Population: 6.2 Million | CAPITAL: MANAGUA
In the heart of Central America lies a beautiful land of untouched rainforests, pristine crater lakes and rugged volcanoes. Nicaragua is a country of contrasts, known throughout the region for its diverse cultural history, vibrant art, and grand literature. Visitors find themselves welcomed by a passionate people living at their own pace, where age-old traditions combine with deep faith for a strong, authentic character.
Nicaragua’s vast potential springs from a past as varied and dramatic as its landscape. A long history of political turmoil, violence and natural disasters has slowed development. The country is now the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with 76% of the population living on less than $2.00 a day. This environment is an opportunity for successful and sustainable development through long-term, holistic service.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS directly benefited
Hours served by volunteers last year
- Teenage pregnancies account for 1 in 4 births
- 75% never completed elementary school
- 43% live on less than $1.00 a day
- 100% of children need treatment for parasites
- 15% of children ages 5-14 involved in child labor
- 1 in 3 children suffers from chronic malnutrition
- 21% of children drop out in the first grade
- 52% of women have experienced domestic violence
- 53% of girls do not attend secondary school
- 1 in 10 adults has type 2 diabetes
- 9.2 hospital beds for every 10,000 people
- 96% do not have access to preventive health care
- The public education and health systems did not begin until the 1980’s
- Adolescent Health Education
- Cedro Galán Health Clinic
- Child Sponsorship and Nutrition
- Community Health Promotion
- Creative Arts
- English Vocational Training
- Lacrosse the Nations
- Preventative Health Education
- Public School English
- Villa Guadalupe Health Clinic
- Youth Medical Career Education
Cedro galán & Chiquilistagua
For more than ten years, Manna Project has been a constant presence in the neighboring, semi-rural communities of Cedro Galán and Chiquilistagua. Families live in open-air homes with dirt floors, and imported cars share the road with ox-drawn carts. These communities, located on the outskirts of Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua, have extremely limited access to even the most basic services. Opportunities for advancement are rare. While few ever leave, families are strong and committed to finding a better future for their children and grandchildren.
For many years, Manna Project served families living in La Chureca, Central America’s largest municipal trash dump. Incredibly, the dump was home to more than 1,000 people who survived by sorting and selling trash. When the Nicaraguan government closed the dump and relocated these families to Villa Guadalupe, along with 3,700 people who were left homeless by flooding in 2010, we moved with them. The community faces unemployment, constant food insecurity and malnutrition. In the absence of outside resources, motivated leaders are emerging, and neighbors give what they can to support one another.
Students hone their English skills in Advanced English to fully prepare themselves for the employment opportunities available to English speakers in Nicaragua. Having mastered a large amount of knowledge in Levels 1 through 4, students enter Level 5, where the focus is on practicing what they have learned through various activities including projects, competitions, games, and more. Students who graduate from Level 5 English speak, comprehend, read, and write in English at a highly advanced or fluent level. Many of our students go on to obtain employment based on their English English-speaking skills.
Nicaragua has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Latin America. Manna Project partners with local secondary schools to teach health classes to boys and girls separately, where adolescents may speak openly about issues they face. Curriculum covers basic nutrition and physical health. Students participate in discussions on stereotypes, gender inequality and the physical, emotional and cultural aspects of sexual health.
In a country with very limited employment opportunities, learning English is one of the very best ways for Nicaraguans to obtain steady, quality employment to support themselves and their families. Our Beginner English classes consist of Levels 1 and 2, where large numbers of students learn the essentials of the English language. This includes basic vocabulary and grammar, and practice in speaking, reading, writing, and comprehending English. For both children and adults, the path to English fluency begins here.
In a country with only one doctor for every 2,700 people, families living in poverty feel the impact of this shortage the most. The Cedro Galán Clinic opened in October of 2013 and operates in partnership with the University of South Florida Health Colleges. The Clinic provides crucial primary care and health education for the underserved community of Cedro Galán. The Clinic is staffed by a local doctor and nurse and its operations are guided by a Community Advisory Board comprised of Cedro Galán residents.
The Child Sponsorship and Nutrition program serves critically undernourished children. Weekly home visits, health education for mothers, and medical attention build strong relationships and intervene at a critical stage of development. Sponsors contribute $20/month to provide milk, oatmeal, beans and vitamins in addition to medical care, health monitoring and gifts on special occasions.
Structured and unstructured playtime is crucial for the physical, emotional and cognitive development of a child. Manna Project’s Creative Arts program in Cedro Galán is specifically designed to help Nicaraguan children between the ages of 5 and 12 realize their creative capacity. Weekly games, art and music provide a safe space where low-income children can develop lifelong problem solving skills.
