Sunday, March 10th
What a fantastic week we’ve had! Leaving Sangloqui will be a bittersweet departure as we reflect on our work and the impact we made this week with our partner organizations and the greater Sangloqui community. Not only have we been so lucky to have the opportunity to understand microfinance in a direct way, but we have also made new friendships that we will surely cherish upon our return to Vanderbilt.
Yesterday, we took our second trip to Jatumpungo, the community where our loan recipients live. Our group of fourteen divided into two groups to go and help them out in their gardens. My group met Rosa Maria, who had a flourishing cornfield and cucumber plants growing. We dug up her fertilized soil to expedite her planting process and attached rods to her cucumber plants so that they grew properly. Rosa Maria was so kind and gave us a fruit none of us had ever tried before. It was delicious! It tasted a lot like a plum. When we got back to Sangloqui, John watched Hugo Chavez’s memorial with Ecuadorians in the café next to our hostel, which he found to be a special cultural experience. That night, we went out to dinner at a cool restaurant in Sangloqui called Lycazte. It was very enjoyable, and William and Peter may or may not have left with some souvenirs…! After dinner, we played cards at the Manna House and continued our fun bonding time back on the roof at our hostel. We shared silly stories about our childhood, such as Kari’s interesting time at the movies, John and William’s “True Gentleman” recitation abilities, and what happens to Julia’s friends when she gets impatient. This was the last night sleeping at our hostel, which has been very comfortable and we will certainly miss it!
Today, the group went to the Manna Library for English classes, arts and crafts with the children, and a fun zumba lesson taught by Lucy. Adriana and Emily taught a beginner English class where the students learned vocabulary words for different animals and parts of a household! In the “teen center” room, the rest of us buckled down and got to work on our lesson plan for the next small business class that Lucy and Polly will teach our potential loan recipients. We crafted a workbook with seven sections: Business Planning, Goal Setting, Profit, Supply and Demand, Inventory Tracking, Business Expansion, and Specialization. Each section of the workbook provides streamlined definitions of the concepts, appropriate examples, and practice problems for the students to complete at home as a reinforcement of the course material. Creating this lesson plan and workbook is something that our group is extremely proud of because we know that it will be beneficial to the future of the microfinance program that Manna runs and will provide valuable information to our loan recipients in a straightforward and engaging manner.
So, this is our goodbye! We’d like to thank ALL of the phenomenal Program Directors (especially Lucy and Polly!) for everything this week. It has been an amazing experience that none of us will forget. While we were only in Ecuador for a short week, our group has been so inspired by our experiences here that we have decided to join the Microfinance club back at Vanderbilt and fundraise even further for MPI Ecuador’s loan cycle program. Thanks for reading our blog!
Saturday, March 9th
Since Tuesday the group has seen and experienced much more of the Ecuadorian culture and continues to grow closer. That afternoon we went to an after-school program called Amigos Guias. We helped the kids with their homework until snack time. Then everyone ran outside to play on the playground or kick around a soccer ball. That night after some cold showers at the hostel and dinner at the Manna House our group sat down to watch Superbad, although most dozed off in between laughs.
Wednesday morning the group took a bus to Jatumpungo and split up between two farms to help some of the loan recipients with work around their property. Some shoveled fertilizer while trying to keep the released ammonia from their lungs all morning, while others helped plant vegetables in a backyard greenhouse. Next, we took a long bus ride into the city of Quito to go shopping around the markets. The best purchases were Adrianna’s leather backpack, John’s glow in the dark Ray Bans, and Ryan’s soccer scarf. Meredith turned out to be a poor haggler.
A long cab ride up the mountains brought us to a massive statue of the Virgin Mary to look out over the city and take some pictures. Charlotte’s selfies were the group’s entertainment. We ate a buffet dinner at a Mongolian restaurant before heading to go salsa dancing downtown. On the way, Cross’s phone got stolen by some dumb pick-pockets, but we didn’t let it bring down to the group’s morale. Fix tried to chase after them but luckily didn’t find them and/or get stabbed. At the club, Katie demonstrated her salsa skills with a native Ecuadorian man while a crowd gathered around. He was a solid 7/10. Party Pete made a new friend, and Charlotte was so sleepy she slept the whole way home!
The next morning everyone woke up early to the sound of drilling on the roof outside the hostel windows. We drove back to the gardening community center to help mix fertilizer again and help build a wall by moving bricks. We spent the afternoon at the Library sitting in on English classes, playing with the kids, and filming our own version of the Harlem Shake. Two unnamed group members did jumping jacks with backpacks on their heads. For dinner, Polly made us a wonderful pesto pasta. While Kari, Fix, and Pete went to play soccer with some locals, the rest of us played catchphrase and watched How I Met Your Mother.
Fun Facts: the sour cream and onion chips from the hostel are surprisingly yummy, Ecuadorian ninas can’t understand why Emily doesn’t have blonde hair, Jefferson was a beta, Julia panics during catchphrase, Madeleine likes talking, anddddd one of us kissed a person of the opposite gender with only one hand when they were in high school. Proud of my team.
Our first few days in Ecuador have been great! This is the first time to South America for most of our group members, so we are so excited to explore and serve a new country. We arrived late Sunday night and were met at the airport by Polly and Lucy, our fearless Program Director leaders for the week. We crammed fourteen of us into a little camioneta, something that we would soon realize is typical of our
transportation everywhere we go, and made our way past the interesting statues of Sangolqui to the hostel. After meeting the other program directors and the other Vanderbilt group and getting acquainted with the Manna house, we went to bed excited to see what the week would hold.
We spent the first full day getting to know each other and the country by hiking Rio Pita. The first part of the hike was straight uphill and very challenging for the group, especially because we are not acclimated to the higher altitude. However, the view at the top made the uphill hike incredibly worth it! We posed for pictures and admired the unique Ecuadorian landscape before heading on our way to the
waterfall. William and John were brave enough to slide down part of the waterfall into the freezing water! We ended the day by partaking in a Manna house favorite, Catch Phrase. We quickly realized that this game is very competitive, so we challenged the other Vanderbilt group to a game (which our group won!). The first day was filled with exploration and group bonding, making us even more excited for the rest of the week. Today we worked in the gardens at Vivero. The boys did some heavy lifting while the girls helped make planters for the gardens. The flowers from this garden go to all of the schools and parks in Sangloqui. We are excited to return to this site on Thursday.
Overall, we are so thrilled to be here! We are excited to serve the people in Ecuador in every way that we can, and I know that we will grow and learn so much this week. We are especially looking forward to helping with the microfinance program tomorrow, since that is the main purpose of our trip. We are so thankful to learn more about Manna and microfinance, to get to know each other, and to serve and love the people of Ecuador!