In February, a new boy showed up at BINGO night at our school in Munoz. He spoke bits and pieces of English and let us know that he is 14 years old, born in July 1999, has no parents and he had just come to the Dominican Republic from Haiti. We got him started in school and after observing him for a few weeks, told him that once this school year ends, he can have a spot in our group home for boys from the streets. So at the end of June he will move in. In the meantime, we pay a family in Munoz to include him in on their meals. Here is his story as he told me:
He says that his mother gave him to his father to raise him but his father passed away. His mother lives with “a man she likes” and he thinks she may have moved to France because he thinks the man has family in France. He saw her perhaps five years ago. She lived in Mibalet which is the Central Plateau region of Haiti. He knows that his birth certificate is stored with a woman he knows there. He has a twin brother who was apparently adopted at some point. After his father passed away, he lived in Gonaives with his stepmother.
In September 2008 there was a flood that was fatal to many in Gonaives. I assume this is the flood that he is referring to. He said that he was playing marbles with some other kids and the water came rapidly. He ran up a mountain and stayed there for three days with others, but his stepmother and the other kids he was playing marbles with died. He then became a street kid in the area without any real home or family.
Then not long ago he won a singing contest. He won 1,500 goud, which have basically the same exchange as pesos, two beach chairs, some chicken seasoning, and some t-shirts. He gave away the seasoning and t-shirts, and sold the beach chairs. So now he had more money. A group of men confronted him and convinced him to go to the Dominican Republic with them. They confronted him because they wanted in on his money.They came as a group of seven. Four or five were sent back to Haiti by guards and after walking for days, Louran ended up in prison somewhere not farfrom Santiago. While in prison, they made him clean the floor with brillo pads and bleach until the cracks between the tiles were white. They also made him sickle the grass. He somehow ran away and continued on his way until hecame to Santiago.
Someone let him stay with him for a few days but suggested that he go to Puerto Plata where he could find more opportunity for school. He took a bus to Puerto Plata and arrived at night. He met a man picking up trash in the night and asked him if he could stay with him. He said he would work for the man for his stay. The man said that he can’t do the same work as him, but he would let him stay, and there were schools in his area as well. Darius has been letting him stay with him ever since. He has had perfect attendance at school so far. He reports passing days without food but is very thankful for the money and food items volunteers him.
We have constant needs for the group home. We currently have 9 young men we are helping, and the amount of help they receive depends on their age, as we lessen the help as they get older. You may remember that we have a plot of land but have not yet build. Our biggest needs right now are a new door on the home as the current one is broken, and lockers.
June 25th is matching day beginning at noon EST. All donations up to $1,000 are matched at 100%. Please help us to make the most of it! Thank you!
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.
We are so thankful to all of you who gave during the GiveforYouth challenge in July, helping us to win a permanent spot on the new site! You truly proved that if everyone pitches in a little, we can reach BIG goals! It is community support such as this that we need to be able to run this program in the way envisioned. It takes a village to raise a child. Raising boys from the streets is anything but easy. But we continue to see their potential and to celebrate the small steps that they take, that will lead them to be productive and conscientious members of society in their adulthood.
We currently have 8 young men in the program ranging from ages 14 to 22. Two are in a transition phase where they live outside of the home, but nearby, and receive a stipend for a little food and rent aid. Their grade levels range from 3rd to 7th. A new school year just started and we are still working on getting back on track, arriving on time and prepared, doing homework, respecting teachers, etc. Summer vacation was probably the best summer we've had so far. Three boys attended English camp throughout the summer, all young men participated in our soccer team, and at the end of the summer, a visiting volunteer helped prepare the group for school with daily focus groups where they discussed things like their personal histories, self esteem, positivity, mental health, and working together.
The members of the program who are older than 18 were leaders in our soccer program throughout the summer, while those under age 18 were participants. This team functions for the boys in the program and for boys in a school we run in a nearby, marginalized community. We have a rule in the program that shows understanding when one is of adult age, yet not yet ready to transition fully to independent life, as opportunities for work are still extremely sparce, but requires that those who are older take responsibility over those who are younger. However, some do this better than others. In years past, members of this older group were players on the team. This summer, they really had to reflect on the fact that they are no longer children, and they need to think of the development of the youth they are responsible over in every aspect. Things that happened at soccer practice would lead into larger discussions on setting good examples, realizing that they are examples, selflessness, maturity, etc. Almost every bus ride home from practice was a volatile discussion, but by the end of the season, they led the team together like a well-oiled machine, and with pride.
We have been asked by the child services agency in the Dominican government to bring in a 13 year old boy from the streets that they recommend. We are working on preparing the current housing with iron bars on the windows and secure lockers before doing this. We didn't realize that the wooden windows were a security hazard, but both were broken out on two separate occasions within the past few months, and someone entered and stole during the day, often while the household members were at soccer practice. So we must invest in iron bars. As far as lockers, the wooden lockers constructed by a volunteer in 2007 have long worn out. It is time that we invest in some durable metal lockers.
Today is GiveforYouth's one year anniversary. They are matching all donations at 100%, as long as their matching funds hold out. If you want to double your gift, today is a great day to do it!
Thank you so much for your support. We hope that you continue this journey with us.
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