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