Hornado Solidario & Time with Community Members

On Saturday, May 21st, in the main town plaza just down the street from our community center, we held our 2nd Annual Hornado Solidario, a traditional way in Ecuador to raise money for a good cause. I remember in my high school in the States we used to have chicken barbeque events to raise money for sports teams...but in Ecuador, we barbeque an entire pig, whole! By the end of the day we had raised nearly $1800 to benefit Manna Project's education, health, and livelihoods programs in Ecuador, a tremendous success that will allow us to continue and expand our impact in the community.

More than anything, it was a great day spending time with our wonderful community members, students, and friends who make our time in Ecuador so special. We were all so touched by the generosity of our community members, local businesses, and local volunteers who helped make this day a success. They were the true stars of the day and the reason Manna Project in Ecuador is where it is today! We took hundreds of pictures at the event, but here are some of just a few of our community members we've grown to know and love during our time with Manna Project:

The Granda Family

The Granda family has been involved with Manna Project since it was just getting started in the Chillos Valley, and generations of Program Directors will remember their warmth, kindness, and their enthusiasm for all things Manna Project! Over the years they have invited us over to eat, donated their time to help us with projects such as our Daddy and Me events at the community center, and much more. We even we able to see José (center) play with his band at the Casa de la Cultura in Quito! The whole family is enrolled in English classes with Manna Project, and it brightens our day everytime we see them in our community center.

Yeimmy Clemencia

Yeimmy recently immigrated to Ecuador from Colombia, and has enjoyed getting involved in our community center in any way she can. She takes English classes with us on Saturdays, and was also involved in our Women's Group meetings where we discussed women's issues in Latin America. Most recently, Yeimmy has been a faithful participant in our entrepreneurship classes taught in conjunction with the U.S.-based non-profit Education Global Access Program. She has been learning a lot about marketing, pricing strategies, and much more, and is getting ready to start her own business. We're so excited to have Yeimmy as part of our community here in Ecuador, and can't wait to see her business plans take off to help her and her daughter "seguir adelante," pressing on towards a better future.

Clemencia and Blanca

Clemencia and Blanca are two very special sisters who have been involved with Manna Project for years now, and have a special way of making Program Directors feel like they've found their long lost grandmothers in Ecuador. They first got involved with Manna Project through our partnership with Dr. Escobar at the Sangolqui Hospital where we host a Diabetes Club to help diabetes patients learn about healthy lifestyles. They have also hosted Program Directors in homestays, and were so giving of their time to help prepare and serve food at the Hornado Solidario; don't they look so professional in their blue aprons? We always know we can stop by for lunch with these amazing sisters any time, and are so thankful that we've been able to get to know them during our time living in Ecuador.

Partner Organization Spotlight: Antorcha de la Vida

When I arrive at the gates of Antorcha de Vida every Wednesday morning, I am immediately greeted by hugs, smiles, handshakes, and knuckle-pounds. When you enter Antorcha, no matter if it is your first time or your forty-first, it feels like home. I breathe easy, knowing that the next two hours will be filled with ceaseless laughter and effervescent joy.

Antorcha de Vida is one of Manna Project International Ecuador’s local partner organizations, a foundation that serves children and adults with special needs; it is also one of my favorite programs. The foundation’s director, Nancy, is the kindest woman in the world and always addresses me as “mija,” a Spanish combination of the words “mi” and “hija,” meaning ‘my daughter.’ It’s touching (but from a United States perspective also a bit odd) to be treated with such love and affection by a woman I essentially work for, but such is the Ecuadorian way of life. Antorcha de Vida was largely inspired by Nancy’s youngest daughter Natalia, who has Down Syndrome - Nancy wanted Nati to have somewhere to go where she could spend her time in both a beneficial and fun way, and after realizing such a place did not exist, took it upon herself to create it.

One of my best buds at Antorcha is Freddy. He is basically the "Antorcha Dad," always grabbing the arm or hand of other students, leading them to where we are going, explaining what we are going to do, etc. Every time we do water therapy, Freddy is the most diligent about actually practicing his kicking, arm movements, and being sure to exercise his muscles. Even when we are in the small baby pool that is only a couple of feet deep, and most of the other students are just sitting and splashing each other, Freddy can be found with his hands on the side of the pool, practicing kicking. A couple of weeks ago I asked Freddy, "Why don't you get in the pool, I'll be back in a few minutes." When I came back, Freddy was standing on the side waiting for me, and when I asked why he had not gotten in, he responded, "It is better, it is more fun with you." That just about melted my heart.

At Antorcha I have learned how to make mani dulce (a delicious caramelized peanut snack), I have learned how to administer successful water therapy, but mostly I have learned joyful and how individualistic each of the students are. Freddy is time-oriented, asking the nurses where the bus is if it is even one minute late, Shirley LOVES the children’s song “Los Pollitos” and motions for me to sing it every time she sees me, Mesías always wants to be the center of attention, Nati is shy but likes to dance if given the encouragement to do so, Pablito and Marlon have fun racing and seeing which of them is fastest, etc. All of the students inspire me as they face constant cultural discrimination and a daily uphill battle of proving to people that although they are people with special needs, they are first and foremost people.

The ‘niños especiales’ of Antorcha have helped me so much more than I have helped them, and I think that is such a beautiful side to community development that friends and family at home often do not see. Yes we are working in these communities to affect change, but we are working alongside the communities, alongside community members, helping each other. I am no savior, I am not single-handedly changing the world, but rather I am I am having my own world changed by the incredible communities with whom I work.

Eduardo Galeano said, “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.” This is the world of co-learning, of co-growing, of co-serving in which I live, and it is a beautiful world indeed.

Spotlight on the Community!

Have you seen our Star of the Week and Community Member Spotlights on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Stars of the Week (Ecuador) and Community Spotlights (Nicaragua) are our favorite posts on Manna Project's social media. We found that our former Program Directors, donors, and partner organizations wanted to get a more personal feel for the communities we impact in Latin America. As a result, we created the weekly #CommunitySpotlight and #StarOfTheWeek series!

Since September, every week in Ecuador we've selected one child from our community center, English classes, or work with partner organizations to be our #StarOfTheWeek. Children are so pleased when they find out they've been selected, and they love seeing their picture up on our "Estrella de la Semana" board in our community center every week. They also provide us with some fun information as well, like their age and birthday, (which helps us remember when we have birthdays to celebrate!), favorite activities in the community center, favorite books, and favorite food.

Meet some of our past Stars, and be on the look out for our #StarOfTheWeek features on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!





Mateo, 8, is a constant fixture in our community center, and always knows how to make Program Directors smile. He loves lemon-lime Doritos, playing video games, and riding his bike with his dad.










Jessica is five years old and she loves coloring and attending Manna Project's Creative Arts club. She also loves dancing and spending time with MPI Program Directors. Thank you, Jessica, for being part of our incredible #community!










William is a community center regular and a student at Chaupitena, a local partner school where we hold English clubs with William and his classmates. William was our Star of the Week from October 5th-11th. He loves reading, drawing, and the fruit salad he learned how to make in Manna Project's Healthy Living class for children and youth.









Priscilla constantly has a smile on her face and enjoys playing with her friends in our community center and getting to know Program Directors better. She is always a good sport and is an encouragement to those around her....we're so thankful she is part of our #community!








Elvis, our Star of the Week from November 30th-December 6th, is another fixture at our community center. He loves playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, playing computer games with his cousin, and reading Scooby Doo books.