Friday, May 29, 2015

La Vida Saludable!

      Recently, with the help of the new Manna interns, we have started a weekly health club out of the Manna Centro to provide community children with fun, interactive and educational health info. Our first week, we covered dental health by teaching the kids new facts and healthy habits about their teeth. After making them practice brushing for two full minutes to the tunes of an Ecuadorian pop song, we played trivia with toothbrushes as prizes. Did you know that you're supposed to brush the six different sections of your mouth for twenty second each? Well, the kids of Sangolqui do! 
       This past week, our interns prepared a lesson on "Eating the Rainbow" by emphasizing the importance of getting a wide variety of colors through different fruits and vegetables in your diet.
       Each kid colored and decorated their own rainbow plate and learned the benefits of each of their favorite fruits and veggies. This was of course followed by a very competitive trivia game and a healthy carrot snack for everyone. So far I have been surprised by the high attendance and interest of the kids in our new health club! We can't wait to see where this program goes in the next few weeks as we try to cover all the important aspects of a vida saludable/health lifestyle! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Welcome Manna Interns!

Hello everyone!  My name is Ben and I’m one of the interns with Manna Project this summer. I am from Iowa and just graduated Iowa State last Friday with a primary major in Spanish, a secondary major in international studies, and a minor in music. I am very excited to work with Manna Project this summer to gain professional experience teaching English as a second language, improve my Spanish skills, and give back to a community. All of us interns have some big goals while working with Manna Project. 

We want to repaint the wall around the roof of the building with the beautiful mountain scenery around us. This is a community project, as students who visit the Manna Centro will join in the project. We currently have the base coat of paint completed, and will soon begin adding the mountains. The students can't wait to cover the wall with their handprints to show they helped with the project.

After completing the paint project, our next goal is to enhance Manna Project's Environmental Education and Nutrition programs by adding to the Green Roof garden. We want to add some flowers and plants to liven it up even more.

Our hope is to make more planter boxes where students can learn to plant and care for fruit, vegetables and grains. As they develop these skills and implement trial and error in the Manna garden, they can apply what they’ve learned to help their families grow healthy, low-cost food at home.

Other goals of the Session 1 interns are focused in the kitchen. We hope to paint, clean, and organize this high-traffic area to help simplify community life for the staff, and liven up the room. We’re striving to accomplish these goals in one short month here in Ecuador, but I think we can do it! 

Friday, May 8, 2015


    Before coming to Ecuador, I was obviously passionate about issues of gender inequality and sexism. Once arriving in this area and learning more about the culture of machismo and the numerous effects it can have on females, some of the Manna Program Directors felt like we wanted to do something to work with these issues. While we clearly cannot solve or end the issues of machismo ourselves, we tried to explore what we can do and what services we can provide. Beginning MPI Ecuador's Women's Initiative in January has been an exciting albeit rocky process.
           Firstly, we began working with a local partner organization that houses young and single mothers. We began by going weekly and tutoring. This was sometimes successful - sometimes not. My sixth grade math skills were not very impressive in English and definitely not very useful in Spanish. So we began to bring fun activities in addition to tutoring help.

Making smoothies, Earth Day cookies and painting pottery has allowed us to spend some quality time with these young women in a social and stress-free environment. While it is not as measurably productive as homework help, the girls seem to really enjoy it (although they are sometimes confused as to why there is a tall white woman telling them to make a vase out of homemade clay).
                Additionally, we began a series of discussions for women in our community center. Unfortunately at first, there was very low attendance.  We are now trying a new strategy: adding a weekly fun activity into the mix.  For our first "club" today, I left the house feeling tired and doubtful about our cooking night. At four o'clock, I sat with my co-worker, Kate McCaw (more commonly known as Kate the Great) and lamented that no one had shown up. Maybe we didn't advertise enough? Or maybe no one was interested? But in true Ecuadorian fashion, a woman did show up 15 minutes late. And then another. And then another!  We all prepared delicious Mexican food and chatted.  I was feeling awkward about bridging the conversation from guacamole into issues of gender inequality but the ladies brought it up themselves.  Excited to discuss their experiences and opinions on machismo, we sat talking (and eating tacos, of course) for over an hour.  It felt exactly as we had hoped (a feeling that can be rare in the community development world!) The women connected, had fun and were so open to sharing their thoughts.  While we can't "fix" the culture of machismo - we found that we can provide a fun outlet for a group of teen mothers, we can provide a space to talk about issues for local women and we can (and did) make delicious guacamole dip.  Although we are still figuring this program out, we are so excited to see were Manna's new Women's initiative goes!