The Power of Love on #GivingTuesday

What is the real power of love?

We asked Huey Lewis and The News:


Did you press play yet? Do! (Then Come back...)

In the 4 minutes it takes to play this song, YOU have the power to send love straight to the heart of communities in need. It's #GivingTuesday, an international day of giving back. When you give today, your donation will be DOUBLED. There are two ways to send love today:

Manna Project volunteers are hosting Facebook fundraisers today on behalf of the projects that are close to their hearts. You can support one of these projects, or choose your own at the GivingTuesday page. All fundraisers will be eligible for matching funds.

Sending lots of love your way today and every day - 

Summer Internship Applications Due

The next summer intern application deadline is November 18th. 

Summer Interns live alongside other young leaders and community members, and are fully integrated into the daily functions of Manna Project’s work on the ground. Weeks are spent collaborating with staff to plan and facilitate programs, while weekends are for exploring. As the days progress, you will develop an understanding of long-term development goals and their implementation.

This unique internship program is designed to create the most impactful experience for you and the communities you’ll serve. Summer Interns are equipped and inspired to continue their work in a variety of career fields, including international development and the greater non-profit sector. Many Summer Interns return to Manna Project as Program Directors in following years.

Summer 2017:

  • Session 1: May - June, 4 Weeks

  • Session 2: June - July, 4 Weeks

  • Both Sessions: May - July, 8 Weeks

Begin your journey here:

Looking for a more in-depth international development experience? MPI's Program Directors spend 5, 7 or 13 months on site.

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My time spent with Manna Project International has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I developed incredible relationships and made memories that I will cherish forever. Part of me will always be involved.
— Javier, MPI Program Director

Visiting Nicaragua During the Lacrosse the Nations Cup

Getting Involved as a Parent

Ever since her son, Dan Lewis, came to Nicaragua as a Program Director, Dr. Liz Herr has actively supported many of MPI's programs and initiatives. In this blog, she shares some of the ways that she was able to get involved as a parent and help raise awareness about the work her son was doing.

Eleven months ago, we said goodbye to our son Dan at the Denver airport as he headed out for a year as a Manna Project International (MPI) Program Director in Nicaragua. Dan also directs programs with MPI's partner organization Lacrosse the Nations (LtN).

Lacrosse the Nations uses lacrosse in PE and after school programs to teach nutrition, health, self-esteem, life skills and the value of education. Through the LtN Scholars program, students can also receive educational support, coaching opportunities, and university scholarships.

Over the next few months, as we learned more and saw Dan becoming more passionate about MPI and partner organization Lacrosse the Nations (LtN), my husband Fred and I found ourselves wanting to find ways to support the programs. One of the most fun ways we’ve done this has been to lend our support to the annual LtN Cup.

As part of his duties as a Program Director with Lacrosse the Nations, Dan is heavily involved in organizing the LtN Cup. The Cup is a 5 v 5 tournament held annually as a competition and way to share and connect the two LtN programs in Nicaragua - Chiquilistagua and Club Hope. It is also LtN’s biggest fundraiser of the year, supporting LtN programs and providing vital funds for MPI's Cedro Galán Medical Clinic.

Fundraising is done by posting a picture of each player on the LtN website and allowing supporters to pledge funds in one or more player’s name. The goal is to have $100 in pledges for each player by tournament time. Fred and I got into the spirit of the event. We made a pledge ourselves and we also spread the word to friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, the sports teams our sons had played on, local lacrosse shops and literally anybody else we could think of. We had planned to take a trip to Nicaragua during Dan’s year there, and we managed to schedule our trip to coincide with the tournament. So, as added incentive, I was able to promise any of my friends who would donate that I would take an action shot of the player they had supported email it to them.

People were very receptive to hearing about the organizations and the tournament. Some donated, some didn’t, but we had fun, and in addition to drumming up sponsors it allowed us to introduce LtN and Manna Project to many of our friends and acquaintances.

Because we felt like we had a tiny part in it, it was fun to anticipate the tournament and to be excited as the coaches and players got closer to their fundraising goal. Actually being able to attend the LtN Cup last November was a wonderful bonus. It was great to meet LtN directors Javier and Norman, all the Manna Project Program Directors, and the coaches who had worked so hard on the tournament. But the highlight was watching the kids play lacrosse.  Equipment is a bit scarce and worn, and there aren’t fancy uniforms, but the players were remarkably skilled. We were impressed by their effort, determination, and teamwork. There was laughter, a few tears and to top it off the championship game was exciting until the very end!