One of the premier job opportunities for English-speakers in Nicaragua is to work for an English language call center. While there are many openings, few are qualified. MPI offers a course to train students in skills needed by local call centers. The end result of the course is that students possess the skills needed to successfully apply for and obtain employment at a local call center, thereby vastly improving the livelihoods of both themselves and their families.
Opportunities abound in Nicaragua for English speakers, and our English program prepares community members to take advantage of these opportunities to improve their financial stability. Having learned the basics of the English language, students enter Intermediate English, which consists of Levels 3 and 4. In these classes, students learn advanced details of the language, and fully transition over to hearing and speaking English exclusively during class. Once students finish Intermediate English, they speak English at an advanced level.
Manna Project works in partnership with Lacrosse the Nations to create joy and opportunity for children in need. Participants develop life skills and self-esteem to succeed both on and off the field. In a community where only one in four people completes primary school, the program results in improved health, school enrollment, attendance and graduation rates.
Health statistics in Nicaragua are staggering: 1 in 3 children suffers chronic malnutrition, 30% of deaths result from cardiovascular disease and 1 in 10 adults has type 2 diabetes with little access to insulin. Manna Project reaches underserved communities with education and tools needed to increase wellness through prevention.
Learning the English language is one of the best paths towards a brighter economic future in Nicaragua. Additionally, learning the language from native speakers is a very rare and valuable opportunity. Our Public School English courses provide local sixth graders with the opportunity to learn the foundation of the language from native speakers, and to get excited about English before entering secondary school where they have the opportunity to further their English education. For many local students, the route to English fluency and a brighter future begins here.
Villa Guadalupe is home to more than 1,000 people displaced by the closure of La Chureca, Central America’s largest municipal open-air trash dump. These families joined 3,700 others displaced by flooding. MPI’s clinic in Villa Guadalupe, formally known as Clinica Medica Manna Project International, opened in December 2014. The Villa Guadalupe clinic provides primary-care and gynecology services to community members. The clinic operates with permission from the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and is staffed by a local team of practitioners including a health promoter, general doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and gynecologist.
The Youth Medical Career Education program, called Generation, prepares students ages 14-18 interested in a career in the health professions. Through participation in interactive classes, students learn about healthcare, biological, and medical topics. Students also receive information on university and career options available in fields such as medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. Following completion of the course, students gain additional skills by volunteering in the Cedro Galán Clinic.
In Nicaragua, many suffer from preventable disease. MPI works to improve health outcomes by training local volunteers to act as health promoters within their community. Through home visits and group activities, our dedicated health promoters equip their peers with the resources needed for healthy lifestyle changes designed to prevent chronic disease.
Nicaragua Volunteer Team
University of Pennsylvania '12, History (Diplomatic)
Martha is from Seattle, Washington. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in History (Diplomatic) in 2012. Through her past professional and volunteer experiences, Martha has developed a strong interest in the social sector, specifically, matters addressing women and girls' access and development. Before joining Manna Project, she worked as a Marketing Manager for Memunatu Magazine, a nonprofit startup aimed at promoting literacy, leadership, and empowerment for teenage girls in West Africa. Martha is in her second year in Nicaragua where she leads programs for women and girls. Martha plans to pursue a career in public policy after her time with Manna Project.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill '15, Biology and Psychology
Shanelle is from East Lyme, Connecticut. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2015 with a double major in Biology and Psychology. While at UNC, Shanelle volunteered in the emergency department at Duke Regional Hospital and led a children’s tutoring program through UNC's Habitat for Humanity campus chapter. After spending the summer of 2013 teaching English and shadowing physicians in the Azores Islands, Shanelle developed a strong interest in global health and service. Shanelle admires Manna Project’s holistic approach to sustainable development and enjoys forming meaningful relationships with community members and improving her Spanish. After her time in Nicaragua, Shanelle plans to pursue a career in medicine.
Colorado College '15, Biochemistry
Dan was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He attended college at Colorado College, where he graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry. Dan chose to work in Nicaragua because he wanted to be involved with Manna Project's holistic approach and work in the medical clinics in Cedro Gálan and Villa Guadalupe. As a Senior Program Director, Dan is also working with MPI's partner organization Lacrosse the Nations. After Manna Project, Dan plans to attend medical school.
