Ecuador, Library, Manna Project

campamento

We’ve just begun running our first program of the year, a three-week summer camp for the local kids that frequent our library and teen center, and we have been swamped with work. It has been 11 or 12 hours days and we’re tired, but really enjoying working with the kids.

In lieu of a more detailed post, here are some of my favorite pictures from camp so far!

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The kids with their art projects!

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“Profesoras” Catherine and Jessa overseeing art class

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This is the neighborhood in which Manna Project works, Rumiloma. I love walking to and from the bus stop every day with this beautiful view of the mountains in the background.

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Community, Ecuador, Manna Project

a home in the Valley

This is the Valley de los Chillos, where I will be living and working for the next year. This is also the view from the roof of my new “office building,” Manna Project International’s library where we hold nearly all of our classes and programs.

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Being here is like floating through a dream. Mountains don’t soar like this in the states, at least that I have seen. The breeze carries whorls of fragrance from the eucalyptus trees, and from the distance the comforting scent of farmers burning their fields to the rhythms of the earth and sun, as they have for thousands of years.This is foreign to me, this idea of living a small-town life, this connection to communities built around commonality of place, and it is desperately, excessively beautiful.

I dream of waking up and spending quiet time in the morning hours on the roof with coffee and my Bible and this testimony to the goodness and beauty of God spread out before me. Yet, against this dreamy backdrop I am still trying to wrap my head around the reality of being here for an entire year, of making a home for myself here and working here. Like a tourist still I pull out my camera to take pictures of the mountains that will surround me 24/7 for the next thirteen months, so enthralled by the beauty that I promise myself I will never stop being in awe.

Manna is trying to bring us down from the clouds gracefully. For the past few days we have been shadowing the current Program Directors as they finish out their programs for summer break, learning all we can before we select which programs we want to take charge of. Even as we are finally starting to get into the nitty-gritty of what daily life will look like in the Valley, it has been hard to come to some sort of understanding that this is training for my first real jobs, and the next year of life working in community development here. My mind is filled with dreams about how to take programs to the next level, how to expand the work that the current Program Directors have started and how to impact even more people. My dreams could fill this whole valley, all of ours could.

Yet as we spend each day here, it’s the touches with the reality that are quickly becoming the sweetest. Something as simple as learning a few of the basic  bus routes has given me immeasurable joy on top of my busy yet wonderful days. I know how to get to the Manna house, the Manna library, Spanish school, the supermarket… some of the routes that I will take daily for the next thirteen months.  I have to say I am impressed with myself for these small accomplishments. I know they’re the start of something bigger, the daily process to build my life here.

 

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Manna Project

orientation

For the past few days, a wide-eyed group of recent college grads has been gathered at the Hyatt by the Miami airport, learning and strategizing about development work in Latin America. We’ve been jacked up on coffee and deprived of sunlight as we’ve huddled in Meeting Room #2 for hours on end, scribbling notes and trying to absorb the barrage of facts and figures our bosses have been spitting out. From the seeds we have planted in the past two days will spring the next thirteen months of work that will transform communities in Ecuador and Nicaragua.

I am incredibly surprised to say that orientation for my next year of work at Manna Project International: Ecuador has been an incredible experience, scribbling and sunlight deprivation aside. As Program Directors we have been bonding over  mounting anticipation of arriving  in our countries tomorrow night, and have formed relationships as colleagues and friends that will blossom in the next thirteen months. Although its unlikely that we will see our Nicaragua-bound colleagues after we all fly out tomorrow afternoon, to know the team that will be working on the ground there has been a surprise blessing; I look forward to hearing about all the amazing work they’ll do there.

For now we are all bubbling with excitement for what’s to come; we’ve been submerged in photos and stories of our future home for the past 48 hours and now it’s finally [almost!] here. We’ll be carrying our new friendships and innovative ideas to Ecuador, but for as much as we’ve prepared I know there is so much to come that we can’t foresee. Challenges, laughter, homesickness, joy…. bring it on. We’re ready.

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