Manna Project International

year 2, week 43:  this week i'm gonna... empower individuals to thrive

The Chillos Valley in Ecuador  (photo credit: MPI)

The Chillos Valley in Ecuador (photo credit: MPI)

Ecuador is often thought of as an exotic destination. The Equator, western coastal lowlands, eastern jungles of the Amazon, highlands, and Galapagos Islands are an outdoor adventure lover’s dream, and the locals are often friendly and fun-loving. 

Despite its abundant natural and human resources, Ecuador’s potential for growth has been limited by unpredictable economic and political factors. Approximately 30% of Ecuadorians live in conditions of poverty, and another 24% in extreme poverty. 

The Chillos Valley is home to some of the greatest wealth disparity in the region. A diverse population of 150,000 people share close quarters; middle-class professionals live beside impoverished rural farmers. The cycle of poverty is reinforced, as those who need the most are denied quality education, basic medical care, sanitation, and utility coverage.

Kids at the teen center  (photo credit: MPI)

Kids at the teen center (photo credit: MPI)

Manna Project International (MPI) is working to break the cycle of poverty through education, health, and economic empowerment programs. At their Community Center in Ecuador, kids can play, learn, and read and adults can pursue continued education through interactive workshops and internet access.

"I think for me...the most valuable thing I can provide (the children) is a chance to feel like kids - to have some time to forget the hand that life has dealt them," writes Jessica McCracken, an MPI intern in Ecuador. 

MPI also offers high quality, affordable English classes that are crucial in helping students thrive. Few schools in Ecuador offer a comprehensive English language curriculum, and private English education is expensive and out of reach for low-income families.

An MPI children's cooking and nutrition class  (photo credit: MPI)

An MPI children's cooking and nutrition class (photo credit: MPI)

Cooking and nutrition classes are also offered for both adults and children. The Chillos Valley has a high incidence of diet-based ailments, food-borne illnesses, and malnutrition. Parents in the class learn how to make healthy choices on a small income, and children learn the basic nutritional requirements of their bodies and how to make positive choices. These practices help prevent onset of diabetes, obesity, and malnutrition. 

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Started by a group of four Vanderbilt University students who wanted to harness the creative energy of young people to work with populations in need, Manna Project International's (MPI's) mission is to foster communities of talented young leaders to become the next generation of social change agents. MPI's work stems from the core belief in "communities serving communities"; they engage in collaborative, on-the-ground service and work with local institutions and initiatives to build networks to connect individuals with resources and to empower individuals to thrive.

MPI’s volunteers serve more than 5,000 community members in Ecuador and Nicaragua each year. These communities of young leaders are helping to break the cycle of poverty through participatory programs supporting education, health, leadership, and economic development.

In Nicaragua, MPI's Community Center is located in Cedro Galan, a semi-rural community located on the outskirts of Managua. The Center offers a variety of programs designed to address the health, education, and economic needs the community faces; residents can take English classes, receive vocational training, and visit primary-care health consultants.

Villa Guadalupe  (photo credit: MPI)

Villa Guadalupe (photo credit: MPI)


20 minutes north of Cedro Galan is the community of Villa Guadalupe and Clínica Medica MPI. Villa Guadalupe was built in 2011 to house more than 3,800 people left homeless by flooding and another 1,000 people who were displaced by the closure of Central America's largest municipal trash dump, La Chureca. In Villa Guadalupe, the average family lives on less than $2.00 a day and the unemployment rate hovers at 44%.

A Clínica Medica nurse taking vitals in the 1,000 Days of Difference program  (photo credit: MPI)

A Clínica Medica nurse taking vitals in the 1,000 Days of Difference program (photo credit: MPI)

Clínica Medica MPI has provided essential primary care and OB/GYN services to 3,500 individuals since opening in 2014. MPI’s maternal and infant health program, 1,000 Days of Difference, also operates from the clinic. The program was launched this year to address the high rates of preterm births, low birth weight babies, and chronic infant malnutrition found in Villa Guadalupe. 1,000 Days of Difference provides essential medical attention, nutritional counseling, and breastfeeding support to high-risk mothers and their babies within the first 1,000 days of development (from conception to age 2). 

To learn more about 1,000 Days of Difference, please watch the video below:

Notes for this week:

  • National Make a Difference Day is Oct. 24th!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will provide preventive health education to 25 community members in Ecuador and Nicaragua.
  • For more information on Manna Project International, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Manna Project International.

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