Saturday, July 26, 2014

This summer Manna Ecuador was lucky to host a team of film students from Actuality Media. They spent a month here in Valle de los Chillos getting to know Manna and spending time with Andrea Haro, a community member who has been coming to Manna Ecuador from the beginning. Here is their wonderful documentary, Soñadora, which follows Andrea from her upbringing in Pintag, to her move to the valley, and her time here at Manna. Thanks to Actuality Media for this wonderful film! 

For subtitles, click on the CC at the bottom and add English subtitles. If you would like to watch the film on a larger screen here is a link to the Vimeo page:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Last Retreat

Last weekend we, the PDs of calle Dario Figueroa embarked on our last ever quarterly retreat together.  Because of our crazy schedule with transitioning the new PDs, we decided to make it a day-trip, and what rhymes with day-trip?  Picnic!  Sort of...
So on Monday morning we loaded our bags with the gamut of picnic necessities- from watermelon salad and tiny sandwiches, to sparkling grape juice and even chocolate, and we headed for the Pululahua National Park, about an hour and a half drive from the Manna Ecuador HQ.  Pululahua is a relatively small, inactive volcano nestled in amongst the Ecuadorean-Andean volcano chain that we have come to call home in this last year.  The primary hike, which we chose, is a 40 minute steep downward hill hike into a tiny valley which is actually the volcano's crater.
the Pululahua crater

There, in an open field of a volcanic crater, we set up our picnic of sundries and got to work on our last development discussion.  This retreat we discussed the various aspects of how to launch a successful job campaign, how to write an "elevator pitch" and how to cope with the re-adjustment of life back in the states.  After a couple of hours of some serious (a little too serious...) life decision/direction discussion, a visit from a park ranger who was convinced our sparkling apple juice was alcoholic, and some playful picture taking, we decided to commence our ascent.  This time we were laden not with snacks, but with heavy hearts as our last group retreat came to a close, and the afternoon clouds came rolling down the mountainside.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The New PDs have arrived!

This week we are excited to welcome to the new Program Directors to Ecuador and Valle de los Chillos where we live and work! Last week the PDs spent a week in Quito, taking Spanish classes and spending time with hosts families. This week they will be living with host families in Rumiloma, the community in which we work, spending time in the library and learning about our programs and wonderful community members! 


Keep posted to learn more about each of these girls and here about the other 2 PDs who will be joining Manna Ecua come September! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cooking Competition

Last Saturday Claudia and I held the second-to-last Adult Cooking and Nutrition class of our PD year, so, to go out with a bang we decided to hold a cooking competition with our students, Iron Chef style.  We divided the students into two teams and each team received their own, very different ingredients.  Team One received chicken breast, green onions, soy sauce, a mandarin, peanuts and bean sprouts.   Team Two received beef, a tomato, an avocado, black beans, choclo (Ecuadorean corn on the cob), a red pepper and tomato paste.  They were instructed to use all of the skills they had obtained in their year of cooking classes with Claudia and I, and to be as creative as possible.  Each team was given 5 minutes to discuss their tactics and and 30 minutes to carry it out.  They would be judged, by the impeccable palates of Claudia and I, on presentation, flavor and creativity.
With surprising competitiveness (for a decidedly non-competitive race of people), the two teams set to work dicing, slicing and sautéing for what were sure to be two very interesting and distinct meals.
Gastón whipping up something good

The two teams hard at work while Judge Virginia watches over 

In the end, both teams exceed the expectations of the judges.  Both dishes were tasty and colorful and during the judging, to our delight, the students even explained to us the nutritious facts and health benefits of each of the plate's components.  
Team Two's "Mexican Creation", favored by Profe Claudia, obviously.  Interesting usage of the tomato paste as a sauce...

Team One's "Asian Invasion"...hmm...there's something oddly Ecuadorean about this plate presentation.

