library space

One Step Closer to Airing on the Food Network

It's official - the 3rd floor kitchen has finally been installed! After months of fundraising, budgeting, purchasing, and installing, the far side of the third floor finally looks like a kitchen (instead of a haphazard storage space - see below). Big shout outs to Sonia, who took the reins on this project from the first budget draft, and to Krysta who spent the better part of last week cleaning out the space and getting everything put in its place. Our task now is to spend the next month promoting and planning classes to be ready to begin in early April.

A gigantic thank you to all of our unbelievable donors:
  • The Peterson Family
  • The Booe Family
  • Dana Conway
  • The Zhou Family
Literally none of this picturesque spread below would be possible without you. We'll think of you every time we flip an egg or sauté fresh vegetables!

the sink/painted window/slight storage area before...

... and after! hey look, there are mountains back there!

beautiful spankin' new cookware

expertly matched cutlery (I bet you can guess who picked those out)

a spread of utensils, stove, knives, pots and pans, and so much more

Culinary-ly yours,

We like to move it...

... it being 10 book shelves, 8 tables, a dozen chairs, and close to 2,000 library books.

After observing that many parents are intimidated by the hoards of small children running around for coloring pages and markers as they walk in the door, we decided that some changes needed to be made to the library layout. We did this with two of our goals in mind: increasing readership and catering to adults. Although this is just the first step of many to work towards these goals - we plan to organize a reading competition & book clubs for the spring - we're proud of the new layout and increased ability to control game playing and encourage reading.

Check it out for yourself!

photos courtesy of Miss Krysta Peterson

book shelves serve as a barrier between rowdy games and quieter reading

the new rincon de leer, complete with a rincon of bean bags and circled shelves

This 4-day weekend we're all headed to different parts of the country for none other than carnaval, the South American equivalent of Mardi Gras. Don't worry, we're fully equipped to defend ourselves with water balloons and shaving cream!


Different Strokes

Over the past month we have been filling out 'organizational matrices' to keep track of our goals throughout the next quarter for each of our programs. While we still have awesomely solid programs like children's Art and English classes in full swing, we also have many new initiatives and enhanced programs that are well worth pointing out...

Generally speaking: We've started calling our building space Centro de Manna to encompass everything that we offer, including the library, teen center, and third floor space used for Women's exercise, classes, and future preventative health center.

Library: We have $1,000 of new books !!! We're also in the process of reallocating the library space to focus on our goals of appealing to more adults and encouraging reading.

Education: We have a new adult English class in Barrio Rumiñahui, lead by Chet and Mike. We also added a world studies class, connecting South American-focused geography with natural science and environmental issues.

Teen Center: Shawn, Mike, and Erik are working on attracting more teens to bi-weekly movie nights and special monthly events, with a Valentine's day party coming up.

Women's Exercise: Haley/Jillian Michaels, with help from the other health constituents, added a new Wednesday morning class and is working on giving workshops to dedicated attendees who are interesting in helping lead exercise in the future.

Microfinance: Erik and Chet are designing a survey to get to know the small businesses in the community and assess the feasibility of creating a network between them.

Agriculture/Environment: Jackie is working on monthly AG charlas, composting and rain barrel workshops, and monthly field trips for kids to explore the great outdoors.

Nutrition: Krysta is working with local school Aliñambi on a project that includes community based nutrition education, cooking classes, and an agricultural aspect to connect participants to where their food comes from.

Preventative Health: We've been buying and setting up our Centro kitchen (expect pictures soon and a huge thank you to all of our donors!). Sarah, Sonia and Shawn have been working with the Conocoto Ministry of Health on planning the center and finding future staffing.

Mingas: Erik is working with local government officials on setting up public trash bins in Rumiloma, as well as other community projects such as potentially building a a local bridge.

Phew! - I know that's a lot of information, and you're probably feeling like you want to dip your toes deeper into our refreshing pool of community development. But don't you worry because we're about to embark on a new chapter of guest blogs. First up, Haley Booe tomorrow - this will be a special one, folks... I've heard already heard it rehearsed in the living room!

