Saturday, January 31, 2015

Life in The Valley

Living in the Valle de los Chillos just outside of Ecuador's capital city of Quito provides us with the best of both worlds: we get to enjoy some peaceful moments here in the "suburbs" while still being close enough to enjoy everything the big city has to offer. 

This week I spent some time in downtown Sangolqui eating helado de paila [a special way of preparing ice cream in a large bronze somehow makes it extra delicious!] and enjoying people watching. Even though there is less to do in Sangolqui than in Quito, there always seems to be something interesting and particularly Ecuadorian going on... like hornados [whole roasted pig, famous in Sangolqui] in the market place, or pick up soccer games in front of the main church. 

This weekend I ventured outside of the Valley and also spent some time in Quito, exploring Parque El Ejido with friends. We also discovered that this week is the beginning of the Festival de Cine Latinoamericano [Quito's Latin American Film Festival], and are looking forward to spending our free time taking in some awesome movies!

Its seems like our time here is flying by, but I am so excited to continue discovering the amazing things that Quito and the Valle de los Chillos have to offer.
                                                                               ~Carley Clement~ 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Profe Cat

The start of new English classes is always an exciting time at Manna – we get to meet new community members and welcome back many friendly faces. The highlight of Inscriptions Day this quarter was seeing two long-term friends of Manna enter the library for the thousandth time, though this time with an alternative motive than playing on the computer or reading books. Jonathan and Mateo, ages 10 and 7, have been visiting the library almost daily for the past 6 years and are without a doubt our most frequent attendees. They have never before inscribed in our English classes because the $20 cost poses a barrier for their families, but this year we were able to offer both boys spots in Children’s Basic English - free of charge.

            Jonathan and Mateo are learning quickly and their excitement for English has spread to other children who frequent the library. Whenever not in class, they can be found reciting what they were most recently taught to the other Program Directors. Mateo consistently takes his worksheets home after class rather than storing them at the library for safekeeping. He has told his teacher, “My mom wants to learn English too. So whatever you teach me, I’m going to teach her!" We cannot wait to see these two progress through all our levels of classes and eventually master English as their second language!
                                                            ~ Catherine Althaus~ 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our New Partner Organizations!

Over the last few weeks, the Ecuador site  has expanded our work to support several local partner organizations.  When looking at international development, many of us felt that we could be used best as a resource to sustain existing Ecuadorian institutions in addition to continuing our own Manna initiatives. When looking around our community we found several organizations that could use our support.  

United Nations Peacekeepers Several of us are holding twice weekly classes with a group of UN Peacekeepers to help them practice English with native speakers. Since the focus of the class is speaking and listening, it is a great opportunity for us to both expand our English program and learn more about the Peacekeepers' work. Since teaching English is definitely one of our group's favorite programs, it's been the perfect opportunity to offer more English classes. 

Antorcha de Vida is a local organization providing activities and therapy for mentally and physically disabled children - an amazing organization attempting to meet a great need with a small staff. We are now helping with their weekly horse therapy and water therapy to provide more support for the children. Working with water therapy to increase the mobility and flexibility of the children is both rewarding an enjoyable. It is great to connect with this group of children. For example, I frequently work with a young girl named Bonnie who loves to swim - using me for support. 

Aliñambi functions as both a school and home for about 30 at-risk youth. Children of all ages, many who have been orphaned or removed from their family, all live, play and learn at Aliñambi. They grow all of their food on site and are definitely in need of help on their farm. In addition to assisting with their agricultural program, we hope to start more  programs with the children such as nutrition programs or English classes.

Hogar de la Madre is a home for young teen mothers, run by two nurses in the local community and sustained through donations. We aim to provide donations of both food and clothing in addition to working one-on-one with these women in our weekly tutoring program. In the next few months, we hope to begin a child sponsorship program between donors in the states and these young women. While we constantly want to do more, it has been rewarding to work with an organization that is so in need of support. 

Gotitas de Saber is a local preschool where one of our PD's, Catherine Althaus, teaches English to about 60 three year olds each week. While that may sound terrifying to some (me), she loves working with the kids who are always ecstatic to see her and excited to demonstrate their ever-growing English vocabulary. 

Our main goal over the next few weeks is to continue to establish and foster these new relationships while serving as an asset where these organizations need us most.  Personally, I feel that working with other organizations can be transformational to how our organization functions in these communities. Working with everything from horse therapy to advanced English classes, our new expansions help us to embody Manna's holistic mission while strengthening these local institutions. Although we've got our hands full, this is just the beginning!

Monday, January 26, 2015

First Weeks on the Job

I arrived to MPI's Ecuador site in Sangolqui about 3 weeks ago. It's been a rush of learning about all of the various programs, figuring out how to get from place to place, and getting to know the 9 other new housemates who immediately impressed me with their passion for this community, their drive to see projects through to the finish, and their ability to find humor in any situation. The first couple of weeks of orientation, I was overwhelmed by the variety of programs and partner organizations everyone seems to be involved with but now that my third week comes to a close I think I'm getting the hang of things around here. 

One of the programs I have become involved with is Kid's Nutrition (which I'm sure folks back home will find humorous given my personal eating habits). Part of this program includes twice weekly visits to a local school called Chaupitena, where we spend about an hour talking to a class about nutrition and then the following visit we all make a healthy snack together. The volunteers involved with this during the past several months have had more than a few difficulties. Between language barriers and the lack of understanding by the teachers about how nutrition and cooking go hand in hand (why cook a nice egg white omelet when you could be baking a chocolate cake?), the volunteers definitely felt like Manna's presence at Chaupitena was not very effective or always appreciated. There was talk of discontinuing these visits and developing a curriculum to give them instead, but in the end the consensus was to soldier on, but decrease the frequency of our visits to every other week. 

Last Tuesday was my first day on the job, and I really had no idea what to expect. We decided to start last semester's curriculum from the beginning because scores on the final exam hadn't been exactly stellar. Amelia and I went over the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, and to our surprise the students remembered lots of the material and were actively participating throughout the class. It was an encouraging sight, and made me feel optimistic for our future involvements with Chaupitena. 

One thing I've learned in my first few weeks here is many times you feel like you put in hours of your time and 100% of your effort into something and it yields no results. What we do here isn't always rewarding, and it usually leaves you feeling like you aren't actually making an impact of any kind. I've also learned that the little victories are still victories and the smallest impacts are still impacts. So last Tuesday when Amelia and I asked our class to give examples of protein, we listened to enthusiastic responses of chicken! meat! eggs! fish! and basked in our glorious little victory, that is until one kid yelled out "RICE!"   ~ Ann-Lowry Brown 

Friday, January 9, 2015

We're Back!

After over two weeks of continuous cheese-eating and showering at home, we are all excited to return to Ecuador! After seeing the many snow-filled Facebook photos, I have never been happier to live on the equator. With about a hundred new ideas to put into action, we are especially excited to welcome three new program directors into the group - Ann Lowry, Allegra and Michael. We can't wait to see what talents, passions and changes they bring to our Manna dynamic!