After the excitement and anticipation of Program Director orientation in Miami, our team finally made it to Managua. We were immersed in the culture right away as we walked down to the Plaza to celebrate Revolution Day, one of Nicaragua’s largest national holidays, on our very first weekend.

After spending the weekend at the Manna Project house, we set out for Spanish school in Matagalpa, two hours to the north. Matagalpa is a beautiful, small city in a mountainous region known for producing some of the world’s best coffee. We each stayed with a different host family and attended Spanish classes together during the day, where we learned to cook delicious doughnuts called buñuelos and heard more about the history of the Nicaraguan Revolution. When we were not with our host families or in Spanish class, we used our rapidly expanding vocabulary to tour the city, visit museums and cemeteries, and hike the Cerro Apante.

Our team is now back in Managua, where we are wrapping up our training for community programs. We can’t wait to start!

Carissa Chen and Liz Rosenbaum, Nicaragua Program Directors

The More, the Merrier!

Nearly everyone in the Manna house did some traveling during Semana Santa—some PDs left Nicaragua to travel to the US and Guatemala, while others explored Rio San Juan and Leon. Lucky for us, the fun and excitement of our week of vacation continued upon our return to the Manna House. In addition to the visiting parents of three PDs, three old PDs from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 stayed in the Manna House!
Many community members were extremely excited to visit with Hemby, Carly, and Steph, who attended classes, did homestays, and attended a wedding during their time here in Cedro Galan. Steph will be with us for another week, although we won’t see in her the house quite as much as we’d like, in light of her decision to spend as many nights as possible in community homestays. It’s great to have old PDs here and to hear their feedback on the evolution of programs and the community. Not to mention how helpful Steph and Carly were during my recent battle with head lice (now completely gone thanks to Steph’s masterful nit-picking skills!).
Although we are sad to say goodbye to Hemby, Carly, and Steph, this summer we will be graced by more special visits from last year’s PDs, including Megan, Luke, and Katie. We’re also getting excited to share the Manna experience with our summer interns, who will begin to arrive on May 12th. We anticipate re-energizing our sports programs and English classes with summer volunteers’ fresh perspective and experience. Hopefully their arrival will coincide with the onset of the rainy season, so we can get some relief from the winter heat!

2009-2010 PD Andrew with Holly

Home Stays

This week, Jesse has shared his recent home stay experience. Here in Managua, we each do one four-night home stay in the community to expand relationships with students and community members. Enjoy!

Last week half of our group did homestays for four nights with different families in Cedro Galan. When we initially talked about doing homestays again I wasn’t particularly excited, although I really should have been. I wasn’t dreading it by any means but I didn’t really feel like I was going to accomplish much by doing it and it meant some inconveniences in terms of using internet, getting work done, and washing clothes among other things. However, this quickly changed after I decided who I wanted to do my homestay with. After some encouragement from Sam I decided to ask Samuel, a fourteen year old boy who sometimes comes to a couple of our programs, if he thought his parents would be okay with me doing my homestay there. Despite the awkward nature of asking someone I had never met if I could stay at their house for a few nights, the conversation with his parents went well and they said that they would be glad to host me. My attitude about staying in the community quickly changed and I became excited to stay with Samuel and his family.

Samuel is an extremely intelligent kid with so much potential. However, he has had some trouble at school in the past and is currently taking the year off. Because of this he has a lot of free time and spends it with older guys who seem to be anything but a good influence on him. He is also very susceptible to this influence because he lacks the self confidence necessary to make his own decisions and be his own person. Upon leaving, some of last year’s PD’s told me to watch out for Samuel and said that he was on the edge and could either become one of the “guys on the corner” or could actually realize his potential and become a productive, contributing member of society. The prospect of staying with Samuel and the opportunity to potentially be a positive role model for him was very exciting for me. I felt as if I was actually trying to accomplish something during my week at their house.

In short, my stay with the Davila family was great. Samuel’s mom, Doña Norma, is one of the sweetest people I’ve met. She is also a fantastic cook which certainly made my homestay even more pleasant. Although Samuel’s dad wasn’t around very often during the week due to his demanding job as a security guard I did get to meet him and spend a short amount of time with him and he too is a very quiet but welcoming man. They run a “venta,” or little store, out of their home that Doña Norma usually tends but that Samuel assists with. Each evening after dinner Samuel and I would watch the news at 7:00 and then an episode of House, one of Samuel’s favorite shows, at 8:00 before going to bed. One day it rained all day and we weren’t able to leave the house at all so we just sat and talked for hours. We talked about a variety of subjects including school, nature, food, sports, and science. In all, it was a fantastic week.

