This week has been crazy, exhausting, and wonderful all at the same time. On top of the ten Manna PDs that normally live in our house, this week we’ve been hosting two week-long spring break groups, bringing the grand total of individuals using our space to thirty one. So yeah, its been busy around here. But despite the absolute insanity that comes with thirty one people trying to make breakfast and dinner at the same time, its actually been really enjoyable having extra hands at work on our programs, and we’ve been able to have a lot of special activities and events that we normally don’t have the capacity to do.
I’m one of the leaders of the group from Vanderbilt this week so I’m responsible for helping organize their activities and events for Manna’s first ever Literacy Week, something that I hope will become an annual thing. We’re having storytelling and reading hour with our library regulars, turning a spare room in our library into an adult reading room, and this morning we had a spelling bee at a local middle school, Chaupitena. It has taken over a month to organize the spelling bee, including a handful of meetings on Monday (a weekend day for Manna), but today it proved to all be worth it when we saw the final product of our efforts.
We arrived at the school bright and early thinking we’d have to set up the chairs and microphones quickly and get everything in order only to find that the teachers had already set everything up and brought their students out into the school courtyard to watch their classmates participate. As the competition started we first recited the national anthem, and then the teachers and administrators that had worked with us to coordinate the competition took the microphone to make speeches. They thanked us for all of our efforts and initiative to organize the event, reminding us that our efforts aren’t just helping the students at Chaupitena with their spelling, but with their self-confidence and their desire to learn and grow it general. The teachers even got emotional when they were talking about how much they appreciated our efforts, and told us to seguir, seguir, seguir with our efforts and with our desire to work with them.
It was really touching to hear, and was one of those special moments where you remember why you chose to come here and the impact that you make even when you don’t realize it; the hearts that you can touch. I am constantly reminded that you can’t work seeking that thanks alone; that often in development work thanks are few and far between. But man does it touch my heart to hear the thanks when it does come.
After a rousing forty five minutes of competition, judged by Manna’s Country Director Fred and Virginia’s Ecuadorian boyfriend Lucho, we had our winner, Alison, and our second place champion Nicol. They were so excited, and their friends and classmates were excited as well. We gave them trophies and books, and Alison won 3 free months of classes with Manna Project as well.
Tomorrow we’re off to paint a literacy-themed mural at a kindergarden at Fajardo, close to our community center. Its been a long, busy week, but a productive one; it makes me so happy to be in Ecuador and so excited to see how the projects and relationships that we’ve developed this week will lead to even more impact in the future.