There are many ways to support Manna Project:

  • You can help meet the needs of one of the critically undernourished children in the Child Sponsorship program.
  • Choose your favorite team in the annual Cedro Galan 5k. Women in the community head up the teams and recruit running participants, aiming to promote and celebrate health as well as raising money for the clinic.
  • If you are into lacrosse, organize a “Scoop for Loot” or “Mini-Jam."  
  • See if your company has a matching donations program.
  • Select Manna Project as your charity of choice on Amazon Smile.
  • Search the internet with GoodSearch.
  • Or come up with your own way to support Manna Project, and enjoy!

MPI Nicaragua Country Director Receives Gillings Merit Scholarship

MPI Nicaragua Country Director Christina Palazzo has received the prestigious Gillings Merit Scholarship from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. The Gillings Scholarship is awarded to select graduate students who show exceptional promise and potential.

The Gillings Merit Scholarship will allow me to gain up-to-date knowledge I can put into practice immediately in my work in Nicaragua.
— Christina Palazzo

Christina is currently pursuing a distance-based Masters in Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the top public school of public health (US News & World Report, 2016). Christina is part of the Public Health Leadership Program, which prepares leaders with skills to assess community health needs and develop new policies and programs to address those needs.

Christina’s research focuses on mosquito-borne illnesses and community-based preventative initiatives in under-resourced countries in Latin America, as well as the socio-economic factors that contribute to mosquito-borne diseases. Her research is particularly relevant due to the maternal and pediatric health effects of the current Zika outbreak. “I am passionate about finding community-based solutions for health issues affecting vulnerable populations in Latin America,” Christina said. “The Gillings Merit Scholarship will allow me to gain up-to-date knowledge I can put into practice immediately in my work in Nicaragua.”

Christina Palazzo, MPI Nicaragua Country Director

Christina Palazzo, MPI Nicaragua Country Director

This research is highly relevant for MPI’s work in Nicaragua, where mosquito-borne illnesses including Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, and Zika virus impact tens of thousands of people each year. 

Although these illnesses impact individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds, the burden tends to be highest among poorer communities with limited access to clean water, solid waste infrastructure, and where conditions are most favorable for mosquito breeding. Due to these factors, the communities MPI serves in Nicaragua are at particularly high risk for mosquito-borne illnesses. Christina's research will help us to better equip clinic staff and further educate community members about ways they can protect themselves. Christina will graduate in December 2017.

You can read the Gilling School's announcement here.

Congratulations, Christina!

We are so grateful for your dedication to the health of at-risk communities!

The prevalence of Zika virus has led to a sharp increase in patient numbers at MPI's clinics in Nicaragua. Your donation has an immediate impact for communities in need of health care. Please donate today!

Parent Series: Exploring Nicaraguan Cuisine

After his son, Dan Lewis, came to Nicaragua as a 13-month Program Director, Dr. Fred Lewis and his wife, Dr. Liz Herr, came down to visit - twice! In addition to participating in many of MPI's programs, they also had the chance to travel throughout Nicaragua and experience much of what this beautiful country has to offer. In this blog, Dr. Lewis shares some of his favorite Nicaraguan foods and restaurants. Bon appetit!

Exploring Nicaraguan Food

Nicaraguan food has Spanish, Creole and indigenous influences. It is simple, fresh and, a bit to our surprise, we found it to be fantastic. We enjoyed a number of traditional dishes.  


photo source: Wikipedia

photo source: Wikipedia

Plantains are found just about everywhere in Nicaragua. Dan introduced us to the three different ways plantains can be prepared. Very ripe plantains are sweet and can be sautéed into maduros. Tajadas are “potato chip”-like plantains. You will find them packaged and sold in grocery stores, gas stations and sometimes as street food. My favorite were tostones, especially tostones con queso. Green plantain slices are fried then topped with a slightly salty queso or Nicaraguan cheese.

Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto is a staple in Nicaragua. Beans and rice are cooked separately then combined, sometimes with onion or garlic. Gallo pinto is hearty, cheap, and really delicious. Just about everyone (including the Manna Project Program Directors) has gallo pinto for, or with, all three meals.


Corn is also a staple and used for everything from tortillas to a sweet drink called chichi de maiz. Our driver introduced us to quesillos—the very best ones found in a roadside shop in Nagarote—a blend of cheese, cream, picked onion, and vinegar wrapped in a corn tortilla. Traditionally, quesillos are served in a plastic bag and consumed by biting off the corner of the bag and eating/drinking the contents.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is abundant and delicious, including bananas, mango, pineapple, papaya, and some others we didn’t recognize. Dragon fruit is pink and spiny and jocotes look a little like cherry tomatoes.


