New Program Description Series

With the start of our English, nutrition, cooking, and computer classes, our schedules have finally been finalized and we have finally gotten into the swing of things. All our workloads just got heavier and our time more constricted, but everyone is thriving so far. Since we've finally started all our programs, it's a great time to begin a weekly blog write up describing each of our programs written by the director of that program. The series will include a description of the program, what is currently happening within the it, and what the director envisions for the it over their next year of shaping the program.  I'll be starting the series describing our Teen Center, which is run by Peter, Jenny, and myself. 

The Teen Center is a separate part from our library that only children 12 years old and above are able use. This provides their own unique, mature space that they can hang out in when they want to escape the potentially wild atmosphere that is the library. The space has a crafts, board games, a ping pong table, and the biggest draw, the video game corner. While it doesn't seem like much, it means so much for the kids that can enter, and even more to the kids that can't. I witnessed for my first time yesterday the pure elation that a kid gets when he can finally enter. Bryan had turned 12 the day before yesterday and couldn't wait to get in. I think I played ping pong with him for a solid two hours before he got tired of it, and God was he awful. We also hold events specifically for the teens. This mostly comes in the form of a movie night every month where we bring our projector and create a mini theater for the kids on a Friday night. Our first one is September 21st and the kids are already excited. While movie nights are great, we are going to expand upon the idea of a monthly event this year. 
For October, we are planning on a hosting a salsa class for the kids, free of charge, led by our friend Danny who happens to be a member for the Ecuadorian Salsa team that competes globally. Yeah, we know. However, what we are most excited for is that our Thanksgiving volunteer group from UGA has chosen the Teen Center as it's focus project. We've decided to wait till then to do a huge remodeling of the space. We are planning on painting the area, building new furniture, tearing down useless parts, and generally doing a massive sprucing up of the space. Besides more events and a remodeling, my fellow directors and I have set the goal of turning the Teen Center into a more educational area. This will include setting up small library specifically for the teens, which will hopefully include subscriptions to a few magazines to keep the area updated and interesting. The big task will be getting the kids away from the video games. While extremely helpful in drawing them in, we also want them to take advantage of the space we provide and get something out of it besides how to beat Super Mario in an hour.
View of the Teen Center 

Jenny Prepping for the Kids


The Game Corner

If you would like to contribute to the Teen Center to help us achieve these goals, you can make a donation on the right side of the blog and simply specify the Teen Center. If you would like to contribute in a more direct way, you can send us anything in the list on the right side to our office in Nashville where it will find a way to us and be less of a dent in your pocket. Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Next week: Children's Art by Polly Colgan

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!


PD(s) on the Radio

We spent the better part of this week promoting and preparing for tomorrow's celebracion comunitaria. Some of these activities include collecting borrowed chairs and tents, picking up 80 brand new manna shirts, coordinating local restaurants to cook and sell food, buying raffle prizes, preparing composting workshops, and so on. Promotion involved jumping on buses heading into the valley, walking around surrounding communities with flyers and loud speaker in hand shouting 'celebracion comunitaria en la cancha cordovez mañana a las tres en la tarde!'

Additionally, today Krysta and I made a special trip to Super K, a radio station in Sangolqui that broadcasts all over the valley, to advertise during a 30-minute interview segment. Krysta had been there twice before, once with Seth's teen camp in July and again to promote our free health clinic from August, but it was my first time and I was terrified. Not only am I not big on public speaking, I tend to panic when I can't take my time to think about my Spanish and conjugate tenses before I blurt things out.

Oh the fear of live broadcasts!

Oswaldo, the incredibly friendly director of Super K asked me a few questions in the beginning that went well and then Krysta took over, fluidly discussing everything from our current programs to tomorrow's celebration. Thinking I was off the hook, I got a little distracted by one of Oswaldo's co-workers who was snapping pictures at us. Before I knew it, Oswaldo was directing a question at me that I only half heard and interpreted to be 'what other games will you be running tomorrow?' to which I enthusiastically answered 'sillas musicales!' (musical chairs - my specialty). In reality, he was asking me about our Rumiñahui soccer team and what position I played.. oops.

Later this afternoon, while advertising with Sonia and Bibi, a community member commented that she heard us on the radio and will be coming to the event tomorrow. Despite her little chuckle as I walked away, I think a little humiliation is a small price to pay for a well-attended event...

Stay tuned for a post-celebration update!


