Tuesday, December 8, 2009

July-December 2009 (it's a big one!)

Preface to the MPI Ecuador Update (if you have a Facebook account):

Manna Project is currently a part of a voting competition through Facebook and Chase Community Giving. Chase Bank will be awarding $25,000 to the top 100 non-profit organizations with the most votes on Facebook (if we win, $5,000 will go directly to our programs in Ecuador). MPI is currently in position to win one of the top 100 spots, but with only two days left in the competition, we dont want to lose this position. We need YOUR HELP! Please logon to Facebook and vote for us through the links listed below. Voting ends THIS Friday, December 11th, so be sure to vote soon! Every vote counts!

Here’s what to do:

1) Become a “fan” of Chase Giving here.

2) Vote for MANNA PROJECT here.

Muchisimas gracias! We can’t do it without you!

Let's kick the competition! (Sarah and Bibi duke it out on the trampoline.)

And onto the Ecuador Update...

¡Saludos de Ecuador!

Welcome to our first general update of the 2009-2010 Program Director year! We hope it finds you well and in good post-Thanksgiving/pre-holiday spirits. For those of you who are familiar with the Ecuador updates of the past, things have changed just a bit. Jackie Weidman and I (Sarah Scott), the co-PR people around here, have decided to put an increased focus on our Daily Life Blog in hopes that it will give those who are interested a better and more in-depth look at what’s going on in Ecuador from day-to-day. In light of that, we will be writing fewer general update letters throughout the year, so you’ll only be getting e-mails from us every once in awhile. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ecuador updates, welcome! Thank you for your interest in MPI Ecuador. We hope this e-mail will provide you with a broad overview of what we have accomplished since our arrival in July and the outgoing PDs’ departure in early August.

Team Ecuador 2009-2010

Our gratitude goes out to the old PDs, as their hard work allowed us to inherit a beautiful library and teen center, a solid line-up of educational programs, and a positive reputation in Rumiloma, the community in which we work. Since they left, we have worked hard to further develop and expand our educational curriculum, scout out potential new projects, and offer several opportunities through our library – all of which are helping to turn our library space into a more inclusive community center. We have added several sections to previously existing programs, such as Adult and Children’s English, in addition to beginning new programs like Natural Science and Geography. We are continuing to work and strengthen our relationships with a handful of local organizations, including the Aliñambi School and the local co-op, Esperanza y Progreso del Valle (EPV). And we are looking forward to the future, with several exciting projects in the works, including creating a nutrition program for students at Aliñambi, developing a preventive health information center, using our newly certified business class instructors to teach business courses to community members, building a kitchen on the floor above the library and starting a nutritional cooking course. (For more specific details about our programs, please reference the separate sections below.)

Haley and Gisela during Summer Camp

It’s hard to believe how much has happened since July, and it’s equally exciting to think about what we will accomplish in the next eight months. Thank you for your continued support of Manna Project International Ecuador. We could not be here without you. If you would like more anecdotal, day-to-day updates, please visit our Daily Life Blog. And if you would like to see the accompanying photos to this Ecuador Update, please click here. Have a wonderful rest of the year and a very happy New Year!


Sarah and Jackie (and the rest of Team Ecuador)

Co-Public Relations Chairs

On our first group retreat (during the 7-hour hike...)

Detailed Programmatic Updates:

The nine of us are working on different projects, based on personal interests, to further our mission of using the asset-based model of community development in order to help create sustainable and holistic change in our community. Project areas range from managing the Library/Teen Center to developing programs related to agriculture and environment… with a little bit of everything in between. Below you’ll find more specific rundown of what we’ve been working on since July.

Krysta, Sarah and Lori (MPI Executive Director) goofing around on a hike

Library/Teen Center

Both the library and the teen center, run by Jackie Weidman, Mike Gabrys, and Shawn Fagan, have been flourishing since they opened in March 2009. In August, we helped run summer camp programs for both jovenes (teens) and niños (children), which helped introduce us to the youth in the community and begin the transition from last year’s PDs. Soon thereafter we began classes in addition to reconstructing the library set-up. Some of our new features include:

· A reorganized library space to encourage more reading

· Weekly internet scavenger hunt fichas (worksheets)

· More grant searches to increase funds for educational materials and additional furniture

· An improved electronic check-out system for library books

· Improving hygiene education for the kids by requiring hand-washing and teeth-brushing upon entering the library

The Teen Center continues to thrive by offering several favorite opportunities such as Friday movie nights and teen-organized parties. Additionally, Mike and Shawn have introduced their ideas by reorganizing the space to encourage more personal interaction, turning off the video games for Thursday Game Days, and by stocking the center full of brand new board games.

Bibi reads to kids in the library

Haley, Shawn and Sonia check out the fireworks during 10 de agosto celebrations in Quito


Our English classes, which are run in the third floor space above the library, have seen increased and consistent attendance in comparison to years past.

· Adult English, taught twice weekly by Chet Polson, Krysta Peterson, and Haley Booe, is just finishing its second round of classes. They have high standards for their students, as they are taught new vocabulary and grammar each class. The profes work to make class more exciting and applicable by adding different elements such as the song of the day, where students learn new vocabulary by listening to a popular song in English. Chet, Krysta and Haley are looking forward to starting both a beginner and an intermediate course in January, and are hoping to see several returning students advance to the next level.

