Project Esperanza

Project Esperanza is a non-profit organization that began as and remains a Virginia Tech student organization. Project Esperanza serves to connect the Blacksburg, Virginia community and the Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic community through service. Our programs are designed to work toward breaking the cycle of poverty present among the lower social classes in these two communities, as well toward breaking the cycle of apathy present among the upper classes.
Oct 13, 2014

A New Kitchen

Back to School
Back to School

Well Louran, who was featured in the last report, moved into the home successfully just in time to start the new school year in mid-August. Before we could move him in, we had to create a new cooking situation! Perhaps a quick history of this program is needed in order to explain how meals are prepared. 

 

We began the program with a street census in 2006. We had a day program where boys from the streets could come for meals and lessons. After discovering that some were homeless, we began the residential program. Early on, staff prepared meals for the boys. Throughout the years, they came to an age where they were able to prepare meals for themselves, and we found that it was good for them to do so. Those who were 11 when we met them are now 19 years old. You understand. 

 

We were hesitant to take in younger kids too quickly as the responsibility of raising up the first group and transititiong them to adult life proved to be a daunting one. But in 2012 we brought in two 12 year olds. It was apparent that we should prepare meals for them, and so we did. Sony moved in in 2013, adding a third to this cohort, and then Louran made the fourth. At this point, it made sense that these now 15 year olds began cooking for themselves. Ideally, they would have meals prepared for them until they are 18, and then from 18 to 21 bridge into a halfway house situation where they receive a small weekly stipend and prepare their own meals. At 21, they move onto independence. However, we do not have the program set up with proper facilities and the ability to pay staff and they have some free time, so it makes sense that they cook for themselves. A program where meals are cooked for them up until age 18 should also be one where their days are full with schooling, vocational training, and jobs, and since we are not yet to that point, the reality is that a young man in this situation sitting around with free time and having meals prepared for him gives him the wrong idea.

 

So in order to move them out of our home where meals were prepared and to give them a space to prepare their meals, we built an outdoor kitchen in the yard area, put in a tap, and a picnic table. They love it! We did not set things up in their home, because the boys in the halfway house program who live in the same house would be tempted to eat the food of those under 18.

 

So there is some insight into that. Things are going well. Everyone has great attendance at school, some behavior issues, one extreme case of ADHD, but things are always moving in the right direction!

 

Thanks always for your support!

New Colegio
New Colegio
Louran
Louran's New Shoes!
Outdoor Kitchen
Outdoor Kitchen
Picnic Table
Picnic Table

Links:

Oct 13, 2014

We Had a Great Summer!

Game in Montellano
Game in Montellano

This summer we went back to practicing 3 times a week. We were in a drought and the Poli Deportivo field we used to play on was completely dry! Leche, the field manager, was not allowing anyone play on it. So we played at a field some community members had made themselves right by a resort. It does't have grass, but a dusty gravel. By the end of the summer, the rain started coming and we have since been able to play on the big field some! 

 

Kits for Causes, an organization in the UK, donated 40 sets of cleats and shin guards. A few donors then chipped in to help out with shipping, first to New York City, and then here to Puerto Plata. They were over six months in route, and finally made it to us mid summer! This was perfect, because we require that players come to at least three practices before receiving their cleats. Also, Pace Academy in Atlanta, GA sent literally hundreds of gym shorts and shirts which we have given to our players to practice in. They are very nice quality!

 

Stephan, a man from Belgium in the area, is passionate about organization games in the absence of a real league, so he has set up several games for us. He is also adament that players stick to their age groups so we have been trying to get a copy of everyone's birth certificate, but many do not have it.

 

Through a relationship with a local non-profit called Integracion Juvenil, our players have been able to attend karate practice 4 times a week as welll, for free! We provided transportation the first day to show them where it is, and the most interested have been walking ever since. It is quite a walk, but they want to do it! I am so glad that we were able to provide them with more recreation, since during the school year we only practice once a week.

 

Thank you always for your support!

Team Meeting
Team Meeting
Drills
Drills
Cleat distribution
Cleat distribution

Links:

Oct 13, 2014

Best Summer Ever!

last day of summer camp
last day of summer camp

The end of last year's school year was strong. Thanks to some donations from a local restaurant who represents an organization from the US, we were able to provide meals three times a week for the last three months. After the last day of school, we held a "ti magazen" which means little store in Haitian Creole. Volunteers set up donated items such as soaps, clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies, food, and hygiene items like a little store. Students were awarded with points calculated by their attendance and some other special initiatives like their participation in trash pick up. Entering in the order they arrived, they shopped at the store! We plan to do this at the end of each trimester, so in December, April, and June. If you would like to send items to contribute to the store, please e-mail Info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. 

 

Then, a week after the school year ended, began our English immersion summer camp! Boy was this summer a success! The volunteer coordinator Joanne created a video for each week of camp which can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/user29596794

 

After summer camp, we held teacher training. We were blessed to have Martine Michel Toure, a Haitian American from New York with a masters in International Education, come participate in the training. She was able to reach the teachers on a deep level, and being Haitian, they really appreciated having a Haitian American instruct them.

 

On August 18th, we began the new school year. The first day of school was unlike anything we have seen since the school opened in 2006. Normally the first week of school there are very few students. They begin coming more regularly the second week, and then the third week is pretty consistent. That is just the way things are here. But this year, the first day of school was packed with both students and their parents. I had never seen so much concern from parents either. And this has not stopped. We are now a few months into the school year and each week we have several new registrations. We have had to invest quite a bit in more benches and tables as we did not have enough space.

 

On January 24th we will have to move into a new space which is yet to be determined. However, we do have a dream location. It is not for rent but for sale. We have rented 5 different buildings in the area for the school until now, and it is time to buy. In addition, the school having its own property is a requirement for accreditation that we are yet to meet. The dream building is a carpentry shop just down the street from where the school is currently. It has plenty of space and at $140,000, for what it is and the location it is in, it is actually a good price. We have done lots of research and it seems like the best thing around. So that is something we are working hard on!

 

Thank you always for your support!

4 passports for students
4 passports for students
family of students who need sponsors
family of students who need sponsors
morning director and students
morning director and students
pre-school teacher patrolling the playground
pre-school teacher patrolling the playground

Links:

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