Vandy's Top 11

Last week, we joined the Manna Project International Nicaragua team at their site in Managua. The eleven of us arrived after two rejuvenating nights in the Backpacker's Inn hostel in Managua, where we acclimated to the food and climate and got pumped for our week with Manna. We developed a system for taking a quick attendance of our group by counting off numbers one through eleven. This number system ensured we left no man or woman behind.  We thought it would be appropriate to section this blog post into our eleven favorite aspects of the week, in no particular order. 

1. Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) @ Club Hope: This was a great opportunity to play sports with the kids of Villa Guadalupe. Lacrosse dodgeball was bomb. Just imagine a game of dodge-ball with 30+ teenagers hurling tennis balls at each other with lacrosse sticks... 

2. English classes: We had the chance to visit English classes levels one, two, three and four of Manna's five English programs. Level one consistently had more than sixty students, and it was great to see the massive reach of Manna's language training. The upper level classes offered more opportunities for us to work one-on-one with students and to practice conversation with them. The dynamic lessons included everything from skits to singing "Wake Me Up."

3. Camp J.A.M.: Twice a week, dozens of kids flock to the community center, El Farito. Kids ages 3-teen came to hang out on Tuesdays and ThursdaysOn Tuesday, we read "The Rainbow Fish," and made our own rainbow fish (complete with aluminum foil scales). On Thursday, we did science experiments! 

4. Women's Exercise and Nutrition: This was our main project. We developed two healthy recipes to share with the women: a Nica salad and chilli. We discussed health benefits of limiting fat intake, boiling water, and eating a balanced diet. The exercise portion was limited to women only and included zumba, ab workouts, and weights. Around 15 women joined us for these.

5. Milk Day: In Villa Guadalupe, where the community members were living in the Managua municipal landfill just over a year ago, Manna operates the only clinic. We helped hand out supplies and check up on the young children registered with the clinic.

6. Roadside quesadillas: enough said.

7. Community Dinners: On Wednesday night, we split up into groups and dined with community members. This opportunity allowed us to get a glimpse of the long-lasting relationships Manna has developed with community members. In Lorena's house, she recalled stories about multiple Program Directors from the past ten years. 

8. Laguna de Apoyo: During our free Saturday before going to the Manna house, we visited Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic lake near Granada. We heard about it from a friend we made at the hostel, and decided to give it a shot. We ate some great food and kayaked in the mineral blue water. This was a great introduction to Nicaragua. 

9. Lacrosse The Nations (LtN) @ Chiquilistagua: We woke up early to join the students in Chiquilistagua for LtN. One of the Program Directors, Javier, has been especially plugged into LtN so Manna has a close relationship with the organization. They teach life lessons and discipline through lacrosse drills and matches.

10. León: After our week in Managua, we headed to León to visit museums and hit the beach. We were really looking forward to relaxing after an exhausting week (seriously, we're not sure how the PD's do this stuff every day for weeks on end) and to debrief /reflect on our week.

11. Danny and Juliene: Our fearless leaders. These program directors (PD) made our trip possible. They flawlessly orchestrated our complicated schedule. We were never late for a program, and always had everything we needed with their help (except when we ran out of peanut butter on Friday... we forgive you). Danny's energy is contagious, and his experience working at camps has set him up well for handling the kids in English class. Juliene is super enthusiastic, she came to Nicaragua a few months ago prepared to dive deeply into the culture and improve her Spanish. She totally channels her former basketball captain into her enthusiasm in class, engaging students and maintaining their attention. They are both extremely outgoing and talkative, regaling us with their tales from their PD experiences. 

Overall, our week with Manna Nicaragua gave us a great idea of what the daily life of a Program Director is like, and we had ample opportunity to get personally plugged into the weekly programming activities.

- MPI-Vanderbilt