Guest post! Hey everyone, my name is Jack Butler and I am part of the 2010-2011 squad of PDs. I hail from Rockville, MD (right outside of D.C.) and graduated this past spring from Vanderbilt University with majors in Human and Organizational Development and Economics. This is actually my second trip to the Manna house in Ecuador; I volunteered here before for a month after my sophomore year of college. I knew I wanted to be a PD after that month, and spent my senior year helping to recruit Vandy students for the year-long PD position with Manna. It’s great to finally be here, and I am genuinely thrilled to be spending my year with such a bunch of enthusiastic, inspiring, and fun people.
After a 2 year absence from Ecuador, I can’t help but notice the significant number of developments that have occurred in a relatively short period of time. The biggest change has been the introduction of the library and the teen center. I had no idea that this program was in the works, but a few short months after I left in the summer of 2008, the MPI team in Ecuador devoted a huge amount of time and resources to securing a location, getting books, painting and decorating the rooms, and more. When I first saw the library a little over a month ago, I was really blown away by the success of such a young program. There are many families in Rumiloma (the neighborhood where the library is located) whose children come to the library every day to read, play board games, and socialize with new friends. It has been a pleasure to discover the success of the teen center as well; with the draw of video games (each child is allotted an hour per day), ping pong, 2 acoustic guitars, and a few other things, lots of local teens come to hang out in a healthy environment. The success and impact that MPI Ecuador has had through the library and teen center has reassured me that we are part of a program and formula that truly achieves tangible results.
Today, on our last day of summer camp, our campers gave us some encouraging words that further suggest that MPI Ecuador is making strides in the right direction. In a final talk, we asked our 8-13 year olds what they truly thought of our summer camp, if they planned on coming back next summer, and if there was anything they would change. They all firmly acknowledged their intent to return next summer and confirmed that the majority of the field trips, games, and activities had been lots of fun. One of the biggest complaints: summer camp needs to be longer than 3 weeks! I think I can live with that. I would say that I am going to miss these kids, but luckily I can count on seeing most of them every day next week in the library or the teen center.