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
- Adult English
- Business Development
- Cedro Galán Health Clinic
- Children's English
- Child Sponsorship and Nutrition
- Creative Arts
- Lacrosse the Nations
- Math and Literacy Support
- Preventative Health Education
- Villa Guadalupe Health Clinic
- Women's Exercise and Nutrition
- Women's Jewelry Cooperative
- Youth Medical Career Education
Cedro galán & Chiquilistagua
Cedro Galán and Chiquilistagua are neighboring, semi-rural communities on the outskirts of Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua. Families live in open-air homes with dirt floors, and imported cars share the road with ox-drawn carts. These communities 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.
Villa Guadalupe is home to more than 1,000 people displaced by the closure of Central America’s largest municipal trash dump, La Chureca. The government relocated these families to Villa Guadalupe in 2013, along with 3,700 people who were left homeless by flooding in 2010. 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.
Small businesses frequently fail in Nicaragua due to lack of resources. In Cedro Galan, Manna Project provides support to small business owners and entrepreneurs in a variety of ways depending on community need and opportunity, as well as our own capacity. Support has included microloans, business and accounting classes, and a mentorship program.
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.
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.
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 and Literacy Program provides support for children struggling with basic math skills and reading comprehension while promoting creativity, 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 challenges of poverty can lead to depression, nutritional deficiencies and health problems. Manna Project’s Exercise and Nutrition Class Program povides an outlet for women to support one another, exercise, and work toward improved health together. Participants take pride in their progress and report increased self-confidence, healthier lifestyles and stronger community ties.
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 Camino Nuevo Jewelry Cooperative creates dignified work and a steady income for over 25 women. In addition to economic stability, working with the cooperative provides educational and leadership opportunities.
The Youth Medical Career Education program in partnership with the University of South Florida prepares students for a career in the health field. Participants learn to perform a full musculoskeletal exam and take medical histories. Curriculum covers the nervous system, cardiovascular disease, Dengue fever, sprains/fractures and diabetes. Students gain additional skills through mentorship and by volunteering in the Cedro Galan Clinic.
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.
Louisiana State University '13, Kinesiology
Juliene is from Monroe, Louisiana. She graduated Louisiana State University with a degree in Kinesiology. While at LSU she volunteered at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in the fitness department. After visiting Nicaragua in 2012 on a volunteer medical trip, she developed a passion for the culture and people in Nicaragua. This experience left her with a desire to return to the country and work in community development for an extended period of time. After hearing about Manna and the health and fitness programs they offer, she decided it would be a perfect fit. She is very eager to have an impact on the community as well as develop relationships with the people she will be working with.
New York University '13, Chemistry and Spanish
Erica Crosley is from Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from New York University in 2013 with a double major in Chemistry and Spanish. Over the past few years, she has volunteered in the pediatric department of Bellevue Hospital and worked as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. After studying abroad in Argentina, her passion for Spanish and Latin American cultures grew, and she knew she wanted a post-college experience that included helping developing communities in Latin America. Erica appreciates MPI's approach to sustainable development and is especially excited to work in the healthcare focused projects manna has to offer. Erica plans on going to medical school after her time in Nicaragua.
Emory '14, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology
Elena is from West Lafayette, Indiana. She graduated from Emory University with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. While at Emory, Elena developed a passion for public health while serving as a mentor in the Emory Health Sciences Pipeline Program. Elena became interested in Manna after learning about their child sponsorship program and focus on women’s health. Last summer she completed an internship with Manna and quickly realized that she wanted to return as a program director after college. Elena is excited to improve her Spanish and to learn more about the socioeconomic factors that impact health and wellness in 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 serves and became intrigued by the organization's holistic approach to development. After completing her M.A. in Community Development & Planning in 2014, she decided to return to work with Manna as a Program Director. She is particularly looking forward to spending more time in the communities and having the opportunity to be involved with Manna's educational and business development programs.
Auburn University '14, Nutrition and Dietetics
Julie Sawyer is from Enterprise, Alabama and recently graduated form Auburn University with a major in Nutrition and Dietetics and minor in Business. While at Auburn, Julie volunteered with Alternative Student Breaks as a participant and member of the executive board. Through her experiences volunteering with ASB, Julie developed a deep passion for serving communities abroad. Julie hopes to use her college education and love for international travel to help develop and assist the communities she will be serving through Manna. She is very eager to cultivate meaningful relationships with community members and further develop the goals of Manna and community members through holistic development in education, health, and artistic program pursuits.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania '14, Spanish and History
Gretchen Heine is originally from Frederick, Maryland and recently graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) with degrees in Spanish and History. During her time at IUP, Gretchen cultivated her passion for Latin American culture and spent a semester abroad in Puebla, Mexico. Throughout her undergraduate career, Gretchen participated in various volunteer experiences, including Alternative Spring Break trips to Texas, North Carolina, and Vermont. Based on her commitment to service and affinity for international travel, Gretchen was drawn to Manna’s mission. This next year, Gretchen is looking forward to consistent civic engagement and the opportunity to build cross-cultural relationships with community members.
