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.
Sep 10, 2015

Is This the Same Building?

Wow! We have been so very busy these past few months! School ended on June 15th, just two days before the regularization deadline. Regularization is something the government is doing where foreigners without proper documentation register, submit a certain number of required documents proving the amount of time they have spent in the country and what they have been doing here, and the end result is a residency card. The threat is that those who do not complete this process will be deported. So June 17th was a scary time and we moved forward the last day of school to accomodate. 

Thankfully, very few deportations have taken place during this process in Puerto Plata, and many are starting to receive their residency cards! It has now been just over a month since school ended, and boy have we done a lot with the building!

Let me tell you what we have been up to. We ended a great school year, handed out reports cards, and began English camp on June 29th. We just ended our third week of six weeks of English camp. Last week was especially special as one of our members of our board of directors, Edna May Hermosillo who is a French teacher in Atlanta, Georgia at Pace Academy, brought 3 fellow teachers and 16 middle school students to run the camp for a week! They also were each paired with a local buddy to do afternoon excursions to the cable cart, beach, a scavenger hunt in a batey, cooking lesson, and more.

Building-wise, we have done a lot in this past month! From the time we moved in the building, we had already made an office with plywood walls as well as a storage room and kitchen, also with plywood walls. Someone advised that we try building with sheetrock, as it is not really any more expensive than plywood, and it looks better. We started by putting up two sheet rock rooms in the back, which will be our pre-school and kindergarden rooms. We put doors on both classrooms as well. Then, before we could do the classroom divisions in the front part of the school, we needed to even out some uneven floors. One of our artists suggested a pastor in Munoz who did nice cement work, and put us in contact. He did a great job with the floor, and then inquired about the cost of the sheetrock. He explained that he could do the remaining classroom divisions for the same price as the sheetrock, and it would last decades longer. We began planning for that. He then said he would need to up the price a few hundred dollars, but we were already sold. So that work began. 
The walls went up, the finishing cement went on, and

the doors were put in. The right side of the building has chain-link walls. It will do for now. After all, we have to finish paying off the building! We just wanted to make it functional rather than oen large open space with 140 energetic youngsters and no divisions. But the right floor was looking really bad, so we flattened it out as well.

Now, the bathroom. Our 65 gallon tinaco (tank on the roof that stores water in communities where water only comes through the pipes one or two days a week) was NOT doing the trick. We   purchased a 600 gallon tinaco and installed it. The bathrooms the builder's owner had made were not working either. Both wooden doors had fallen off the hinges and both ceramic sinks had fallen to the ground and broken. We raised the walls with block, put a plywood roof on, put in sinks with a stand under them, aluminimum doors, lighting, toilet paper holders, and a cement floor in one that was looking rough.

I forgot to mention that there were only a few light switches and plugs in the whole big building, so we employed an electrician from Munoz to do the lighting. He also installed a
wall fan in each room and repaired our super strong stand alone fan that had come unscrewed. Unfortunately, shortly after completing the work, Jimmy was killed in a motorcycle accident this past week. We will truly miss him as he was our Mr. Fix It in Munoz, his kids are our students, and he and his wife often participated in artist trainings and sold in the shop, as his wife still does.

 

We put in a window in one of the back rooms. As we put in a window in the second back room, the neighbors flipped a lid. This ended up going to the local government and we had to have an inspector come. Finally, we ended up creating soem space between the roof and the wall rather than putting in an actual window to keep the peace.


So far, we have raised $41,481.70 toward the building. We have spent $9,452.25 on remodeling and $36,741.57 has gone to the owner. We estimate we will need another $5,500 for rennovations and with the total cost of the building is $130,337.08. We have until April 24, 2016 to pay off the remainder. If we pass that, we will be charged interested. So here we lack $93,595.51.  We are currently working on a fundraising strategy as to how to close that gap. If anyone has any ideas or wants to help out, please contact us!

Links:

Jul 6, 2015

Another New Boy

We are happy to welcome Jameson into our group home. Jameson has participated on our soccer team for awhile, but not consistently. He was shy and stayed in the background. He said he was friends with another boy who was less shy, named Moses. They do not look alike at all. It wasn't until a few months ago that we learned his true story. A woman named Jodi who provides meals in our school befriended Jameson and he began opening up to her more about the distress he experienced. Through her help, he began attending school for the first time ever, and was very excited to do so.

 

It turns out that Moses and Jameson are not brothers, but they say that they are because they have lived in the same household for six years. Jameson was in the streets of Cap Haitian as a little boy. His friends had convinced him to join them in the streets, as happens way too much in Haiti, and he left his family in Port-au-Prince and ended up in the north in Cap Haitian. Moses' cousin must've felt for him. Moses' cousin is a passer. He comes back and forth from the DR to Haiti bringing stuff and people. He brought both Moses and Jameson to his girlfriend's house in Puerto Plata. So Jameson lived with her for six years. But she has several kids of her own, and cares for her boyfriend's family members, so Jameson was a non-blood related extra mouth to feed, and he lived a hard life. The other kids went to school and he never learned to read or write. When it was discovered that he was living without blood relatives, we invited him to join the group home. He has been doing great.

 

We are also happy to announce that we have begun a street census, as we did in 2006 when we began our work, to assess the situation of youth working on the streets. We have not gained as many interviews as we did in 2006, but are seeing that there is much less child slavery in Puerto Plata 9 years later, and the age of the youth working is older. In 2006, all of the Haitian youth working on the streets were not in school, but in 2015, many of them are in school! Great news!

 

You'll see in the pictures boys with cacao face masks on. We were able to go on a field trip to a cacao farm along with volunteers from Morehouse College. We are sending three boys back for a week long camp in one week!

Jameson is the small one up front.
Jameson is the small one up front.
Group home boys
Group home boys

Links:

Jun 15, 2015

That Time of Year Again

It's that time of year again! Summer camp is just around the corner! And this year, we'll hold camp in our new school building. We have raised about $40K of the $130 total purchase price. It is huuuge compared to where camp has been held in the past. We have four volunteers who will be here all summer, and then others coming and going throughout the summer. One volunteer is even conducting research on the camp with a pre-test and post test to see the effectiveness of the camp. We just translated a University of Arkansas human research subject permission form into Creole and distributed it to parents. We're pretty sure there were some concepts that were foreign to them, but nonetheless, many signed and gave consent for their cihldren to participate.

 

We look forward to sharing the results at the end of the summer, as well as announcing our 2015/2016 school year scholarship participants. We should also have plenty of pictures to share after the summer! One exciting bit of news is that 16 middle school students from Pace Academy in Atlanta, GA will be joining us for a week this summer. After camp each day they will each have a buddy for the week who will accompany them to extra curricular activities. This will be a wonderful experience for all of the students and teachers involved! We greatly look forward to camp this summer. Thank you for your support.

Links:

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $10
    give
  • $20
    give
  • $30
    give
  • $70
    give
  • $125
    give
  • $250
    give
  • $750
    give
  • $1,115
    give
  • $10
    each month
    give
  • $20
    each month
    give
  • $30
    each month
    give
  • $70
    each month
    give
  • $125
    each month
    give
  • $250
    each month
    give
  • $750
    each month
    give
  • $1,115
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Project Esperanza

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Project Esperanza on GreatNonProfits.org.