04 February 2010

We're Moving!

Greetings Sponsors and Friends,

In the interest of having a common source of information for all of Manna Project International's programs and activities, this blog will no longer be in use. For updates on Child Sponsorship (CS), please view MPI's Daily Life Blog at www.talesofsudorandamor.blogspot.com. We hope that you will find that site helpful in keeping track of CS's progress and that you will also enjoy learning about all of MPI's various efforts to provide holistic community development in the neighborhoods of Chiquilistagua, Cedro Galan, and La Chureca.

Very best wishes,

MPI Child Sponsorship Team

02 December 2009

A Xiloa Good Time

As part of the MPI Nicaragua Child Sponsorship (CS) team, one of my roles is planning the quarterly field trips for participating children and caretakers in our program. The CS program is unique in that we provide opportunities for the children of La Chureca to leave behind the perennial smoke and trash of their neighborhood for an afternoon of recreation and relaxation with their families in a safe, clean place. Earlier this year in late July, we joined the former PDs in hosting a trip to El Salero, the Community Center land on which we run our programs in Kid’s English, Library, Baseball, and Soccer. The day was an undeniable success, allowing the children plenty of time and space to enjoy the great outdoors. I decided to repeat another popular field trip idea last Friday when we brought our children and their mothers to Laguna Xiloa. Last year’s group did the same with summer volunteers, and in light of the MPI Nicaragua 5-year anniversary celebration in which PDs of ages past reunited this weekend in Managua, I thought they might join us in the fun of hosting a trip to enjoy the waters of Xiloa.

Laguna Xiloa (pronounced "Hee-Low-Wah"), site of our field trip last Friday

We arrived at the side entrance of Chureca to meet the mothers and children at 12:45 on Friday, where we awaited the arrival of a big yellow school bus that would take us all to Xiloa, about a 30 minute drive away. Ian and I road up front, took attendance, and chatted with families on the way. When we got to the laguna, we were delighted to see the beautiful open space with little covered areas for benches and picnic-ing. Some of the children and mothers took to the water fairly quickly, while others preferred the grass and the shade. Some of the children had little bathing suits, others swam in their clothing, others half naked. Whatever their manner of taking to the water, the smiles and laughter were abundant. We waded right in with the kids...from the shallow end with the toddlers looking at the minnows rush by to the deeper areas with the more adventurous kids. Mothers swam and lounged in the cool water, where they stayed talking away the afternoon. We were already in the midst of playing with children and visiting with mothers when the PDs of the past arrived to join our festivities. Some of these PDs were acquainted with certain families from years past, and others were members of the board and staff who were able to visit and see one small aspect of what we do on Child Sponsorship. We were all able to learn from the afternoon at Xiloa, and we all had a grand time! I learned that children play tag in Spanish by saying “la landa” and that sometimes it just takes a handhold to get a timid child to enter the water. I found out that everyone needs time to just be - be with family, be refreshed, be safe and relaxed, be a kid, be a mother. On last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the ability to join these mothers and children in an afternoon away from La Chureca. Reflecting on the day, I am thankful for the relationships I’ve been able to establish through Child Sponsorship, how I’ve seen these children begin to grow, and how the mothers have entrusted us with their health concerns and needs.

Snapshot of the craziness

To put this day into perspective, these children and their families do not have access to complete immersion in clean water. They bathe with buckets and hoses or in sinks (for the children who are small enough). Moreover, I oftentimes walk around Chureca and find recently washed children already dirty from playing outside without their shoes on or from the dust and smoke that fills the air. And although they live next to a huge lake (Lake Managua/Lake Xolotlán), the runoff from La Chureca has polluted it to the point that swimming and fishing these waters is highly dangerous. Many have fallen sick from mercury laden fish, and the pollution is visible as trash and sewage line the banks. The Laguna Xiloa, on the other hand, is a local getaway where the waters thrill and awe visitors. I say ‘awe’ because my limited experience has taught me that some Nicaraguan people I have met who have never had access to a pool or natural body of water (and thus have never learned how to swim) have a healthy fear of water.

Milton views the laguna

It was that healthy respect for water that helped us have a safe day at the laguna. And with a provided snack of fiber cookies, bananas, and juice, the day ended with many smiles and lots of wet clothing!