· The Children’s English class saw an enrollment of over 20 students in mid-September and has since split into two classes, to more effectively teach to the students’ varying levels. Jackie Weidman and Shawn Fagan teach the advanced class (formerly taught by Dana Conway, who returned to the States in late October), while Sarah Scott teaches the beginners. The main goal for Children’s English has been to bring an increased level of consistency to the class, in hopes that students would learn and retain more than in the past. This has been accomplished by providing a more structured syllabus and class schedule, both of which have been phenomenally successful. Attendance has remained high, and we’ve already had several inquiries about when classes will resume in January.

· Jackie and Krysta started a Natural Science class, in conjunction with Children’s English, which takes place every Friday. Students have covered several topics ranging from fossils to volcanoes. The class has become so popular that it will be splitting from Children’s English to become its own program, along with Geography, in January.

Basic Children's English learning the names of different fruits in English

Ivan and Emelia, two Children's English students have a serious chat during Summer Camp


Art class is in its second year of existence, and although none of us are budding artists, we wanted to continue this popular, creativity-evoking class. Chet Polson and Sonia Patel tag-team this class, which is offered twice a week. They have chosen month-long themes to tie together different projects, which range from Animal Month (September) to Shapes Month (October). Different projects have included making mobiles, rain sticks, and expressive collages. Art class allows Rumiloma’s youth an opportunity for a creative outlet, which oftentimes is overlooked in the Ecuadorian education system.

Wendi focuses on her project during art class

Profe Chet gets a make-over by some of his art students


Since roughly half of the current PDs have an interest in health, it’s no surprise that the last 5 months have seen a lot of production in the health realm.

· In August, our joint-run clinic weekend with the Aliñambi school and partner non-profit, Healthechildren, was a huge success thanks in large part to the detailed planning by Krysta Peterson. In only two days doctors were able to see over 130 patients, while only charging $1 per visit.

· The Women’s Exercise Class, run by Haley Booe, has seen a huge jump in attendance since moving the class from Rumiloma’s Casa Barrial to the third floor space above our library. Since the move, Haley’s class has seen an average attendance of about 10 women. Class is offered three times per week, with a different exercise focus for each class including tae-bo, aerobics, and yoga. Additionally, Haley and the Health PDs are looking forward to starting a nutritional cooking class in conjunction with Women’s Exercise. They are currently fundraising to support the construction of a kitchen in the third floor space.

· Our relationship with the Ministry of Health has been strengthened substantially since our arrival in July due to Shawn Fagan’s efforts. Along with the Sangolquí Hospital, she has helped coordinate weekly shadowing sessions between each of the 5 Health PDs and doctors in the surrounding area. Shawn, Krysta and Sonia shadow physicians in the hospital, while Sarah and Haley shadow physicians in the campo (rural area) one morning per week.

· Our goal of opening a preventive health information center is progressing slowly but surely. Sonia Patel and Sarah Scott have worked to create a survey and plan informative focus groups with members of the community to gain a better perspective of what preventive health looks like in Ecuador. This information has allowed them to enter the planning phase, with the hope that the project will get off the ground when they return from winter vacation in January.

· The nutrition programs are also progressing nicely. Thanks to Krysta’s planning and the help of the rest of the PDs, every student at the Aliñambi School has been measured for height and weight, and that information has been plotted on the WHO growth charts. After further research, we plan to develop a nutrition program and start its implementation in conjunction with the school upon our return in January.


Art class is

Krysta and Haley lead a dental charla during the health clinic in August

Haley leads aerobics during a Tuesday Women's Exercise class


In September, Jackie Weidman and Erik Swanson began to address solid waste issues in our community by hosting a community clean-up minga (community project) and working with the local government on improving trash pick-up efficiency and discouraging the burning of household trash. We also continued the agricultural charla (talk) series started by last year’s PDs, with the first community speaker talking about raising health chickens. In the future we hope to bring more publicly accessible trash cans to the community and start to tackle the issue of providing clean drinking water in Rumiloma.

Mike and Dana picked up trash and kids during the clean-up minga

Small Business Development/Microfinance

Chet Polson and Erik Swanson have made great strides toward their goals for the microfinance and small business programs. Cooperation has increased greatly with the partner agency Esperanza y Progreso del Valle (EPV) in efforts to find workshops and other training opportunities for the cooperative. We have also been working to get EPV a better rating on an online microfinance community called Mix Market, which allows small co-ops like EPV find more funding from reliable sources. On the small business front, Chet and Erik became certified small business trainers by the Business Innovation and Development Center of the Escuela Politecnica del Ejercito (ESPE). This certification will allow the duo to teach classes to community members and interested future entrepreneurs as well as certify other small business instructors.

Chet is a newly certified business course instructor...

... along with his small business partner-in-crime, Erik

One of many beautiful sunsets, as seen from the roof of our library

Thanks for checking in with MPI Ecuador! Until next time,

Sarah and Jackie