University of Pennsylvania '13, Nursing and Multicultural/Global Health Studies
Natalie is from Chicago, Illinois and just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in Multicultural/Global Health Studies. As a registered nurse, Natalie is very passionate about global health and is excited to partner with the community clinic to better improve health conditions. She also looks forward to teaching women’s health and staying active through her interest in soccer. Furthermore, Natalie developed a passion for social entrepreneurship while interning in Mexico City and looks forward to participating in microfinance projects with women, especially through the jewelry cooperative. Natalie is very enthusiastic about Manna’s holistic approach as it combines many of her passions and creates an opportunity to work alongside community members to help them realize long-term health and education goals.
University of Texas '14, Political Communication Studies
Katy is from Dallas, Texas and recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Political Communication Studies. During high school, Katy went on spring break service trips to Latin America, but she always felt that she could make more of a long-lasting impact by spending an extended amount of time actually living in the communities there. Katy split her college life between The University of Virginia and Texas, and during her first year at Virginia she traveled to Managua on an alternative spring break trip where she fell in love with the beauty of the country and the people in it. Drawn to Manna by their comprehensive approach and desire to focus on meeting "the needs of each day," Katy is grateful to work with an organization that has a mission she so strongly believes in. Specifically, Katy looks forward to working in educational and fitness-related projects that Manna has to offer. More generally, Katy is excited to develop meaningful relationships with community members, to experience a different way of life, to improve her Spanish, and to gain more of an international perspective. After her time in Nicaragua, Katy plans to attend law school.
Saint Joseph's University '14, Chemical Biology and Health Care Ethics
Sam is from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He swam at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for two years before finishing a degree in Chemical Biology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While at Saint Joe's, Sam was actively involved with various health care related initiatives on campus including a Health Promoter Model, Slow-Sand Water Filter, and Lenses-To-Go program. Sam is interested in global health and was drawn to work with Manna Project International for the opportunity to have direct contact with community members in Nicaragua. Sam is an avid surfer and looks forward to making water filters for the communities on the coast of Nicaragua. Following his experience with Manna, Sam plans to pursue a career in medicine.
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina '10, History
Rob is a native Texan, but also grew up in Norway and Wisconsin before attending The Citadel in Charleston, SC. Earning a B.A. in History in 2010, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Based at Camp Lejeune, NC, Rob led a unit of Marines with amphibious armored vehicles in training stateside and also deployed to Afghanistan for a year managing programs that countered Improvised Explosive Devices. After more than four years in the Marines and promotion to Captain, Rob decided to make a career change towards the non-profit sector. Rob is excited to serve with MPI Nicaragua and gain experience through its holistic approach to sustainable development, especially in the education and business fields.
Virginia Tech '14, Communication
Blair grew up in Ripplemead, Virginia. In May 2014 she graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Communication with a focus in Public Relations, and minors in Leadership & Social Change and Marketing. Growing up in a rural area, Blair witnessed firsthand how poverty plagued many around her. This realization fueled her love of service, and in March 2012 she traveled to Nicaragua for the first time as a volunteer with the Virginia Tech Nicaraguan Orphan Fund. The country, its people, and the culture captivated her, and she has been returning every year since. Blair learned about Manna through her other trips to the country and was drawn to its holistic development approach and the opportunity to live and work with other volunteers who share her passion for loving and serving others. She is excited to work to improve the communities of Cedro Galán and Villa Guadalupe, to cultivate intentional relationships with community members, and to expand her communication skills further through her work on MPI digital media and the English program. Blair plans to pursue a career in marketing, perhaps in the non-profit sector, after her seven months with MPI.
The University of Texas at Austin '14, Biochemistry
Alexa is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey and just graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Biochemistry. After her first two visits to Nicaragua on medical mission trips with Global Medical Training, she fell in love with the culture and communities of Nicaragua. She was drawn to Manna for the ability to return to Nicaragua and for its unique holsitic approach, especially in relation to health and education. While serving as a Summer Intern for MPI in 2014, she quickly decided that she wanted to return once again to be a Program Director. She is looking forward to immersing herself in the community and furthering Manna’s goals. Following her time in Nicaragua, Alexa plans to pursue a career in medicine.
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.
Virginia Tech '15, International Studies, Spanish and Communication
Liz Rosenbaum is from Warrenton, Virginia, and graduated in May 2015 from Virginia Tech. She majored in International Studies with minors in Spanish and Communication. After spending two spring breaks in Nicaragua with Virginia Tech Nicaraguan Orphan Fund, Liz knew she wanted to return to the country for a longer period of time to work in development. Through a virtual internship through the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Liz realized she wanted an opportunity to work with an NGO on the ground to experience communities and form personal relationships. Liz was attracted to Manna Project's focus on holistic community development and she plans to continue working in a similar field after her time with Manna Project.
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.
Virginia Tech '15, Biological Sciences
Michael is from Richmond, Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Biological Sciences. While at Virginia Tech, Michael’s passion for service was demonstrated by his travels to Nicaragua for three spring breaks where he worked with children living in orphanages and hurricane refugee communities. Michael immediately fell in love with the Nicaraguan people and culture, and knew that he wanted to return to the amazing country after college. Michael is extremely excited to work with Manna Project because of his commitment to service and the organization’s holistic approach to development. Following his time in Nicaragua, Michael plans to attend physical therapy 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.