Spring Break in Ecuador

It was a busy week in Ecuador: we had not one, but TWO incredible spring break groups on site participating in programs, revamping the community center and more. We love hosting short-term volunteers on site during the spring and fall. Visiting teams give us a fresh perspective on programs as well as provide the time and manpower to complete innovative and fun projects. But the best part about welcoming visiting teams is watching them grow through the opportunity to use their passions and talents to give back to underserved communities in Latin America.

Vanderbilt University

Students from Vanderbilt planned and participated in health and wellness projects. They also lent a helping hand painting the kitchen in the community center, building desks for our education programs, and making a beautiful mural at a preschool in Fajardo, a nearby school district.

While Program Directors were occupied teaching English on Saturday morning, the Vanderbilt team also surprised us with an incredible mural, the first thing community members will see when they enter the community center. We finished out the week with a beautiful and relaxing hike at Molinuco, a nearby ecological refuge with a series of stunning waterfalls.

The University of Georgia

Students from the University of Georgia worked on projects for teenagers in our community. They got to know the students by hosting a teen center movie night and carnival day, and also conducting a spelling bee with English students at Chaupitena, a local primary school where Program Directors teach English.

They also left their mark on the teen center by giving it a fresh coat of paint! After a long week of hard work, UGA students headed to Quito to visit the equator, tour the Ecuador historical center, and enjoy some wonderful Ecuadorian food!

Our incredible community members

A highlight of the trip for both groups was dinner in the home of some of our incredible community members. We were so touched by their hospitality (and cooking skills!), and they were excited to get the chance to know our amazing and dedicated spring break volunteers. Manna Project wouldn't be where it is today without the support and participation of our dedicated community members!

Thank you to our wonderful spring break teams!

Experience all the Ecuador has to offer - work with MPI this summer as an intern!
Applications due March 25th.

Do you want the full experience? Apply to work as a Program Director.
Applications are due April 5th.

Museum Adventures with Vanderbilt


We started the day with a late morning, homemade french toast, and english class lesson-planning while piled on the couches. After Dunc headed in to Quito to pick up our banos tickets for this Thursday, Alaina, Kira and I stopped by the local venta to pick up supplies for the evening's fruit salad (for some reason our cook came to the house at 8:30am to start dinner preparations and clean the bathrooms...apparently she thinks she needs to invest a lot of time to make us clean/well fed) and walk around Conocoto a little bit.

Everyone was out the door by 1, posters and glue and paintbrushes in hand in order to advertise for the upcoming teen center/library grand opening concert on our way to the Casa Barrial. After a few rough starts (not a good idea to try and paste a poster to a wall with severely chipping paint flakes), we got the hang of it, which will come in handy tomorrow during round two.

At 2 we met with the 14 students from my art class for a really special field trip to the Guayasamin art museum in downtown Quito. After piling all 25 of us (and Mafe's dog, for reasons we're still not quite sure of) into a far-too-small van, we were on our way... first to Conocoto to trade up the van size, then through the maze that is downtown Quito, and finally to the top of a far hill and the base of the museum's grounds.

The museum itself was a force of emotion. As it was my third time visiting, I expected the waves of emotions to hit me with a little less force, and yet each visit is an island unto itself, an experience encapsulated in the present and incredible unto itself. Walking through the museum with my students, who just last Thursday studied Guayasamin in class and created their own interpretations of his works, and listening to their responses to our guide's questions and their enthusiasm for what they were seeing was indescribably wonderful. And it was even sweeter to experience it with the Vanderbilt girls.

After a long bus ride back (made worse by the expulsion of all the pent-up energy the kids had kept a cap on during the museum), most of the girls headed home with Dunc, while Alaina, Kira and I (my two new fabulous cohorts!) headed up to the church for women's exercise, an hour that left us aching in the legs and wondering how Serena does it 3 times a week.

I just left the group up on the roof around a bon fire, roasting marshmallows, making smores, and dissecting their time down here thus far. Such rich conversation, challenging questions, and positive discussions we've had so far, I can't wait to see where the rest of the week goes. And (big news!) Dunc and I still love each other! We haven't fought yet! Best co-leaders ever :)

Until tomorrow,

And We're Back

After 2 flights en route to Durham, North Carolina, 2 five hour trips to the Smokey Mountains, 1 blown out rear windshield, 1 6am flight to St. Louis, 1 5 hour road trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1 wild wedding weekend ride, 1 11 hour road trip back up to St. Louis, and 3 flights back down to Ecuador, I am glad to say the travel is done and the blog is back.

Well, the travel is done until this Thursday when Dunc and I take our Vanderbilt spring break group to Banos, and the blog is back in the sense that most posts this week will be written in sleep-deprived stupors late at night...but at least progress is being made. No camera yet, so I might resort to posting pictures I find on the internet, otherwise you'll just be left with my words and we all know those can get old quick :)

Dana and I are currently both on our computers in my room (she's moved in for the spring break weeks so that the college kids can have the apartment to themselves), and everyone else is sound asleep. Apparently today's Minga at Alinambi went exhausting-ly well, and also apparently buying enough food from markets for spring break requires a truck bed. Oh the joys.

Welcome, March. Time for another monthly update...the first of the new year. Coming soon, I really do promise.