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Welcome to our blog, where we will be sharing the latest updates and stories about Mano a Mano International Partners. To learn more about us, please visit our website.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reading and Games with Sancayani Children

Yesterday was our second Saturday of books and games with the kids of Sancayani. Along with big bags full of mandarinas, bananas and bread, we loaded a few heavy boxes full of books into the back of the car and drove up to 14,000 feet to meet them in their schoolyard. As we bumped along the road at about 10:30, we came into sight of the school and the ten or fifteen kids waiting for us leapt up and ran towards us. A few pretended to hide behind the whitewashed pillars and in the door frames in shyness, but peeked out, smiling, as we hopped out of the car. It was sunny but the wind was cold, and so strong that it kept blowing our hats off of our heads. At Blanca's (Blanca works in the Mano a Mano Internacional office in Bolivia) bidding, the kids led us behind the building to where the wind was less bitter. Perched on logs, rocks and concrete ledges, we gave the older students pencils and word-finds that Tracy (a volunteer from Europe) had put together while Blanca helped the younger kids glue together foam cutouts to make churches and bells. 

Throughout the morning kids kept trickling in, arriving by bike or walking with a little sibling strapped to their back. By noon about thirty had found us. Generally the kids were fairly quiet and reserved, though more than a few were outwardly enthusiastic: the two little boys in my group of ten huddled together and whispered quietly to each other, looking around at everyone else and only vaguely trying to complete the word-find at hand; the girl at my side tapped my shoulder and proudly announced every word she found, and raced to finish first. 

After word games and foam cutouts were mostly completed Blanca and I retrieved the books from the trunk, spread them out on a blanket, and invited the kids to each pick one to read. At first they approached the blanket shyly in twos and threes; after a few minutes nearly all of the kids ages eight and over clutched a book or were crouched over the pile, shuffling around for a suitable story to read. Rachel (a volunteer from the US), Ivo (Mano a Mano Apoyo Aereo pilot) and I sat with them, listened to them, and helped them read aloud. I read with Ronald, a 12-year-old boy wearing a red sweater and homemade slingshot slung over his shoulder. He read hesitantly, following the words with his index finger, carefully sounding out each sound and neglecting the spaces in between the words. Although I'm sure he knew most of the words he was reading, I doubt he understood them as he occupied himself with differentiating the sounds of b versus d and putting syllables together. His earnest attempts at what was obviously a difficult task were immediately interrupted if anyone, particularly a girl, looked over or walked by us: his eyes would nervously glance up at her and his voice would get suddenly soft. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Agriculture Fair in El Palmar, Bolivia

Yesterday local residents in El Palmar held an Agriculture Fair to show off their crops. The Fair was a huge event; the governor of the department was in attendance, as well as a number of local mayors. There were horse races and other games, and judges were there to select the best crops.
El Palmar

Many residents said that these crops that they are now growing are because of the road that Mano a Mano built here 6 years ago. With the road, they said, they could now grow crops in addition to what they grew for their own consumption because they knew they could transport the produce to market before it rotted. 

Interview with Mano a Mano Traveler Monica Geocaris

Next week a group of travelers will be going to Bolivia with Mano a Mano, including Monica Geocaris and her family. Monica took a few minutes last week to talk about why she chose to go the trip. You can listen to the interview here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interview with Alberto Salazar, Sancayani Resident

Last week Mano a Mano volunteer Libby Arnosti visited Sancayani, Bolivia with local Mano Mano staff, where we are currently constructing a major water reservoir project. Libby is a 20-year-old college student from Minnesota who is spending the summer collecting stories of people touched by the work of Mano a Mano. The purpose of her project is to get to know more personally the people we work with, hear their reactions to Mano a Mano projects, listen to their thoughts and ideas about the future, and gauge the need for more community improvements. While in Sancayani, a local community leader mentioned to Libby that a resident was interested in doing an interview with her.

Alberto Salazar

Below is the transcript of the interview with Alberto from Libby:

What is it like to live here? "Life is hard. There are a lot of responsibilities, starting with getting food to survive. In agriculture, even though it's a hard job – brutal – when you grow a lot, there is that much more income. In the city you have to buy everything! Everything. Meanwhile in the campo at least you have potato, beans, wheat, oca, chuño [peeled and freeze-dried potato], something. Which you don't have to buy. So in a big way that alleviates the economic situation in the family."