We’re serious when we say you make lifelong friends as a Manna Project volunteer. This statement isn’t just in reference to the relationships you build with your fellow volunteers--we’re talking about the community members too. We’ve been blown away by the kindness that the community has extended to us. Of course, the serious need in Ecuador is the primary motivation behind our services, however, the warmth that the community reciprocates is a bonus that we cherish. This kindness comes in the form of both continuous trends and particular acts. Such continuous trends include how, everyday at the Community Center, our volunteers are greeted by at least 7 or more parents with a warm hug and kiss on the cheek! Additionally, nearly every day of class, at least one Program Director receives a snack or a flower from one of their students. With regard to the more isolated acts of kindness by community members, below is just a sampling of the generosity we’ve been fortunate to experience in the last couple months.
During their second week working at the Centro, two young girls made Abigale and Kate cards with the words “Te amo”.
When Kate casually mentioned that she couldn’t get her Claro phone plan to work, without any hesitation, her host father Christian stepped in to call Claro and sort things out.
Alexandra took Abigale out to the scenic Panecillo in celebration of her birthday.
Laurita and Christian took Kate out for dinner at the only authentic ramen restaurant in Quito for her birthday.
Community member Melida gave the Program Directors an impromptu ride home and stopped at her home along the way to feed them a delicious lunch.
Community Member Carmen invited the Program Directors to her house for Dia de Amistad and also later hosted a barbecue at her house for the Program Directors just for fun!
Community members Renee, Andres, Ricardo, Karina, and Carla took the Program Directors on a scenic hike up Ilaló.
The parents of a young girl who takes our English classes give Kelly and Kate a ride every Tuesday.
Community members Andres and Mateo volunteered their Saturday mornings to help cover the front desk during Adult English classes when we were short-handed.
Abigale’s Adult Nutrition and Cooking class surprised her with a cake for her birthday and Kate’s Adult English class also surprised her with a cake for her birthday.
Not only do the members of the Adult Nutrition and Cooking class help brainstorm recipes for classes but they offer to bring the ingredients!
For International Women’s Day, community member Christian gave every female volunteer a rose to honor their womanhood!
Community member Alexandra volunteered her time to host an embroidery class at our Community Center so that parents waiting for their kids to finish with their English classes have a way to entertain themselves.
Community member Laurita volunteered to drive Pechta to and from the doctor’s office because she is still learning how to speak Spanish. She even helped translate so that Pechta could communicate with the doctors!
Laurita and Christian volunteered their personal greenhouse to allow us to host nutrition classes.
For nearly each holiday, every Program Director receives at least 6+ Facebook messages and texts from community members sending them holiday greetings and wishes.
I’d like to emphasize that this list is in no way exhaustive. These are just a few of the acts of kindness that immediately came to mind. There are many wonderful perks of being a volunteer for Manna Project, but the Program Directors--Abigale, Gaby, Kelly, Pechta, Simba, and myself-- unanimously agree that the people we serve are by far the best aspect of what we do. The next time you think about donating or getting involved, think about how special these people are. The kindness that our community members regularly demonstrate is active rather than passive. For these people, a kind “hello” or a warm smile is not sufficient; kindness requires one to step outside of one’s comfort zone and go out of one’s way to make another person’s day. Us Program Directors came here with the intention to serve the community but, to be perfectly honest, the community serves us in ways that go beyond English or nutrition classes. They’re teaching us to be better people. For that, I will forever be grateful to this community.