Nicaragua is also very well-known for its coffee. Here I am standing on a mound of coffee beans at Finca Magdalena on Isla de Ometepe.


Nicaragua is encouraging tourism in the hope of joining its wealthier neighbor Costa Rica as a travel destination. If you are lucky enough to visit, here is a little restaurant advice:

Favorite Dishes

Although not a part of most Nicaraguan’s daily diet, we found the beef in restaurants to be extremely good. Churrasco, a spicy grilled steak, would be worth going out of your way for.  Fresh fish is abundant and fantastic. We enjoyed many of our meals accompanied by Tona, the local beer, which is kept ultra-ice-cold, a wonderful contrast on very hot days.

In León

In León don’t miss El Sesteo, known, among other things, for the fact that Mick Jagger ate there in the 1960s. It’s right on the Cathedral Square (the rooftop view from the cathedral itself also a highlight). We also had a great meal at Al Carbon; the best sandwiches and can be found at Pan y Paz.

In Granada

In Granada, there are also many good restaurants, our favorites being Bistro Estrada and The Garden Café. The town of San Juan del Sur even has it’s own brewpub, San Juan del Sur Cerveceria, started by three ex-pats from the University of Denver. Breakfast at El Gato Negro is fantastic.

In Managua

We stayed near the metrocentro mall in Managua. There are a number of good restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, the “new downtown." We had a wonderful dinner at Don Candido, a short walk from our hotel. Some of our favorite dinners though were at Chik Chak, which is near the Manna Project house in the outskirts of Managua. A group of the MPI Program Directors joined us, so we had great company and food!

Food Safety

Before our visit, we were given various recommendations about how cautious to be when eating and drinking in Nicaragua. We generally drank bottled water, rather than tap water, and ate in restaurants rather than buying food from street vendors. Otherwise, we enjoyed fresh fruit and everything else on the menu, and we had no difficulties at all.

Everything is "Farm to Table"

In the U.S., trendy restaurants may promote the “farm to table” concept—local foods produced nearby. In Nicaragua, we realized the cuisine is, and has always been, by nature, local, simple, and fresh. If you are going to visit, though, go soon, as we did see a McDonald’s going in across the street from the Cathedral in León.

Thank you, Fred!

Do you have a question for Fred? Email him here


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Parent Series: Traveling to Nicaragua

In the second installment of our Parent Experience Series, Fred Lewis shares how his son Dan's passion for Nicaragua inspired him to learn more about the country and its person! 

Our First Trip to Nicaragua

When our son Dan first decided to volunteer with Manna Project International, I knew only a few things about Nicaragua. I could vaguely recall that it was in Central America, possibly politically unstable and potentially not a safe place to visit. As months went by, we couldn’t help but be caught up in Dan’s passion for the MPI mission and his love of Nicaragua. We wanted to learn more about the country and see what Dan’s life there was like, so we planned a visit.

Getting Around

Getting around Nicaragua is easy, but it took a little time to figure it out. On our first trip we chose to rent a car. The highways are great and the car gave us a lot of flexibility to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. It did carry a few practical challenges.

In Managua, there are no street signs or addresses, so navigating the city can be a little challenging. Also, we encountered some unexpected traffic hazards, including motorcycles driving between lanes, pedestrians crossing wherever a break in traffic allowed, horse-drawn carts, carts pulled by men, potholes, road construction without any warning signs, and the infamous traffic circles. 

On The Road

The Nicaraguan police are notorious for issuing traffic tickets, and we got two for lane changes within thirty meters of an intersection (although my wife maintains those were my fault). On our second visit, we used a car service (, which we were able to book by email before our visit. Our driver, Luis Payan, calmly and safely negotiated the hazards for us and was happy to accommodate us whenever our plans changed. In our experience, this wasn’t any more expensive than renting a car, but much more relaxing, although it did require advance planning.

Planning Your Own Trip

If you are looking for active pursuits, Nicaragua has plenty to offer—hiking, surfing, climbing volcanoes, volcano boarding, and we even found a stand-up paddleboard tour on the Rio Tamarindo. We relaxed on more than a few beautiful beaches and watched the sunset at the most distant spot on Punta Jesus Maria.

A couple of my favorite tours were the historical tours in León (Sandino Tours) and Managua (Gerald Duran,  Visiting the local markets in Granada and León were highlights, and the Huembes Market in Managua is amazing. Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua is a jewel not to be missed. Dan suggested we rent scooters, and this great suggestion allowed us to see the whole island, including a fascinating tour of the coffee plantation and ancient petroglyphs.

