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.
Jan 23, 2014

More Students!

The first trimester ended on December 18, 2013. Over Christmas break we had a parent teacher meeting to give out report cards, a youth/teenager meeting where a psychologist talked about important choices they face, and a visit from our friend Martine, who brought gifts! Although the soccer team was on hold, about 10 boys still came to the school each Saturday and eagerly waited for the bus. 

At the youth/teenager meeting, one of our current students pulled a girl over to me by the arm. She said that this girl wanted to go to school here. We talked and it ended up that she had never gone to school before, but at age 16, was hoping to enroll. I told her to come on January 7, when school would start back up, and the director would gladly enroll her. She did show up and enroll and has been attending regularly. However, she does not yet have a uniform but comes in regular clothes. 

Just this morning I spoke on the phone to Vladimir, the morning director, and he asked for me to excuse him, as he knows that funds are tight, but new kids have been registering daily at school since it reopened and we don't have enough benches to seat them all. The plastic chairs we purchase for the pre-school and kindergarten children are not very durable. About half of them have broken. We need to invest in wooden chairs with metal legs, but that is another matter of funding. At the beginning of the school year, 100 students had registered. It is true that all do not attend regularly, and I have not gotten an exact count of how many more have registered, but the number is somewhere now around 120. The first grade classroom has moved from a small room to under a tree in the yard, as there was no longer enough space in the room. Only 36 of these students are sponsored so far for this year. We hope that supporters will help us in recruiting more sponsors, as there are so many students seeking an education and we would hate for them to be discouraged in that effort because they have nowhere to sit!

You may have heard of a law that was passed this year that removed citizenship from people of Haitian decent. This has caused quite a bit of negative backlash from the international community. Most of our students have immigrated here illegally from Haiti. Some were born here and have never known Haiti. We have held two meetings with a group called MUDHA which advocates for documentation rights and aids people in getting their birth certificates and passports at times. Several parents have attended in hopes of receiving aid, but no one has received anything tangible yet. However, I was recently contacted by someone with the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority near Chicago. They are visiting in early February and contacted us in hopes to learn more about our organization and especially about the struggle of the Haitian immigrant population and the issue of documentation. 

After dialoguing, it turns out that they will be visiting the school on their trip and we will hold a meeting with a representative of the Haitian consulate and MUDHA, as well as some select students and parents. They will have a chance to ask questions, get some answers, and will providing, I believe 8 students and parents with passports! We plan on sending 5 6th grade students to the national exam in Haiti this June. Some students have received extra support for their sponsors to help out with this, but others have not, so it is wonderful that this group is stepping in to help, and also to aid some parents who have been attending the meetings. 

Other than that, this first semester held a lot of drama among teachers which led us to further investigate the law in running such an institution and create an ideal game plan for the future to assure that the Dominican government is supportive of the institution. We have always tried to do this, but it has not always been within our financial capacity to do everything as required by law, and quite honestly, it is not always straight forward in figuring out what the true law is! However, this has been a time of education and enlightenment for sure!

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

Links:

Jan 7, 2014

First Tournament in Quite Awhile

Supesta participated in their first tournament in a few years. Only the players age 12 and under were allowed to participate in this tournament. Games were played every Saturday for four weeks. Some weeks we played two games in one Saturday afternoon. We ended with two losses and four ties, and were unfortunately eliminated early on. However, we told the players that they should not be disappointed, because they did not lose the majority of their games. We also continue to sit them down at the end of each game or practice and hand out a strip of paper with a bible verse on it, which we go over with them. Over Christmas break we took a break from soccer and are hoping to start back up in January. We told the kids this, but nonetheless, when I visited the school building one Saturday afternoon, there were about 12 boys waiting for the bus to take them to soccer. We let them play in the school yard for a bit and let them know that the team was on break. I am also happy to announce that an organization in the UK called Kits for Causes is sending 40 cleats and 40 pairs of shin guards for our players! 

In October, Wyclef Jean did a concert at a hotel in the area. If you don't know, he is a Haitian American music artist who has supported quite a lot of education and development efforts in Haiti. We desparately wanted to get his attention but had trouble getting an inn. After soccer practice on the day of concert, we drove to the hotel where he would be playing, to try to get the guards' attention even more. They said he had not yet arrived, but would let any of his staff know that an entire soccer team had come to see him. We ended up sending our coach to the concert, finding a very cheap ticket, with several copies of the attached flyer. He actually got the chance to hand one directly to Wyclef as he passed through the crowd, but we never did hear from him. However, the verse we went over that day was:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. - Matthew 7:7

And in Haitian Creole:

Mande, y'a ban nou. Chache, n'a jwenn. Frape, y'a louvri pou nou. - Matye 7:7

Thank you for your support! We couldn't do it without you!

Links:


Attachments:
Dec 16, 2013

Looking Ahead & Evolving

registering students
registering students

Hello! A very special thanks to those of you who supported us in the recent YouthSpark matching day!

We will probably edit this project to increase the desired budget so it can continue, because you can see that we have almost reached our goal, but that goal was set four years ago, and it was meant to cover the school's expenses for about two years.

I want to share that the public school in the community of Munoz is rapidly completing a large addition so that rather than functioning 8am to 12pm, they will now function 8am to 4pm, quite an extension! As it is, they have some students attend in the mornings, and some in the afternoon. Now all students will attend all day long. This will greatly affect our school, as some of our students, those whose parents are for one, more responsible and proactive and two, have spent more time in the country and community, go to the public school for half a day where they are educated in Spanish, and go to our school for half a day where they are educated in French/Haitian Creole. This change is set to take place at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, in August. So we have to determine if we will continue with the school pre-K through 6th as we are now, and we will have a significant drop in students, or will do perhaps a Montessauri pre-school for those too young to attend the public school, and vocational training for teenagers and young adults in evenings or on weekends. These are some different options. My vote is that we continue the school as it is, but to make it feasible, we will need to be sure that we will maintain the same amount of students we currently have.

Surely once this change takes place, there will still be a percentage of students wandering the streets, not in any school. Munoz has three bateyes, or communities that are often also referred to as slums or refugee camps. Each batey has a school with Haitian teachers, focusing on educating the Haitian children, as ours does. There was a fourth school created as well a few years back during an unfortunate church split. The lack of unity among these schools is ridiculous, inefficient, and creates lots of small town politics. It is our desire that we collaborate with these other schools to form one school, because with the opening of the new full day public school, none of these schools will be able to efficiently operate, as all will be lacking students. We have talked to one so far which is in agreement. But the details will be complicated. Each school either operates in an owned church building or in a rented building. It is necessary that a collaborative effort be made and that a plot of land is purchased, and a building constructed to form one Haitian school. This is an ideal plan, and we have not had enough fundraising success up until this point to do that, but it is what seems to make the most sense. Surrounding the bateyes, the government owns all of the land, and it is for sale through the Central Bank. I have called to find out a price but learned that to do that would requiring visiting the capital and arranging for a representative to visit the area. I have to make a trip to the capital soon, so I plan on fitting that in on the trip. Recently the government bulldozed all of this land, knocking down mostly toilets, trees, and gardens, just to show batey residents that it was the government's land, and not theirs. Many people were upset by this.

Thank you for your continued support. Please stay with us as we work toward the goal of forming one, efficent Haitian school to serve the three batey communities, and to get it accredited by the government, creating a model curriculum for these specific students.

registering students2
registering students2

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