Jose Manual enjoys the water and a few extra bananas

From Nicaragua to America, Happy Thanksgiving!

Jan Margaret

25 November 2009

CS - Last Milk Day of 2009!!!

Greetings from our team in what is the last Milk Day of 2009 and a very exciting time for our Child Sponsorship team. In keeping with the rush of the holiday season, this has been a bustling time for all. This week is MPI's 5 year Nicaraguan site reunion in which our house has been stormed by PDs of years past. They come bearing stories and passions for MPI which have already served as a reminder to many of us of why we decided to join this organization. Moreover, they will be key participants in an upcoming field trip we are taking with the children in our program. This Friday, after the old PDs return to Chureca to re-visit old friends, we will be taking the mothers and children in a big yellow bus out to a nearby laguna for an afternoon of relaxation in the fresh countryside. I am excited to spend time with the mothers and children away from the smoke of Chureca, and I am especially interested to learn how to watch 50 or so children who have almost no swimming experience dive into a lake...this is going to be interesting. Thank goodness we'll have the old PDs here for lifeguard/play duty! From what I've heard, most will be too scared of the water to get too deep...but the fresh, cool water will be a wonder for all.

Milk Day, the past two days, has been very exciting as we are able to graduate 5 children from our program! This means that they will be moving to "level two" in which they slowly transition away from receiving the vitamins, milk, and oatmeal in order to see if they can maintain a healthy weight on their own. The mothers were excited to hear that their children have reached a healthy weight.

The following week is sure to be jam-packed as we have a visitor bringing clothing for a sale for the mothers as well as catered food to host a Christmas party! It's sure to be a "Feliz Navidad!"

Hooray for a year well-spent. Thank you again for your thoughtful donations that allow so many lives to be changed.

Child Sponsorship

19 November 2009

November News

Last week, we very very excited to have three volunteer consultants visit our clinic to analyze operations and ways to improve. Their presence allowed us to engage in stimulating conversation on the clinic, child sponsorship, and opportunities to strengthen the services the clinic offers to the community in La Chureca.

As far as team CS goes, we’ve had a few illnesses in the Manna House over the past few weeks, changing up how we’ve been doing our home visits. Thus, last week I visited families with Ian. It was great to have his perspective as we checked in with various community members. Ian, who is in charge of fundraising, normally has a very autonomous position within our team, allowing him to visit with various community partners while the rest of us home visit. He has formed strong relationships with many of the children through his visits to the local school, Esperanza, where he also visits with school leaders to coordinate aspects of our work with what is going on in the school. An unexpected highlight of walking around with Ian last week was the discovery of the birth of a litter of puppies at Mariana’s house. The new pups crawled playfully about as we visited with Mariana’s mother and her three younger sisters. One of our hopes for the future of the program is that we can begin to enter siblings of current children into our program; we believe that by targeting siblings of current participants, we can see substantial growth for families in La Chureca.

Yesterday, our weekly charla at 9am heralded some exciting announcements. For one, our next Milk Day will be the following week, Tuesday and Wednesday. We were excited by the fact that all of the mothers have had better attendance overall during the last month of charlas and will be able to benefit fully from the upcoming Milk Day. Also, I announced the upcoming “field trip” we will be taking the children on next week the day after Thanksgiving. With a Nicaragua Program Director reunion to take place over the holiday weekend, we will all be taking the families in our program to a nearby laguna to relax and play in the cool water. The charla yesterday concerned “Community Improvement” and “Hygiene” and was given by Esmerelda, the nurse, using posters from the Ministry of Education. She spoke upon house clean and hygiene as ways to prevent disease, and the mothers actively commented throughout the charla.

Stay tuned for more updates...and MILK DAY!


Child Sponsorship

09 November 2009

Last Week - surprises!

