A Day in the Life of a Program Director

Welcome to Manna Project Ecuador! Here we’re going to illustrate one day among 3 different Program Directors: Kate Clendenen, Gaby Hochu, and Imhotep Simba.

Kate 7:00 AM: I wake up and stumble to my shower half asleep. Though I don’t enjoy leaving the comfort of my bed so early, this is the best time to take a shower. The sun is perfectly positioned to shine brightly through my bathroom window so I can enjoy the bright, warm rays as the water washes away my grogginess.

Gaby 7:30 AM: Rumi and I are fast asleep when my alarm goes off. Rumi is one of our cats. I pet him while I wake myself up. I get out of bed and get ready for the day. I make a nice big breakfast of a smoothie and an egg scramble with quinoa. Then I leave to head to a partner organization that I attend weekly, Antorcha de Vida, with my fellow Program Director, Abigale.

Kate 8:00 AM: On my way to the bus, I stop at the corner store at the bottom of the street to buy a Powerade. The store owner is a good friend of mine because I come here almost every day to buy snacks. We refer to each other as “veci” which is short for the Spanish word for neighbor: vecino. As she and I chat, I hear the bus pull up outside. I quickly say goodbye to my veci and hop on the bus. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to ESPE, the local university.

Kate 8:45 AM: I arrive at ESPE and walk over to Mariela’s classroom. Mariela is an English Professor at ESPE. I assist her with her classes every week. Though she always gives me some general guidance as to what topics she would like me to cover, I make my own lesson plan for the day and lead the class under her supervision. The professors at ESPE love to have Manna Volunteers primarily to help their students become more familiar with the native English accent. Class won’t start for another 15 minutes, so I chat with Mariela with what I have planned for the day and get myself organized.

Gaby 9:00 AM: Abigale and I flag down a Los Chillos bus and luckily we manage to get seats! The bus ride to Antorcha is close to an hour, so we get comfy and enjoy the views.

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Kate 9:00 AM: I arrive at ESPE and walk over to Mariela’s classroom. Mariela is an English Professor at ESPE and I assist her class every week. ESPE professors love to have Manna Volunteers to help their students become more familiar with the native English accent. Today we watch and discuss a Ted Talk about what it means to be truly happy. It’s interesting to listen to students’ opinions because it helps me better understand the culture of Ecuador. Next, we play a game: I have them improvise conversations in groups during which they have to use as many idioms as possible. Finally, we finish off the class with debates for speaking practice!

Gaby 10:00 AM: We arrive at Antorcha, and I walk in with a smile on my face because Antorcha truly is one of the highlights of my week. Antorcha de Vida is a center for people with special needs. We greet the teachers and therapists and play with the students until it is time to head to swim therapy. We usually race or play soccer when we arrive. Then it is time to head to the pool for their bi-weekly swim therapy. Abigale and I each hold two students hands, and we make the 15 minute trek to the pool.

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Gaby 11:00 AM: We arrive at the pool, and the students are rushing to get into the pool. Abigale and I usually swim laps with the students and towards the end we play games. Swim therapy is an excellent way for the students to get exercise in a manner that they enjoy, and it is especially helpful for the students with cerebral palsy who do exercises with the physical therapists in the pool.

Kate 11:15 AM I say goodbye to my class and head over to the bus stop. It takes me another 45 minutes to get to our Community Center.

Kate 12:00 PM Our Community Center doesn’t open until 2:00 PM, so during the two hours that I have I grab lunch from a nearby shop and prepare for class. I am also responsible for Manna’s social media accounts so I usually use this time to post on our social media accounts or work on writing newsletters or blog posts.

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Gaby 12:00 PM: After an hour of swimming, Abigale and I say bye to the students. I already can’t wait to see them again next week! I go and buy cevichochos for lunch from my favorite street vendor. She already knows my order every time I go. Cevichochos are one of my favorite foods here. It is ceviche but instead of being made with any type of seafood, it is made with chocho beans. It is so delicious so I eat it way too fast before boarding the bus.

Gaby 1:00 PM: Abigale and I arrive at Manna’s community center. The center opens at 2:00, so we use this free hour to do last minute prep before our classes.

