Thursday, March 26, 2015

UNC Tarheel's Health Week

Our second week hosting Spring Break volunteers we had groups from the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The volunteers participated in two very exciting projects: building and renovating the existing green roof on top of the Manna Library center and a Health Week full of many different activities. Kate and I were leaders for the UNC-Chapel Hill group who explored the health of Ecuador through a variety of events.  

The UNC-Chapel Hill group fundraised an *incredible* amount of money that will first and foremost go towards revamping our Preventative Health Center and totally recreating this community program. (Thanks volunteers!!!!)  By equipping the new health room with the necessary resources, such as a scale, a desk, new blood pressure cuffs, and organized health books, we can now invite doctors and health professionals to come and put on events to serve our community and address current health needs. And thanks to the strapping, young UNC-Chapel Hill men, and their patience, we now have beautifully built desk! 

One of the main events was a Health Fair geared towards kids at the Manna Library. The volunteers constructed three stations: a hand-washing and teeth-brushing station, a nutrition station where they prepared a healthy salad, and an exercise station. Each child had to rotate through all three stations to receive a goody bag filled with toothbrushes, floss and other fun prizes! 

The volunteers also helped the Manna reestablish an old relationship with a local school and children's home for at-risk youth by giving health talks and demonstrations to several classes on the importance of having a balanced diet and overall good nutritional habits.  

To end the week they hosted a Sport's Day on the field across from the Manna center to prompt kids to get off the computers and get active! And the volunteers also  painted a beautiful nutritional mural at the local elementary school where the PDs teach nutrition classes. 

After a tiring but wonderful and fun week I was so impressed with what we had accomplished. It's a really cool experience as a PD to get to work with a group of passionate college students who want to spend their Spring Break serving the community and learning about a new culture (& even cooler when they're from your alma mater!). All of us here in Ecuador are so grateful for the hard work of both UNC-Chapel & UGA and the lasting changes and renovations made possible by their week of service! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Women's Week! (Starring: University of Michigan!)

          I can't say enough about how amazing and dedicated this group of university volunteers was this past week. Apart from volunteering to spend their Spring Break here at the Manna site, they did an amazing job of hosting Manna's first ever Women's Week. The problems of gender inequality here in Ecuador are numerous and complex but we are all interested in working to improve this area.  While our Women's Initiative is very new, it was amazing to have the opportunity to discuss and experience these fresh perspectives.

         During their time here, we hosted several community events and introduced the volunteers to some of the opportunities within this field of work.  One of my favorite projects was working with and learning about NADENA's work, a fair-trade organization that empowers women by assisting them in the production and sale of goods made entirely from recycled materials. Aside from providing an extra income for these individuals, we hope that these workshops will provide both the skills and confidence to explore other markets.   Additionally, our volunteers planned and led a women's exercise class and well as participating in Zumba in the  park with local community members.  In Manna's community center we hosted a discussion featuring a sociologist and expert on the subject of inequality in Ecuador. With great attendance and great discussion, it was awesome to provide this event out of our Community Center and to learn more about these issues from our amazing guest speaker.  Likewise, we spent an afternoon preparing a lunch for the local young mother's shelter we volunteer with while bringing them an unimaginable amount of clothing donations gathered by our university volunteers.  This group of volunteers certainly got to experience Manna's holistic approach to development, whether that be tutoring United Nations Peacekeepers or farming at the nearby at-risk youth shelter. In addition to helping with our existing programs such as English classes or Children's Nutrition, I hope our volunteers got to explore some of Quito and experience some of the many things Ecuador has to offer.   
                As a Program Director, it was especially inspiring to meet and get to know this young group of volunteers.  Experiencing their enthusiasm and new ideas was refreshing and seeing their dedication to our work was definitely an excellent reminder of what Manna is here for. 

                        ~Sydney McKenney~