August 2017 Despedida/Bienvenida

At the beginning of August, we held our bi-annual Despedida/Bienvenida (farewell/welcome party) at Farito, located in Cedro Galan. This event gives community members a chance to celebrate the past year with the veteran Program Directors (PDs) and to welcome the new ones. It officially marks the transition of program leadership by outgoing PDs incoming PDs.

The Despedida began with speeches from the veteran PDs. One of these speeches that particularly resonated with me is below, by Rachel Zolotarsky:

A year ago, I stood at the back of Farito listening to Program Directors saying their goodbyes. I stood at the back because I did not know anyone. I did not know my coworkers, and I did not know any of you. What I did not realize was that in this year of time, I would start as “the gringa” become “profe” get called “flaquita” and eventually be referred to as “family.” Originally, I came to work with Manna Project because I loved Nicaragua, but now I know that, while I may love Nicaragua, it’s all of you that hold a piece of my heart . Because you all are my family. I leave having learned so many things from you all, like how to cook gallo pinto, when I should say “maje” or “no me jodas”, and how to be unconditionally welcoming. I only hope that I can love other people as much as you, as individuals and as a community, have loved me. We might be standing up here at the end of a year, but know that this is not my goodbye, it is simply a see you later.
 
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After speeches, us new PDs introduced ourselves and shared what we are most excited about for the coming year in Nicaragua. Introductions were followed by a picture slideshow of the work MPI has done in the community and the fond memories that were made throughout the past year. During the slideshow, us new PDs were helping out behind the scenes, slicing cake and pouring cups of soda for all the party guests. 

The Despedida was a fun-filled evening with some tearful moments and many hugs, laughs, and smiles. Looking back, Rachel’s speech strongly resonated with me as a new PD at the Despedida. I also did not know my fellow PDs well and barely knew any of the community members. I hope to be in Rachel’s shoes by that time next year, building strong relationships in the new home that I will have come to love!

 
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2017 Cedro 5K!

This year’s 5K for the Cedro Galán Clinic took place here in Nicaragua this past Saturday, March 18th. As a Program Director, this is an event I have heard about since beginning my work with Manna in July. From fundraising and crazy Program Director challenges, to training our women’s exercise team leaders and watching local community members pass the finish line the day of, the 5K is one of Manna’s most exciting and engaging events! 2017 marked the fourth year for our 5K, and was our most successful one to date.

The day began with an early start – registration for the event opened at 7:00 am at a local sports and recreation center. Race participants lined up the morning of to get their names checked off and receive their Manna 5K bandanas! Race participants included English students, local volunteers for our programs, Lacrosse the Nations’ players, health students, health promotors, and more! It was amazing to not only see participants from all our programs race, but also to see them bring new friends to support the cause!

This year we had 168 participants finish the race alongside family and friends. The overall winner for the day had an impressive time of 18:09. He was followed by our female winner of age 12. After all participants passed the finish line, they were greeted by music, games, photo booths, and food! It was a fun-filled afternoon where community members and staff of Manna got to spend time together in support of a common cause. Through their participation in the 5K, people living in Cedro Galán were able to directly serve their communities and their access to affordable health care.

A highlight of the day was partnering with local businesses who sponsored the event. This was the first year for many businesses in the surrounding area to show their support for Manna’s clinic. Whether it was through monetary donation or gifts and prizes for our winners, our local engagement was higher than it has ever been!

As our fourth annual 5K, we had high expectations for the event. Each year, the 5K has been an amazing way of supporting our clinic – bringing international communities together to practice, learn about, and celebrate health. Last year the race brought in $7.5K for the Cedro Galán Clinic. This year, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, Program Directors, and Manna followers, we raised $10,362!! With all the incredible donations, we raised above and beyond our dream goal. This is the result of the passion and support of all our donors, staff members, and race participants. The success of this year’s event speaks to the growth of our clinic, both in its capacity to provide care and its potential to grow in the future. This year’s 5K was a success in every aspect, and we are so excited to see the progression of the event in years to come.

Participants gather after passing finish line on Saturday in Cedro Galán, Nicaragua

Participants gather after passing finish line on Saturday in Cedro Galán, Nicaragua

Get to Know Our Cedro Doctoras!

What You May not Know about Our Cedro Galán Clinic

With our annual Cedro 5K fast approaching, we wanted to share the accomplishments and hard work of our Cedro Galán Clinic staff. You may know that our clinic serves over 1,500 patients annually, or that we offer low-cost treatment options to communities who need it most. However, some details you may not know are when and where our clinic offers its services, and who keeps these incredible services running.