University of Texas at Austin ‘16, Health Promotion, Community Health and Wellness
Niki is from Oceanside, California. She graduated in 2016 from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Health Promotion and a specialization in Community Health and Wellness. Niki has always desired to work in community development and to live in a foreign country. She is excited to be working with Manna Project International because she is able to fulfill both of these desires and she loves the organization's holistic and well-rounded approach. After Niki returns to the United States, she plans to attend nursing school and eventually become a midwife.
Carleton College '16, Political Science and International Relations
Gavin is from Los Angeles, California. He graduated in June 2016 from Carleton College with a BA in Political Science and International Relations. Gavin is interested in improving access to healthcare and education, as well as supporting sustainable energy and agricultural programs. In college, he studied abroad in Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia and Tanzania, but spent his time on campus playing soccer and Ultimate Frisbee. Gavin is very thankful to be a part of Manna Project, and is excited to pursue a career in public policy and the nonprofit sector.
University of Richmond '16, Healthcare Studies
Brooke Wilson is from Frederick, Maryland and graduated from the University of Richmond in May of 2016. She received her B.A. in Healthcare Studies while playing varsity lacrosse. Throughout her coursework, Brooke developed a passion for global health and community development. After serving and coaching in Kingston, Jamaica as well as Pampas Grande, Peru, she was compelled to continue this work. Brooke was drawn to Manna Project’s mission as an organization and is eager to further develop her cross-cultural understanding and nonprofit experience.
Franklin & Marshall College ‘16, Psychology and Spanish
Rachel is from Ridgewood, New Jersey and graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 2016 with a BA in psychology and Spanish. Rachel worked as a summer intern with Manna Project in 2013 and fell in love with the organization's holistic approach to development. She vowed to return to Nicaragua in the future to make a greater impact. While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and traveling throughout South America, Rachel's passion for Latin America grew along with her desire to return to work with Manna Project. Rachel plans to pursue a career in clinical psychology after her 13 months abroad.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania ‘16, Finance, International Business and Spanish
Stephanie is from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and minors in International Business and Spanish. In 2015, Stephanie spent two months working with Manna Project as a short-term volunteer and fell in love with the communities that the organization serves, prompting her to return for thirteen months as a Program Director. Working in the educational and business development programs has fueled her passion for creating more economic opportunities for women. After working with Manna Project, Stephanie plans to pursue an MBA in International Finance and work for a nonprofit organization to continue serving others.
University of Delaware ‘16, Marketing and Spanish
Rachel is from small-town Springfield, New Jersey. She graduated from the University of Delaware in 2016 with a Marketing major and Spanish minor. Throughout college, Rachel worked with a variety of nonprofits as a volunteer, intern, and part-time employee. A summer internship with Manna Project in 2014 left Rachel aspiring to return once again. Rachel's family immigrated to the United States in 1991, sparking her interest in culture, language, and community development. Rachel was drawn to the holistic nature of Manna Project’s development work. After her time in Nicaragua, Rachel hopes to use this experience to keep finding ways to change the world.
University of North Florida ’16, Health and Exercise Science
Ethan is from the small town of Bristol, Florida. He graduated from the University of North Florida in 2016 with a degree in Health and Exercise Science. While at college, Ethan worked as an Emergency Medical Technician in a hospital seating, which sparked his love for health and medicine. Ethan choose Manna Project because he appreciated the holistic nature of Manna Project’s development work and wanted the opportunity to gain experience in the medical clinics in Cedro Galán and Villa Guadalupe. After his time in Nicaragua, Ethan hopes to attend graduate school to become a Physician Assistant.
Villanova University ‘16, Comprehensive Science and Spanish
Heather Smillie is from Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Villanova University in May 2016 with a double major in Comprehensive Science and Spanish. As an undergraduate, Heather completed a variety of courses in physical and natural sciences, including pre-medical classes. She also participated in varsity field hockey. Through an internship translating and interpreting in the Villanova Law School Clinic, she developed a passion for legal studies and helping to serve underrepresented Hispanic populations. After participating in Manna Project International, Heather plans to attend law school to study Health Law and eventually become a hospital administrator.
University of Massachusetts Amherst ‘17, Public Health Sciences and Education
Nicole is from Gloucester, Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Sciences and a minor in Education. As an undergraduate, she was passionate about giving back to the local community and spent over 100 hours volunteering at Beverly Hospital, a small speech therapy clinic, and a local nursing home. After graduating a semester early, she was compelled to continue volunteering and decided to pursue her passion with Manna Project. She has always had a strong interest in women’s health, as well as community health outreach, and hopes to develop a stronger understanding of both through her experience in Nicaragua.