Pictured: Fred and his wife Liz in Nicaragua

Pictured: Fred and his wife Liz in Nicaragua

Booking Your Hotel

Booking hotels over the internet worked well for us. Compared to the Program Directors who (I hear) spend less than $10 per night for a hostel, we were looking for somewhat more upscale accommodations. Most business websites lacked an automatic reservation function, but with a few emails it was easy to set up reservations for hotels and tours. We found small hotels in Granada and León to be first-rate and friendly, unexpectedly reasonable in price, and as much fun to stay in as any we’ve been to. 

Warm Hospitality

During our time in Nicaragua we were cautious, as we would normally be in any big city in the U.S., but we never felt unsafe. On the contrary, we found the country and people warm and inviting. It’s hard to miss the contrasts and contradictions which are so much a part of Nicaragua. The country has great beauty, natural resources, and we met so many friendly, warm, hospitable people; yet the poverty is striking as well. Recent Nicaraguan political history sheds some light on this.

Book Recommendations

I would highly recommend a couple of books —Blood of Brothers by Stephen Kinzer and The Country Under My Skin by Giacomo Belli. Learning a little Nicaraguan history, and a little about the relationship between the United States and Nicaragua, left me with a new understanding Nicaragua and of my own country as well.

Thank you, Fred!

NEXT STEPS for parents

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Program Director Applications Due 8/14


Manna Project International is accepting applications for Program Director positions for in Nicaragua or Ecuador. Applications are due August 14th.

Manna Project International creates communities of young leaders that help break the cycle of poverty in underserved communities around the world. If you are a recent or soon-to-be college grad with a love of travel, culture, and international development, apply to join one of our teams in Latin America. 

During this 11-month position, you will experience life and work alongside other young leaders and community members. At one of our sites in Nicaragua or Ecuador, you will direct a variety of impactful programs designed to meet the specific needs and opportunities of the community. 


Manna Project equips volunteers with leadership development skills for a variety of career fields, including medicine, international development, law, the greater non-profit sector, education and international politics.

Top reasons to become a program director

Do you want to talk to a current Program Director about what it's like to work abroad with MPI?




Meet MPI's New Executive Director

An Interview with Sam Church

After an exhaustive search for the next Executive Director of Manna Project International, the hiring committee reached the unanimous decision to offer the position to Samantha Church. We are pleased to introduce you to Sam. She brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and vision to lead this community into our next phase of growth. We are thrilled to have her on board! Who is Sam Church? Get to know her in the exclusive interview!



Sam, we’re so glad you have joined the team! Many in our community have anxiously awaited the announcement of our new Executive Director. Will you tell our community how the story of Manna Project intersects with your life?

Yes! First, I’d like to thank the Manna Project community for your warm welcome. I have a passion for international development and nonprofit program excellence and am excited to step into the role of Executive Director.

Sam with her students in the Philippines

I was drawn to Manna Project because of the organization’s emphasis on capacity building, training and building relationships, so that community change happens from within. My first cross-cultural experience was studying as an undergraduate student in South Africa, and my time there ignited a passion for collaborative community development. It showed me how immersing yourself in an entirely new culture can have a profound impact on your life and future.

After South Africa, I went on to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, where I learned the importance of establishing strong relationships with community members. Creating programs by building upon the strengths of the local community solidified my desire to work at the grassroots level of development.

Where did you go from there? How did it prepare you to lead the Manna Project community?

After more than two years in the Philippines, I worked with the Peace Corps as a Strategic Recruiter at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Since that time, I have gained extensive managerial and nonprofit program development experience. Like Manna Project’s volunteers and staff, I have seen firsthand and believe that working with community groups leads to sustainable change.

It’s incredible to see how much Manna Project has grown and I’m thrilled to collaborate with our stakeholders to launch the organization into our next phase.
— Sam Church

As the HIV Planning Manager at Suncoast Health Council, I worked with a group of community leaders to disseminate $10.5 million in funding to HIV care service partners in Central Florida. In my role as Executive Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii, I learned a variety of nonprofit leadership skills including strategic planning, grant writing, fiscal accountability, and evidenced-based programming. I’m excited to partner with Manna Project’s stakeholders to develop strategic long-term goals for the organization.

What excites you about MPI’s mission?

Since joining Manna Project, I’ve spoken with some of our alumni. Though this is a diverse group of people spread out around the world, they all have one thing in common: working with a developing community abroad completely changed their lives and worldview. My time abroad has done the same for me. International service helps develop empathy and grit and has the power to transform young people into leaders with the skills and understanding to bring about social change.

How has international service shaped your career?