After an arduous judging process of tasting, it was Team One who took home the title of Iron Manna Chef....Chef Manna Iron...Manna Iron Chef...but in the end we all were winners...especially Claudia and I because we got to do all the eating.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So today at the Manna house we woke up a bit early to make it to Chaupitena, the local elementary school in Rumiloma, so that we could paint a mural. The mural we painted had the different food groups that children need to live a healthy life. This was to accompany the knowledge the students had been learning throughout the year in our nutrition class. Cate had it all planned out when we arrived at that school. She had her vision and the interns were there to assist her. Mixing the paint was only the beginning of our struggle, as we had to find the right blend of paint thinner and paint. Once we figured out the right mix we began to paint the sketched out mural only to find out that the red paint was running like water and almost ruined the mural. Luckily, we managed to pull through and continue with our project.   The mural was a success and we were able to finish before the morning was up.  Now there will be a little piece of Manna at Chaupitena, so that when kids walk past they are reminded of what they learned and also the program directors and the volunteers who helped lead the nutrition class this past year!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From Ecuador, With Love

Today is the Wednesday of my final week in Ecuador, I can't believe how quickly two months have flown by. As I reflect on my time here, I can't help but notice all of the ways that it has changed me and all of the things that I have learned. Coming into this trip, I had no idea what to expect, no ideas or presumptions of the culture or how it would differ from my own. Now, after two months of being immersed in the Ecuadorean culture, I feel that I have a much better understanding of the people and the culture in general. The Ecuadorians that I have met here are truly some of the friendliest, most family oriented and community oriented people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have had the opportunity to meet people from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the one thing I noticed that nearly everyone has in common is how truly happy they seem in their lives, regardless of their socioeconomic status. No matter where you go in Ecuador, you are bound to see and hear the motto, "Ecuador: ama la vida," which translates to "Ecuador: love life". After having experienced this country firsthand, I think it is safe to say that the people here absolutely embrace that motto.

Some of the programs and communities that Manna works with consist of children that come from broken homes or who have a history of child labor or other horrifying hardships. However, upon meeting these children, one would never guess how difficult their lives have been. Their happy-go-lucky attitudes and sweet smiles fool you into thinking that they have had a much easier go of it than they really have.We come from such vastly different backgrounds; I grew up with all the components that are supposed to comprise a rich or ideal American childhood, and I come here and I meet these kids that don't have any of what I had, rarely a stable family life, and they seem so happy and content just to have what they have. There isn't as much pressure to have things and the same emphasis isn't put on material values. It's a much simpler lifestyle and the fact that they are so happy and their society is completely functional without all the pressures that we place on ourselves in the United States is really something to think about,  

As a final reflection, I want to note that Ecuador is such an incredibly beautiful country and I can't believe I have had the opportunity to see such amazing things in my lifetime. From Quilotoa to Baños to Cotopaxi to Quito, this country has never failed to amaze and impress me. As far as Manna as an organization goes, the work that we are doing here is truly meaningful to the communities that we are reaching out to, and its logical and sustainable nature works to comprise an operation that is not only beneficial to the communities, but rewarding for the volunteers as well. Thank you to Manna for such an incredible experience, and thank you to Ecuador for a summer that I will never forget.

- Sofie

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Manna 5K

        After losing our voices cheering on Ecuador through the second round of the World Cup the night before, all the program directors and interns headed out of the house early the next morning to organize for the Third Annual 5K. We all piled into the bus, Luna in tow, and made our way to the Cancha outside of the library. With the two tents overhead and a large sign thanking our sponsors, we set up tables of prizes, Manna information, and inscriptions. Shortly after, all the interns jumped into the back of a caminata and started out on the course. Dressed in our bright blue Manna shirts and holding signs painted with“Vamanos!” and “Ya casi llegado!” we each got dropped off at a different corner to keep the runners on track and motivated.
        As soon as DJ Zach started playing and the whistle started the race, the sixty runners took off all around the neighborhood. Each standing on our corner with our signs in hand, we saw the runners sprint past in about an hour. The race ended, the roads reopened, and it was time for the children’s race around the field. The twenty or so children runners set off, running a complete lap around the field as their course. Once their race was done, the prizes began led by Claudia and Fred. With different winners for each category, the prizes ranged from Manna t-shirts, water bottles, athletic socks, and kids toys for the children’s awards. Claudia and Fred thanked the runners for participating and Manna raised a total of $250.00 in inscriptions.
With the runners tired and munching on bananas and medals hanging around their necks, the Third Annual 5K was a great success; can’t wait to hear all about it next year!

By: Charlotte Davidsen 
kids race!

some very encouraging interns

last, but certainly not least!