To quickly give interested parties an idea about me, my name is Noel León, I’m from Little Rock, AR, and I graduated in 2009 from Yale University with a degree in psychology. Seeing as Yale does not (yet) have a Manna chapter, I found out about MPI at a global volunteering fair in New York City in February, applied, and thankfully was offered the opportunity to join this fantastic organization down in Ecuador for the coming year. Now that we’ve been here nearly a month (wait, how did that happen?), have all moved into our rooms in the house, and are starting to pick up programs, the Valley outside Quito is really starting to feel like home.
Last week we started our three-week morning curso de vacaciones (summer camp) in conjunction with Fundación Añamisi, hosted at the Manna Library in Rumiloma. We help Christian and Laura from Añamisi as they run the camp three days a week, and we take over for the remaining two. To supplement Christian’s and Laura’s focus on environmental education, English practice, and games, we play more games with the kids and lead group creative arts projects like crafts music, or drama exercises. Friday, 5 PDs and Bibi took our kids on a paseo, or field trip, to the Indigenous Museum in Quito. The task of keeping track of 20 kids ranging in age from 3-14 on buses and the streets of Quito was initially daunting, but a couple of lovely moms accompanied us, and the many older siblings and cousins were a wonderful help in looking after their younger kin.
Organizationally, the great thing about camp is that it gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to our community. We are already fully staffing the library each afternoon and meet kids and their parents there, but camp allows us to more proactively engage with community members in anticipation of resuming most of our programs in September. We can show our commitment to this community on the heels of the old PDs’ departure and simultaneously better understand the needs and expectations of those community members who are thus far most involved in and dedicated to Manna’s activities. Judging by our first two weeks in the Valley, I have a great feeling about the year to come.
In sum, the 2010-2011 PDs are officially off the ground and running! Hannah and I will be coming to you with more information each week about goings-on in Ecuador, in addition to a guest blog from one of our seven other new colleagues and friends. If there’s anything you’d like to hear more about, please feel free to contact either one of us via this blog, or email Hannah or me.
Until then, ¡chao!