Manna Project International was started by a group of four Vanderbilt University students who wanted to harness the creative energy of college students and recent graduates to work with populations in need. As interest grew, they established an on-campus service organization to bring the university campus into greater contact with the local immigrant community, and to provide international service opportunities for students.
After visiting Nicaragua several times and making connections with others on the ground, the four friends established Manna Project International as an IRS-recognized nonprofit organization, and began recruiting other college graduates to commit to working in Managua for one year. In September 2004, eleven recent graduates arrived in Managua. The experiences and friendships from that first year of service forever changed their perspectives and outlooks on life. As the year drew to a close, students from the next class of graduating seniors arrived to transition into the community and the Program Director position was born.
While the faces have changed, Manna Project’s volunteers serve more than 3,000 community members in Ecuador and Nicaragua each year. These communities of young leaders are helping breaking the cycle of poverty through participatory programs supporting education, health, leadership, and economic development for communities in need.
What's in a Name?
Our name comes from the story of "manna," found in the Book of Exodus. The story goes that God provided manna, a bread-like substance, for the Israelites as they traveled through the desert. Only enough manna was provided for that specific day, but no one ever went hungry. While Manna Project is not a religious organization, we like the idea of having enough for the day at hand. With community development, "change" and "development" is a long, ongoing and often overwhelming process. We like the idea of focusing on each day and doing what we can for that specific day. Then, when taking advantage of each individual day, the sum of those days and the sum of each person's days adds up to create significant and lasting change!