5 Things I Learned in Nicaragua

Executive Director Samantha Church reflects on her August visit to MPI's Nicaragua site.

1. Manna Project is deeply connected with the communities it serves.

During my week-long trip, two community members, Sonia and Chepita, hosted me in their homes for traditional Nicaraguan lunches. Sitting on the porch, listening to the women tell timeless stories about the volunteers they have gotten to know over the years, emphasized MPI’s commitment to its motto, "Communities Serving Communities." 

2. Progress takes time.

I was extremely fortunate to be in Nicaragua when the Clínica Médica MPI (MPI medical clinic) in Villa Guadalupe received its official license from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA). Country Director Christina Palazzo and her clinic team started the licensure process in December 2014. Being there to see Christina hang this license up in the clinic was especially exciting, and a testament to the team's hard work! The license includes both primary care and specialized OB/GYN care, and will allow the clinic to actively collaborate with MINSA on community health initiatives (i.e. vaccination drives, direct referrals for specialized exams/patient follow-ups, and public health campaigns).

3. Nicaragua is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Christina brought me to Masaya Volcano National Park, which showcases one of Nicaragua’s most active volcanoes. I also had the opportunity to relax in Laguna de Apoyo’s refreshing lagoon water!

4. Everything is more colorful in Nicaragua.

Whether it be the public school playgrounds, or the massive, brightly-lit trees that line the streets of Managua, Nicaragua and its people are visibly vibrant.

5. MPI Nicaragua staff and volunteers work tirelessly to fulfill Manna Project’s mission. 

I am so honored to be working with MPI's teams. A HUGE thanks to Christina and the team for welcoming and introducing me to the impactful health, education, and livelihood programs we operate daily on-site!

Want to join the team? Early registration for Program Director positions in Nicaragua and Ecuador ends October 1st. Learn more here or apply below:

40 Things to Love About Nicaragua

The following post was written by Nicaragua Program Director Mike Fisher, who returned home to England after seven months with Manna Project in Nicaragua. Looking back on the experience, Mike shares some of the things he will remember most about Nicaragua.

Back in England

I'm back in England after seven and a half months working for Manna Project in Nicaragua.

I’ve not written a blog whilst out here, and I could say so much about the work I did, the friends I made from the U.S., the local families who welcomed me as one of their own, etc. ... but I’ll stick to Nicaragua in general for now. Since my Buzzfeed-addled mind can now only think in lists, here’s a sample of things I’ll associate with a country I’ve grown to know and love:

Part 1

  • Pouting to gesticulate everything like you’re Jagger in his heyday;
  • inexplicably deserted beaches (for now);
  • crimson sunsets;
  • mad cheap travel;
  • mosquitoes;
  • dogs;
  • geckos;
  • iguanas;
  • more mosquitoes;
  • more dogs;
  • birds of paradise;
  • swarms of gorgeous butterflies;
  • smoking volcanoes on the horizon;
  • and churning lava you can’t drag your gaze from.

Part 2

  • Berserk street parties;
  • walking through six back gardens to get to your friend’s house;
  • a total openness of home and heart;
  • beer wars: Toña vs Victoria Clásica;
  • no one likes Victoria Frost;
  • postal addresses which are literally just directions from landmarks so you end up having “Sr. Flores, three km south of the Western Fire Station and two blocks to the East, the second house to the left of the little blue church, Nicaragua”;
  • gallo pinto and every other combination of rice and beans imaginable;
  • and turning all the fans in the world on to your face full blast in order to make it through the week.
  • The bus experience: essentially a riot in motion as locals ply their goods over the music whilst the money collector screams the name of the destination out the window over and over again – "RIVAS RIVAS RIVAS RIVAS RIVAS GASEOSA AGUA RIVAS RIVAS RIVAS!";
  • a complete inability to organize into two teams for a football game;
  • and humbling graciousness and helpfulness embedded so deeply into the national culture it’s almost ubiquitous.

Part 3

  • A weariness of a war-battered past and a determination for peaceful progress;
  • the Daniel Ortega phenomenon;
  • driving through red lights because it’s getting a bit dark outside;
  • horse-drawn carts going past whilst kids play marbles and hopscotch in the street;
  • that one ten-year-old boy who tears through Cedro Galán on a white stallion like a Boss.
  • Two cent bananas and two dollar apples;
  • everywhere a ceaseless reggaeton and bachata party;
  • night skies coated in the clearest stars;
  • the radio station which ingeniously pirates Magic FM from the UK and throws over their own jingles;
  • getting a one dollar haircut every fortnight;
  • suave chele,
  • todo tuani,
  • fist bumping fifty kids before you get into the classroom... the list could go on.

 Nicaragua, and the people I met there, I’ll be paying you a visit again as soon as I can.

want to work in Nicaragua?

