So all of our hard work finally paid off last Saturday night in the very successful execution of our second annual Manna Benefit in Ecuador. Here is a guest blog from Nicole, one of event planners:
Taylor, Darcy, and I began planning this event back in February, reading through the manual from last year, getting input from Ecuadorian friends, and making lots and lots of lists. After somewhat organizing all of our thoughts into a Google Document appropriately titled Benefit Thoughts that would serve as a reference point for the next 2 ½ months, we began the string of what felt like never-ending voyages to Quito. With letters in hand we visited about 10 different restaurants in search of a new home for our event. While we did not host the event at the same place as last year, C’est La Vie, we were able to sit down with one of the owners who was familiar with Manna and get her input on what the event should look like and what we should do to make it a success from an Ecuadorian perspective.
After gathering insight from that meeting, as well as friends and community members, we decided to change the event from a formal sit down dinner to a casual cocktail and appetizer hour (or hours, rather) and charge a much lower entrance fee in order to make it more affordable. We decided on the restaurant Uncle Ho’s because of the awesome food, environment, location, and the undeniably helpful fact that the owner, Kevin, is an ex-pat who speaks English and understood exactly what we were trying to do. Over the next month or so we made about 672 more trips to Quito armed with letters and determination to get over $400 dollars in raffle prizes, as we had already advertised on the invitation! With all the big things in place, this past week was spent catching all the little things up to speed, making candle holders, programs, nametags, signs, etc. etc. etc.
On Saturday, Taylor wrote Darcy, her, and I out of the normal Centro schedule and we headed into Quito early to set everything up for the event. At 2:30 the rest of the PDs showed up and the event was under way. Everyone was right on time – Ecuadorian time, that is – and the place was filling up at around 4pm. We had an awesome musician, John, who played and sang at just the perfect volume, an wonderfully moving speak by our friend and community member, Walter, a riveting acapella performance, and an exciting raffle where almost half of our guests left with prizes!
One lesson that we continually learn here at the MPI Ecuador sight is that things will not go as you plan. It’s almost a guarantee. But sometimes, it’s so much better than you could’ve imagined or tried to plan on your own. And despite a few wrinkles in the plan, like forgetting to factor in the broad daylight at midday that kept the incredible (not to mention very, very long) slideshow that Heather made from being seen, I am going to have to brag and say that the event was a smashing success. It was so encouraging to see friends and students come out to support us, hear encouraging words from people impacted by what we do, and be able to spend time outside of the Centro with people who mean so much to us.
The event planners: Nicole and Taylor
Darcy and I with our friend and guest speaker Walter
The Intermediate Adult English Class loves profe Charlie
Emily, Nicole and I at Uncle Ho's
Bibi and Lucia with our favorite vecino and Walter
Walter giving a touching speech about the role Manna has had in his life
Our Adult English students came out to show support
Uncle Ho's delicious appetizers went fast
Thank you Nicole, Taylor and Darcy for all the hard work. The event was a great success and a really fun time for everyone.