Friday, February 25, 2011

Hi! Welcome to English Class!

If I wasn’t in love with medicine, I would want to be a teacher.  This experience has allowed me to play teacher as I stepped into the role as “profe” (short for profesora) of an adult Beginner’s English class.  Teaching English is truly one of the most valuable services Manna offers because we are native speakers.  In a country where the job hunt is brutal, knowing English provides a real advantage over other prospects and provides opportunities for higher paying jobs.  There are English classes in Nicaragua, but they are taught by native Spanish speakers… aka people learn “Can you say me your name?”  Not quite.

Teaching English is very difficult.  It's something I use everyday but never think about.  Now I'm challenged to consciously think of how I can present the language to a non-native speaker.  We somewhat follow a curriculum from a set of textbooks, but we mainly plan our own lessons, vocab lists, worksheets, etc.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, my friend Amanda and I teach an hour long class to 30ish students from our community, most between the ages of 15 and 25.  I usually begin with the dialogue:  “Hello!  Welcome to English Class.  How are you, student-I-choose-to-pick-on?”  “I’m fine and you?”  “I’m great!  Thanks for asking.”  Sometimes, I’ll switch it up and say, “I’m tired.”  And I gesture until they understand the word tired and repeat it to me in Spanish.  Or any other word I feel like acting out.
I try to use the least amount of Spanish as possible in my classes.  This is difficult because many of them know very, very little English.  So there is lots of acting, lots of funny faces, lots of making myself look like an idiot.  But it works. 
We’ve only taught 2 grammar tenses – simple present (ex: I eat, you eat, he/she/it eats, we eat, they eat) and present progressive (ex: I am eating, you are eating, he/she/it is eating, we are eating, they are eating).  It’s hard to focus the majority of my speech to these two tenses.  I’ve also gotten really good at saying one thought in like 3 sentences so they get the point.  “Write your name on your paper.”  “Everyone needs to have a name on his/her paper.”  “I want to see a name on your paper.”  I’ve noticed they’ll at least be able to pick out “name” and “paper” from each sentence to realize what I want them to do.
Here are some pics of mi clase.

Monday, February 21, 2011

another week in the Manna house

All of our programs are now in full swing, and we stay really busy running them or planning during the week.  I'm involved with Child Sponsorship, which I've talked quite a bit about already.  I also teach an adult Beginner's English class, kid's Literacy and Math class.  And help out with adult Advanced English, 2 kid's English classes, women's exercise, girl's soccer, comedor (feeding center).  I will talk in much more detail about each soon :)
 I also realized I've never introduced my group!  Here we are...program directors 2011!
Back: Zac, Matt, Dane, Will, Luke. Front: Lori (MPI executive director), Megan, Amira (country director), Me, Amanda, Steph, Katie

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Esteli and Tisey

This past weekend, I saw evergreens, wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and needed a blanket at night.  Could I really be in Nicaragua!?  We traveled up north to the mountains of Esteli and Tisey.  It was an incredible change of pace from our busy schedules in Managua.  We had lots of time to relax, hang out, and hike.  We also visited a famous artist who lives in the side of the mountain and carves sculptures out of the rocks.
Matt, Megan, Zac, Me, Dane
rock sculptures. lizard w/ a really cool back.
with the mountain man/incredibly talented artist

Friday, February 11, 2011

donating blood

Sara Zeledon Hernandez is an 8 year old girl in our Child Sponsorship program who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia 13 months ago.  Aplastic anemia is a condition where the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough blood cells – WBCs, RBCs, and platelets.  Every 8 days, she gets her blood counts checked and receives a blood transfusion if the numbers are below normal.  Today, 5 Manna program directors and 1 community member, Karen Bustos, donated blood at the Nicaraguan Red Cross in Sara’s name to ensure she receives the blood she needs! 
Donating blood in Nicaragua was exactly the same as in the US.  I learned that Nicaragua has one of the greatest donor rates in the entire world!
500cc later... I've ensured Sara will receive blood :)
Katie and Matt finishing up and about to relax with some pear juice.
Amanda mid-stick.
When Karen learned she was a universal donor, she got extremely excited and asked how often she was able to donate.  The sense of community and desire to help others in this country is amazing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

twinkle twinkle little star

I'm in love with Nica nights - especially when they're spent sleeping on the roof patio under the brightest sky you'll ever see.