Responding to the Zika Virus

First and foremost, Manna Project International is committed to the safety and security of our volunteers and staff. For more information, contact samantha@mannaproject.org.

Both of MPI's clinics in Nicaragua are experiencing a sharp increase in patient numbers due to the increased prevalence of suspected Zika virus cases. While there is no treatment for the Zika virus, MPI is working to reduce its impact on the communities we serve by providing:

  • Medication to treat pain and fever,
  • Protective measures such as mosquito repellant, fans, and screens,
  • Preventative education to reduce the spread of Zika virus, and
  • Risk reduction through the elimination of standing water sources.

Please donate today to help families impacted by the Zika virus in Nicaragua. Thank you!

On the road to the Cedro Clinic in Nicaragua

On the road to the Cedro Clinic in Nicaragua

The Top Twelve Highlights from Intern Session 2

Summer Interns, what was your favorite moment from the first two weeks of your internship? 

1. Dinner at the Ney’s: Mackenzie, 20, University of Michigan

Dinner at the Ney’s house in Cedro Galan. Martha Ney is an incredible cook and it was fun bonding with all of the interns as well as the Ney siblings. After dinner, we walked home in the pouring rain and laughed the entire way. It felt amazing to be cooled off after a long, hot day. It is always great to spend time in the community.

2. Gym Class: Haley, 19, Washington College

Gym class is my absolute favorite. As a kid, gym was always my favorite part of the day. Being able to play games with the kids and watch them enjoy the class brings a smile to my face. After the first few classes, the kids started to remember my name and run up to me to say “Hi” at the beginning of class. The connection that I’ve made with the children in gym has driven my excitement for all of the programs and the next two weeks.


3. The First Day of Generation Class: Anaisy, 25, University of South Florida

The best part of my first two weeks in Nicaragua started on the very first day of my internship. The Generation class (a weekly class for students interested in medicine) was going over neurological disorders and how they related to their community. A fellow intern and I got to demonstrate the cranial nerves exam to the class and had the students practice each step in pairs. The students had so much energy and excitement to learn, which made it so much fun to work with them. Having this awesome experience so early on definitely set the tone for the remainder of our month in Nicaragua!

4. Generation Class, Part 2: Nicole, 22, University of South Florida

Teaching the kids in Generation class, especially in our last session on cardiac disease. As a medical student, I loved being able to educate and advise the younger students who want to become involved in the healthcare field. This session was particularly fun, as we got to teach practical cardiac exam skills to the class. We played the song Stayin’ Alive and got the entire class dancing while practicing chest compressions. It was amazing to see all of the students so excited and invested in what we were teaching.


5. Villa Guadalupe: Amalia, 22, Beloit College

Walking around Villa Guadalupe with the Program Directors as my guides. The PDs were able to educate me on the history of the community and introduce me to some of the residents. Being able to discuss the social, economic, and political issues that this disenfranchised community faces helped me to better understand Nicaragua and the goals of Manna Project.


6. Meeting with the Boss: Dalia, 29, University of South Florida

My first week went by like a whirlwind. I can say that, after the first day, I knew that Manna Project International was exactly the type of NGO I wanted to intern for. The amount of support Manna Project provides for individuals’ research is incredible. I came to Manna to pursue research in Intimate Partner Violence in rural communities with hopes to start a domestic violence prevention program. After meeting with the Country Director during the first week, without hesitation, she showed me her full support in my project; for that, I am very grateful!

7. OOBLECK!: Maeson, 21, Texas Christian University

One of my favorite memories was of making Oobleck in Camp JAM. This particular day in the program, we read Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck and surprised the kids by actually making the magical, liquid-solid substance from the story. The look on each of the kids’ faces as they felt the gooey Oobleck was priceless and it was the most laughs that I have shared with the kids thus far. Making Oobleck was a memorable activity from my own childhood so it was really special sharing the same experience with the kids here.


8. Little Moments in the Community: Maggie, 20, Loyola University Chicago

One of the highlights was talking with two English students between levels 1 and 4. We laughed about my fear of giant beetles and the grilled corn cob that one of the students had in her bag.  They also shared with me how a nacatamal, a traditional Nicaraguan dish, is made.  It was fun to hear them practice their English as well as help me with my Spanish.  One of my favorite things about Manna Project is the emphasis that they place on incredibly strong community relationships; moments such as that one really demonstrates the value of the relationships.


9. The Trip to Esteli: Rae, 20, Furman University

Nicaragua has been an interesting place to volunteer abroad, but thus far my favorite moment of these two weeks has been travelling to Esteli and Somoto Canyon for hikes and swims in the rapids. At first, I was not interested in going to Somoto Canyon because I don’t necessarily enjoy hiking, jumping off rocks, or swimming in rapids. The journey there sort of made me question the worth of the trip; having almost left some of the group at the bus station and riding in the back of a pickup truck to the site. Even though it was probably the most risky thing I have done, it was also the most exhilarating.


