Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Connections and Reflections

A guest post by summer intern Rachel Sellstone

"It's so hard to believe that I am almost halfway through me summer here at Manna. Intern Sam has already left us for home in Texas and Jake is leaving in just a few days! Trying to put myself in their shoes makes me realize how far we have come in our time volunteering here. Part of my feels like I JUST learned what busses to take where, but another past of me feels like I have made incredible bonds despite only having experienced a fraction of what goes on here in the day-to-day life of a Manna PD. These past two weeks have taught me so much about the kind of work I value and the difference we can make here if we really reflect on where we can be most useful. Coming into this summer, I though I would have wanted to spend all of my time with children - assisting in a Children's English class, spending time in the library, essentially any way to hang out with the (adorable) kids that spend time in our programs. Most of my work experience at home is with young children and I have always gravitated towards kids. I have done these things (and loved them) but I was surprised to find that where I have realized the most important relationships in here is in my conversations with the adults that take advantage of all of Manna's resources here.

From assisting in the English classes at a local university, ESPE, and having meaningful cultural
conversations with the students there, to sitting in on PD Virginia’s adult English class in which the
students debated such topics as “When we lose language, we lose culture,” “It is important to learn
English to get a job here” and “Tourists should make an effort to speak my language,” it has been
incredible to learn why so many Ecuadorians really want to learn English and to realize how influential
our work here really can be. It’s even more rewarding when this passion for learning translates from
the adults to their children. I love it when there are entire families that participate in multiple facets of
Manna’s work here. I’ve experienced that first hand with the family of one of the students in PD Carryn’s Children’s English class, which I have been assisting in. Our student Martin is incredibly intelligent and well-mannered, but struggles to keep up with some of the information in class. His mom, Carmen, stays after class with Carryn and I every week to ask about Martin’s progress, and to ask us to help him with the English work he has from school. She is so grateful to us for our help with Martin, and has shown that gratitude by supporting Manna in other settings. The other day, the interns organized our own library party to celebrate Dia del Nino, and she came early with both Martin and his younger brother, helped us with crowd control (the party was a HUGE success, to say the least), and even ran to the store and brought me cups and spoons to serve fruit salad in when she saw that kids were simply eating off napkins. She also takes our adult English class herself. My relationship with Carmen grows every time I see her and I can’t wait to see the progress Martin makes over the next few weeks.

Facing painting at Dia del Nino 
There was no better way for us interns to reflect on the bonds we are making here than to spend last
weekend in the Amazon. The six of us traveled alone to Tena, where we enjoyed a weekend of exploring the jungle, fooling around with monkeys, and best of all, whitewater rafting. The guide company we chose is owned and run entirely by indigenous people, something unique in an expat-dominated tourism market. I was so glad that we were maintaining our commitment to working in partnership with community members even on our weekend off. We were able to learn so much about the Amazon from our guide, Eduardo, who had us trying cacao beans, getting temporary “tattoos” from the plants of the jungle, and looking for vulture eggs. I feel so fortunate to be forging this incredible bond with Ecuador, both during my work at Manna and in my time exploring all this country has to offer."
The summer interns with their two rafting guides 

Summer interns loving the Amazon white water

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