Program Directors

A Bittersweet 'Despedida'

          The time has come to say goodbye to the program directors of 2010-2011 and transition into the new group of volunteers for the upcoming year, which always makes for a difficult yet exciting change.  Two nights ago in El Farito we held our annual despedida party, formally presenting the new volunteers to the community and giving the old ones a chance to say goodbye.  This year was unique in that we had the opportunity to introduce the new program director, Katie Messick, to the community as well.  Even though this happens every year, it still was no easy task for the program directors to bid farewell to all of the people they had become so close with this past 10-13 months.
          So the evening began with a trivia game that required the community to investigate into the lives of the new program directors, trying to discover which of the volunteers paired up with the list of trivia facts given.  Then after Amira introduced Katie and the new program directors, a handful of girls from the community performed both folklore and reggaetown dances.  Along with the help of program directors Steph and Carly, the girls were all dressed up for the occasion, wearing traditional Nicaraguan skirts and tops with makeup and hair to along with it; they all looked beautiful and danced wonderfully.  It was then time for each of the program directors of 2010-2011 to say their own special goodbye, which lead into the final and probably most anticipated event, the photo slideshow.  The slideshow was a brief five minute video of pictures that captured just a handful of the many memories and experiences that took place this past year.  The rest of the night was then spent eating cake and hanging out with the community members.  There were tears and there was laughter and of course photos being snapped in every which direction, making the entire evening absolutely awesome but definitely bittersweet as well.
A snapshot of the community members present.
Dayana dressed up in her traditional Nicaraguan folklore outfit.
The new program directors of 2011-12.
Steph and Carly dancing with some of the community members.

Final Retreat

The three week mark has come for us program directors of the year 2010-2011and so as one of our last little hoorahs before we leave we went on our final retreat this past week with Amira.  Throughout the year we go on about three of four retreats that give us an opportunity to catch up with each other and discuss how things are going.  So Wednesday morning everyone packed into the micro and headed out towards Granada.  After a yummy and pleasantly filling breakfast at Kathy’s waffle house, we then piled into a boat and headed out towards the isletas, which was where we were to stay.  The isla that was ours for the night was a quaint little house with a giant pool, lots a hammocks and sitting areas to read and rest, and lots of beautiful trees and flowers.  In between the rain we went canoeing, swam, read in the many hammocks spread around the property, played cards, and then just spent time resting and relaxing.
Then for dinner we shared a deliciously big Mexican potluck and talked about our past year here; what was good, what was most memorable and what we have learned.  Despite most of our resistance to talk initially, I think that we all appreciated the chance to reflect with each other.  I think it is safe to say that none of us are the exact same person we were when we arrived, and so to be able to share that with the people we are closest with here was great.  And it wasn't all sad talk either.  Some of our most memorable moments where actually pretty comical, such as stories about getting the car stuck or trying to deal with the crazy weather or traffic.  Overall it was a great trip, and now we are back in Managua to finish out our time.  We now also have the next few weeks to look forward to getting to know the new program directors, who arrive back from language school this Friday.  

In the boat heading out towards the isletas.
The guys enjoying their down time.
The house on the isleta where we stayed.
Will and Dane throwing the frisbee.


What is holistic community development? Well, that's a really good question. I feel like it's a lot like the phrase 'sustainable living': you hear it all the time and you use it in sentences, however you don't really know exactly what it means. Firstly, it can mean different things for different people and different organizations. For MPI, it is the base of which we do all of our work. We recognize that if we run an English class for children, if the children aren't healthy, how can they focus on learning? So, paired with our English and Art classes. We faciliate a teeth-brushing program and also help with a feeding program. We believe that by helping all aspects of a person's life (health, education, creative, happiness, social, etc...) that's when a person will really be able to grow.

Another aspect of holistic community development is how we nurture and utilize a Program Director's unique strengths and skills. For example, a current PD, Steph Barnett majored in Spanish and Developmental Education. She uses those skills to run a children's english class, and also volunteers at a pre-school in the community. On the other hand, Trent Draughon (another PD) who is more tech savvy than most of us, teaches the computer class.

I never knew much about holistic community development before I started working with Manna Project, but now that I do, it just makes sense.

Marcos taking some notes in Steph's english class

You can't tell by this photo
but this class is one of the hardest to teach.
The children are very rambunctious.
But, through Steph's masterly skill of working with children in Spanish
she is able to keep them focused.

meet the new Program Directors
our lovely Country Director!

Amira Tahir: Country Director
likes: babies, lip gloss, jogging, spanglish, and hazelnut chocolate
dislikes: rude drivers, drying dishes (washing is ok though), and nancites

Steph Barnett: Program Director
likes: sunrises, chikys,
little kids (especially when they speak spanish),
big-colorful-plastic-sunglasses, hiking, and safari animals
dislikes: cold weather and huge spiders (the small ones are al'right though)

Luke Harris: Program Director
likes: Jesus, basketball, teaching, Nicaraguan pizza, ground beef, salami, and hats
dislikes: snakes

Katie Hathaway: Program Director
likes: books, rain (when she is indoors), chocolate,
Catchphrase, Chacos, and the Texas Longhorns
dislikes: too much danish filling in a danish and
when people put wet dishes on dry dishes

Will "Guillermo" Howard: Program Director
likes: The Beatles, baseball, making various funny faces,
New Orleans Saints, FIFA, and Halo 3, salami
dislikes: spiders, dislikes, squirrels (there's nothing cute about rabies)

Zac Gordon from Boston: Program Director
likes: the Red Sox
skiiing, dogs, Nicaragua, Cháman, salami, tulips, and
the philosophy of Ayn Rand
dislikes: copy machines, talking during movies,
blue-cheese, and people who answer the phone while at the dinner table

Megan Aberley: Program Director
likes: surfing, making art, and bicycles
dislikes: stepping in dog doo and food budgets