Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Partnerships!

This week the Manna Ecuador team was excited to welcome a guest from the States to visit our community here in Ecuador: Shanyn Ronis, the executive director of the non-profit Education Global Access Program. Like Manna, E-Gap is focused on the importance of partnerships and community-focused development, and they hope to partner with us to develop job training courses for young adults that have had trouble entering the local job market. Their use of blended education techniques-- using in-class instruction and technology-based content-- helps students gain technology skills thats are demanded in the job market, while also learning about different aspects of running a business.

Shanyn, Manna Country Director Fred, and myself (Carley) spent much of the week visiting with different organizations that Manna has connections with in the community, including the Fajardo school district, the Patronato of Sangolqui, Fundación Aliñambi, and Hogar para la Madre Adolescente. With the goal of both strengthening existing partnerships and identifying students for E-Gap's first round of courses, our visits were wildly successful, and community partners are getting excited for us to officially begin this new program in August. 

Shanyn and the E-Gap team are looking forward to returning to Ecuador in late July or early August for a comprehensive teacher training for the new group of PDs, and to begin the first round of job training courses in our community. We couldn't be more excited for this partnership to move forward, and can't wait to see the amazing impact that it will have on the lives of those in Sangolqui and the Valle de los Chillos. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Carnaval - The Good and The Bad

‘Tis the season of water balloons, flour, foam and eggs – Carnaval! It’s an exciting time here in Ecuador, but unfortunately Carnaval brings the risk of getting pegged by water balloons (or perhaps eggs) on your way to work. But really, it is crazy here, and no matter where you are, you have to be battle ready.
            For example, Ann Lowry, Michael and I took a lovely trip to Baños this past weekend. As we were enjoying a breakfast of crepes and coffee on an outside patio (our first crepes since arriving in Ecuador), we heard a mischievous crackle and were suddenly showered in foam, crepes and all. Needless to say, we did not appreciate it.
            However, now that we are nearing our long weekend for the holiday, we are getting more in the spirit of Carnaval. Everyone has exciting travel plans. A large group of us are going to Guaranda, Montanita and Puerto Lopez accompanied by none other than everyone’s favorite Spanish teacher, Ivan. Kate has friends visiting and they are hitting Baños and Ambato before meeting up with the group in Guaranda for parades and chaotic Carnaval celebrations. Evan is in Cuenca, visiting with an old friend, and Carley has plans to go to Amaguaña and Ambato, which is a haven that has banned water balloons and has a beautiful festival of flowers this time of year. Michael and I both have parents visiting for the occasion. Michael and his father plan on pursuing adventure with the highlight being mountain biking down the gargantuan volcano Cotopaxi. I, on the other hand, am heading to Cuenca with my parents for some rest, relaxation, and sight-seeing.
  At the library, things have been calmer than usual as public schools are on a two-week vacation and many families have been out of town. We’ve had plenty of time to help with homework, play and converse on a one-on-one basis with Rumilona community members, which has been very nice. We have also had some time to pursue projects like painting bookshelves and fixing up the Preventative Health Center.
            Still, we are excited for some much needed time off, and will definitely take full advantage of it. We can only guess the stories we will have on the other side of such an adventure-filled weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


One my my New Year's resolutions is to be more active and to explore the beautiful places that are all around me. Literally all around me. Just from the balcony of the Manna house I can see four different mountains (Cotopaxi, Pasochoa, Pichincha and Ilaló) on a clear day!  

I decided to stay in Ecuador over our holiday break and I got to visit some amazing places. I stayed near the Cotopaxi National Park and hiked Pasochoa and it was amazing! It was definitely challenging but so worth it when I reached the summit at 4,200 meters. When the other volunteers returned at the beginning of January, they too agreed that we need to do more active (free!) activities on the weekends. Since we work on Saturdays we're often tired and just want to relax come later Saturday, Sunday and even Monday. Living and working abroad is an incredible experience but is pretty exhausting at times.

Last Sunday we finally committed to hike! Ilaló is a steep mountain with large cross on top - Ilaló means cross in Kichwa. It is a short bus ride away and is a (supposedly) relatively short 3 hour hike. However, it is straight uphill the whole time. No breaks, just straight up. Kate, Jessa, Allegra & Perry (the house dog), and I set out for Ilaló a little later than expected so by the time we got there it was very hot. We started on a winding stone path and I immediately felt the altitude and how out of shape I was. After 2 1/2 hours of huffing, puffing, stopping and creatively walking uphill backwards to work different muscles we reached the top! And the view was stunning. We rested at the bottom of the iconic cross, munched on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took it all in as Perry harassed the grazing cows.   

The way down was a workout in a different way as in we all had to brace ourselves from tumbling back down the mountain. In under an hour we were in a taxi ready to head back home - and that's including having to restrain Perry while guys on dirtbikes zoomed by. We all collapsed on the dining room floor but with joy and the adrenaline that comes from conquering an amazing hike.  This kind of outing will for sure be a regular one for the Manna chicos! 
                            ~ Amelia Hulbert ~