We have been having a wonderful summer with volunteers staying in Muñoz, right by the batey we serve! They have traveled to another community where we have a school in the mornings to do an English immersion camp, but have stayed in the area in the afternoons and been doing "eco-construction" projects. These are all low cost projects we hope to introduce to the community. We have our school garden full of the super plant moringa, a human compost toilet, a food compost, solar oven, rocket stoves, solar lights, and volunteers also experimented some with home made water filters. We hope to build on all of this in the future.
We now are searching out a new house in the area for volunteer housing and the area that was used for volunteer housing this past year will be used for the school. We have lots to work on before school opens on September 9th. We had one day of medical check ups for students and family members. Project Helping Hands medical team came for the day and did general consultations. After people got their check ups, we led them to a handwashing station in the school yard, and also gave explanations about the other projects we were working on. Volunteers were also available to register students for the new school year.
We are looking forward to the new school year! If you would like to sponsor a student, the fee is $100 annually and you will receive your student's profile. Thanks for your support!
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.
School began September 3rd and we are definitely in full swing! With the help of the donations of some food items, we have begun serving school meals three times a week, which has been the community's request for years. We served a few meals last spring, but we are finally able to now serve meals consistently. We have items to serve oatmeal, a corn meal porridge called mazorca which is really quite good, spaghetti, and rice and beans. We are doing this two times a day (for morning and afternoon school) three days a week. The cooks are mothers of students in the school who have volunteered for one of the six shifts for a month. The six volunteers will then rotate each month.
I am also happy to share that our fair trade art shop which sells artwork done by community members and is set up to fundraise for the school as well as create income for community members, has moved to a new and improved location. We have a long term volunteer who has been working hard to prepare the shop and contact tourist excursion guides who pass by daily to bring their groups by the shop. We just opened last Thursday and have only had one sale so far, but hopefully it will be rolling soon! We also now sell our t-shirts online. Check them out!
16 students have been sponsored so far this year, which leaves 45+ left to be sponsored. If you are interested in sponsoring, please e-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. If you donate $100 or more, we will contact you asking if you would like for your donation to go toward a student sponsorship, which is a $100 annual donation and you receive your student's profile complete with a family picture. Don't forget that Oct. 17th is a Global Giving matching day where donations are matched at 30%! So that's a great day to donate!
Thanks always for your support!
Let me explain something about the community of Muñoz that I am not sure I have explained before, or at least not in full, and not for quite awhile. The three bateyes that lie in the center of the community and house a large number of extremely impoverished Haitian immigrants are trafficked quite frequently by both tourists and volunteer groups. This is not the case with most batey communities in other parts of Puerto Plata or the Dominican Republic in general. The reason that these particular bateyes are so trafficked is because the community lies directly across the street from Puerto Plata’s major hotel complex, Playa Dorada. Therefore, it is so convenient to visit by tourists on excursions, (go-karts, horseback riding, monster trucks, etc.), and volunteer groups looking for a group of poor kids to play a game of soccer with, hand out some school supplies, etc.
Now, this interaction is both good and bad. It can be good because many people see the situation and want to help and give resources. It can also be bad because the way that help is given is inconsistent and sporadic and not always what is actually needed (ex: riding by on go-karts and throwing out candy). This is why we started the fair trade art shop – to try to harvest off of all of this tourist/volunteer activity and channel it into a consistent and strategic direction.
When we began The United Brothers School of Muñoz in the spring of 2007, there was another school educating Haitian children in a separate batey. We started ours in another one of the three bateyes, and around the same time, a Baptist church group started one in the third batey that lies between the other two bateyes. This seemed to make a fair amount of sense as there were plenty of kids from each batey to fill up each school. Then in 2009, one of the men who started our schools did something wrong. He found a Canadian man who was apparently interested in starting a school and told him that our school had no support, teachers were working voluntarily, and this man then began sending funds to the man on the ground involved with our school, who pocketed them. He quickly had a motorcycle and other advancements in life that he wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. When he was discovered and I was put in communication with the man who had been sending funds, he began doing disruptive things like locking up classrooms during school hours with locks that only he had the key too, causing class not to be held in the classrooms of other teachers, etc. It was quite ridiculous. However, what made it more ridiculous is that the man who was sending funds refused to see reason with me. He refused to work with groups in other communities who had sought funding for schools where there were none but found no success. He wanted to work with this same, I venture to say undisciplined and selfish individual to start a fourth school in the community..one that is external to all three bateyes.
Since this school began in the fall of 2010, there has been ridiculous competition between schools. Schools campaign to parents, promising food and uniforms and such if they go to their school. Education is lost and it is a matter of where a child can get a meal, which makes sense when people face hunger, but also devalues the point of education and is simply a battle of money. We have always maintained the view point that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish but if a man is hungry that day and can´t fish yet and you have an extra fish to give him, give him a fish to eat but continue to teach him to fish. However, the community has turned into something similar to the offspring of divorced parents who have no communication or collaboration between each other. There is no real consistency but they play off of the division to get what they can. Material possessions become the focus and not human development. The wiser of the parents know that this is ridiculous and attempt to avoid the scramble but it seems hard for people to stay unaffected. It is truly sad. Anyone who spends even just a little time working in both our grassroots schools can quickly compare the two groups. The Muñoz children are very distracted. We have, at times, blamed this to hunger, but I also blame it to the constant unnecessary distractions they have on their lives on top of their extreme poverty and family problems. These distractions include the inconsistent presence of the foreign community and the rat race that it creates among them.