We also promise to go into more depth about these projects as they progress, and if there's anything you're dying to hear more of, holler at us!



It's officially September which means that our string of visitors have left, we're now only cooking for 10 (plus dessert for Bibi), and programs begin in t-minus two weeks from yesterday.  Up until now being here felt more or less like summer camp, perhaps because we were running a camp of our own.  However, as August began to slip away and the realization that we wouldn't be going home for another year of school settled in, so did the magnitude of the upcoming twelve months.  

One area that is undergoing considerable change is the physical and operational structure of our library.  Last year's PDs worked their tushes off to obtain, set up, and manage the library space, making it a place for community members to interact, play, and most importantly, enjoy reading.   Now that the foundation has been built, it is our job to transform it into a fundamental piece of the community where we work.  Come September 14, we will be running all of our programs out of the library space, from Art to Children's English to Women's Exercise which will be held above the library in a space we just recently began renting.  

Mike Gabrys and I are co-managing the library and part of our job is to envision what we want it to look like when we leave next summer.  Though it's tough to imagine life a year from now, it's an important consideration, keeping in mind of course that visions are often different than originally intended.   This type of mentality is necessary for every program that we run here at Manna and it's something we've all been thinking about as we begin to draw up lesson plans and map out other programatic ideas. 

Shawn and I explain the wonders of I Spy

In other news, today was an interesting day for a couple of reasons: 

Mike and I took a trip to the mailbox to retrieve a birthday box (thanks Ma!) and to our surprise, a postcard from our dear friend and past PD, Serena!  It appears that she didn't expect said postcard to arrive for several years because in it she introduced herself, explained the programs that she started, and asked us to e-mail her about progress since she left (which was about two weeks ago).  Needless to say, we love you Serena! 

There was also a post-dinner incident concerning a handful of girls and a contaminated bowl of pizza dough that contained twice the amount of yeast than the recipe called for.  For more information please see below...

Krysta, Haley, and Dana mid-battle 


Departures & Coming Attractions

It was a pretty low key weekend for us in the Valley. A few people were under the weather from either street food or the dinner that Erik and I cooked on Friday night (hopefully the former). We kicked off the weekend with a meeting about the future of the library. Topics included a classroom management discussion led by Lori, revising the disciplinary rules, and brainstorming ideas like creating a weekly story time hour. A few of us has planned on waking up early to go to Machachi for a parade and festival, but illness and my malfunctioning alarm clock transformed our day into lounging around the house. After a week of chasing kids around at camp and promoting our free health clinic for next week, I think a lazy Saturday was just what we needed.

On a more somber note, Seth Harlan, our veteran PD who has been working with Manna for the past two years is leaving us on Tuesday to go to the Galapagos before he heads back to the States for his brother's wedding. We're all really sad to see him go as we've spent the last month getting to know his outgoing, fun and extremely considerate personality during the Jovenes camp and as well as in the Teen Center. For example, just a few minutes ago Seth came down here and gave me a plastic spinning top, a Nalgene, a backpack, a couple ace bandages and... drumroll please... a folder that says "dog gone cute" on it. What a guy.

We spent his last Saturday out in Quito eating at La Fotonovela, a charming Mexican restaurant run by an enthusiastic ex-soap opera star and going out dancing with some of Seth's friends. There are a few positive items about Seth's departure: he's writing a guest blog for us this week, he'll be back next Thursday for a night and promised to go salsa-ing with us, AND most importantly, he has a return trip ticket for late October! Maybe some of the other old PDs will follow suit and come visit us soon too! (wink wink)

Seth receiving a celebratory drink

Lori gets one too!

Rather than getting a drink, Haley spills salsa on herself

Coming attractions for this week of blogging:
  • First round of interviews of the '09-'10 PDs: Chester Polson, Sonia Patel, Haley Booe, Erik Swanson and me!
  • Guest Blog from Seth Harlan
  • A couple of birthdays
  • More anecdotes from summer camp
Get Pumped!

- Jackie