Manna Project International

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Charitable Organization
, Sololá
July 14, 2013 - 9:35pm
Lake Atitlan + Chimaltenango
Dana Zichlin
5 - 10
Business / Fair Trade, Education / Schools, Economic Development

MPI serves the aldea of Chaquijyá, which consists of four neighborhoods called Central, Cooperativa, Yaxon, and Xilbalbay. Approximately 130 kilometers from Guatemala City, the community lies within the department of Sololá, the 5th poorest in the country. Of the 6,000 inhabitants in Chaquijyá, seventy-seven percent of the community lives in poverty, and thirty-four percent lives in extreme poverty earning less than US$1 per day. The life expectancy is about 64 years.

Since it was formed, Chaquijyá has been an agricultural community. Their primary cash crop is corn, but many residents also grow herbs and spices. According to local tradition, a father divides his land between his sons, and so farmland becomes smaller and smaller with each generation. Alternative means of income frequently become necessary, but are difficult to come by.

Our work currently focuses on the neighborhood of Central. We've just finished a summer program for 120 kids and we teach English alongside the local teachers to 4th - 6th grades. Soon we'll begin programs working in environmental cleanup and recycling, developing a women's cooperative, and assisting the community health workers.

Our mission is to foster communities of young adults and encourage them to use their passions and education in service to communities in need.

Our vision is to establish a global network of Manna Project communities where young adults live and work alongside one another in underserved communities to initiate positive change.

Our three organizational pillars are a holistic approach, a community focus, and volunteer development.

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The Blog: Updates from Manna Project International

Nutrition in Guatemala: Access vs. Resources

Guatemala is so beautiful - from the rolling hills and lakes, to the vibrant colored, diverse crops sold in the markets. The country seems to have it all. This reminds me how the majority of issues in Guatemala can be due to lack of access, not necessarily resources. 

For example, when I walk through the market, here in Solola, I am amazed at all of the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, beans, spices, etc that are sold. They are grown here and sold here. So how can Guatemala have such high rates of malnutrition? And this is where I believe the lack of access versus the lack of resources idea comes into play.

It's not that the people lack fruits and vegetables, or other foods that provide necessary nutrients, but instead the people, especially the indigenous people, choose to sell those nutritious crops for more money, instead of keeping them for their own famliies. Nutritionally, fruits and vegetables are not as sustaining as items such as corn and beans. Therefore, families have historically made meals based on more filling foods that lack the nutrients they need. And this has become a part of their culture in the kitchen.

This can be seen in both the meal we had with the family in Tecpan, as well as with the cooking class meal we had in Panajachel last week. Both meals involved a "tamalito" or corn-based dough item. (I found this to be extremely filling.) It is also very typical to have multiple corn tortillas with every meal. Additionally, we had a corn-based soup at our traditional meal in Panajachel. Also typical is Atole, a corn-based hot drink, often served with cookies.

Keeping cultural sensitivity in mind, we must put ourselves in their shoes. Instead of blaming them for choosing unhealthy options, one must consider how tradition has shaped their decisions in the kitchen as well as how the market and poverty continues to shape their choices today.

Vegetables for sale at the Sololá market - Blair, Visage Student


Reflecting on Cultural Constructs of Childhood

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Lovin' on After School English

Today marks two weeks left here in Guatemala. Time passed so quickly while the summer volunteers were here! I feel like I just went to the airport to pick up session one, but in reality we sent the last group of summer volunteers home a week ago. So now we have to transition back to only having PDs in the house all the time.

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Reflection on the past 8 weeks

Our Summer Interns left on Sunday, and our house (and lives) feel(s) emptier and quieter without them. We do have a final blog post from one of our 8-week volunteers, so I will post it below:

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The Perfect Ending to an Unforgettable Trip

Last week we celebrated Día del Maestros at Cooperativa. The kids all made up dances and performed them in front of the teachers. We had the privilege of sitting on the raised area with the rest of the teachers of the school overlooking the area where the students were performing.

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Life in the Clouds

The mammoth Volcán Atitlán can either be seen clearly from our window in Sololá, or the view from our window can be nonexistent; the clouds can become so overpowering that you can’t even see anything at all. You could literally look out the window and see a world of white.

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Art that Scratches More than the Surface

As my time in Guatemala is coming to an end, we have officially entered the rainy season and the students are currently taking their quarterly exams. Because of exams, Nutrition, my original program, was cancelled. I didn’t learn this until I arrived at school bright and early this morning. Don’t fret, though.

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Santa Cruzin'

I still can’t wrap my mind around that fact that I am spending my summer working in Guatemala!  I am currently a summer intern volunteer, working with six other summer volunteers, and four program directors.  One of my first significant experiences was at the school in Central, Chaquijyá, on my first day on the job. As I was waiting outside to teach my first a

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Culture Shock & Gratification

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Visit to Quetzaltenango!

Last weekend, we visited Primeros Pasos, a health organization that works in the rural area of Quetzaltenango. They have a medical clinic, where they see patients on a regular basis. They also have health-related educational programs in the schools nearby. We met with the Development Coordinator there and discussed possible ideas for how we see our sexual education program progressing.

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New beginnings

The beginning of the fourth quarter in Guatemala has marked a time for closing doors and opening new ones.  Nicole and Ja had been working with the Basico English program since they arrived in July teaching English classes at the middle school in Central.  Over time we decided that it would be best to equip a teacher from the school to teach these classes, to

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Getting Back into Gear

This past week was pretty busy, planning for the arrival of summer interns, finishing up the quarter, and preparing for our programs. Our first group of summer interns arrives on May 11th, only a few short weeks away. Julie and I are hard at work planning for their arrival--creating budgets, arranging transportation, etc.

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Spring Break Re-cap

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