Population: 6.2 Million | CAPITAL: MANAGUA
In the heart of Central America lies a beautiful land of untouched rainforests, pristine crater lakes and rugged volcanoes. Nicaragua is a country of contrasts, known throughout the region for its diverse cultural history, vibrant art, and grand literature. Visitors find themselves welcomed by a passionate people living at their own pace, where age-old traditions combine with deep faith for a strong, authentic character.
Nicaragua’s vast potential springs from a past as varied and dramatic as its landscape. A long history of political turmoil, violence and natural disasters has slowed development. The country is now the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with 76% of the population living on less than $2.00 a day. This environment is an opportunity for successful and sustainable development through long-term, holistic service.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS directly benefited
Hours served by volunteers last year
- Teenage pregnancies account for 1 in 4 births
- 75% never completed elementary school
- 43% live on less than $1.00 a day
- 100% of children need treatment for parasites
- 15% of children ages 5-14 involved in child labor
- 1 in 3 children suffers from chronic malnutrition
- 21% of children drop out in the first grade
- 52% of women have experienced domestic violence
- 53% of girls do not attend secondary school
- 1 in 10 adults has type 2 diabetes
- 9.2 hospital beds for every 10,000 people
- 96% do not have access to preventive health care
- The public education and health systems did not begin until the 1980’s
- Adolescent Health Education
- Cedro Galán Health Clinic
- Child Sponsorship and Nutrition
- Creative Arts
- English Vocational Training
- Lacrosse the Nations
- Math Support
- Preventative Health Education
- Villa Guadalupe Health Clinic
- Youth Medical Career Education
Cedro galán & Chiquilistagua
For more than ten years, Manna Project has been a constant presence in the neighboring, semi-rural communities of Cedro Galán and Chiquilistagua. Families live in open-air homes with dirt floors, and imported cars share the road with ox-drawn carts. These communities, located on the outskirts of Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua, have extremely limited access to even the most basic services. Opportunities for advancement are rare. While few ever leave, families are strong and committed to finding a better future for their children and grandchildren.
For many years, Manna Project served families living in La Chureca, Central America’s largest municipal trash dump. Incredibly, the dump was home to more than 1,000 people who survived by sorting and selling trash. When the Nicaraguan government closed the dump and relocated these families to Villa Guadalupe, along with 3,700 people who were left homeless by flooding in 2010, we moved with them. The community faces unemployment, constant food insecurity and malnutrition. In the absence of outside resources, motivated leaders are emerging, and neighbors give what they can to support one another.
You Can Make A Difference
Nicaragua has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Latin America. Manna Project partners with local secondary schools to teach health classes to boys and girls separately, where adolescents may speak openly about issues they face. Curriculum covers basic nutrition and physical health. Students participate in discussions on stereotypes, gender inequality and the physical, emotional and cultural aspects of sexual health.
Learning a second language has been shown to increase overall cognitive ability, enhance performance in other academic areas, develop creative and critical thinking skills, and boost self-confidence and self-actualization. In addition, English language skills create employment opportunities in Nicaragua's growing tourism industry. Manna Project’s English program helps low-income adults develop the knowledge and understanding to enter this job market and thrive in all areas of life.
In a country with only one doctor for every 2,700 people, families living in poverty feel the impact of this shortage the most. The Cedro Galán Clinic is a partnership with the University of South Florida Health Colleges to provide crucial primary care and health education for the underserved community of Cedro Galán. The Clinic is staffed by local staff, Dr. Wendy and nurse Selma, and provided more than 1,600 appointments to community members in 2014 alone.
Nicaragua’s public schools face limited basic materials with a 40:1 student/teacher ratio. In this environment, it can take a student up to 10 years to complete primary school. Manna Project’s highly popular English program empowers children with English language skills that strengthens the fluency of the speaker’s primary language while increasing changes for overall academic success. English fluency can also provide lifelong benefit and upward mobility for underprivileged children as they grow up and enter the workforce.
The Child Sponsorship and Nutrition program serves critically undernourished children. Weekly home visits, health education for mothers, and medical attention build strong relationships and intervene at a critical stage of development. Sponsors contribute $20/month to provide milk, oatmeal, beans and vitamins in addition to medical care, health monitoring and gifts on special occasions.
Structured and unstructured playtime is crucial for the physical, emotional and cognitive development of a child. Manna Project’s Creative Arts program in Cedro Galán is specifically designed to help Nicaraguan children between the ages of 5 and 12 realize their creative capacity. Weekly games, art and music provide a safe space where low-income children can develop lifelong problem solving skills.
