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 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! 

Links:

Oct 22, 2012

A Fundraising/ Partnership Building Trip to the US

We have still not been able to visit Port-au-Prince again, but have been able to connect with more organizations serving in the area or planning to serve in the area. The condiitons of those affected by the earthquake is still so poor and it continues to hold a piece of my heart. Although our organization is busy with our ongoing programs in the Dominican Republic, we remain determined to be a part of the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince for a better Haiti.

On Oct. 31st I will head to the US and Canada. I will be in New York City from Oct. 31st to Nov. 4th, then Nova Scotia, Canada from Nov. 4th to 9th, then Blacksburg, VA from Nov. 9th to Nov. 14th where I will be doing a TEDx talk, and then Winchester, VA and the Washington, DC area from Nov. 14th to 26th. I am in the process of setting up as many speaking dates as possible with churches and organizations. In NYC I will be able to connect with many Haitian groups as there is such a large Haitian population there.

Many I have reached out to have not replied, but some have replied and I will continue reaching out to make sure my time there is used to its fullest. I have spoken to at least one group that has a base in Port-au-Prince so I am looking forward to meeting with them. I will be representing our organization and work as a whole, not just the efforts in Port-au-Prince, but will be happy to talk about that and build partnerships with the appropriate groups. 

Thank you for your support and of course, I will share how things went on this trip when I write my next update. 

Links:

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