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.
Dec 12, 2011

Support Available, It's Almost Show Time!

We now have an IT expert, Rob, volunteering here with us. He was able to display his skills as soon as he arrived by fixing my two CPUs which conveniently both would not turn on as soon as he got here. It seems as though something happened with the Windows operating system in both of them, so he downloaded an operating system that is new to me called Ubuntu. But this only worked for one. Nonetheless, I was thankful to have a working computer. He then suggested that we take hard drive out of one and put it in the other, compressing both computers (or the hard drives at least) into one! I was amazed! Now both of these CPUs that I was juggling between are both in one computer. What a pleasant surprise out of an unpleasant situation!

With Rob's skills, I think we could do some compra venta shopping, which is essentially pawn shop shopping. We could find parts and construct them into the best use of the parts. I think that with his skills, we can save some money, is what I am trying to say. However, we have no money to start with even to get cheap parts. Peralta's presence is still needed more to launch the business. But we are moving in the right direction and I don't think it will be long from here before we have a business up and running.

Thank you for your support!

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Nov 25, 2011

Continuing Research, Preparing to Act

In my last report, I stated that I would begin attempting to make more connections with other groups working on the ground in Port-au-Prince, as that would be necessary to get this project off the ground, because our organization is located in the Dominican Republic and we would not even be able to spend an extended amount of time on the ground to oversee it. I have since connected with a few different groups. The group I was most hopeful of partnering with has let me know that they already have too much going on to commit to engaging in a new effort, but I can send them an outline of the plan to circulate it among other groups in the area. So that is what I am currently working on. 

Additionally, one long term volunteer we have here has been planning on traveling to the Port-au-Prince area before heading back to the U.S. This caused me to begin researching places for her to stay and connecting with groups and individuals, as I was also doing for the purpose of advancing the tent city relief plan. Through this, I then realized that with our consistent flow of long term volunteers here in Puerto Plata, who receive a wealth of experience and insight when they spend months volunteering with our organization here, we may find some who are a fit to then spend time on the ground in Port-au-Prince to assist with this effort. It would take a special volunteer indeed, but as we continue to have volunteers come through, it is likely that we could find volunteers to serve for rotating periods of time. This is an exciting idea that I will continue to keep an eye out for! As for our volunteer who was planning on going, she is now not sure that she can at this time. However, if she does, she should be able to deliver a letter of encouragement and contact (after a year without contact) to the people of Plas Mozole (several copies to be distributed amongst themselves) and to take some pictures, as she is a professional photographer.

If you aren't familiar with Haiti's new president, Michel Martelly, he has actually spent many years as a music artist in the country. Here is a youtube video you can view

Also, you may be interested in watching this video and joining this protest on facebook. It's a protest against a plan an energy company has to take over an island in Haiti to convert it into an energy plant and world tourism destination. Although it may sound enticing as it would potentially create work, I don't buy it. It's a plan completely created by the American company, not with Haitian collaboration or input, and just seems to be heading down the wrong path. One thing I love about Haiti is that as you travel through and visit different institutions, everyone in a position of leadership is Haitian. It is their country, even if it has its issues... It's a drastic difference coming from the Dominican Republic where you rarely see Haitians in jobs other than the most subordinate and physically demanding. I definitely think that foreign agencies/institutions/organizations assisting in creating companies and such in Haiti is a wonderful way to create jobs and create change, but I definitely think the efforts should be Haitian led and foreign assisted or just highly collaborated on, not completely foreign led with all of the knowledge and power in the hands of the foreign institution like this. I mean, if you watch the youtube video on this page of the plan, it's insulting in itself that the American leader of the idea and energy company is confidently declaring what they will do on the island.. as though it were his. I think it's also a plan that would meet lots of challenges anyway as they try to work through cultural/social barriers, what have you. 

One woman who is involved in our women's jewelry group asked me to help her travel to Haiti in June. She was pregnant again and really struggling to feed herself and her children as both she and her husband were without work. She was making a little money from jewelry sales but not enough. She wanted to join her family in Port-au-Prince as she prepared to have a baby, feeling as though she needed their company and support. I was thankfully able to provide her with the necessary transportation money. Just the other day I saw her at the batey. She had returned from Port-au-Prince with three of her children, leaving the other three with family, as they had been before. She had her newborn baby boy with her. Her other two children are students in The United Brothers School of Muñoz, which is another project we have posted on Global Giving. She had enjoyed her time with her family and appreciated their support, but as they were still living under tents themselves, she decided to return to the Dominican Republic. Although she was pregnant in June and now is not, her face and limbs to me were visibly much slimmer. This is often the dilemma that people face when deciding whether to stay in Haiti with family or to search for a better life in the Dominican Republic. People go to Haiti longing to be with their loved ones and come back months later with a full heart and empty bellies. Hearing that her family is still living quite miserably under tents only motivated me to move forward with this plan. 

Thank you for your support. 

Links:

Sep 12, 2011

Hoping to Get Things off the Ground Soon

It has been 6 months since the internet center building was completed by Dartmouth students and no more advancements have been made due to two factors. First, no equipment has been donated and no further funds have been donated. Second, Peralta, the leader of the ODHS, the community development organization heading up this project, has had a lot going on in his life and has not been able to be as present as is necessary to oversee things. He really could benefit from a small grant that would allow him to leave his primary form of generating income, which causes him to have to leave the Saman community for months at a time, and to begin a small business he is prepared to launch to generate income from home and include his oldest son in doing so. He lacks few materials to get this candle business going. What he mainly lacks is any sort of financial security that is necessary for the transition time needed where his income will be cut off as he dedicates his time to starting up the candle business which will inevitably take a certain amount of time before it starts generating a proper income, as any new business would. He'll need a buffer with time to learn the business, etc. He is a man with lots of responsibility, and even more so now that his wife recently gave birth to twins, giving them a total of eight children each, five together, and seven collectively that live in the same house as them. This large number of kids is not necessarily a reflection of their lack of control or lack of planning but of their love for each other (husband and wife) and for human beings. Therefore, an investment which helps the head of this household support his household as well as the community development organization he envisioned and began acting to create over five years ago, is an investment well spent that will bring fruit for everyone.

 

So the first next step in getting the internet center going is to enable Peralta to be more present in the Saman community. The second step is to have the funds available to purchase the remaining necessary equipment. The third step is to recruit a long term intern to oversee the set up and at least first few months of the internet center. This person should be an advanced Spanish speaker with strong computer knowledge and an easy going, culturally sensitive attitude. In the next few updates, I should inform you on the progress made toward these steps, leading to the ultimate goal of launching the internet center. Thank you for your support!    

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