Lessons Through Lacrosse

¿Qué hubo?

Today we had two new players at afternoon lacrosse practice at Lacrosse the Nations (LtN), one of Manna Project's partner organizations in Nicaragua.

After a few weeks of inconsistent practices during late July—due to holidays and earthquakes—we are trying to get our numbers back up at practice. We’ve been encouraging all the kids to get the word out and bring their friends, family, and classmates, so we were all really excited when lacrosse player, Josseling, brought two of her cousins.

While LtN Coach and Country Director Javier Silva, and LtN volunteer, Miles, organized our warm up and passing drills, I got to teach Kevin and José Martín the basics of how to pass and catch. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but it is not an easy task to learn to throw the first time you pick up a lacrosse stick - and that’s not even considering that I was teaching them in Spanish (and I’m probably worse than I’m willing to admit). To their credit, both boys took everything in stride, and listened to and made adjustments from all of my suggestions. José Martín especially turned out to be a complete natural and was banging passes around and even putting a few shots on goal by the middle of the practice.

Even more impressive than their skill improvements were Kevin and José Martín’s attitudes. At the end of practice everyday, we go around and everyone says one thing that they liked and one they didn’t like, or something we could improve during practice. When Kevin was up, he said he enjoyed learning to play lacrosse and playing in the scrimmage with his team. José Martín said that what he didn’t like about practice was that during the games “No me dan pases,” (they didn’t pass to me). He said this with the same confidence of a player who knows once he gets the ball he’s about to tear it up. I have no doubt that as soon as everyone gets to know them a little better, these guys will be some of the first looks for passes. I personally am super excited to watch these new players develop during my time here, and I have no doubt they’ll be back playing again on Wednesday.

In addition to our new teammates, today’s practice was the best I’ve seen so far. Everyone had a good attitude and was giving 100 percent from before practice even started, during warm ups, all the way through drills and into the charla (class lesson) at the end of practice. After only one month, I’m incredibly excited to see where this energy and all these awesome kids take us during my year here.

On a more bittersweet note, today’s practice was the last for Miles, an LtN volunteer and all-around great guy who’s been here for the past month helping us with some of our behind the scenes work. We are all are certainly sad to see him go, but the work he’s done for us will definitely help us make some changes and make LtN an even better organization.

Until next time, Tuani,


Baseball and a special visit

Pictured: Lori and Modesta 

Hello, hello! While I was caught up in the excitement of our new women’s sexual heath class, I neglected to mention two recent and noteworthy happenings here in Nicaragua. Shortly after our return to the Manna house in January, we had a visit from MPI Executive Director Lori Scharffenberg, US Director Joel Griffith, and Financial Manager Greg Welch. Many families in Cedro Galan had been anxiously awaiting Lori’s visit for months, and were extremely excited to spend time with a dear friend and original program director! Lori was able to watch the evolution of old programs and the development of new ones, and also meet Modesta, the child whom she sponsors in La Chureca. The trip was equally exciting for Joel and Greg, who had never before visited the MPI Nicaragua site. We were happy to share a bit of our daily lives and enable them both to better understand exactly how we positively affect and are affected by community members throughout Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua.
In other news, Davis and Jesse have recently restarted Boys’ Baseball, holding weekly practices and attending league games at El Salero. Although the Manna team is often the underdog in terms of age and size, on Saturday they won their first victory with a score of 3-0. Although Davis and Jesse have little experience coaching baseball, they are able to manage the team thanks largely to the help of David, a student in Manna English classes who loves baseball and has a strong relationship with many of the team members.

Encounters with the Unfamiliar

Syd with a less lethal victim, an iguana

The position of Program Director entails many responsibilities and privileges, one of which is living in the beautiful Manna House. As new directors, we’re starting to better understand how to maintain and take care of the house and our two Rottweilers, Sydney and Cola. However, just as we began to feel that we’d gotten the hang of things, the fauna of Nicaragua threw us a rather frightening curve ball. On Thursday night, Sydney, our beloved older guard dog, attempted to eat a giant toad that had decided to take a dip in the pool. When poor Syd began foaming profusely at the mouth, we realized that she had crossed paths (and fluids) with a cane toad, a particularly nasty amphibian whose poison is responsible for many dog deaths. Against the odds, and after many hours of care and worry, Syd pulled through. We owe a great deal to the plethora of online resources available, our own initiative, and two local veterinarians, one of whom came to the house twice to administer shots and an IV (thanks so much, Jeff!). We’re happy to see that Sydney has completely returned to her normal, voracious, and bipolar self. Watch out, world!