International service taught me how to be creative, humble, adaptable, and collaborative. It taught me to step outside my comfort zone and experience life to its fullest. It has proven that real-world experiences are just as important as academic achievements.

What do you do when you are not working?

I love the ocean. I always seem to surround myself with beautiful beaches having lived in Florida, Hawaii, and the Philippines. I try and travel as much as I can. My most recent trip was to Costa Rica for my honeymoon! I enjoy spending time with my two rescue dogs...they are very spoiled. I also teach a weekly art class at the YMCA.

What are your top priorities during the leadership transition?

I am quickly learning that Manna Project has the best team. The staff, Board, alumni, donors, and volunteers are incredible. Getting to know our team is one of my top priorities in the coming months. I love hearing alumni stories as well as stories from our sites about our impact in the community. I can’t wait to travel to both Ecuador and Nicaragua to gain a deeper understanding of our organizational impact. I’m also partnering with our outgoing Executive Director, Lori Scharffenberg, to learn the day-to-day operations of the organization. Lori has devoted years to building Manna Project into what it is today and has been a tremendous asset to the organization.

What do you believe are Manna Project’s strengths?

I think Manna Project’s greatest strength is its mission to foster communities of talented young leaders to become the next generation of social change agents. I also believe we have an amazing staff who work tirelessly to fulfill our mission. The Manna staff deserve a lot of praise!

Given these strengths, what are the top three opportunities you see for Manna Project in the coming year?



Boost our recruitment efforts
so we can continue to grow
our top-notch, short-term
and long-term
volunteer teams.



Continue to build
strong relationships
with community partners
as well as potential corporate partners.



To Increase the organization's fiscal resources, helping us improve existing programs as well as provide greater support for our staff and volunteers.

Is there a quote that inspires you?

“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” - Kid President

Thank you, Sam, for Joining the Manna project family!

Highlights from Sam's Résumé

Professional accomplishments

  • Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii Designed and managed educational programs and support services, increased annual revenue as Executive Director

  • Suncoast Health Council Disseminated $10.5 million in funding to HIV care service partners in Central Florida as HIV Planning Manager

  • Hawaii and Pacific Islands Campus Compact (HIPICC) Facilitated strategic planning to develop mission, vision, values and organizational goals  

  • Peace Corps Led life skills and therapeutic intervention programs in Baguio City, Philippines for 27 months; continued as Strategic Recruiter in Hawaii

  • West Central Florida Ryan White Care Council Recruited, trained, supervised, and evaluated 40+ members

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Guest lecturer; planned and implemented college preparation program for youth from educationally/economically underrepresented backgrounds

Academic Accomplishments

  • Master of Social Work, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Certificate in Volunteer Management, Nonprofit Leadership Center

  • Leadership Development Certificate, United Way

  • Bachelor of Social Work, Florida State University

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in progress, Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling

Will you help us welcome Sam? She would love to hear from you!

MPI Board Announces New Executive Director

Dear MPI Partners,

I am excited and pleased to introduce you to Samantha Church, the new Executive Director of Manna Project International!

Samantha's impressive background includes leadership positions with notable organizations including the Peace Corps, the Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii, Suncoast Health Council, Hawaii and Pacific Islands Campus Compact (HIPICC), and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and certificates in Leadership Development, Nonprofit Management and Volunteer Management. 

Samantha is extremely passionate about international development and has a proven track record of successfully implementing organizational vision, values and goals. We hope you will join us in wholeheartedly welcoming her to the team.

The Board conducted a vigorous and thorough selection process that vetted many, very well-qualified applicants for this position. The selection committee was unanimous in its decision to extend an offer to Samantha based on her results-driven experience, strong leadership skills, and a strong fit with Manna Project's unique culture.

I would be remiss not to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Lori Scharffenberg, our current Executive Director and one of Manna Project’s founders. Lori is the reason this organization is in a strong place today, ready and able to navigate this significant transition. The solid foundation established by Lori ensures the Board’s confidence through this leadership transition. With your continued partnership, we expect that Samantha will take the organization to great places.

Thank you for your continued support of Manna Project through the years. It is because of you that we are able to provide incredible, life-changing opportunities to young leaders and community members at our international sites. 

As one of our core partners, we hope you will join us in welcoming Samantha to our community. Will you take a moment to let her know how Manna Project has impacted your life? You can reach her at

With gratitude,
Jocelyn Lancaster
MPI Chairman of the Board
Program Director, 2008-2009 (Ecuador)

Parent Series: A Wonderful Adventure

Welcome to the first installment of our Parent Experience Series! With a new group of Program Directors on site in Ecuador and Nicaragua, we know that some of our new readers are parents who want to follow along. It's a fact - sending your child to an unknown country can be a nerve-wracking experience! Liz Herr's son, Dan, is starting his second year at Manna Project's Nicaragua site, and she has some words of comfort, advice, and encouragement for you. 

