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


Sunday Snapshot: Breakdancing

As Sarah mentioned in her previous post, the schools have been gearing up for Independence Day. While the festivities themselves have been rather foreign to us, there is one commonality between Guatemalan children and US children-- they like to breakdance.

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Independence Day is right around the corner (9/15) and it is a pretty big deal here in Guate. Decorations are being hung and flags are being attached to everything from buildings to the public buses/taxis/micros. Here, the schools are the center of the festivities. Each school has parties and parades for the children and families in its town.

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Bottle School T-Shirts!

I am so excited to announce the launch of our 3-week t-shirt campaign!

Before I jump into the t-shirts, I want to thank our supremely generous anonymous donor who gave $30,000 toward the Bottle School Project! We are so grateful and humbled by this amazing gift, and we know the members of Central, Chaquijyá appreciate it as well. :)

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Sunday Snapshot: All the Small Things

Time has really flown by. It has now been a month and a half since we first stepped off that plane at the Guatemala City airport. Since then, we've all individually learned so much about our roles in the organization and in the community of Chaquiyá.

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Seeking solidarity

I have now been in Guatemala for a little over two months.  As I walk down the streets taking in the smells of fresh rain and corn tortillas, I am overcome by an incredible feeling that this is exactly where I need to be.  This country is an incredi

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This morning, I was cutting up a banana to put in my bowl of cereal. As I was adding the banana to my cereal, I reflected that the bananas are the perfect size here. There is just enough banana for your cereal and that's it. And I thought to myself, "bananas are so much bigger in the U.S. - what do they do with the extra?"

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La Feria de Solola!

Hey everyone! My name is Sarah . I was born in Virginia but lived most of my life in NJ. I Graduated from Penn State with a BS in Science in 2010 and I am currently finishing up my MPH in International Health and Development at Tulane University. My areas of interest are Indigenous health, nutrition adn program design/implementation/evaluation.

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One Month Guate-versary!

So, I realized that I never formally introduced myself to all of you, and I've been running the blog for about 2 weeks now. Awkward. Better late than never, right?

Here goes:

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Sunday Snapshot: Desfile!

As you read in Ja's previous post, it's the Sololá feria this week. Nicole and Ja already participated in a parade (desfile) on Wednesday, but all of us at MPI-G participated in one with Central Primario today! We had a great time, even if it meant getting up at 6:30 this morning.

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Básico Parade in Sololá

Hey everyone! My name is Ja Lee and I will be one of the new Guate Program Directors for the 2012-2013 year! Just a brief intro about myself: I recently graduated this May from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with degrees in Biology and Spanish.

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Sunday Snapshot: Feliz Cumple, Ja!

Friday we celebrated Ja's 23rd birthday! Ja is one of our new PD's. She and Jess ventured to Ven Aca, which has a beautiful pool that backs up the our beloved Lake Atitlan. 

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Far From Home

We are far, far from home, and we're so happy. Far from home, all alone, but we're so happy.-"From Finner," Of Monsters and Men

This week marks the Guatemala 12-13 crew's first week on our own, since our summer vols, previous PD and CD have all departed. I felt this song lyric to be most appropriate in describing our experience up until now.

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