You Are Invited to the Quarterly Impact Call

Who: You!

What: Quarterly Impact Call

Where: On your phone, tablet, or computer

Why: The Quarterly Impact Call is an opportunity to hear updates on the programs and people
that mean the most to you. Connect with in-country and U.S. staff as we answer your questions
and share MPI's strategic vision for the upcoming quarter. 

When: February 16 @ 8:00 PM EST
Sign up:

Name *
Phone *

Thank you!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone at MPI!

important Dates in 2017:

January 25: Summer Internship application deadline

February 1: Program Director application deadline

February 16 @ 8:00 PM EST: Quarterly Impact Call
The Quarterly Impact Call is a chance for you to hear the latest site updates from in-country staff and receive updates on the programs and communities that mean the most to you. Staff will be available to answer your questions and share strategic plans for the upcoming quarter. 

Sign up to receive call details:

Name *
Phone *

Thank you!

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 - 

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!

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)

Sign Up for the Parent Experience Blog Series

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

Name *

Why #ilikemannaproject

I am a regular attender of "Cheers with the Beers," the annual Christmas party of a friend whose last name happens to 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!