I am a regular attender of "Cheers with the Beers," the annual Christmas party of a friend whose last name happens to be...you guessed it...Beers! Attendance is fairly consistent from year to year, but in 2010, I noticed a new face at the cookie table. I soon found myself talking with Lori Sharffenberg, MPI's Executive Director, who had recently moved back to the US after seven years in Nicaragua. We swapped travel stories, told jokes about culture shock, and bonded over the joys and challenges of international non-profit work (and yes – many holiday cookies were consumed that night).
Driving home from the party, I remember thinking, "Wow. That girl is impressive." As one of the original founding members of Manna Project, Lori had a dream and dedicated her life to helping it grow from an idea into a multi-national non-profit organization! You don’t meet many people with that kind of story. But rather than intimidating me, that first conversation with Lori left me encouraged and challenged in my own work and excited to have found an understanding, humble and globally-minded friend.
In the months that followed, Lori and I worked side by side on many occasions, and it dawned on me how much I also believed in the work of Manna Project. In 2014, I had the privilege of joining Manna Project as Director of Communications and Development, and every day I like Manna Project even more. In my ten years of volunteering and working with non-profits professionally, I have never encountered a more accountable, driven and effective organization. The bar is truly set high, and I am so grateful to be part of the team working to reach it for the benefit of communities in need.
The communities we serve in Ecuador and Nicaragua are so generous with us, and our volunteers are amazing young people with a large capacity for giving and a huge desire to learn. As we searched for a way to help our Program Directors stay connected with their friends and family back at home, the Like-a-thon was born.
This week we are launching the second annual MPI Like-a-thon, a week in which incoming Program Directors will encourage their friends and family to “Like” our Facebook page. We don’t do this to attain a higher number of page likes, but because, well, we like Manna Project!
We believe that the ability to serve abroad is a gift. This gift is only possible through the encouragement and financial support of friends and family, and the best way we know to thank the community supporting our volunteers is to show the impact of our volunteers in the communities we serve. Manna Project is a community that makes it possible for dreams to become reality, and we want to share real stories of changed lives.
It is our hope that as these stories pop up in your day-to-day feed, you will know that you are making a difference by joining the story. Like me, you may also find yourself liking Manna Project more and more as the days go on!