However, we maintain a vision of a better future. It would be ideal that the three original schools collaborate, purchase land conveniently located in the center of all three bateyes, and execute one school specifically for the Haitian immigrant children. This school could also serve as a community center and place where collaborated volunteer efforts could be executed to educate and empower the community in things such as sustainable gardening, sanitary living, etc. Having one school to serve these bateyes would create a family environment among everyone rather than a rat race. When people already have so many stressors in their lives, why should we as people who come to bring aid, actually add more by failing to work together?
This year we have been quite threatened to leave the community. We have been threatened by others who must have ulterior motives… who must want to say that they “have a school” but don´t really want to do what is best for the development of those the school is meant to serve and don't want to work together with others who do want what is best for the human development. Financially, we have been losing a battle. But we haven´t given up and we won´t give up! We continue to see great improvements in the batey that we serve, specifically among the mindsets of the residents and their willingness to work together for common goals rather than in competition for individual gain. This is the only way that people in such extreme poverty can change their situation. We may have to downsize the school next year by perhaps only teaching kids under a certain age and then moving on from there, but we can't pull out of educating the community. And we will continue to move forward with the small business efforts we have begun in the area - the internet center, movie theater, and fair trade art shop.
A volunteer group that came in March executed a general demographics and public health census. A community member accompanied each of the three groups until all 170 some houses were reached. Other volunteers worked on creating a map, which was no easy task! Soon the map and census information will be available online for you to view. One obvious piece of information from the census is that the community needs sanitary toilets. Most houses have no toilets and almost everyone goes to the bathroom on the ground. This summer we plan to have volunteer groups construct human compost toilets throughout the batey and teach residents to use them, which will, if executed correctly, nourish the land rather than pollute it. We need more volunteers to properly execute these activities this summer. Please e-mail CaitlinMcHale@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you are interested in joining us.
In an attempt to generate more consistent funding for our schools to pay the never ending teacher salaries and building rent and maintenance, we have been advocating two efforts. The first is the Adopt a School effort and the second is the Sponsor a Teacher effort. You can read about both here on our website.
Lastly, June 13th is a Global Giving matching day! All donations will be matched by corporate donors at 40% with extra prizes for groups who bring in the most donors and the most funds. Please help us take advantage of this opportunity. If you can put out a change collection jar now and donate it on matching day, then that is great! If you can hold a simple raffle now and donate the income on matching day, then that is brilliant! Two successful fundraisers our supporters have executed recently are very easy to replicate. In March, an owner of an inn and restaurant raffled off tickets to a weekend stay for $25 donations to Project Esperanza. He raised $1,100! In May, a zumba instructor donated her time by holding a zumba class free of charge to her. The entrance fee was a $10 donation to Project Esperanza. This raised $1,470!! Both of these require little sacrifice and effort on everyone´s part, but make a HUGE difference to the United Brothers School of Muñoz. Now is the time to execute something so simple and donate the funds on matching day.
Thank you for your support and your collaboration in carrying out the vision for the community of Muñoz. Together we can help turn what can often be miserable and defeated lives into a beautiful, bustling, clean, and innovative community. Let´s see it through together!
Things are going fairly well. We recently had a meeting to hand out report cards for the first trimester. I introduced the meeting and asked students what they learned during the trimester. We went class by class and reviewed some things so it was a bit of a time for them to show off in front of parents and for the teachers to show off as well. A visiting family had brought over 60 pairs of tennis shoes so as we gave out report cards, each child accompanied by a parent chose a pair of tennis shoes. There were still not enough, however. Distributions like that are always tough. But overall, everyone was very grateful for their tennis shoes. Here is a video of the meeting for the morning school.
We have an ongoing discussion with the landlord about using the yard next to the building for recess. Until now he hasn't wanted us to use the space because there is no barrier between our yard and the neighbor's yard and he thinks that students will go into the neighboring yard too much. He had said he would build a cinderblock wall to separate the two yards previously, but has not followed through. When he doesn't let us use the yard, there is no place for students to have recess. Having it in the school has caused a broken window. The glass is cracked but stays in place and we have not been able to repair it yet, although it happened months ago. We are always managing a pool of funds that are too small for the overall needs, prioritizing, etc.
One demand that continues strong is food for the school. This year we have tried to always provide at least something small like juice and crackers, but with a lull in student sponsorships coming in, this is hard to continue. But we really should not only continue but add onto it because despite the action we take and continuously take to provide jobs and job training for parents, kids are hungry. Things are so tough. And we all know that it is hard to sit and learn when you are hungry. There are many cases of malnutrition that the teaching staff and I truly wish we could help with by providing a healthy meal each day.
Thank you so much for your continued support.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.