Monday, August 25, 2014

Some First Impressions

Just over a month into our Manna journey and we are still overwhelmed by the number of new experiences and countless cultural differences Ecuador has to offer.  Here are some thoughts on our first weeks as MPIE's  Program Directors: 

It's been a long but exciting transition into working with Manna, and I am excited to begin getting my hands dirty running programs and working behind the scenes to make Manna function at its best. In the past month I've been an English teacher, plumber, chef, expert at playing Uno, librarian, and so much more that I never thought I would experience, all of which have grown me and shown me that I am capable of more than I imagined. I am so excited to see what surprises and adventures the rest of my time at Manna with hold.
      - Carley Clement  

People from home constantly ask, "So, how's Ecuador?" I guess i could jokingly say, "Come for the mountains, stay for the fruit juice," as there is way too much to say in attempts to explain my experience so far. After learning multiple "Ecuadorian remedies", repeatedly ordering the wrong thing in restaurants and being put to shame in several salsa clubs, I've definitely enjoyed my first encounters with Ecuadorian culture.  Not only have I  fallen in love with the country, but our transition into Manna life has definitely kept us busy.  After two weeks of summer camp, it's been great getting to know the kids and I can't wait to become more invested in my long-term programs.  Additionally, I'm extremely excited for our group to start traveling and get some second impressions of this country! 
    - Sydney McKenney 

After almost five weeks in Ecuador, I am struck by the beauty of this country and its people!  It has been an exhausting but incredible transition.  After a week in Quito and then a week in the Valley, both with host families, we are finally settled into the Manna house.  It was so wonderful to have the old PDs show us the ropes and it was sad to see them go!  However, I'm definitely ready to begin.  Unpacking and moving into my new room was a surprisingly enjoyable task after living out of my suitcase for a month!  I am absolutely loving the abundance of avocados and other fruits and am excited to try my hand at making some traditional Ecuadorean meals very soon!  Luna, our house dog, is also making the move here a little easier by providing some puppy love.  With only five of us volunteers we are all pretty busy.  Summer camp began this week and is in the mornings and then we all are working in the Manna Library almost every afternoon.  But the kids are great and so far camp has been organized chaos full of English lessons, art projects and dancing- overall a great success!  I am so excited to begin my selected programs next month and continue getting to know the community members and Ecuador!   
       - Amelia Hulbert 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Exploring Todo Del Mundo

           Manna Project International’s annual summer camp has gotten off to a great start with over 38 kids signed up to participate! This year, we’ve focused on exploring different cultures and countries from around the world  in attempts to give the kids a small sample of “Todo Del Mundo.”   By focusing on Europe, Africa and Asia through history lessons, art projects and even listening to the Frozen soundtrack in numerous languages,  we’ve definitely tried to incorporate as many new cultures and experiences as possible. With everything from African tribal masks, European geography lessons and Polka dancing, it has definitely been a packed but amazing week.   This past Saturday, the group headed to a local farm where we helped with weeding and planting before the kids participated in a discussion about the importance of agriculture.

            One of the most enjoyable aspects as Program Director has been the opportunity to get to know the kids on a more personal level. We’ve had so much fun playing, learning and watching how incredibly creative they can be when given the chance.
            We’ve got two weeks, a ton of activities and a whole lot of the world left to explore!  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A goodbye from the 2013 - 2014 PDs

The time has come for us to leave Manna. It has been an amazing year, and I think it is safe to say that our time here has changed us all for the better. Saying goodbye and leaving the community that welcomed us with open arms a year ago has been difficult, to say the least. It is a comfort to know that the friends, and family we have found here will always be with us and we always have open doors waiting for when we (hopefully) return in the near future! 

Here are our thoughts on Manna, what we are going to miss in Ecuador, and future plans ... most of which include more adventures and traveling! 

Abby Davies:

Learned from manna: The greatest thing I leaned from manna is the importance of community. In the US, Especially in the cities, we often take our neighbors for granted. In Ecuador, the sense of community is so incredible, that you always know you have someone to call for help, even after living here for only 13 months.  People started taking care of us the second we arrived and never stopped.