I feel like I was really able to connect with Samuel throughout my week at his house. I don’t maintain any illusions that I will be the determining factor that causes Samuel to go more consistently to our programs, do better in school when he returns in February, and become a successful member of the community here. However, I do think that my stay there did some good. It at least laid a stronger foundation for a relationship that I hope to maintain and expand upon. Hopefully our friendship will grow throughout my remaining time here and I can continue to provide an extra little push that could help him take a step or two in the right direction. And at the very least, we both had a great time.


When I first arrived in Nicaragua I was ambivalent about drinking the tap water. Before departing I had dutifully gone to the travel clinic where I updated all my shots and of course got thoroughly warned about all of the exotic sicknesses that can be contracted in Latin America. Many of these sicknesses can be acquired by drinking contaminated water. In the Manna house I noticed that the old PDs were drinking from both the tap and a purified water jug. I asked around about this and learned that the tap water in Managua is reportedly treated the same way that tap water is in the United States. So, the argument here has been that maybe the water won't make you sick now, but in ten years or so maybe then you'll start seeing the consequences. In response to that worry I went to asked about drinking tap water in Managua to Amira to which she replied, "I've been here for 10 years and I've been drinking the tap water and I'm fine." Nonetheless, this does not carry off to outside of Managua, where bottled water is a must.
During my first two weeks in Managua while I was signed up for intensive Spanish school, I did a homestay. During my homestay I quickly learned something about the water realities for the people and families living in Managua, that most nights at around 6pm the water is turned off. After the water is turned off they use barrel that is filled during the day to flush the toilet, wash dishes, etc. There were many a nights were I would return from a day of 4 hours of Spanish school and an afternoon of exploring the city to a big bucket of water for a shower. Don't get me wrong, at that point I was thankful to be able to get clean. But, that experience got me thinking, if the water is regulated and restricted in such a way in the main city, what is it like for people living in more rural areas? After a little bit of research I've learned that there are many pueblos (villages/neighborhoods) that still do not have safe drinking water, not only in rural areas of Nicaragua, but in Managua too. Many of the community members that we work with in Cedro Galan and La Chureca don't have working toilets or running water. Without a proper sewage system, human waste will often contaminate water in the surrounding neighborhood, leaving the inhabitants permanently with parasites and in a weakened state.
Although Managua is on the right track with proper water sanitation with tap water, it still has a lot more development that needs to take place in order for all of Nicaragua's inhabitants to have access clean and safe drinking water.

Principe(or Prince in english) here, like many Nicaraguans,
has no choice but to drink untreated groundwater

the floods in La Chureca contaminate the roads and water
with harmful parasites and bacteria

To learn more about Blog Action Day and what you can do to help give the world access to clean water
please visit:

Home Stays, Part II - Reflection on Life at "13.5"

For four days I went nowhere without being encompassed by a tangled mass of arms and legs and hugs and kisses and shouts of children ranging from 3 to 14 years old. Welcome to 13.5! I stayed with Tatiana, Gerald, and Maycol, three precious children from my English class. Everyday, they play with their extended family members who happen to ALL live in barrio 13.5, so my homestay brought back memories of growing up around my very large and noisy and wonderful extended family. Every morning the children walked to the local Catholic school while I stayed home with their mothers. In the afternoons, madness ensued upon the chavalos return. These children play with an unmatched enthusiasm.

From tree-climbing and mandarina-picking to pickup games of baseball and soccer, these kids don't stop. I was especially touched when they wanted to play Memory with Spanish and English words, something we often do in Kid’s English to practice vocabulary. Tatiana cut out squares of paper and wrote the spanish vocabulary while I wrote the english...pretty soon, all the cousins were learning how to say gecko, shark, dog, and duck (we're studying animals in kid's english). I can't claim that keeping the pace with such a lively bunch of youngsters didn't absolutely wear me out, but I will say that being around so much joy and energy perked up my mood and helped me focus on the good in life. For a week, it was like I could go back to being a kid again, surrounded by family and laughter and silly arguments and lots of gallo pinto.

In addition to taking me back, this week was a chance to get an inner look into the daily life of members of the local community. From sunrise to bedtime, I experienced life through the eyes of 13.5, a life which entailed cousins, playtime, clothes washing on the pila, singing our respective national anthems, and very cold bucket showers when the water ran low.

Jan Margaret Rogers
Program Director