I have been lucky enough to travel a lot throughout my life. It is hard to pinpoint one travel memory in particular, but one that has always stuck with me is this moment at a community center in Managua, Nicaragua where we were singing with the community members. I looked out at the children playing on the playground and with the pigs in the farm and in that exact moment I realized that my perception of what happiness meant universally could not be more incorrect. These families, who owned very little and spend most of their days wondering where their next meal will come from, were the happiest and most friendly people I have ever met. It was the most inspiring realization of my life.
What is your favorite travel memory?
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Since working for Manna Project International, which is my first position working for a nonprofit organization, it has opened my eyes to so many international issues that I didn't pay as much attention to before. It's easy to get wrapped up in your bubble, but once you open yourself up and step outside of your comfort zone to new experiences, cultures, and places, you realize how important it is.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
I think my favorite stories are hearing about how volunteers end up being other volunteers' bridesmaids and groomsmen, and remain close for years after their time with Manna Project.
Something else that has always stuck with me is how our volunteers expect to travel abroad and really change and impact our communities, which they do. However, they don't realize how much the communities and community members end up changing them even more. They go in with an idea of what to expect, and often have their world rocked in the best way.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
If I could go on any program, it would be our 13-month Program Director position. Once on site in Ecuador, a large percentage of our 3, 5 and 7-month Program Directors end up extending their time to the 13-month position and beyond because they find they need more time with the community and fellow volunteers. It is so much more than just a volunteer position where you travel and learn about a new culture - it really is a very crucial component of all of our alumni's resumes, and I find that the leadership and professional experience that they gain with the 13-month position carries over to their jobs once they complete their time with Manna Project.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
What makes our company unique is the relationships that are formed. We refer to ourselves as the Mannamily. Whether its the close relationships between our community members, volunteers, staff, board, alumni or donors, we all take immense pride in being a part of something bigger together. Part of an organization that is bringing sustainable change to underserved communities in Latin America.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
The biggest factor in being a successful company is purpose. Without purpose, there is no change and no growth. We take pride in our community needs assessments to make sure that we are only providing services and programs that are tailored for our specific communities. If for any reason one of our programs becomes irrelevant, we assess this and change the program accordingly.