Future plans: be a vagabond in Ecuador for who knows how long? Eventually, go to grad school and work in the international relations sector

Something I'm going to miss: some things I'll miss from the valley and manna while living in Quito -- clínica del chuchaqui, Miguel & Ayara, the roomies, Mateo, having an array of different jobs to do, but never el gas el gas at 6am

Cate Parker: 

Manna has taught me a lot of stuff. A lot of it I never thought I'd need to learn. Like how to gracefully fall out of an overcrowded bus, or how to build a greenhouse out of plastic bottles, or how to pretend you know how to teach an exercise class to a room full of elderly diabetic women. Mostly it has taught me to question myself less--to just go for it and share the things I am most passionate about. I came into Manna being vaguely interested in way too many things, and am leaving Manna knowing with a very uncharacteristic degree of certainty that I want to pursue a career in nutrition policy and intervention. I'm also leaving knowing that I'll be back one day, which is a good feeling. Knowing me, I will probably miss all of the things that tended to drive me a bit crazy from time to time-- the pescado man, the endless bus rides, Pilsener, and the library kids who won't stop asking how many minutes until they can play on the compu. And Luna. I'll definitely miss Luna.

Virginia Green: 

plans after manna: second year PD.  
things i'm going to miss: claudia, heather, taylor, carryn, cate, torie, abby

Torie Barnard:

In these last seven months I have had the opportunity to challenge myself in new ways both professionally and personally.  During my time with Manna I had the joy of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and exploring a new part of the world.  While here I was pushed to think outside the box in many aspects of life.  I am going to miss the pace of life here and I will especially miss the friends that I've made.  This time of living and working in Ecuador has helped me realize what I want to do in the future.  I am excited to return to the US to start nursing school and am looking forward to all of the challenges that lay ahead of me there!

Claudia Zaugg:

What I've learned: Too many things. Patience for sure, and other great virtues like how to be more caring and aware of those around me.  
Future plans: No set plans. Find a job in the public health field, take the GRE, fun things like that. 
What I will miss: Ceviche, tortillas, and Mateo. 

Carryn Mills:

It is impossible to sum up in words what I gained from my experience with Manna Ecuador, except to say that I am taking with me some incredible memories, impactful life lessons and a stronger sense of self. In the coming months, as I continue my travels in South America (and hopefully beyond), I look forward to testing out all that I learned in Ecuador. I will never forget the close connections I made with such a vibrant community and I will thoroughly miss the amazing people I had the priveledge to meet... and maybe even miss the occasional "PROFE!!!"...

Taylor Gaskill:

What I learned from Manna: How to manage my time (with an agenda!), how to work from home and be productive, and how to be flexible. I learned how to live and work with 9 strangers for a year. I learned how to make cheese, humitas, and ceviche (not really from Manna, but from Ecuadoreans). 

Future plans: In the near future, I'm traveling for 2 months with the lovely Heather Smith through Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. From there, I plan to go back to the states in October, spend some time with family in Philadelphia, and eventually I hope to get a job in New York City. 

What I'll miss: speaking Spanish all the time, the people, the country, the community center, and above all..... Ecuadorean ceviche!

Heather Smith:

It is truly impossible to find the words to describe my time here, everything I have learned, and all the amazing people I have met have changed me for the better and I am beyond grateful for the experience. Lessons from my work with the Manna community include mad Uno skills, yelling/joking/laughing with kids in Spanish, organization and time management (even when everything around you seems doesn't seem to want to work), patience (especially during inscriptions time) and making friendships in unexpected ways. My future plans include traveling south through South America until I run out of money and then living in my parents basement preparing for grad school, a job, or whatever the world has to throw at me. I will miss too many things to say, including views of Cotopaxi from my window, mi hija Luna (aka our dog), my crazy roommates, the amazing families that have taken me in and fed me like one of their own throughout the year, the kiddos in the library, street food, weekend trips, and the view from the Manna biblo roof top.