Manna Project International

Taylor Brown is the US Coordinator at Manna Project International. Here, she provides some insight into her position and the work of the organization. Be sure to check out @NYUWassEmployer tomorrow, 4/29, as Manna Project will be guest tweeting our Day in the Life series.

I became involved with Manna Project International as a college sophomore. As a summer intern in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to give practical experience to my international politics and economics degree. Eager to continue the work in which I became involved, I returned to Ecuador as a Program Director as soon as I completed my undergraduate education at Middlebury College. I have had the opportunity to be involved in programs at all three sites (Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala), and now I work with various university chapters of Manna Project, and dialogue with prospective Program Directors.

What is Manna Project?
Manna Project International (MPI) is a nonprofit organization that connects college students, recent graduates and young professionals with communities in Latin America where they can apply their passions, experience, and education. With the vision of communities serving communities, MPI’s model is a collaborative community-based approach to development stressing three organizational pillars: holistic approach, community focus and leadership development. At our sites in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, groups of year-long Program Directors live and work together implementing a range of education, health and livelihood community development programs.

What is holistic community development?
In the development community, the word “sustainability” gets thrown around often. For Manna Project, sustainability can only be obtained by taking on development from a multitude of angles. For example, we have a math and literacy program for primary school children in Nicaragua, but if the students are not healthy, they will not be able to focus on their studies. To this end, MPI Nicaragua developed the “Comedor” program, which focuses on nutrition and dental hygiene. Given our holistic approach, Manna has a variety of programs that promote health, education, and business.

Manna Project also utilizes the unique skill set that each Program Director offers. We have medical school students who primarily focus on the clinics and child development program in Nicaragua, international finance graduates who have pushed the micro-finance program in Ecuador to new heights, and environmentally minded PDs in Guatemala that partnered with a local NGO to construct an addition to a primary school made from plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. Each Program Director’s passion keeps Manna moving forward, adopting new programs, and encouraging the community to become more involved running these programs in order to build sustainable change.

Day in the Life: MPI Nicaragua
Founded in 2004, the MPI site in Managua, Nicaragua has grown exponentially since its inception. MPIN runs a number of education programs, from math and literacy, to English, to health education and basic hygiene. There also exists a micro-finance program, where small loans are given to budding businesses in the community. MPIN also works with young children to promote child development and growth in underdeveloped communities that lack access to healthcare facilities. We are present in two clinics, one of which was recently constructed in partnership with Florida State University’s medical school in Cedro Galán, the community in which many of our programs take place. MPIN also partners with Lacrosse the Nations to build leadership and confidence through sport.

Day in the Life: MPI Ecuador
Manna Project expanded to the Chillos Valley of Ecuador in 2007. The majority of our programs in Ecuador take place in our “Centro”, located on the corner of four communities within the Chillos Valley. Education programs include English, computer technology classes, art class, and nutrition to both adults and students in a local high school. The Centro also offers exercise classes five days a week, and is open each afternoon for anyone in the community to stop by. At 2:30 pm every day, the neighborhood children run into the library to play educational games and interact with Program Directors. The micro-finance program took off in 2012, providing loans to small businesses in surrounding communities. The success stories from these small businesses are inspiring, and Manna is already on its third cycle of loans, with 100% payback so far.

Day in the Life: MPI Guatemala
The newest of Manna Project’s sites, Guatemala was integrated into the community of Chaquijyá in 2010. The majority of MPIG’s programs are education based, and take place in the two local primary schools. What really differentiates Chaquijyá from the other communities in which Manna exists is that the primary language of the community is a Mayan dialect called Kaqchikel. Given the bilingual nature of the community, teachers, parents, and students alike are very interested in learning English. Other education programs include art, health, and environmental education. Program Directors are constantly running programs in the local schools and alongside other local organizations in Guatemala.

Spirit of the Program Director
Our Program Directors boast a variety of backgrounds, but all of them come to Manna with a passion for the work we do. Across the board, they are:
•    Open to new experiences
•    Flexible (we are on Latin American time)
•    Creative
•    Self-starters
•    Passionate
•    Relationship builders

Apply today on CareerNet for the International Program Director Internship position. (NYU CareerNet ID 925524)
For more information on Manna Project programs, or for information on how to become involved, please don’t hesitate to email me at taylor.brown@mannaproject.org or visit our website: www.mannaproject.org

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