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


The New Year

Hello faithful readers!

I just wanted to let you know that we are all back safe and sound from our winter holidays in the States.  We returned Saturday night and spent the weekend orienting our new PD, Julie! (She will be posting soon to introduce herself.)

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San Marcos Retreat!

We just returned from our 2nd retreat, and this time we went to the tranquil little town of San Marcos right on the beautiful Lake Atitlan! It had such a calm and relaxing effect on me & I loved every minute of it. We arrived Tuesday noon, just in time for lunch.

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Community Lovin'

Things have been super busy, but really quite enjoyable the past week. Our month of camp came to an end last Thursday. We met so many wonderful people through that process, particularly through the many volunteers we had from both communities.

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To be or not to be....

Yesterday was the last day of camp!  It was an eventful day because we had another guest visitor, Alberto, a friend of mine from Cuba who is a professional actor and artist.  He conducted two theatre workshops for the kids, first with the younger kids and then the older ones.  I was so impressed with how the students responded to the workshop because som

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Camp is Coming to an End

This is our last week of summer camp, which is exciting and a little sad at the same time. I am going to miss hanging out with the kids, but it is exhausting.

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Sunday Snapshot: A Very Manna Thanksgiving!

Guatemala doesn't normally observe Thanksgiving, but we made sure we did!

Of course, we still had to go to work. So we just brought Thanksgiving to camp!

Our Thursdays at camp usually involve 2 special activities. I was left alone for my special activity this week, so I seized the opportunity to do some fun Thanksgiving things.

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Sunday Snapshot: Central Camp

One thing I realized through the past two weeks of camp is that our camp is so much more than the classes we lead. Sure, it's important (and awesome) that the kids learned some English and how to take care of their environment. But camp also provides a time for the kids to just... be kids. Many of these kids would have been working if they weren't attending our camp.

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Successful CES Campaign in Central!

Today was quite the eventful day. We had our last day of camp in Central and held an event with one of our partner organizations, Community Enterprise Solutions (CES)!

Our friends at CES were great. Since we were all busy doing our camp things, they basically did everything on their own without needing any help from us!

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Today marks the 4 months I have spent as a Program Director in Guatemala. I waiver daily whether it feels much longer than four months or much less. Regardless, it's hard to imagine how different my perspective would be, without being a part of this experience.

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Sunday Snapshot: More Bottle School Photos!

Thanks to the lovely Jessica, you've already seen some snapshots of camp this week. So instead of more camp photos, I've got some fun new Bottle School photos to share with you! Since we are working our camp at Central through Thursday, we have been able to watch the construction efforts every day.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle!

After a rejuvenating retreat to Monterrico and a few days off to recharge our energy, this week we dove back into work as we began the first week of our summer camp with primary school students in Chaquijyá Central.  This year we decided to h

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Busy, Busy

We have all been really busy the past few weeks preparing for camp, figuring out spring break projects, working on partnerships with other organizations and more. We just got back from our first tram retreat on sunday and it was busy but amazing and relaxing at the same time.

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