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


(Tuesday) Snapshot: Retreat in Monterrico!

So... sorry for the huge delay in the Snapshot for this week. We spent a lovely weekend in Monterrico, a town on Guatemala's Pacific Coast, and we got back much later than expected. There are worse places to be stuck for a few hours... ;)

Here are some pics of the fun things we did this weekend!

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Bottle School Update!

On behalf of our team here in Guate, I'd like to thank all of our amazing donors again for contributing donations towards the Bottle School Project either through the T-shirt campaign or private funds!!

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School's out for Summer!

The second week of October is the last week of school for the children in Chaquijya.  It has now been almost four months since I have been teaching the after-school English classes at Cooperativa.  As this time has passed I have had the opportunity to get to know each of these kids, what activities and games they like, and how I can best teach them in a way t

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Sunday Snapshot: We Want YOU!

Except instead of the US Army, we want you to join our non-governmental organization that serves Latin American c

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Looking forward

So the school year here is coming to a close which means the end of our English classes for the year.

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Sunday Snapshot: Cooperativa Community Visit

On Wednesday, we finally got to see Cooperativa beyond the school. The principal of the school, Celso, was kind enough to walk around with us, showing us his house, people we should know, and just the general environment of where the people we work with every day live. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful little hike around Cooperativa:

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9/26 Bottle School Update!

Second story construction really took off this week. On Monday (9/24) when Ja and I went to Central for our Básico classes, we could see a wall or two.

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Sunday Snapshot: Teachers' Basketball!

Just when we thought all of the fun activities were over for a while, we learned that Thursday classes were canceled for Primaria because Central and Cooperativa were playing soccer against each other. The Central teachers enthusiastically asked us to join them in the teachers' match... which Jess eagerly agreed to.

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Goal Reached!

As of this evening, we reached our goal of selling 100 T-shirts (courtesy of for the Bottle School Project!!! Your support and generosity during this campaign these past weeks have been truly amazing and a testament to the positive impact we are all capable of making as a team.

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Sunday Snapshot: Día de Patria

Well, I have to say that choosing photos for this Sunday Snapshot may be one of the most difficult tasks I've faced since arriving here... ;) We have so many photos from the weekends' festivities!

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Independence Day Celebrations!

As Guatemala’s Independence Day approaches the unbroken sound of schoolchildren playing drums, the speakers blaring with pop music and buildings adorned with balloons and flags have all been woven into everyday life.  On my walk home today I ran into a parade of schoolchildren marching with drums.

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What Teaching Teaches Me

We have been here for almost 2 months. That blows my mind! I can't believe how quickly time is passing.

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