"Mom, Dad, I'm moving to Nicaragua!"

When our son Dan announced last spring that he was planning to spend thirteen months in Nicaragua as a Program Director for Manna Project International, one of my first reactions was to buy a bunch of stuff for him to take along. He thought this was crazy. His intention was to throw some clothes and toiletries in a duffel bag and go. I hate to admit it, but he was partly right; my shopping spree was a little crazy and mostly a way to keep at bay my anxiety over having my son head off to an impoverished area of an unknown (to me), developing country. A few of my purchases, however, turned out to be quite useful. 

                Liz with Dan in Nicaragua

                Liz with Dan in Nicaragua

I thought I would share my thoughts on this in case you are a parent, family member, friend or prospective MPI Program Director yourself – in the hopes that you can avoid unnecessary anxiety and the need for retail therapy.

The Necessities

There were only two things that Dan felt that he needed prior leaving - a new daypack to replace his current one, which was falling apart, and an extra pair of sunglasses. Both of these truly were essential. He also threw in good, sturdy water bottle.

Collared shirts and shorts (not gym shorts) are what the guys seem to wear most. The best pair of shorts works for everything, from teaching math to coaching lacrosse. Clothing should be lightweight and quick-drying. Nicaragua is hot - and dusty. So while light colors are good, anything that is white will soon be a brownish-gray color from dust and multiple washings.  It’s more complicated for the girls, as shorts aren’t as socially acceptable for women in Nicaragua, but the general principles are the same.

Life as a Program Director

Program Directors walk (a lot!) in addition to running, hiking, volcano boarding and hanging out at the beach in their off time. Shoes get wet, muddy, and sweaty. Dan spends most of his time in athletic shoes or flip-flops. The athletic shoes he took in July 2015 were smelly and worn out by Christmas.

A good cell phone case is a good idea. Dan’s is the Lifeproof brand. It is waterproof, dust-proof and drop-resistant. Dan has always lived a life dangerous to cell phones; he gets tossed into some body of water about once a month, so he needed all these features before he left for Nicaragua. The case has been helpful in Nicaragua. He also chose to take his aging laptop with him. Fortunately, there is a Mac/ Apple store at Galerias Santo Domingo Mall in Managua that has helped him resolve computer problems. 

What to Pack?

                          The famous duffel bag

                          The famous duffel bag

Some that things that are expensive or hard to get in Nicaragua include: sun block, insect repellant containing DEET, and powdered Gatorade. It’s nice to have a good travel mug for drinking coffee on that morning walk to catch the bus. Dan also really likes having English language classic paperback books (think The Count of Monte Cristo or Don Quixote). He took a couple along, and we’ve sent some as well. You can read a book on the bus or the beach - it doesn’t need wifi or an electric outlet and a book never needs recharging. (Editor's note: If there's no room in your suitcase, the Manna house has an impressive collection of books donated by past volunteers!)

Be sure to get a full 13 months supply of contact lenses, medications, etc. to take along. We haven’t had any problems mailing things to Nicaragua, but packages take a while to get there. It might be a little risky to depend on the Nicaraguan mail for really important things. 

A Wonderful Adventure

Hopefully, these thoughts and suggestions will be helpful. One disclaimer: these views are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of MPI, other parents, or even my own son. Living and working in Nicaragua for MPI has been amazing and life changing experience for Dan - and by extension, for our whole family. It is a wonderful adventure.

Thank you, Liz!


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Welcome, Parents!

Do you have a son or daughter who is interested in volunteering with Manna Project? Is your child currently on site in Nicaragua or Ecuador? Welcome!

Serving with Manna Project is a life-changing experience for our volunteers, but it can also be transformative for the whole family! You have raised a confident and adventurous young leader, and it's important that you feel connected to their journey. We are establishing a variety of resources for you, and the first is our Parent Experience Blog Series!

Over the next month, we'll be posting blogs shared by parents of past and current Program Directors. It is our hope that you will follow along, be inspired by the experience of other families, and connect with your child's work across the miles. 

