This summer was a great time for our students! We bussed them over to our other school each morning, provided them with breakfast, and had English immersion camp. This is the first year that we were able to include students from Munoz and it was a huge success! After week 5 of camp, we even chose the best behaved campers with the most consistent attendance and went on a trip to the national zoo in Santo Domingo! Here is a link to some videos from each week of camp:
After camp, we had a great week of teacher training. Topics included strength based teaching, team building exercises, discussion on the Spanish/Creole/French language issues, discovery based teaching, and more!
School began Aug. 16th. As predicted, we have only pre-school students so far. Over the years, most of our students have integrated into the public school system, which is great! This year the school has switched from half a day to full day, so we have lost students to the school. We still believe in the bilingual curriculum we use and in instilling volunteerism and social responsibility into our students, building them up to be change-makers on the island, but since we are not yet an accredited school, if they have the opportunity to go to public school, that is where they should be. However, hopefully we will be accredited by the time our pre-schoolers advance to 1st grade, and that is in the works.
We have several students who still need sponsors. Please consider donating $100 and we will send you a profile and updates.
We also have a new project in the works. This summer, we began growing cacao seedlings. Our hope is to, with the participation of sponsors and donors, purchase 3 sq. m of land per tree, and be able to give at least one tree to each student. In 5 or 6 years, these trees will produce around 200 pods a year, each full of seeds that will be turned into chocolate. 100 lbs. of seeds can be purchased in town, to be exported for around $150 US (6,000 RD). So more on that to come!
Thank you, always, for your support!
Last Thursday was our last day of the second trimester. Students finished up with their end of trimester exams that day. This week is semana santa which means "holy week" and there is no school. Tomorrow is a parent teacher meeting where parents will receive report cards for the students. I will admit that the returnal rate of report cards after the first trimester was quite poor... meaning that parents were supposed to sign and return report cards with students, but that did not happen with everyone. Tomorrow at the meeting we will talk to parents about the next school year and try to get a prediction of how many will send their children to the public school that will be going all day. This will give us a better idea as to whether we will focus on pre-school students or maintain the school for a larger variety of ages and level.
We had some fun activities during this trimester! We played some community bingo, learned about solar energy and made shoe box solar ovens, and filled out "About Me" pages for students to share with their sponsors. We also had some chiropractors visit who did some consultations and adjustments. And I almost forgot, we had a movie night as well. (Pictures attached)
We are looking forward to this summer when we have a higher amount of volunteers and will do an English immersion camp. We were hoping to get enough volunteers this year to have an English camp in both of the two communities where we have the schools. This is still a possibility, but for right now, the numbers are only high enough to do the camp in one community. If you are interested in volunteering for between one and six weeks between June 21st and August 2nd, please e-mail Volunteer@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. You can see more details here on our website.
Lastly, we had some visiting volunteer Virginia Tech architecture students this March. They are interested in incorporacting the construction of one of our two schools into their final year projects. We scoped out land. There is lots of land for sale in the Munoz batey area by the Dominican government. The cost is $12 US per sq. meter. We estimate that around 4,000 square meters would be ideal to build the school. Therefore, the land purchase would be $48,000. We also made a rough draft of an ideal plan for the future of these schools with the amount of students, staff, ideal schedule, etc. That is attached in this update.
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.
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.
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