a hosting a salsa class for the kids, free of charge, led by our friend Danny who happens to be a member for the Ecuadorian Salsa team that competes globally. Yeah, we know. However, what we are most excited for is that our Thanksgiving volunteer group from UGA has chosen the Teen Center as it's focus project. We've decided to wait till then to do a huge remodeling of the space. We are planning on painting the area, building new furniture, tearing down useless parts, and generally doing a massive sprucing up of the space. Besides more events and a remodeling, my fellow directors and I have set the goal of turning the Teen Center into a more educational area. This will include setting up small library specifically for the teens, which will hopefully include subscriptions to a few magazines to keep the area updated and interesting. The big task will be getting the kids away from the video games. While extremely helpful in drawing them in, we also want them to take advantage of the space we provide and get something out of it besides how to beat Super Mario in an hour.
View of the Teen Center 

Jenny Prepping for the Kids


The Game Corner

If you would like to contribute to the Teen Center to help us achieve these goals, you can make a donation on the right side of the blog and simply specify the Teen Center. If you would like to contribute in a more direct way, you can send us anything in the list on the right side to our office in Nashville where it will find a way to us and be less of a dent in your pocket. Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Next week: Children's Art by Polly Colgan