Capital: Managua | Population: 6.2 Million
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
- 54% underemployment
- 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
- 43% live on less than $1.00 a day
- 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
- Intermediate English
- Lacrosse the Nations
- Math Support
- Preventative Health Education
- Villa Guadalupe Health Clinic
- Women's Jewelry Cooperative
- 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 community of Villa Guadalupe lives in extreme poverty, suffering from widespread problems related to the lack of health services, limited employment and few educational opportunities. The Coopertiva de Servicios Múltiples de Mujeres Emprendedores La Chureca (COOSMECH) jewelry cooperative creates dignified work and a steady income for over 25 women through the Camino Nuevo jewelry line. In addition to economic stability, working with the cooperative provides women with educational and leadership opportunities.
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 Minnesota '15, Political Science and Global Studies
Kayla Sloane is from Lakeville, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in May of 2015 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Global Studies. After studying abroad in Kenya, Kayla developed a passion for international development and knew she wanted a post-college experience that including serving local communities abroad. Based on her commitment to service and passion for people, Kayla was drawn to Manna Project’s mission as an organization. She is eager to cultivate cross-cultural relationships and positively impact the communities she serves.
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. Most recently, 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 excited to gain more experience in this sphere with Manna Project's programs for women and girls in Nicaragua, and plans to pursue a career in public policy after her time with Manna Project.
University of Texas '14, Social Work
Heidi is originally from Houston but lives in Austin, Texas when she is not in Nicaragua. Heidi graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor's of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin (hook 'em)! Before joining Manna Project in Nicaragua, Heidi was a case manager for a large national nonprofit. After her time with MPI, Heidi hopes to pursue a degree in social work with a possible dual degree in public health, and is particularly passionate about working with older adults.
Colorado State University '14, Health and Exercise Science and Business Administration
Jessica Whitney was born and raised in Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University in 2014 with an undergraduate degree in Health and Exercise Science with a concentration in Sports Medicine and a Business Administration minor. Following graduation, Jessica spent a year in the Vail Valley pursuing her EMT-Basic and Intravenous Therapy Certifications and working with Vail Sports Medicine Physical Therapy. Jessica has always been inspired to travel and experience new cultures and has journeyed to various countries including Thailand and Costa Rica. Working with Manna Project gives Jessica the opportunity to make a long-term impact within Nicaraguan communities. Jessica plans to attend Physician Assistant School upon return to the United States.
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 as a Program Director 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. While in Nicaragua Dan is also working with MPI's partner organization Lacrosse the Nations. After Manna Dan plans to attend medical school.
University of Colorado '15, Journalism and Computer Science
Carissa is from Boulder, Colorado. In 2015 she graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in journalism and an additional field of study in computer science. During college, Carissa spent a week teaching dance to students in Nicaragua. She started to look for a program where she could live in Nicaragua long term, teaching and serving others. Manna Project is the perfect fit and she couldn’t wait to join the team. Carissa enjoys being immersed in Nicaraguan culture and loves sharing her passions with others. Carissa plans to pursue a career in non-profit public relations and communications.
Northeastern University '19, History and Political Science
Hank grew up in Madison Connecticut and is currently on loan to MPI from Northeastern University in Boston where he is a sophomore. Prior to coming to Nicaragua, Hank served with education-based nonprofit organizations City Year and Jumpstart, working to close the achievement gap and provide opportunities to young people. His experiences motivated him to continue his paradigm of service into his very first co-op at Northeastern University which brought him more than a thousand miles away from snowy Boston to sunny Managua. Hank's favorite feature of MPI is it's holistic approach that serves to address all the needs of the people MPI serves through it's diverse program areas and partner organizations such as Lacrosse the Nations. Hank is passionate about martial arts and hopes to one day run his own nonprofit to help teach discipline and other skills through using the medium of martial arts.
University of Southampton, UK, 2012, English Literature
Mike joined us from England in January 2016. After graduating at the University of Southampton, Mike tutored English in China before managing large education centres in the London region for three years. He has lots of experience and enthusiasm for widening education opportunities in local communities, and he's found like-minded people at MPI in Nicaragua. With this new experience of Project Management under his belt, Mike intends to pursue a career in International Development using education.
Northeastern University '18, International Affairs, History, & Spanish
Madeline is from Kansas City, Kansas , but has moved 9 times in the last 20 years, living in places like Mexico City, Mexico and Montreal, Quebec. She is currently a student at Northeastern University where she studies International Affairs, however she is now fulfilling her co-operative education requirement by working with the Manna Project in Nicaragua. She chose Nicaragua because of her passion for Latin American culture and working with people. She hopes to continue working in Latin America after she graduates from university.
Rutgers University '15, Economics
Dave is from Lumberton, New Jersey and completed his degree in Economics at Rutgers University. Having played lacrosse in college, Dave was originally drawn to working with MPI through our partnership with Lacrosse the Nations in Nicaragua. He enjoys the fact that MPI's holistic approach doesn't mean giving handouts to people, rather coming alongside as they work towards a goal. The best experience so far has been the people of Nicaragua who are some of the most kind people you can meet in the world.
University of South Carolina '15, Biology and Neuroscience
Maria Molinaro was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and is a recent graduate from the University of South Carolina. In South Carolina, Maria spent her time studying neuroscience, biology and working with philanthropic organizations. MPI was a calling to Maria due to its focus in global health and helping children. She hopes to improve livelihood opportunities in Nicaragua and learn more about the issues in Global Health. After the 7 months, she hopes to go to medical school to become a Pediatric Neurologist with a track in International Medicine. She wants to thank her family, friends and MPI for this amazing experience and is grateful to be a part of such an influential group.