Kate 2:00 PM The Community Center opens but my class is not until 4:30pm. During this time I usually greet parents and help kids with their homework. There are a lot of kids that come to the Community Center just to hang out so sometimes I’ll play with them! Some of the other Program Directors teach classes 3:00 PM so sometimes I also assist them if they need me. Also at 2pm, our Peace Corps Volunteer Simba arrives!

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Simba 2:00 PM: I arrive at the centro, grab a Manna laptop, and start checking emails. I also prep for Rainbow Days, a weekly group session that I lead with the youth at the center. I then prep for sports hour, which starts at 3:30.

Simba 3:30 PM: This time is designated to physical education hour. The goal of this hour is to get youth moving. These activities can include anything from Catch One Catch all to dance competitions, relay races, teaching the fundamentals of baseball, to the most popular soccer! The most important thing for me is making sure the youth and I always warm up together with a lap around the field and then stretch together. I typically have something planned for sports hour, but I am also open to the ideas the youth have!

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Gaby 4:30 PM: My kids class starts. I teach Level 3, so my class tends to be ages 10-12. Class lasts an hour and a half. Today, I announce the Star of the Week. Each week I give a prize to a student who behaved in the previous week. For the first hour, I teach and they take notes. Then if everyone behaves, we play a game for the last half hour! I split them into teams and we play a game where they have to correct mistakes that I write on the board on their mini whiteboards. The team that wins gets chocolate!

Kate 4:30 PM I lead the B2 preparatory class that Manna offers. This is our most advanced course and it is designed to help prepare students for taking the B2 Exam. This exam is required for anyone who wants to teach English in Ecuador. Other professionals who don’t teach English but use English in their field also often take the exam. We start class with a warm-up that requires them to speak in English to each other. Then we practice certain sections of the exam, review the answers as a class, and discuss strategies for improvement. After exam practice, we close the class with a reflection on what the students did well, what they need to improve on, and the steps they will take to improve.

Simba 5:30 PM: This hour is dedicated to our Rainbow Days group session! The Rainbow Day group sessions provide youth an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions about topics such as making healthy decisions; the support systems we have such as family, teachers, and mentors; the values we have as individuals; and settings goals, just to name a few. This group is really important to me because it provides an opportunity to share some of the same things that were shared with me as a child when I attended various youth programs. I also love it because I can add value by sharing information or strategies to address things that aren't so common in their communities and homes.

Kate 6:00 PM After class, I head home early because it is my turn to cook dinner for everyone!

Simba 6:30 PM: I write some final notes for my Rainbow Days session report. Then I contribute to help clean up the center before we leave close at 7pm. On Wednesdays, we usually get a lot of traffic, so on this day I often see many of our community members who often invite me to go hiking at one of the many beautiful parks in Ecuador or check out a night venue I have never been too before!

Kate 6:45 PM When I open the front door to the Manna House, I am greeted by our two adorable, loving kittens: Mika and Rumi. I put my things away, feed the cats, wash my hands, and start cooking! I decided to make shepherd’s pie because it is rainy outside and comfort food is the best.  

Gaby 7:00 PM: We have been cleaning the centro and doing the closing procedure for the last hour. At 7:00 PM we tell all the kids who are playing the Wii that we are closed, and then the rest of the Program Directors and I say bye to Simba and catch a bus to head home.

Kate 7:45 PM Everyone arrives home from cleaning and closing the Community Center for the day. I just finished cooking so we all sit down and have dinner together. We go through our highs and lows of the day. The highs are great of course, but I also think lows are fun because they usually evoke a few laughs.

Gaby 9:00 PM: I prep for tomorrow’s class and start grading the midterms that my students took last class. Based on the scores, I have a feeling that most of my class will pass! Rumi and I go to bed around 11 PM, and tomorrow a new day begins! It was a full day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kate 9:00 PM Depending on how I feel, I use this time to either prep for the next day’s classes and programs or I relax in bed with Netflix and promise myself I’ll wake up early in the morning to prep. I usually end up going to sleep around 11:00 PM. As I lie in bed, I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to be working abroad in such a beautiful country with such beautiful people.

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We have just described a day in the life for the three of us, and as you can see our days are very different! We each juggle around 4 programs at Manna’s community center, as well as 3 partner organizations and internal organizational roles. All of our days are very different; no two days look the same. We keep very busy, which makes each and every day an adventure!