With half of the Manna House participating in community home-stays last week, I am just now posting the Chureca update. Last week was a week of surprises! For one, on Tuesday, we were surprised to arrive at the clinic and find all of our mothers there to receive a gift of food from a visiting organization. With the benefit of this centrality, we were able to stay near the clinic and use the morning as a chance to play with the children and get to know the families in a more casual setting than our weekly "official" house visits. The new phrase I learned in the week previous provided very useful: "Llevame en tuto" or "Carry me on your shoulders" was requested repeatedly. On Wednesday, our visiting doctors lead a charla on sexual health which all of the children's mothers participated in actively. The very professional and fluent doctors were able to engage the mother's interest while providing enlightening information. The final surprise occurred on Thursday morning. I was in my home-stay when I received a call from the Manna House telling me we'd have to cancel the home visits due to the impending hurricane about to hit Nicaragua. Although the brunt of the hurricane was to fall on the opposite side (East Coast) of Nicaragua, there was a severe storm warning for Managua. The roads in and around Chureca can become impassible during torrents of rain, and this unfortunately this lead us to abandon our usual visit. However, it is fortunate that everyone stayed safe, and Managua remained unharmed by the storms other than some rain. Now everyone is geared up to get back to work this week! Stay tuned for more updates.

28 October 2009

October Milk Day

Milk Day is a busy, happy, hot day. Today, Milk Day began directly after our charla. Lauren Page and Ian welcome the children and mothers into the measuring room where they take each child’s height and weight measurements. Next, Anina and I (Jan Margaret) meet with the mothers one-on-one to review the child’s growth or lack there of. We discuss everything from health of child and family to progress in school to the children’s interests. Today, we also asked mothers about their participation in the recycling and relocation program currently being planned by the Spanish government. Some mothers went to a meeting today with representatives from Spain who are making efforts to move families out of the Chureca neighborhood into new, clean homes nearby while employing them in a to-be-opened recycling plant. Talking with the mothers, I sometimes feel like a doctor or medical professional: I am asked about needed surgeries, birth control, doctor consultations, and other needs. Entrusted with their health needs, I am humbled what I can and can not do and continually try to point everyone in the right direction. Anina and I are also in charge of informing Mothers when they are in risk from bad charla attendance or when their children have grown to the point that they are ready to graduate. It is always exciting to get to know the mothers and children and to give them individualized attention. When the consultation with the families is over, we point them towards Amelia. She is in charge of doling out the appropriate milk, oatmeal, and vitamins for each child. Today, children were able to meet with visiting doctors from Portland, Oregon, who are here to check them up on general health and aid with specific needs as they see fit. Finally, Leah brought her camera to take pictures of the children. We hope to post these pictures on our website so that you can see your child’s growth!

27 October 2009

Tuesday, Right Side

Amelia and I were back to our routine of Tuesdays - Right Side, Thursdays - Left Side, and thus, we walked around the right side of the clinic today. We visited almost all of the 13 families living along our route, briefly checking in with some and staying longer at other houses, informing them of the upcoming Milk Day (tomorrow!) and inquiring about some of their sketchy attendance in recent charlas. Accountability in this area is necessary, and today we were surprised by some of the reasons the Mothers could not make it to the charlas during the past month: a necessary trip to get an identification card, etc.

Walking around today, I learned at least two new words: churequear, meaning to work in La Chureca, and the phrase “Llevame en tuto” - “Carry me on your shoulders!” One of the most entertaining (and dirty) parts of the family visits are getting to see some of the children who are out playing in the neighborhood. Often times, this can be an opportunity to get to know new families and potential children for our malnourishment program. Today, we met a delightful little boy living near some of the other children in our program. His bright smile and enthusiasm were traits I see often in the children living in La Chureca, and they are just one more reminder of what this place is, a neighborhood and a home, in addition to being a municipal dump. Walking around, it is surreal to see children playing in the dirt roads right next to a huge pile of trash. For them, it’s home. As a foreigner, it’s not recommended that I stay in La Chureca for more than four hours. FOUR hours. But for the dwellers of La Chureca, this is life. Visiting families, I get a glimpse into life in the La Chureca neighborhood. The harsh realities fade as I laugh with the mothers and toss their children into my arms, but they are never far away due to the sickness, the dirt, and the trash. We hope that by developing our program further, we can help provide for one of the most fundamental needs: the need for food and nutrition.

Tomorrow’s charla will highlight Dengue and H1N1. Stay tuned for more updates as Milk Day is this Wednesday and Thursday. Also, with visiting pediatricians in town, all of the children will be receiving check-ups from two very kind-hearted US doctors. For that, we are very thankful and excited.