Sunday, March 30, 2014

2nd Annual Valley Benefit!

We recently had our second annual Valley Benefit!  We had a great time with good friends as we were joined by a wide range of people from the community.  Everyone from our English students to community members to the president of Rumiloma was there.  We enjoyed a delicious Ecuadorian almuerzo and then continued the fun with dancing and games. 

 The most exciting game that we played at the event was “Guess the Profe!”  First, our guests were separated into teams, we then read an interesting fact about a profe.  The teams were challenged to guess which profe the fact belonged to.  The facts were funny, interesting and at times almost unbelievable.  They really tested how well our community members know us!  Our facts ranged from “which profe has read 24 books since they’ve been in Ecuador” to “which profe got sick & threw up on her first date!”  The game was a lot of fun and we loved laughing and learning about each other alongside the community members.  

We had several local businesses get involved with the benefit by donating a wide range of items as prizes for our games.  We had everything from ice cream to a baked chicken to a free term of english classes with Manna.  Getting to collaborate with businesses within the community was a fun experience.  We were encouraged to see how enthusiastic the businesses were about getting involved with MPI.

Thanks to all of the businesses and community members who contributed to making the benefit a success!  We really enjoyed collaborating with you all and we are pleased to say that together, we raised over $100!  We are encouraged and excited to see what happens next year!

Written by PD Torie Barnard 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Small Business Development Update

It has been an exciting few months for the Small Business Development Program! January marked the conclusion of our second loan cycle, which was met with a 100% repayment rate and positive reviews from all loan recipients.

Second round loan recipients and SBD PDs on the last repayment 
After seeing first hand how much impact these small loans can have, we wanted to find a way to expand the program to more individuals. So, throughout the months of December and January we ran an Indiegogo campaign, which successfully raised $2,415. Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to almost double our lending capacity for the third loan cycle, which began on February 7. Now in our third year working in Jatumpungo, we had a lot of interest from community members. Applicants attended a series of small business classes, taught by ourselves and organizations ranging from Deloitte to a small organic food co-op. After filling out applications and business plans, we interviewed sixteen different business owners and selected seven individuals to receive loans ranging from $150 to $800.

Applicants attend a charla on marketing, taught by our friends at a local food co-op, De la Mata a la Olla
This loan cycle we are putting a big emphasis on proper accounting, in an effort to avoid a fairly common scenario for small businesses in our community—losing money without even knowing it. Last week our friend Carlos, who takes English classes at Manna and has a degree in accounting from a local university, accompanied us to each loan recipient’s house to design an individual accounting system that works for each business. Just three weeks after loan distribution, we were thrilled to see how much progress has already been made!

Hector, who used his loan to open a tienda, already has a fully stocked store and has been keeping diligent notes of each income and expense. Over drinks and snacks sold at the tienda, Taylor, Carlos and I spent a few hours going over how to calculate profit, and making a comprehensive price list for each item sold in Hector’s store. Our hope is that he will be able to see which products he makes the most money on, and make sure to stock a larger inventory of those. Each Friday, Program Directors, who have paired up with one or two business owners, will visit Jatumpungo to help with accounting and offer suggestions on marketing and related topics.

Hector and his new tienda!

We are so excited to have such an ambitious and entrepreneurial group of loan recipients, and look forward to watching their growth and successes. We will continue with monthly repayments and weekly accounting meetings, but in the meantime we are looking to expand yet again. This time to Rumiloma-- the neighborhood where our community center is located. Through a partnership with the community president, we plan to offer a two month long small business development course, followed by microloan applications. We’ll keep you updated!

Written by PD Cate Parker 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vanderbilt Spring Break Week Wrap Up

The PDs were sad to say goodbye to the Vanderbilt group of Spring Break 2014! They did a magnificent job of revamping the library and helping us to prepare for our library's 5th Anniversary Party. After their first day of Carnival chaos, the vols gave the stairwell leading up to our 3rd floor library a fresh coat of paint and began a (much needed) repair of tables in two of our English classes. On Tuesday they finished up painting some of their projects, giving exciting new details to a few of the more plain walls and tables in the library. In the afternoon they were able to sit in on classes and other programs to see how the library runs on a day-to-day basis.

Steve, Johnny, and Will working on the tables 
Sydney and Sarah adding a fresh coat of paint
Sarah, Haley, Hannah, and Roo giving our English room a bright new look

On Wednesday, Nick and I took the Vols to the Centro Historico in Quito to explore, climb to the top of the Basilica, and shop in one of the artisan markets. We finished up the day with a Cuarenta (an Ecuadorian card game) tournament between the vols and some of our English students. 

Vandy Vols 2014 in Centro Historico

On the top of the world! (sort of) Hiking up the Teleferico

On Thursday, the Vols got the opportunity to help out teaching English at the nearby university, ESPE. They planned a lesson discussing the differences between college in the U.S. and here in Ecuador, they seemed to really enjoy meeting and chatting with locals their own age. 

PD Carryn and Vol Tj helping out at the art table 
Sydney and Sarah helping out at the Manna table
Sydney and Sarah jumping rope 
Holley and Haley in the sack race

Friday was a busy day filled with a morning of hiking at the Teleferico in Quito and then preparation for the big day of festivities on Saturday! On the morning of the party we taught English at the library and then hurried around to prepare for the party. A stage was set, tents constructed, and a bouncy house for the kids inflated. The party started off well with lots of games, art crafts, food, and music. Unfortunately it began to rain in an hour but it did not dampen the spirit of the party and when the rained stopped a large dance party ensued. The Vols did a great job of joining in on games, helping with the art project, and getting to know the community it general!

More information about the 5th Anniversary Party to come! 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vanderbilt Spring Break Group!

This week the Manna Ecua site is hosting 11 awesome volunteers from Vanderbilt University! They are here helping us prepare for the 5 year anniversary party of our community center and library. So far the week has been filled with Carnaval celebrations, revamping the library space with a new coat of paint and some new tables for the class rooms, and a day touring Quito. 

Here is a short overview of the first day from site leader Hannah Berg: 

Sunday  was our first full day in Ecuador, and we jumped in head first by heading to a Carnival parade in Amaguana. Before leaving, we learned that Carnaval is a weeklong celebration leading up to the Tuesday before Lent, and that it involves pelting people with foam, powder and colored eggs. The program directors did a great job of explaining, but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come.   

We rode to Amaguana in the back of a truck bed, which was bumpy but gave us an incredible view of the Ecuadorian countryside and mountains. As we approached the parade area we started to see more and more people carrying around espuma (foam) in spray cans. Almost the second we stepped off the truck I got sprayed full in the face with foam. Carnival had begun!

Within a few minutes we where all covered in a rainbow of colored powder and foam. Some of us (including me) got eggs in our hair. By the end of the day we were every color of the rainbow and had memories to last a lifetime. 

More stories and experiences from the Vandy group will be posted soon!