On a lighter note, this past Friday we helped to host a lacrosse tournament with our new partner non profit, Lacrosse the Nations. Lacrosse the Nations utilizes lacrosse as a means of promoting unity, health, and sustainability in the U.S. and Nicaragua. As their partner, Manna will help to coordinate programs and serve as a liaison between local coaches and U.S. based directors. In order to get a better feel for LTN’s mission and work, we spent the better part of Friday at Salero, helping their current group of volunteers to host an impressive lacrosse practice and tournament for over 80 children, most of whom are from La Chureca. Thanks largely to our southern, midwestern, and western roots, few of us at Manna have experience playing lacrosse. However, many of the children from La Chureca have been involved with LTN for several months now, and were more than willing to show us the ropes. We look forward to working further with Lacrosse the Nations as they extend opportunities to children in need. In the meantime, we’ll be honing our lacrosse skills in preparation for the next tournament. J

Take me out to the ball game....

As part of the sports and recreation program here in Nicaragua, program directors Matt, Luke, Will, and Zac coach two baseball teams in the local communities.  Matt and Luke coach a team of players from Cedro Galon, while Zac and Will coach a team from Chiquilistagua. Both are teams in a league of thirteen and fourteen year-old boys and have games every Saturday morning against other teams in the league.  Well this past Saturday they were scheduled to play each other in a double-header, and so Amira and some of the other PD's went out to support and cheer on the guys and their teams.  In the end Will and Zac's team won both games, but both teams seemed to have a great time playing, and walked away with their heads high and in good spirits.   

Not only was it fun to watch the program directors' teams compete, but it was also a great chance to hangout with and get to know the summer volunteers, who arrived this weekend and tagged along with us to the event.  Starting this week, the summer volunteers are also going to have their own tab on this blog page so they can share their own thoughts and feelings while being here, and so that their friends and family can track what they are doing.  So keep checking back for all of the adventures and stories that are sure to come for these volunteers in the next few weeks! 
Yader, the ball boy for Matt and Luke's team.
Dugout of the Chiquilistagua team.
Will and Zac sitting with some of their team.
The dugout of the Cedro Galon team.

goodbye josh

So, it’s been a few weeks since we’ve written. Let’s blame it on Semana Santa, shall we…?!

The truth is that all of Nicaragua shuts down during this week leading up to Easter. In such a Catholic country, Holy Week is a reason to (a) pray and/or (b) party it up. Manna PDs chose to spend our “time off” in the Caribbean on Little Corn Island, one of two islands off the Atlantic coast. Combine Swiss Family Robinson with a tropical Bacardi ad and you’ve created the rustic paradise of Little Corn. We spent a much needed vacation exploring the tiny island (4-square kilometers, there are no cars!), fishing in the crystal waters, and soaking up the sun.

But after a week of R&R and a worshipful Easter, we’ve hauled our peeling bodies back to the heat of Managua for MPI programs as usual. Unfortunately, among the fun classes and sweet home visits of this past week, we had to say goodbye to PD Josh Abeln on Thursday. Josh has been here since January 2008, pouring his heart into the construction and maintenance of facilities in the sports complex in Chiquilistagua. Most recently, Josh and the guys have been pouring concrete beneath the roof of a new indoor basketball court!

This sports complex, owned by our partners Halle and Kathy August, has been Josh’s sweet spot in Nicaragua. Now open to neighborhood children every afternoon, this area is home to soccer fields, a baseball stadium, a volleyball court, swings, a library, a computer lab, and much more. Green and spacious, the site offers kids a safe place to come and play, to explore, to feel secure and clean and loved. And so to send Josh off in Manna style, we opened the gates to this special place on Tuesday afternoon… and hosted a huge water fight! Everyone was soaked. And Josh dominated!

We miss him.