Women's Week! (Starring: University of Michigan!)

          I can't say enough about how amazing and dedicated this group of university volunteers was this past week. Apart from volunteering to spend their Spring Break here at the Manna site, they did an amazing job of hosting Manna's first ever Women's Week. The problems of gender inequality here in Ecuador are numerous and complex but we are all interested in working to improve this area.  While our Women's Initiative is very new, it was amazing to have the opportunity to discuss and experience these fresh perspectives.

         During their time here, we hosted several community events and introduced the volunteers to some of the opportunities within this field of work.  One of my favorite projects was working with and learning about NADENA's work, a fair-trade organization that empowers women by assisting them in the production and sale of goods made entirely from recycled materials. Aside from providing an extra income for these individuals, we hope that these workshops will provide both the skills and confidence to explore other markets.   Additionally, our volunteers planned and led a women's exercise class and well as participating in Zumba in the  park with local community members.  In Manna's community center we hosted a discussion featuring a sociologist and expert on the subject of inequality in Ecuador. With great attendance and great discussion, it was awesome to provide this event out of our Community Center and to learn more about these issues from our amazing guest speaker.  Likewise, we spent an afternoon preparing a lunch for the local young mother's shelter we volunteer with while bringing them an unimaginable amount of clothing donations gathered by our university volunteers.  This group of volunteers certainly got to experience Manna's holistic approach to development, whether that be tutoring United Nations Peacekeepers or farming at the nearby at-risk youth shelter. In addition to helping with our existing programs such as English classes or Children's Nutrition, I hope our volunteers got to explore some of Quito and experience some of the many things Ecuador has to offer.   
                As a Program Director, it was especially inspiring to meet and get to know this young group of volunteers.  Experiencing their enthusiasm and new ideas was refreshing and seeing their dedication to our work was definitely an excellent reminder of what Manna is here for. 

                        ~Sydney McKenney~