Sign Up for the Parent Experience Blog Series

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July Headlines



  • The "Run with Manna" 5K in Ecuador
  • Meet Jocelyn Lancaster, MPI's new Board Chair
  • will donate 15% of July sales completed with code "MANNAPROJECT" 
  • Ecuador Summer Reading Program doubles participation
  • Summer Venta at El Farito  
  • New Partnership with Instituto Superior Tecnológico Rumiñahui 
  • Building Confidence In Nicaragua through Girls' Health education
  • Summer Intern projects in Ecuador and Nicaragua
  • Lacrosse the Nations programs now offered to elementary students
  • What's Oobleck, and why are these kids making it?
  • All this and more in the July MannaMail - details below!

Watch It Now: the Program Director Info Session

You're Invited!

Did you miss our most recent Program Director Info Session? Never fear! Watch it here:

Want to know more about Manna Project's Program Director positions in Ecuador and Nicaragua? Watch the Info Session to learn if the Program Director position is right for you. Get all the details and hear from current Program Directors about their experience. 

The info session covers: 

  • MPI's Health, Education and Livelihoods programs 
  • The communities we serve
  • Cost of working abroad and fundraising support
  • Program Director process and timeline
  • Benefits of international service
  • Q+A with in-country staff
  • The favorite programs and travel destinations of current Program Directors.

Want to join a future Info Session? Sign up here.

June Headlines


Our June Newsletter has arrived!

This month's headlines include:

Combined Federal Campaign Approves MPI

Manna Project has been approved as an official charity participant in the Combined Federal Campaign for the third year running! We are so grateful to be included in the the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, with almost 200 CFCs throughout the country and overseas raising millions of dollars each year. 

MPI is Charity #64927!

If you are a federal employee, retiree or government contractor, you are eligible to donate to through the CFC. It’s simple! Just visit, find your local chapter, and sign up for charity #64927. Thanks!


What is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)?
The CFC is the official workplace giving campaign of the federal government. The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee-focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors during the campaign season support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.  

Who can donate to the CFC?
Federal workers, retirees, and government contractors are eligible to donate to the CFC.

How can a donor make a pledge to the CFC?
Donors to the CFC have the option of submitting a pledge via payroll deduction, cash, check, credit or debit card, or e-check/ACH. Pledges may be processed online or by completing a paper pledge form.  See our Pledging Tutorial for a step-by-step guide on how to submit a pledge to the CFC.

Will I receive a confirmation of my pledge and a tax receipt?
If you pledged by payroll deduction, you will not receive a tax receipt. For tax purposes, you will need to pair the names of the charities you designated (as shown on your pledge form) with the total amount deducted from your paychecks for the year, which can be found on your final leave and earning statement. 

If you made a donation by one-time or recurring debit/credit/ACH, you will need a copy of the receipt that was automatically emailed to you for tax purposes.  For a recurring donation, you will need that email receipt, along with copies of your monthly credit card or bank statement for tax purposes. 

Can I donate to more than one charity?
Yes. Donors may support as many charitable organizations as they would like in one single pledge. You may choose how funds are allocated to each charity. 

What are the eligibility requirements for a charity to participate in the CFC?
To be eligible to participate in the CFC, each charitable organization must be designated as a tax-exempt non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. An application to participate in the CFC must provide specific information about their auditing, governance and program functions, as specified in the CFC regulations. Applicants must also provide a completed and signed copy of their IRS Form 990 for their most recent fiscal year.

Thank you!

*Source of FAQs:

MPI Alum Featured in Forbes

"If you can somehow manage to go to school full time while holding down a job, there is less than a 15% chance that you’ll ever earn your degree. If you need to go to school part-time—as 80% of community college students do—then your odds drop significantly. Nationwide, more than 30 million adults have earned some college credit but have failed to complete their degree."

MPI Program Director alum Hudson Baird is now working to improve these statistics as the Executive Director of PelotonU, an innovative Texas nonprofit with a comprehensive plan to help working adults graduate from college debt-free. 

PelotonU equips students for success by connecting them to high-quality online university courses and one-on-one support. “This is the least expensive and most effective college education option in the state,” said Rex Gore, co-founder and board member, “and one that will get even more affordable and effective as PelotonU grows.”

Read the Forbes article here.

Congratulations to Hudson and the PelotonU team!

Photo ©2015 PelotonU. All rights reserved.

Photo ©2015 PelotonU. All rights reserved.

Gain valuable experience abroad  - work as a Program Director with Manna Project International.

Applications due April 5

February News

Estela (back row, fourth from left) and classmates on the first day of English Vocational Training.

Estela (back row, fourth from left) and classmates on the first day of English Vocational Training.

New English Vocational Program Prepares Students for Employment

Estela is one of MPI Nicaragua's top English students and has worked her way to level 5, our most advanced class. She is one of eleven people in our pilot English Vocational Training Program, which started this month in Cedro Galán.

