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.
Jun 21, 2012

A Quick Visit, Another Hopefully Soon

We recently visited Port-au-Prince for the first time since April 2010 but the trip was unfortunately cut short due to the unfortunate passing of my father a few days before the time we were set to leave. I went with the kids to see my family and then flew back into Port-au-Prince to meet up with my husband who was already there. We were not able to stay long at all as we had an event to run in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, where we live and where our organization is based, just a few days after we arrived. Additionally, orienting ourselves and traveling in the area was not easy. The roads are not good, transportation is expensive, there are frequent traffic jams, and we really were not able to get around much, unfortunately. I had hoped to meet with a few groups and talk about collaborating on this project, but was not able to. However, I continue to communicate with some groups via e-mail and we plan on returning sometime hopefully within the next few months. 

Before when we had traveled to Port-au-Prince, we had had our own vehicle and had stayed at my husband's family's house. Unfortunately, neither of those two options were available this trip, so we learned just how expensive transportation and hotels are compared to here in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic we can rent a car for $28 US a day at the lowest. In Port-au-Prince, the lowest we found was about $100 US per day! A hotel that would've cost $15 in the Dominican Republic cost us $60 in Port-au-Prince. This is because business is so slow and far between clients that the costs are to make up for weeks and months of no business. It's not fair to the seldom customers, but I guess it is what people have to do to get by. Transportation is also much more expensive because the roads are so much worse. 

The reason for our trip at this time was mainly an appointment at the American embassy to seek a visa for my husband to travel to the US (to visit, not to live), so that took up most of our time, but I also was able to meet with a lawyer who is highly recommended to facilitate adoptions of Haitian children living in the Dominican Republic. We have a few abandoned children in our care and are looking for people to adopt them, so he was able to answer questions about that. But I am in an e-mail dialogue with him as well where I hope to get some government contacts from him. For this effort to be successful, I think it needs to have government involvement. I also need to know the government's plans for specific tent cities. 

Although we weren't able to travel much, I was able to observe that there are still thousands living in tents in pods all around town. There are also still entire buildings that collapsed during the earthquake where the rubble has not been removed. There are many less than in 2010, but they still are around. 

My plan now is to first spend some time creating a book to sell in order to raise funds to fund these efforts. I see that there may be no other way to execute the plans without something specifically generating funds such as that. Hopefully partnerships will develop where other parties will contribute funds as well, but that is not likely unless Project Esperanza provides a significant portion of the funds as well. I will continue to update on the progression of this book, on the progression of communication with NGOs on the ground and the Haitian government, and on any observations or insight into life in the tent cities.

Unfortunately, we were once again unable to take pictures. I had a new camera someone gave to me while in the US, but did not realize until arriving in Port-au-Prince that it would not allow me to take any pictures without a memory card. I didn't have the opportunity to buy one in Port-au-Prince, so I could not take pictures.  

Thank you always for your support! 


Apr 13, 2012

Waiting on the Leadership

We have 6 desktop computers in our possession in the US, donated by a global computer company called CSC. We had hoped to use perhaps 3 of them to start the Saman Internet Center, but we still have absent leadership that will cause us to have to use these computers for other purposes, then solicit more in the future when the leadership is prepared.

Again, Peralta, who leads the community development organization that this internet center will be a part of is chronically absent from the community working in a garden hours away in order to support his large family. He has plans to transition to a business at home but is still trying to save up in order to make the transition. He was set back by his mother passing away in August and the funeral costs there. We have not met in more than a month and I, therefore, have no update as to how things are coming along on that end. But in addition to his necessary presence, the community development organization as a whole needs to regroup before taking on such a project as the launching of the internet center. So the launching has been set back due to these reasons. We are setting the tentative launch date for sometime next fall.

Another issue is that we hope to have a computer savvy, Spanish speaking expat there to at least oversee the first few months of the Internet center, train locals in proper computer use, and work with a trained local in order to enhance their likely sub par computer repair skills in order to be able to handle things after this person leaves. We have solicited for a Peace Corps volunteer for this purpose. The next round of volunteers come in May, but we were told these are likely already designated to projects and we may have to wait until September unless someone does a project change. If we get a volunteer before the center will launch, we have plenty of work in other areas of our organization for him or her.

Thank you, always, for your interest and support!


Mar 6, 2012

Ready to Get Started with Step 1

Since the last update, we have continued meeting people working in the Port-au-Prince area and just building relationships. We now have a document that will officially outline our plan and serve as the tool for communicating the plan to other NGOs, missionaries, and members of the government. We will now begin circulating the document with the end goal of step 1 being a meeting of all parties who are at least interested in discussing the execution of the plan. This document is attached in this update. Again, this is not an effort that we can focus on extensively because the focus of our work is in the Dominican Republic but it is a work that needs to be done and will be pursued. The next update, therefore, should be much more interesting. Thank you for your support.


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