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.
Feb 4, 2013

Downsizing

self-defense class
self-defense class

We are having to downsize the United Brothers School of Muñoz in order to keep it from having to close in the middle of the year. Our reliable monthly income falls short of our most basic monthly expenses and since the United Brothers School of Muñoz was the last service project that we took responsibility over after another school and a program for boys on the streets, it is the one that we have always had to consider cutting. We have tried so hard to avoid doing this, but have been backed up on teacher payments for years. This year, in an attempt to pay teachers on time, we got backed up on paying rent to the point that we have decided to switch to a smaller building. We will also have to cut two teachers. We had three teachers in the morning and two in the afternoon, then a volunteer adult literacy teacher in the evenings. We have cut one teacher in the morning, leaving two, and one in the afternoon, leaving one. We have received donated food items from two different sources and have been serving school meals consistently three times a week. One frustration here is that we asked for mothers to volunteer to make meals. Three mothers would each take a day and make meals that day for one month. Then when the month changed, three more would take a day. We have had very poor participation with this and often times it is the night watchman/maintenance man who is making the meals, outside of his job description. We continue to play community bingo whenever donations are availble as prizes. Community members really love this and we have found it a good way to distribute donations in a manner attached to an activity so that it doesn't create a lot of commotion, pushing, and shoving. A recent winter volunteer group recently spent a week of their two weeks in Muñoz where they led a self-defense class, mainly focused on preparing girls for potential dangerous situations, but boys were involved some days as well. They also cleaned up the school yard and created a garden bed as well as a human compost toilet to serve as an example of an inexpensive and environmentally friendly solution to the lack of toilets in the batey. In the garden bed, we led students to plant moringa, a super plant that apparently is so nutritionally rich, it can replace meat in someone's diet. Once these trees grow, we plan on incorporating the leaves in the school meals. We will see what happens from here with the school. Thank you for your support.

human compost toilet
human compost toilet

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Jan 14, 2013

First Winter Camp

Songs Station
Songs Station

We just finished a week of winter English immersion camp that began Monday, December 31st. Five volunteers led 12 campers in a week of English immersion activities. This is the first time we have done a camp during winter break, whereas we normally do it during summer break, and it was nice to get the kids together to review in the middle of the year. We did not advertise this camp to the general public and receive registrations, as we have in the summer, mainly because we are short handed on long term volunteers to help with this, but we did camp with a group of our sponsored campers. 

This was really a time where kids could review some vocab - basic pronouns and verbs as well as parts of the body, places, foods, emotions, and one other set of words I am forgetting... It was also a time to address behavior problems. These sponsored kids are all public school kids who are lower class and their behavior is not quite up to par in these group settings. On the last day of camp, we only allowed four campers to come because the behavior of the rest of the campers was so apalling the day before. There was a fight between two campers early on in camp and then we realized at closing circle that something just had to change. It took a good 10 or 15 minutes just to get the campers to sit and listen. So we reviewed what we had learned that day, as we always do at closing circle, but then let them know who could and could not return the next day, for the last day of camp. We let each one know what he or she had done that was not acceptable at camp, or in society in general. We let them know that we did this because we care about them and this is reality. If you can't listen and can't respect others then you will not likely have a productive life or career.

The group of counselors were wonderful! The songs counselors even wrote a song, complete with a dance, that they taught the kids. It goes...

Esperanza, Esperanza, Esperanza is my school.

Catalina is so cool.

I sing, I read, I like to play.

I learn English every day.

Esperanza, Esperanza

Break it down, break it down

Then, with everyone in a circle, the counselors called out different types of dance and campers then jumped in the center to dance. Merengue! Bachata! Salsa! Reggaeton! Kompa! Hip Hop!

We look forward to six weeks of camp this summer. Our three students on scholarship this year are doing well and we wait to receive their first semester grades. We have been doing an English club on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm to keep the English going for this age group (5-14) throughout the year as well. Lastly, for the English immersion pre-school, we finished the semester with three students. Six more parents have said that they will register their children this month, so we hope that they follow through!

Thank you for your support!

Story Station
Story Station
Art Station
Art Station
Nov 19, 2012

Trying to Keep Up

We have many more students this year than we have in the past and more students who have shown interest in coming to the school, or their parents have any way. The problem is that only 19 students are currently sponsored. Our kindergarten class is our largest class with 25 students enrolled! We have had a problem with providing chairs for all of the students and recently sent to have some woven chairs made. The artist who makes these chairs can make them at as low of a price as the plastic chairs we have purchased in the past, but these plastic chairs have broken at a rapid rate. However, as we are waiting for these chairs to be made, some kids have no seats! Everyone now has uniforms but we need to send someone to Haiti ASAP to get books and the money we have obtained from student sponsorships is not yet enough. All of these things are things that the $100 annual student sponsorship goes to support. Teacher payment is separate and thankfully so far we have been able to pay teachers on time, which we haven't been able to say for a number of years. However, we have not been very successful yet in recruiting churches or groups to sponsor teachers monthly, who are paid between $150 and $300 a year. We are still working on this since our organization lacks the monthly income to sufficiently pay teachers each month. 

I have been traveling in the US and Canada speaking about Project Esperanza and meeting with contacts. I have thoroughly enjoyed this time, especially talking to certain groups who have shown special interest. Hopefully many partnerships will come from this and more fundraising success as well. This school and program has so much potential With more collaboration, we can provide truly holistic education to this population that will empower them and truly change their futures and their entire communities. Thank you, sincerely, for you support! 

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