10. Homestay with Lorena: Savannah, 22, Belmont University

It was hard for me to choose a favorite moment from the past two weeks, but I finally settled on my homestay with a woman in our Cedro Galan community named Lorena. From the moment we arrived in Nicaragua, Lorena has been a comforting and kind presence. Last week I spent the night at her house with Rae and we had a wonderful time talking about different aspects of Nicaragua and getting to know her daily life. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

11. The Dust Monsters: Patrick, 21, University of South Florida

As redundant as this might sound, it is difficult for me to pick my single favorite moment that really stuck during these first two weeks. I will have to go with my two best friends, the dust monsters. These little tykes join us for Camp JAM and come visit during morning clinic hours when I work. Since they are dirty every time that I see them (hence the name) I assume that even when we are not spending time together, they continue their exploits in having adventures. Playing with them is fun and easy and their camaraderie towards each other is exemplary. Always putting a smile on my face, some of my fondest moments in Nica so far have been with the fun-loving, good-time-having, dirty-shirted dust monsters.


12. Home is Where You’re Welcomed: Lucas, 23, University of Wisconsin

During my first English 5 class, one conversation served as a reminder of the kindness, empathy, and generosity of the people I have met in Nicaragua. One student asked me about my home in the States. We spoke about my hobbies, favorite restaurants, friends, and family; then I asked him about his family, passions, job, and home here in Nicaragua. He explained that he was thrilled to have me in Nicaragua and that I am always welcome in his home. I have come to realize and appreciate that, despite our differences, Nicaragua and the people I have met will always be considered a second home; everyone in the community genuinely cares about one another’s well being and passions.


The Internship: Part 2

Recapping last week on MPI NIcaragua: the interns jumped headfirst into their respective new programs, each with challenging responsibilities and exciting roles. How did they fare in their first week on the job? Did they succeed in pulling off their various leadership positions and activities? Read on to find out more:

Teaching. Laxing. Sweating. And having a blast all at the same time. According to intern Zach Ripberger, “I found it both exciting and challenging to plan and execute the lessons more independently.” In math class, both Zach and Maggie took the reigns on enlightening students regarding the intricacies of angles.

On the other hand, intern Amrit has found a passion in Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) and gym classes for she enjoys, “how LtN not only allows students to find an outlet through sports but also how each practice incorporates a lesson on respect, leadership, teamwork, etc.” Who ever said learning couldn’t be fun?


Meanwhile, over at the clinic, interns Esther, Elhaam, Savannah, Chicky, Rachel, and Amanda have jumped in and assisted with patient intake at El Farito--learning about medicine and playing with several adorable babies. Chicky has even been given the chance to shadow with Dr. Wendy at the Cedro Galan clinic and Dr. Helen at the Villa Guadalupe clinic, each of whom have helped her to discover more about her specific passions regarding a future career in medicine. All in all--has this intern group been working hard? Check. Have they been learning Spanish? Si, mucha. Are they still sweating buckets? You bet. But most of all, are they thankful to have a pool? 100%.

Now, let’s flash to the Manna House, where between frequent dips in the pool and Game of Thrones binge-watching sessions, bonding between the interns has proven a huge success. After one late night pool party, Chicky almost accurately imitated Mike’s charming British accent and Team “Becky with the Good Hair” came out on top of intern/PD trivia (pop quiz: what is coprolite? See PD Martha for details). Naturally, the next step for the interns was to take their new-found friendships to the next level with volcano boarding on Volcan Cerro Negro in Leon. As frequently quoted by the interns’ favorite tour guide-turned-best friend Derek, this “radical extreme sport” redefined the words “heights” and “thrill-seeking” for the group as they hiked and sped down a 720-meter volcano. Casual. Overall, the outing resulted in one of the interns almost breaking the daily speed record. In fact, intern Amanda came only several kilometers per hour away from winning the day’s speed competition, clocking in at 67 kilometers per hour instead of 68 (we still claim it counts).



While the remainder of the weekend escape may or may not have included a failed photoshoot at the statuesque Cathedral in Leon’s central square, all in all the interns found fabulous food and inspiring views on virtually every street corner. This action-packed week came to a close with Maggie’s 20th birthday celebration--complete with several renditions of the Nicaraguan birthday song and a cookie-topped funfetti cake courtesy of PD Madeline.

It’s safe to say that with each coming week, the interns have found MPI Nicaragua’s Internship program to not only be educational and thought-provoking, but also a fun and relaxed way to kick off the summer and add a few more sites to their travel logs. Where will the interns be next week? How will they survive the upcoming Murder Mystery Night and the first food-themed Camp JAM activity? Check back with us la proxima semana for a detailed account on the interns’ next adventures.