summer volunteers

Short-term volunteering has definitely made an impact

With a synopsis of summer session 1 in Ecuador, Sam comes to us with a guest blog.  We also are now getting underway with session 2, which you can track in their own tab at the top of the page!  

Sitting at the airport at 4 AM doesn’t sound like it would be very fun, but when you are with a crew of summer volunteers that you have just shared a month of great adventures, wonderful triumphs and lasting memories—there could be much worse places to be.  It was then, in the wee hours of the morning, we said goodbye to our beloved first summer session volunteer group (with the exception on the one eight-weeker, Elizabeth—or ‘Sista Fix’).  It was a sad goodbye for me.  I spent an enormous amount of time with the summer session one volunteers, being as I am the summer session one coordinator.   

People have often asked me whether volunteers being here in Ecuador, helping MPI out for ‘only a month,’ really makes a difference.  Well, I am here to tell you that the presence of these summer volunteers DID make a difference— in so many ways.  They constructed a set of shelves for backpacks and a sturdy bench and storage box.  They ran their own English classes for adults and children and worked at two different orphanages teaching preventative health and general knowledge.  They painted our upstairs space where we hold cooking, English and exercise classes.  They helped in Children’s Art Classes and with the Small Business Development program.  They lovingly and willingly played with and taught children, teens and adults in our library—and much much more.   

Not only did the summer volunteer group help in an operational capacity, but they brought a certain state of mind that we PDs sometimes lose throughout the year.  They bring fresh ideas and a new and exciting energy that has such a wide reaching impact that it is difficult to describe.  It is easy to merely fall into a routine here.  After ten months, I know that I was guilty of that.  However, when the summer volunteers came, I felt revitalized and I know that the rest of the house appreciated their insight and energy as well.  The summer volunteer experience is meant to expose volunteers to another culture, while allowing them the opportunity to volunteer abroad, but the byproduct of this is much more far-reaching than I really expected.  They made an impact on the communities and organizations that they worked with, but they also made a strong impact on me.  I am very grateful to have had the summer session one volunteers in our house here in Ecuador.  MPI Ecuador will miss them. 

And now for summer session two….

Welcome Summer Volunteers!

MPI Ecuador blog readers, allow me the pleasure of introducing six wonderful volunteers who will be with us for this month: Caroline, Elizabeth, Robert, Sydney, Taylor, and Zach!  Hailing from James Madison University, the University of Georgia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miami University of Ohio, and Vanderbilt University (in no particular order), six new faces are now to be seen about our house in Sangolquí.  Since arriving last Thursday and Friday, they have had a flurry of orientation to our programs and life in the house, as well as to Quito and the Valley.  They've spent time in the library and teen center, playing games and reading with the kids, and have already jumped into some of our programs: Caroline taught Brock's adult English class on Saturday in his absentia, and Elizabeth was Luke's right-hand-woman during Saturday's cooking class!

Over the next four weeks, these lovely volunteers will be not only assisting in our current programs, but they will also be helping us complete shorter-term projects, expand upon our ideas for programs, and planning and executing their own projects with partner organizations.  From running leadership workshops with teens at Jesus Divino to teaching an English class for children in the neighborhood of San Juan in the Valley, they will be seeing plenty of life in the Valley.  Not to mention some cool weekend travel on the side.
MPI Ecuador Summer Session 1, along with Sam, Session 1 Coordinator, and Luke, at the Basílica in Quito!
The volunteers' experience with Manna will constitute something considerably different from those which PDs can convey on this blog, so in an effort to give blog readers access to the freshness and perspective that our volunteers are already bringing us, I am giving them the keys to their own separate tab on the Manna blog, Summer Session 1!  You can click on it above, right next to our home page tab.  Over the next month we will simultaneously be running our regular programs as well as the volunteers' projects, so please check back regularly for updates on both aspects of summer in Ecuador with MPI!

Natural Science Class strikes back!

We shelved the explosive natural science course back in February; as it turned out, five classes a week in the library is a little overwhelming for kids. But when school got out a few weeks ago and our summer volunteers arrived, we thought the third attempt might be the trick!

We decided to structure the class as follows: one class per week, from 4-6 on Tuesdays, focusing on environmental and agriculture education. Summer volunteers Jen and Mae helped to spearhead the course; although the first class resulted in a bunch of no-shows, their more successful second class was spent learning about the importance of trees and classifying the flora around the cancha, followed by a lesson on gardening at Fundacion Añamisi.

