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 20, 2014

Bedtimes & Businesses

Lately we have had to enforce and reinforce bedtimes. We have a rule that the older one gets, the more that is expected of him as far as discipline, setting an example, and helping out with the younger ones. One of our "older brothers" does a great job at this, while the other does not do as well. It is likely time that the one who does not do as well, moves out into adulthood, and leaves that space for someone else. That time is probably around the corner, but in the meantime, we have to stay on him about when to enter into the home for the night, when to make the younger ones enter into the home, among other things.

John, a Peace Corps worker in the community, has started a "Contruye Tus Suenos" class, (which means "Build Your Dreams") with them which meets once a week and learn about running a business and creating a business plan, etc. At the end of the course, there is a competition in the capital among others who have gone through the same course. The winners receive a small grant to start their own business.

The plot of land that we purchased for this program almost a year ago is being purchased by the Dominican government to expand the public school. We don't really have a choice in this, but have a different piece of land picked out up the road, which might actually work out better, and the government is apparently going to pay more for the land than we paid for it, which we plan to invest some of the profit in the Nintendo business. I say "apparently" because this has been going on for three months now... with the government constantly assuring that the following week the deal will take place and a check will be delivered, and nothing has yet happened. And so things go sometimes and there is really nothing we can do about it except wait. And we can't actually refuse to sell the land at this point either because all of the neighboring plots are being sold.

Last night we had a community BINGO night in our grassroots school in Munoz. A group of volunteers are here for the week so they helped put it on. At the end of the night as we were cleaning, they asked me about one young man they met during the night, letting me know that he spoke broken English and had said he was homeless. I asked our staff about him and no one had met him, which is rare, as everyone knows everyone in the community. So I spoke with him and it turns out that he is a street kid from Haiti who recently came over to the Dominican Republic, and truly is homeless. He said that he had received some schooling in Haiti, but his parents died and he ended up in the streets. I told him to come to school tomorrow afternoon at 1:30, and every afternoon. We decided the afternoon school was best for him after talking about the amount of schooling he had received previously. The volunteers got him some food. They asked if there was a shelter for him to stay at, and there is not any such thing in Puerto Plata, unless it is new and I haven't heard about it yet. However, he had found someone to let him stay in their house, at least for a few days. But I told them that we have a group home with two boys this same age in it, but we couldn't take him in right now. One, there is no space, and two, I don't know if he fights or steals or what so we wouldn't enter someone into the home upon an initial meeting. But we could watch him over time and see. He said his name is Lauren.

Thank you so much for your support! Little by little, we do what we can. And we couldn't do it without your support.

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Feb 10, 2014

Maranatha School Begins a New Chapter

Maranatha School began the 2014 semester with some new energy.  With a passionate new Director (who is from Ouanaminthe, Haïti, but had been teaching in the Dominican Republic) in place to manage funds raised and better support the teachers, there have been several parent meetings and teacher meetings in January to reorganize and plan for the future.  We were also able to purchase 20 locally made chairs (we thought that this would help the community more than purchasing the fairly common plastic chairs for sale) for the smallest students, as they had been brining their chairs from home every day!  The Director reports that they were all excited about the new furniture and that everyone was studying hard!  We were also able to purchase a few supplies, like chalk, to get the year off on the right foot.  We have been discussing the importance of uniforms with the parents as well. Haitians are used to school children wearing unifroms to school and most see this as a priority for their school and students. In February and March, though, we hope to focus on providing some textbooks for the school along with some more chairs and desks for the older students.

The pictures of the chairs and kids attached here a fuzzy, because they have been taken with a cell phone. Hopefully, we will find a used camera soon to improve the quality of our reports. 

Jan 29, 2014

Update on Scholarships, Preparing for Summer Camp

Aniverca and her mother at an evaluation.
Aniverca and her mother at an evaluation.

It is great to see the constant growth of confidence in our scholarship recipients. Sending these students to schools where they can receive more individual attention than the public schools, where classes often have 45 students, and where discipline is often held at a much higher standard, makes such a world of difference. In simply observing their demeanor, you can see a huge difference and even in those who have been on scholarship for a few years now, this improvement just seems to continue.

 

Our student who is on scholarship studying Modern Languages at the university of OyM, Freddy Jean Piet, has had troubles maintaining his funding. He has to spend close to $200 US each quarter just on transportation, books, and meals on days where he has to be at school all day long. Tuition just rose a bit this quarter as well. His funding ran out as it came time to register for this quarter that just began in January, however more is scheduled to come at the end of the month, but this will only last through the end of this quarter. I was just contacted by another non-profit looking for a teacher in an area two hours away. The pay is good and they say Freddy is a good candidate, considering his documentation, language skills, and education. He plans on applying, and this would be a way that he could earn to pay his college education, rather than having to rely solely on donations, but he would have to move and transfer to a different university as well. So we'll see what happens and if he is given the job or not.

 

Aniverca Bien-aime was registered in August at Colegio Sueno de Los Ninos, where her brother Eriverto is on scholarship. She has cerebral palsy and at age 11, has never been to school before, but only attended our summer English camp during the summer of 2012. This school has another student with cerebral palsy and they are able to integrate him into the classroom setting, as they have no separate special education class or teacher. They thought that they would be able to do the same with Aniverca but it turned out otherwise. The first grade teacher was sad to report that she could not handle her in the classroom. She demands too much individual attention and is too undisciplined, having never been in school before. They then reflected that the other boy with cerebral palsy spent three years in a school specific for special education children before he was integrated into Sueno de los Ninos. They explained the location of the school and I visited. It is a wonderful facility, but it turns out that students are referred from a rehabilitation center. We were directed to take Aniverca there. So we did, and were sent to do evaluation after evaluation. Finally she got the okay to register. We have been given different dates to come back for the registration, but should be finishing up with that this week and getting her into this school!

 

We hope to have enough volunteers to execute two summer English immersion camps this year - one at each of our schools. We have a new Peace Corps volunteer and a new assistant who each are doing weekly lessons in the schools at this time, and by the time summer rolls around, should each be able to direct/coordinate a camp, along with one local teacher. We have plenty of volunteers spots open, so we hope you will consider joining us!

 

Thank you for your support! You are helping us make a real difference in the lives of these youth!

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