One of the premier job opportunities for English-speakers in Nicaragua is to work for an English language call center. While there are many openings, few are qualified. MPI offers a course to train students in skills needed by local call centers. The end result of the course is that students possess the skills needed to successfully apply for and obtain employment at a local call center, thereby vastly improving the livelihoods of both themselves and their families.
Manna Project works in partnership with Lacrosse the Nations to create joy and opportunity for children in need. Participants develop life skills and self-esteem to succeed both on and off the field. In a community where only one in four people completes primary school, the program results in improved health, school enrollment, attendance and graduation rates.
In Nicaragua, 75% of students never complete primary school. Public schools have a 40:1 student-to-teacher ratio, poor teacher attendance and weak curriculum. The Math Program provides support for children struggling with basic math skills while promoting life skills, critical thinking and the value of education.
Health statistics in Nicaragua are staggering: 1 in 3 children suffers chronic malnutrition, 30% of deaths result from cardiovascular disease and 1 in 10 adults has type 2 diabetes with little access to insulin. Manna Project reaches underserved communities with education and tools needed to increase wellness through prevention.
Villa Guadalupe is home to more than 1,000 people displaced by the closure of La Chureca, Central America’s largest municipal open-air trash dump. These families joined 3,700 others displaced by flooding. The Clinica Medica MPI addresses the many health complications caused by years of living in La Chureca and provides primary care/health education to all.
The Youth Medical Career Education program, called Generation, prepares students for a career in the health field. Through participation in interactive classes, students learn to perform a full musculoskeletal exam and take medical histories. Students gain additional skills by volunteering in the Cedro Galán Health Clinic. Following completion of the course, students attend an intensive test-prep course in order to help prepare them for university entrance exams.
SDA Bocconi School of Management, Milan, Italy
Christina’s involvement with non-profits began as she pursued her undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. While a student, she volunteered with a domestic violence organization and went on to spend 8 years working with women and children homeless due to domestic violence. In 2009, Christina received a Masters in Public Management from SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy. During graduate school, she interned at the World Health Organization, which later led her to volunteer at a health center in rural Nicaragua. She spent 2 years working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Prior to assuming the Nicaragua Country Director role, Christina worked as a Research and Evaluation Associate for Safe Horizon, a victim’s services non-profit in New York.
Seattle University, Washington
As site coordinator for MPI Nicaragua, Austin supports the site’s growing programming and impact while leading our team of program directors in the realization of MPI's mission, vision and goals. Austin first became interested in nonprofit work and international development when he lived in Ecuador from 2005 – 2006 and saw unmet needs that he knew didn’t need to exist. Since then, Austin has received a Masters of Nonprofit Leadership from Seattle University in 2014, and gained 6 years of nonprofit experience along the way. His most recent role was with a large hunger-relief organization in Seattle, Washington, sourcing millions of pounds of donated food from manufacturers, farmers, and distributors. Austin and his wife Kelsie have always planned on transitioning into international nonprofit and education work, and they are thrilled to be in beautiful Nicaragua.
Clark University '14, Community Development and Planning
Dana is from Cumberland, Maine and graduated with her B.A. in International Development from Clark University in 2013. That same summer, she came to Nicaragua for the first time to work with MPI as a short-term volunteer. During her time in Nicaragua, she fell in love with the communities that Manna Project serves and became intrigued by the organization's holistic approach to development. After completing her M.A. in Community Development & Planning in 2014, she returned to Nicaragua as a Program Director. After a year of serving through MPI's educational and business development programs, Dana began her second year with MPI as a Senior Program Director. In her current role, Dana provides on-site and organizational support to MPI.
University of Pennsylvania '12, History (Diplomatic)
Martha is from Seattle, Washington. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in History (Diplomatic) in 2012. Through her past professional and volunteer experiences, Martha has developed a strong interest in the social sector, specifically, matters addressing women and girls' access and development. Before joining Manna Project, she worked as a Marketing Manager for Memunatu Magazine, a nonprofit startup aimed at promoting literacy, leadership, and empowerment for teenage girls in West Africa. Martha is in her second year in Nicaragua where she leads programs for women and girls. Martha plans to pursue a career in public policy after her time with Manna Project.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill '15, Biology and Psychology
Shanelle is from East Lyme, Connecticut. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2015 with a double major in Biology and Psychology. While at UNC, Shanelle volunteered in the emergency department at Duke Regional Hospital and led a children’s tutoring program through UNC's Habitat for Humanity campus chapter. After spending the summer of 2013 teaching English and shadowing physicians in the Azores Islands, Shanelle developed a strong interest in global health and service. Shanelle admires Manna Project’s holistic approach to sustainable development and enjoys forming meaningful relationships with community members and improving her Spanish. After her time in Nicaragua, Shanelle plans to pursue a career in medicine.