We spent the third class exploring the nature reserve of Pasachoa (that massive mountain that takes up most of the valley's skyline; a few of us climbed it back in January). We traveled to Amaguaña with 14 kids in tow, including Christian, one of our regular teens, Jen Mae, and me. After picking up our naturalist guide, we headed into the park; Mariella gracefully explained the flora and fauna within the park, pointed out crisp and clear streams that slither down from Cotopaxi's glacier, and taught them about the importance of conservation in Ecuador. While we gathered at the entrance, we ran into a reporter for El Commercio, the major newspaper in Quito. She interviewed us about MPI and our work, and we'll be looking out for the weekly edition to see if we made the cut!

The boys enjoy the view from our camioneta ride into the park

Yes, running up and down a hill 20 times actually IS enjoyable

Inspecting the crystal clear waters of the stream

Jen, Mae, Me and our troops

I have really enjoying planning paseos for the kids in the library and I really hope next year's PDs continue to organize them! Note: by next year I actually mean next week; the 2010-2011 E-team is currently in Miami beating Nicaragua, and maybe even Guatemala, at every game possible to keep up our legacy alive...

until next time,

Summer Session II: More Introductions!

Onto the second half of session two!

So far, four of the volunteers have been volunteering at Fundacion Añamisi twice a week, weeding and planting in the garden, and sometimes saving hens from decapitation by Christian's dogs...

Mae and Laura help protect the Gallina while Karla, Kendra and Jen keep Tommy away

Last week, Kendra Peters and her green thumb unearthed this giant turnip (somehow it only took a month and a half to grow). Kendra graduated from Georgetown University this past spring and will be starting work at a consulting firm in San Francisco in the fall. When she's not in the garden, she helps survey for microfinance, teaches San Juan English, Adult English B and Women's Exercise

Kendra and her prized turnip!

Karla Luna, born and raised in Texas, has been a wonderful help for finishing up our Aliñambi Nutrition Program; her fluency in Spanish helps entertain the kids (although when she accidentally called a beet 'rumilacha' instead of 'remolacha' they never let her hear the end of it). She just graduated from UT with a degree in nutrition and spent a week in Nicaragua this past spring. She's helping to plan a charla for our preventative health program here in a few weeks as well as teaching Adult English and Women's Exercise.

Karla poses atop the Panecillo

Mae Nester comes from the great University of Delaware and the even greater undergraduate club, Students for the Environment! Mae just finished her freshman year studying biology and advocating for environmental issues on campus. We share a mutual love of compost, the first state, and bright clothing (specifically scarves). When we're not reminiscing about S4E, Mae works hard teaching literacy class, Children's English, and explaining how to pronounce her name to kids in the library ('como MAYO').

Mae and I squinting atop Quilotoa this past weekend

We are so excited to have Isabel Delgado, who lived in Cuenca for the first 14 years of her life, here with us this session! Isabel just finished school in Minnesota. On top of helping us with Spanish, providing cultural insight, and cooking delicious soups for us, she teaches Adult English A and B, Natural Science class and Art class. Last week, along with Karla, Mike and myself, she talked at length about deforestation in Ecuador during our monthly radio charla. I can't properly express how excited they were to have native speakers on the show after months of our Spanglish!

Isabel (left) broadcasting at Super K with Mike and Karla

Kendra, Mae, and I etch our names into a plant in the Plaza (a trick that Isabel taught us)

Until next time,

Summer Session II - Volunteer Introductions!

Summer Session II is almost half finished! The volunteers have spent the last two weeks integrating themselves into our programs, and teaching some of their own. I'd say this calls for some introductions...

Bobo (striped green sweater and blue hat) hanging out with fellow summer vols during their weekend trip to Quilotoa

Elizabeth Bobo hails from Arkansas and just finished her freshman year at Tulane, majoring in Latin American Studies and Spanish. Bobo, as she has come to be known, is involved in a ton of programs including: Women's Exercise, Adult English, Kid's English, Art, and Cooking class. Quite the busy woman!

Flori (far left) after a morning volunteering with a partner organization, Remanzo

Flori Garcia joins us from Crown Point, Indiana. Flori just completed her freshman year at Pomona College in California, where she played soccer with Claire (an 8-week volunteer). She is spending most of her time teaching Kid's English both at our Centro and in San Juan, helping out with Women's Exercise and dominating Microfinance with Chet and Erik.

Elizabeth riding a horse back up the very steep Quilotoa trail

Elizabeth Murray is from John's Creek, Georgia. She is going to be a senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in Management and Economics. Elizabeth is involved in the Teen Center, Microfinance, Agriculture and Adult English.

Samah (far right) stops for a shot with the group in front of the laguna

Samah Rizvi graduated from the University of Colorado and dove straight into Americorps, where she spent the last year living and working outside of Chicago. Samah is working with Kid's English in San Juan, Adult English at the Centro, as well as in the brand new Preventive Health Center.


PS. Thanks to Claire for donating the pictures!