In the Manna Project world, March is one of our busiest months because of Spring Break season! This year, Vanderbilt University, the College of Charleston, the University of North Carolina and the University of South Florida came to Nicaragua to participate in MPI programs, hold their own community project, and visit a destination outside Managua. As Program Directors, it was our duty to ensure that the groups are taking part in each of these activities, while making sure they are having fun, learning and, most importantly, that they are safe. Thank you to our amazing Spring Break groups!
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
An incredible medical team from the University of South Florida including attending physicians, medical residents and students worked with the Cedro Galán Clinic to reach 230 patients in just 5 days. This group of 15 worked hard to build the capacity of our clinic staff and volunteers, offered specialized care and education to community members in the clinic and during home visits, met with the community advisory board, and taught lessons on nutrition and exercise in the Girls' Health class at Chiquilistagua!
The students from Vanderbilt were absolutely amazing and took on two different projects within the week they were here. One project was with our jewelry cooperative, which employs 22 women who are former residents of Central America’s largest municipal trash dump, La Chureca, where they survived by sorting and selling trash. These women now live in Villa Guadalupe and earn a living through sales of their jewelry line, Camino Nuevo. The cooperative designs and produces its own jewelry, and members receive 100% of the profit. They worked with students from Vanderbilt to share their creation process. Then, the Vanderbilt team took great initiative and created a new, creative marketing scheme to help the cooperative improve sales.
In addition, Vanderbilt organized and held a talent show for MPI’s children after-school program, Camp JAM. The children and families absolutely loved the event with over 100 people in attendance! After their trip and projects were complete, one student felt so passionate about Manna Project that they applied to come back for a month in May as a Summer Intern!
College of Charleston
Within the same week, students from the College of Charleston visited MPI’s site in Nicaragua and had an extremely positive experience. The group held three deparasitation clinics in Farito, MPI's community center, and were extremely successful. Deparasitation is very important, because 100% of children in the community have parasitic infections that lead to impaired absorption of nutrients and decreased immune function. Overall, the team deparasited 826 community members in Cedro Galán!
In addition to their project, the group attended many programs like our English Vocational Training class, which prepares students for employment in one of Managua's call centers. The students from the College of Charleston thoroughly enjoyed this class because not only did they help the class practice speaking conversational English, they also were able to form a bond with the students and get to know the Nicaraguan culture better. The College of Charleston team consistently went outside the boundaries of their comfort zones, practiced their Spanish, and immersed themselves in the culture.
University of North Carolina
The volunteers from UNC-Chapel Hill were our last group for Spring Break! This group selected to hold a 5K to raise money for the MPI Clinic in Cedro Galan. Throughout the week, the UNC team walked throughout the community to flyer for the 5K and met many different community members in Cedro Galan. 300 people participated in the 5K and we raised more than $7,500!!! In addition to this achievement, the UNC members kindly donated $2,800 worth of Spanish books for the children in Camp JAM. The children were given one book each during Camp JAM that week, and were so delighted with UNC and their donations! UNC joined with the Program Directors and students of Lacrosse the Nations to play in a fun lacrosse tournament and connected the students to the community in Villa Guadalupe.
During the weekend, some groups went on an away trip to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful natural reserve with kayaking, paddle-boarding and a beautiful beach! Then the teams spent the night in Granada: a vibrant, historical city in Nicaragua which they enjoyed exploring.
Each group was able to truly immerse themselves in Nicaragua’s culture through community walking, community dinners and program participation. At the end of each trip, the Spring Break volunteers gave their opinions on their trips. Unanimously, they said that the most rewarding experience was meeting the people of Cedro Galán and Villa Guadalupe because not only did community members help them with their projects, but they also learned from them as well.