Colorado College '15, Biochemistry
Dan was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He attended college at Colorado College, where he graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry. Dan chose to work in Nicaragua because he wanted to be involved with Manna Project's holistic approach and work in the medical clinics in Cedro Gálan and Villa Guadalupe. As a Senior Program Director, Dan is also working with MPI's partner organization Lacrosse the Nations. After Manna Project, Dan plans to attend medical school.
Emory University '16, Biology
Sanjana was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She graduated from Emory University in May 2016 with a B.S. in Biology. Following her service trip to Lima, Perú in 2011, Sanjana discovered her passions in global medicine and health education. When she stumbled upon an application for Manna Project International four years later, she instantly knew she had found her gap year calling. Working with Manna Project gives Sanjana the opportunity to immerse herself in a new culture, develop sustainable partnerships, and positively impact the communities in healthcare, education, and livelihoods. After her time in Nicaragua, Sanjana plans to attend medical school and hopes to pursue a career in pediatrics.
University of Texas at Austin ‘16, Health Promotion, Community Health and Wellness
Niki is from Oceanside, California. She graduated in 2016 from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Health Promotion and a specialization in Community Health and Wellness. Niki has always desired to work in community development and to live in a foreign country. She is excited to be working with Manna Project International because she is able to fulfill both of these desires and she loves the organization's holistic and well-rounded approach. After Niki returns to the United States, she plans to attend nursing school and eventually become a midwife.
Carleton College '16, Political Science and International Relations
Gavin is from Los Angeles, California. He graduated in June 2016 from Carleton College with a BA in Political Science and International Relations. Gavin is interested in improving access to healthcare and education, as well as supporting sustainable energy and agricultural programs. In college, he studied abroad in Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia and Tanzania, but spent his time on campus playing soccer and Ultimate Frisbee. Gavin is very thankful to be a part of Manna Project, and is excited to pursue a career in public policy and the nonprofit sector.
University of Richmond '16, Healthcare Studies
Brooke Wilson is from Frederick, Maryland and graduated from the University of Richmond in May of 2016. She received her B.A. in Healthcare Studies while playing varsity lacrosse. Throughout her coursework, Brooke developed a passion for global health and community development. After serving and coaching in Kingston, Jamaica as well as Pampas Grande, Peru, she was compelled to continue this work. Brooke was drawn to Manna Project’s mission as an organization and is eager to further develop her cross-cultural understanding and nonprofit experience.
Franklin & Marshall College ‘16, Psychology and Spanish
Rachel is from Ridgewood, New Jersey and graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 2016 with a double major in psychology and Spanish. Rachel worked as a summer intern with Manna Project in 2013 and fell in love with Manna Project’s holistic approach to development. Rachel vowed to come back to Nicaragua to get to know the communities and the organization more closely. While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and traveling throughout South America, Rachel's passion for Latin America grew along with her desire to return to Nicaragua to make an impact. Rachel plans to pursue a career in clinical psychology.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania ‘16, Finance, International Business and Spanish
Stephanie is from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and minors in International Business and Spanish. In 2015, Stephanie spent two months working with Manna Project as a short-term volunteer and fell in love with the communities that the organization serves, prompting her to return for thirteen months as a Program Director. Working in the educational and business development programs has fueled her passion for creating more economic opportunities for women. After working with Manna Project, Stephanie plans to pursue an MBA in International Finance and work for a nonprofit organization to continue serving others.
Hampden-Sydney College '16, Economics and Business
Tucker is from Richmond, Virginia. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in May of 2016 where he Majored in Economics and Business. Tucker also played on the varsity lacrosse team at Hampden-Sydney College. Tucker is excited to work with Manna Project as he believes in the values instilled by the holistic approach to development. He is also very excited to help grow the game of lacrosse through Lacrosse the Nations.
University of Delaware ‘16, Marketing and Spanish
Rachel is from small-town Springfield, New Jersey. She graduated from the University of Delaware in 2016 with a Marketing major and Spanish minor. Throughout college, Rachel worked with a variety of nonprofits as a volunteer, intern, and part-time employee. A summer internship with Manna Project in 2014 left Rachel aspiring to return once again. Rachel's family immigrated to the United States in 1991, sparking her interest in culture, language, and community development. Rachel was drawn to the holistic nature of Manna Project’s development work. After her time in Nicaragua, Rachel hopes to use this experience to keep finding ways to change the world.