When and Where? The Cedro Galán Clinic is located in the Cedro Galán community. It is open to all, but mainly provides services to the surrounding areas of Cedro Galán, Chiquilistagua, and Niño Jesus. The location of our clinic is important, as it is closest site offering medical consultations for these communities. If a person living in the surrounding area wanted to visit a general practitioner, they would need to travel at least an hour via public transportation to reach Managua’s main hospital. The Cedro Galán Clinic is open Mondays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Clinic staff members also do “community walking” following clinic hours on Friday afternoons. During community walking, our clinic staff make house visits to patients who are unable to come for a consultation due to their condition. Because most community members are unable to pay for regular medical insurance, the Cedro Clinic is an essential source to maintaining good health.

Who? The staff keeping the Cedro Clinic running are the most important piece of the puzzle. Our program directors aid our clinic staff with patient intake and information gathering; however, our local Doctor Wendy and Nurse Selma run the show! We sat down with them both to hear their perspectives on how the clinic has grown and what it is they love most about the job. Funds raised from events such our 5K allow Manna to employ these women and provide them with a space to do amazing work! 

Cedro 5K

Cedro 5K

Manna's fourth annual 5K is officially scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 18th! The 5K is an incredible event that involves the community members of Cedro Galán as agents of change in their community. All funds raised from the event will go directly towards our Cedro Galán medical clinic, the community’s main primary care facility. 

This year, we aim to have over 300 participants run and walk in the event to raise a total of $8,000. To do this, we have enlisted the help of community team leaders. Team leaders are volunteers from Cedro Galán who have chosen to rally their community to participate in the race. These leaders are passionate about creating a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families. The team leaders for 2017 are Lupe, Martha, Flor, Gabriela, Milagro, Lisseth, Emerita, and Paola. Their commitment to the 5K and raising funds for their community clinic is unmatched. These women are not only spreading the word about the big event, they are participating in a 6-week boot camp to prepare for their own participation in the race! Meet our team leaders, hear their stories below, and support their efforts by reading below!

The Lacrosse the Nations Cup

This year was the fourth annual LtN Cup and our most successful one to date. Not only did every team get fully sponsored by the day of the event, in total we raised over $40,000. This was $10,000 over our original goal, and over $35,000 more than LtN raised in their first Cup just three years ago. As LtN’s programs in Nicaragua continue to develop, the LtN Cup will only grow to include more players, coaches, and LtN scholars. Through this event, our LtN student-athletes are able to become agents of change for their communities and strong competitors in the lacrosse world. $4,500 of the total raised will go toward MPI's health clinics in Nicaragua.

As a Lacrosse the Nations Program Director, the LtN Cup was something I heard about before even arriving in Nicaragua. Whether I was speaking with my boss Javier, Senior Program Director Dan, or players who have participated in LtN programs in the past, everyone around me regularly expressed their excitement for this day. Having an athletic background, I could recognize and share in this excitement for competition; however, prior to experiencing the LtN Cup for myself, I can honestly say I had no idea just how special this day is.

The Cup is one of LtN’s biggest fundraisers. On the day of the event, teams that we coach from the Chiquilistagua Public School compete against the teams we coach at Club Esperanza Private school in Villa Guadalupe in a championship style format. The goal of the Cup is to get each team sponsored in order to play. Through their team’s sponsorship, LtN student athletes are able to play an active role in giving back to their communities.

On a weekly basis, we hold practices for various ages, from 4th grade all the way up to the high school level. One thing I immediately noticed upon arriving at practices was the players’ unarguable passion for lacrosse, across all age groups. Whether it was answering questions during our life skills discussions before practice, mastering a new concept, or scoring a “tuani” goal on the field, the kids show a constant love for the game. When it came to their preparation for the Cup, their motivation alone triggered my own excitement.

The day of the Cup is like no other. Players from each school arrive together on a bus geared up and ready to go. Normally, these kids practice on a gravel-dirt mixture or a concrete basketball court. On the day of the Cup, they are greeted by the site of three turf fields with painted lines and music playing. The players are divided into their respective teams and enter the fields single file. This moment alone gave me goosebumps, reminding me of when I would suit up for games. The only difference was, this is a special occasion that only comes around once a year for these kids, and they are playing for so much more.

I had the honor of coaching team Managua this year, a group of players from Chiqui. While we did not have the age or size of some other groups, I saw performances from these players that I had never seen before. Millie is high school aged girl who is able to come to practice just once a week. During the Cup she was our star defender - chasing down fast breaks and stealing the ball from boys twice her size. Fourth grader, Jose, who was by far the smallest player on the field, scored a hatrick in our last regulation game which took us to the semifinals for Chiquilistagua. Every accomplishment on the field was celebrated by team Managua that day (my personal favorite being the seated rowboat with their sticks). I could not have been more proud of my team, not for their physical performance, but for the mere energy they brought and encouragement they provided each other.

Whether players were from Chiquilistagua or Club Esperanza, being able to represent where they were from created a sense of belonging in their game. Each player's pride for their respective school and community was apparent in their demeanor. The desire to perform well and compete for their program really shown through. As a coach, there was nothing more gratifying than being able to witness all that their hard work amounted to.