Curriculum for the course was developed in partnership with Sitel, one of Managua's largest call center employers. Students will learn the specific English, listening comprehension, typing, Internet use and customer etiquette skills they will need to work for a company like Sitel. 

English Vocational Training is also a great motivator for students in the lower levels of English. Call center positions are well paid and can make a huge difference in the lives of our students.

"I'm excited to learn more skills - especially speaking, listening and the computer skills. I currently don't have a job but I think this class will be a great experience for me." - Estela, 35


Business Training in Ecuador

After months of preparation, MPI Ecuador has started an exciting new class for jobseekers and aspiring business owners. Working in partnership with the US-based non-profit Education Global Access Program (E-Gap), this class teaches interview skills, resume writing, and all the necessary aspects of starting a successful business. Classes incorporate guest speakers and business leaders from the community, computer skills training, and the opportunity to participate in local business internships. Our students are putting their dreams into practice!

Run for Health in Cedro Galán

The women of MPI's Cedro Galán exercise boot camp class are teaming up with Program Directors to prepare for the third annual Cedro 5K on March 19th. Boot camp team leaders are busy signing up members of the community to join a team for race day.

All proceeds of the race go directly toward the health clinic serving the community. Sponsor a team today! From the 5K teams and the community of Cedro Galán, muchas gracias!

Creative Science Club Makes Science Fun in Ecuador

Creative Science Club students with Gabby before their egg drop experiment

Creative Science Club students with Gabby before their egg drop experiment

Creative Science Club is the biggest hit at the MPI Ecuador Centro this year! Program Director Gabby leads the Creative Science Club in cool, crafty science activities, ranging from engineering an egg drop experiment to "agua marina," a water and oil combination experiment with recycled bottles. 

Click here to meet the winners of the egg drop experiment -->

Education Program Prepares Students for a Career in Medicine

Generation students learn about a variety of career options at a medical job fair

Generation students learn about a variety of career options at a medical job fair

MPI Nicaragua's third generation of students in the Youth Medical Career Education Program started classes this month. This program, called Generation, prepares young adults to work in the medical field. Students gain additional skills by volunteering in the Cedro Galán Health Clinic. 

Learn more about Generation here -->

Cedro Galán Community Elects 2016 Advisory Board

The Cedro Galán community takes an active role in the development of the Cedro Clinic. Each year, the community elects an advisory board, La Junta Directiva. Fourteen newly elected community representatives will meet monthly to plan and give input for the direction of the clinic in 2016.

In The News

“In this increasingly globalized world, it is imperative that we align public policy to support the transnational movement of the world’s most important and valuable resource — people."
- Dunc Fulton, Immigration Attorney and MPI alumnus

Dunc Fulton, an MPI Program Director in Ecuador from 2008-2009 and current board member, was recently featured by Tulane University for his work as an immigration attorney in Louisiana. Read the article here -->

MannaMail, Issue 164 © Manna Project International 2016


Impact Report Published

"Your partnership is impacting
close to 5,000 lives each year.
Thank you for being part of the MPI community."

- Lori Scharffenberg Warren
MPI Executive Director

Your Year End Gift Makes a Difference!

Dear Manna Project Community,

There's still time to give in 2015! Your support means mothers have access to vital resources, children are receiving the support they need to stay in school, and entire communities have somewhere to turn to when they are sick.

We are 31% of the way toward our holiday fundraising need of $40,000. Please donate today - every little bit helps! Your tax deductible donation makes a world of difference for communities in Ecuador and Nicaragua. 

There are three easy ways to give - on our giving page, through Paypal, or by sending a check to:

Manna Project International
PO Box 536144
Orlando, FL 32853


Thank you!

Lori Scharffenberg Executive Director, MPI

Lori Scharffenberg
Executive Director, MPI


Jaqueling and Jefry's Story of Hope

"Now I feel better that I'm not living in [the landfill]. Thanks to the cooperative, I don't have to work out in the sun and breathe in the fumes. I'm now working in my house and I get to see my son...everything is good."

Jaqueling, 20, Nicaragua

Jaqueling is a 20 year old single mother living in Villa Guadalupe, Nicaragua. For 13 years, Jaqueling lived in La Chureca, the largest open-air landfill in Central America. She was part of a community of 250 families who made a living by collecting and selling recyclable materials from among the trash. In 2013, the Nicaraguan government closed the dump and relocated these families to a new housing project called Villa Guadalupe. 

In this week's Story of Hope video (above), Program Director Dana Hanley will introduce you to Jaqueling as she shares her story with you.