Balancing Act

Today's guest blog comes from Miss Haley Booe (pronounced like boo, not booey). Haley hails from North Carolina and the hookie-infested Virginia Tech University. She's well known around here for being a Tai Chi enthusiast, enjoying toast, introducing us to Step Up (1 and 2), and having a huge supportive heart. For example if you check out the group Women's Exercise picture below you can catch a glimpse of one of her motivational signs that reads 'believe in yourself, you can do it!'

"Life in the Manna House, as you might have already guessed, is a bit like a circus. It may be due to the fact that once a week there is food in someone’s hair by the end of dinner, but recently, I’m convinced it’s because many of us have been perfecting a balancing act in regard to programs.

My time in Ecuador thus far has been concentrated on the Women’s Exercise program. Recently, we moved locations to the third floor of the library. This was an exciting move for us, because now we have our own space and a chance to further network within the library community. On the other hand, we’ve also been having a difficult time with attendance, and trying to figure out how to boost our numbers. One culprit could be the Ecuadorian fear that all foreigners have swine flu. And since my pale (almost translucent at this point) skin and light hair scream “Gringa,” people might be running in the opposite direction for that reason. As plausible as that theory sounds, I think it’s more likely caused by the fact that the past two months have been a transition period, both in the Manna House and in our Ecuadorian communities. Many people spend August and early September soaking up the last days of summer by taking family vacations and are busy doing what us Spanglish-speaking gringos call matriculando-ing (Spanglish for “matricular” or registering for school). Now that school is back in session, and that we’ve made phone calls to over 70 women who have previously attended exercise classes, attendance is slowly picking up. The women who attend class regularly are great, and I am excited and ready to see this program grow this year.

Aside from learning how to do guided meditation in Spanish for yoga class (apparently a class favorite… who knew?) I’ve recently been helping with lesson planning for English. I am helping Chet teach Adult English on Wednesdays and am starting to help Sarah with Children’s English on Mondays. The nutrition program for Aliñambi also requires some time, as several of us spent mornings going to the school to take growth measurements on each of the students. It’s very exciting to be a part of these different programs, and it’s looking to be a promising year.

Understandably, it takes a bit of juggling and a lot of planning to prepare for and teach many different classes - hence why I often feel like I’m a part of the circus. But then again, it could be that I’m woken up most mornings by the cow (whose grunts more closely resemble those of a dinosaur) that likes to graze outside of our window. Although the chaos of the Manna house and the flexibility required to run programs sometimes resembles a Barnum and Bailey’s three ring stage, Ecuador is becoming my home and I’m thrilled to be a part of a these communities.
Haley strengthening her core with a smile

Sonia, me and one of the other women doing yoga

Haley leading us into Meditation

Group picture after last Thursday's Yoga class

¡Hasta pronto!
- Haley "

Advertising Antics

When you're starting up a handful of new programs, excessive advertising comes with the territory.  Planning for classes, charlas, mingas, and health clinics takes a ton of time and we certainly want to make sure we have successful event turn outs.  In order to make this happen, we are on our way to mastering various types of advertising strategies.  Some are pretty straightforward: making posters, handing out flyers to community members and library kids, and attending as many community-based meetings as possible (churches, town councils, futbol leagues etc.).  

There are also some more non-traditional methods.  One of them involves hopping on buses and having one person give a presentation while the other puts up flyers at the front of the bus; so far Erik and Mike have mastered the art of bus advertising while the rest of us stick to less intimidating methods.  However, starting next week I will be participating in three days of advertising via riding around on a Camioneta shouting into a megaphone about the details of our very first Minga, set for the third of October.  

Erik and I have collaborated to co-lead a community clean up in Rumiloma.  It's a perfect combination as he is in charge of organizing Mingas (an Ecuadorian word for people coming together to do community service projects) and I am running the environmental programs.  Litter is a huge problem in our community as people are accustomed to simply throwing trash, from water bottles to candy wrappers, all over the streets.  Many community members approached us both in the library and at one of the town meetings last week about this issue and wanting public trash cans.  We've also created a friendly competition between library kids to give them incentives to come to the clean up.  Hopefully we'll be able to use this time to talk with interested people about improving waste management and mitigation for our community. 

I'll keep you updated about how the telefoneo incident goes (and of course about the clean up itself);  I think I'll be spending the next week taking notes on the Camionetas drive down our streets yelling things like "el gas el gas el gas" and "escobas escobas... escobas."  

- Jackie