The Little Things...

The Little Things

While it may seem intimidating at first, making the leap to volunteering in another country is something that everyone should experience. I know what it's like to live in a comfortable little bubble, hiding behind all of the eccentricities of middle-class American life. I grew up in a small town in Ohio, and haven't seen much else outside of that town. However, upon entering college, I began a desperate search for new sights and experiences.

Since coming to Nicaragua, I've talked to mothers in La Chureca, helped teach English in Farito, and played soccer with kids in Salero. I've seen kids dance their hearts out on the dirt floors of their homes. What we're told is the face of poverty actually has a smile on it. These people truly enjoy the little things in life, and make the best out of less pleasing situations. They have inspired me so much, and I truly appreciate being able to meet them.

Whether it's volunteering with Manna Project or not, find what is calling you and go after it. Stop hiding behind all of the comforts of home, and explore the world. Volunteering abroad has been one of the most rewarding experience I have had, and I am glad that I did it. The types of people I have met and the experiences I have had are just not something that I would have been able to take part in if I hadn't ventured outside of my comfort zone.

_Bryant Sheppard
Bowling Green State University
Manna Project Intern '12

Alex's Homestay

 ".... one of the boys woke up at 5 am to make it to class on time"

I walked into the house of my host family for only the second time and was met with warm greetings and bed of my own. We ate an awesome dinner with friend chicken, avocado, Nicaraguan cheese, rice, plantains, a salad, and (surprisingly) mashed potatoes. We also got a bright pink corn soft drink that...took some getting used to. Meals with Nicaraguans have been some of my favorite experiences because while it is about the food, it is more about the experience; connecting with people, sharing stories and laughter, and sitting at the table long after the food has totally disappeared. Eventually everyone went their separate ways, but I'll remember that dinner for a while. The next day one of the boys woke up at 5 AM to make it to his university on time, which made me feel pretty embarrassed for complaining about my 9 AM class so much last semester. The other woke up around 7:30 and at a leisurely breakfast of cheese, eggs, plantains, and gallo pinto (rice and beans) with his parents and me. When I asked him the reason, he said "because I slept." From my home stay, I learned a little about how to eat, how to wake up early without complaint, and how to live your life at the right pace.

Twenty and Tuani,



If you know our cook Elena, you know that she is perhaps the spunkiest of Nicaraguan women. She is sassy enough to keep the dogs in check , patient enough to put up with our 10-people-who-just-got-out-of-college messiness, and just crazy enough for spontaneous fully-clothed swims. Last week, we gave “Mamita” a day off from our home and made a visit to hers.

The ten of us piled into the micro at 9am Friday morning, excited to make the journey up the carretera to kilometer 34.5. The ride was bumpy, to say the least, but we arrived at her humble home soon enough, our stomachs grumbling. (She’d promised us a delicious brunch!) Elena ran out and greeted us warmly, showing us her kitchen and introducing us to her children and nephews and nephews’ children and children’s nephews…

As Elena began to cook eggs over the fire, her daughter Ana taught us how to make corn tortillas from scratch, rolling the white dough in a circle and then slowly flattening it out. We helped stir pancake batter and squeezed oranges for juice, laughing at the fact that we felt like we’d entered Colonial Williamsburg. The kitchen was set apart from the house, a small room with a dirt floor and holey walls. Plates and knives and various unidentified metal tools hung from the cracks in the wooden planks. Yet Elena was in her element, playfully smacking her daughter with a spoon and laughing at our gringo naivete.

So we ate a fresh breakfast and held some fluffy chicks, walked the land and heard about growing up in rural Nicaragua. Again and again, I’m blindsided by the joy of this place and the gracious nature of its people. Elena and her family live hand to mouth. They cook over an open flame. They sleep four to a room and bathe with a bucket and claim plastic lawn chairs as their only furniture. Yet Elena enters our spacious house three days a week, prepared to cook our expensive food and clean our rooms that are cluttered with excessive clothing and superfluous technology. When we stumble into the kitchen at 10am, headed straight for the coffee, she has been up since 4:oo – serving first her own family and then making the trek here to serve our messy family of gringos. With no judgment, no resentment, no bitterness. Elena’s service to us here is a lesson in grace and humility.

Until next week,