Guest Blog

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.


Dave's Family Guest Teaches in Nicaragua

In May, Nicaragua Program Director Dave Schmid's family came for a visit. In this blog, Mrs. Mary Schmid shares an account of her experience in the community.
A big thank you to Mary, Dave and the entire Schmid family for all your help and support!

Our son David is in Nicaragua, and we decided to visit and see him at work. I myself am a teacher so I was quite interested in how they taught the different age groups their English classes. After a couple of days sight seeing, we arrived at Manna Project's after school English classes. Dave and Kayla were teaching future participles.  

After the lesson they asked myself and other family members to go to different tables and work with the students. My table had a woman my age, in her fifties, named Lorena and two teenagers. We read together and then did different writing activities. I loved looking around the room and seeing my family from New Jersey smiling and assisting their Nicaraguan students. The students were only so happy to do their work and try to get the right answers.

While teaching in New Jersey, my class is all the same age. I do have some eager learners, but not as many different levels as Dave and Kayla were faced with.  They were able to challenge the high achievers without frustrating the lower level English students. I was very impressed.

The joy in that room was felt by all. We enjoyed serving our far away neighbors, and they were very receptive students.  We were happy to be a part of something so meaningful.  After class, we were invited to come to dinner by Lorena, and my daughter was holding a baby that belonged to a parent of one of her students. In a matter of about an hour, we felt like we belonged, we were bonding from the outset.

Our family realized that age doesn't matter when learning. If one wants to learn and better themselves they are the best students to teach. They are happy to have the extra help, and attention compared to the student that has to go to school because it is the law. Manna Project has young men and women who are very willing to give of themselves, and students who work hard to please their teachers, and try to better themselves and their lives by learning English.

I was happy to return to the United States, but will miss the hospitality of the Nicaraguan people.

Wise Words from a Program Director's Mother

A guest blog from Joyce Calvo-Chen


So what is it like having a daughter work for Manna Project International?

I was shocked when Carissa first told me she was applying to Manna Project, and if accepted would be living in Nicaragua for 13 months! I had definitely been spoiled having Carissa in college only 15 minutes away from our home. After she graduated, I originally thought she would be working in New York City and was already having a hard time accepting that! The day finally came for her to leave on a grand adventure to Nicaragua and as any parent may have, I cried as we said goodbye at the airport, and then again in the car ride… all the way home. I knew it would be a long time until Christmas break and began counting down the days…

Once she started telling me about her experiences in Nicaragua, her first week in Spanish school and living with a host family, I knew she was in the right place. She was so happy and with wonderful loving people. From what I could see, she was having such a beautiful experience right away. I was relieved hearing about Carissa’s new home and so excited for her.

I never would have been brave enough to do something like that and I was in awe and so proud of her. Those words cannot describe how I felt and how I feel now.

When she came home for Christmas I was so happy to be reunited with her again! It was Carissa’s first day home when she received a Skype call from her host family in Nicaragua. She was speaking Spanish to them and I could not believe how well she was able to communicate. Her second family in Nicaragua already missed her and I could tell that the little girls in that family love her so much!

She continued to share her experiences with our friends and extended family that came to visit for the holidays. She showed us photos and videos of herself teaching English, helping the women with their jewelry cooperative, and the different communities where she works. After looking at her photos on Facebook, seeing the beauty of Nicaragua and how many experiences she has had with her new friends I am so happy for her. Despite my initial sadness and heartbreak from Carissa leaving, I am able to forgive her knowing Nicaragua is exactly where she is supposed to be.

-Joyce Calvo-Chen