There's no way a picture can capture a fraction of the beauty, but I tried.

Monday, February 7, 2011


To say I'm obsessed with the children of Chureca is an understatement.  Here are some pics from our field trip this past Saturday :)
Douglas takes a swing at the piñata

Reynaldo anticipates las caramelas (candy)

How many caramelas can you hold?

José Antonio before he ventures down the slide.

Sweet little Snayder.

Friday, February 4, 2011

La Chureca

This post is long overdue.  La Chureca is where I fell in love with Nicaragua about 3 years ago.  Many describe Chureca as “indescribable,” and it’s often compared to “hell on earth.”  It’s an overload to your senses – the smells of rotten food, burning garbage, dead animal flesh, sewage; the sight of people and animals alike scavenging for dinner; the sound of dump trucks driving in and out all day long; the feeling of dust and dirt… everywhere.  Children run around barefoot on the same grounds where hospital waste is discarded.  It’s an area where drug addiction, prostitution, and illness are rampant.  To put it simply, Chureca is a crazy place.   
La Chureca is Managua’s city dump, the largest open air dump in Central America, named one of the “20 Horrors of the Modern World,” and home to 1,500 Nicaraguans.  The community lives in scanty houses and makes a living by sorting through the trash for recyclables.  For this population, the trash is a grocery store, toy store, furniture store.
I serve as part of the Child Sponsorship (CS) team which currently serves 37 undernourished children.  These precious little angels are provided with milk, vitamins, and oatmeal once a month and weights/heights/BMIs are monitored to track the children’s progress.  I spend my time in Chureca on Tues and Thurs mornings forming relationships with our families as we walk around visiting the community and on Wed mornings in a health charla (chat) which is required for our moms.
one of the families in our program
Recently, there have been some major changes surrounding Chureca.  First, after the nutrition presentation we heard last week, we’ve been inspired to shift the focus of CS.  In the past, CS has focused on children who were already undernourished, and we have children enrolled from ages 1-9.  However, overwhelming research shows that the best way to prevent disabling affects of malnutrition is to prevent it.  Ages 0-2 are critical years for growth and development, and if children in this age range are undernourished, the affects will be lasting and essentially irreversible later in life.  With our limited funds, we’ve decided to shift the focus to 0-2 year olds to nip malnutrition in the bud.  This means we are graduating older children who are still statistically undernourished, but there’s a good chance our program will never help them reach a healthy standard.  I know, que triste.  We also don’t want to discourage breast feeding, so while we won’t provide children 0-6months with milk, we need to figure out how we are going to target these children.
this little boy is 8 but looks to have the stature of a 4-5 year old
The Spanish government has been working to revamp Chureca.  They are covering the mounds of trash with dirt to make the area more of a landfill.  The long term goals of the Spanish include re-locating all the homes further away from the dump and creating a recycling plant to employ the community.  While this sounds amazing, it’s posing some real problems currently.  Because the government is covering up trash, there is less of an area for work.  Because the people are moving, they’ve started cutting off their water supply.  It’s a stressful time and people are more desperate than ever.  Robbery has increased.  (Manna is well-established in Chureca, and we never take anything with us, so we should be fine.  We’ve also had community members start walking around with us for protection.)  
covered up mounds of trash
Despite the horrendous conditions – through the people we work with, I see joy and hope in a place where every day they are reminded of why they should have neither.  This weekend, we’ve planned a “paseo” (fieldtrip) with our children to a sports complex.  I’ll update you with pictures – it will be a great time :)  
one of the kids in our program. picture taken at the field trip last summer. how can you not smile?