Jul 8, 2020

Yspaniola's Donors Provide COVID-19 Relief

Lumene and her four children
Lumene and her four children

When the COVID-19 crisis began, and public schools across the Dominican Republic closed, Yspaniola too had to close the doors to our Preschool and Learning Center, for what has turned out to be the remainder of the school year. We are devastated that our students have missed out on vital schooling during these months, however, the health of our students and their families had to take priority.

As an Yspaniola supporter, you probably know that Yspaniola runs a Summer Camp for all our students each June, along with Experiential and Service-Learning Trips and Summer Internships. These offer participants from the United States and elsewhere to come and experience life in Batey Libertad and learn about the challenges that face this vibrant community of Dominicans, Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Our trips, summer camp and internships also provide Yspaniola with vital funds which cover the core costs and overheads of running our programs all year round.

Due to the drastic drop in income from these activities due to COVID-19, it has been thanks to the generosity of our donors, including those of you who give through the GlobalGiving platform, that we have been able to cover the basic costs of maintaining Yspaniola’s infrastructure and keep as many Yspaniola employees (teachers, learning assistants and support staff) on payroll as possible throughout this crisis.

The closure of the public school and Yspaniola’s Learning Center to prevent the spread of the illness had adverse effects for many families locally, because children were no longer receiving free meals at school or healthy snacks in Yspaniola’s food program. Alleviating hunger for children and families during this crisis became a vital immediate need.

At Yspaniola, we recognized this urgent need and decided to embrace the opportunity to extend our work deeper into the community. Our Operations Director, Julio Louis, who is from the batey, began delivering food support to families in the form of tickets that can be exchanged for goods in the batey's local “colmados” (family-run businesses where most residents buy their daily food supplies).

So far, we have supported 113 families with an average of two children per household, including 19 single parent families. Forty-three of these families have four or more children.

Below, local Mom Lumene (pictured) explains how this support has been helpful for her family. Lumene has four children, and they usually all study in Yspaniola's center.

What has your experience of the pandemic been so far?

"When the coronavirus started, I heard it on television. I thought it was something that happened very far from here and would not reach the country. I was not worried. But when my daughters were no longer going to class, they told me that the teachers said that they will continue the classes online because they wanted to protect the entire school. I started to worry. I understood better when the center also closed and Julio gave me an information leaflet with images of how to protect ourselves from the disease."

How has the economic situation affected you?

"My husband works in agriculture collecting pigeon peas. I shell the peas before they are sold. What has affected us most financially is having the children here at home all day. Before, I could go out to help my husband and we earned more while the children were at school and then went to [Yspaniola's] center. Also, the children also ate at school and then got a snack at the center. That was a great help that we don't have right now. Yspaniola's tickets enabled us to make a food purchase for the family that lasted a few days and gave us time to save. I hope that everything goes well so that my children can return to study, especially in the center where I see that they are learning more."

At Yspaniola, we are so thankful to all of our GlobalGiving donors for your continued support during these difficult times. Your support has helped ensure that we will be able to invite students back to learn and grow with us after the summer vacation, as soon as it becomes safe to do so. And, we hope that you may consider coming to visit us, once it is safe to do so again! :)

Colmado owner, Fernando, in his community store
Colmado owner, Fernando, in his community store
Mar 2, 2020

"Buenos dias!": Setting Students Up for Success

Kinder students form a line to enter the classroom
Kinder students form a line to enter the classroom

“Buenos días!”: Setting Students up for Success

The clock strikes 9:00am on Monday, and children rush in to our Kinder class for four-year-olds, smiles spread wide across their faces. Our littlest learners start the day off with a snack, because a full stomach means a brain ready to learn! There is a chorus of “buenos días” (good morning), followed by joyful singing of the welcome song. Afterwards, the children review the date, the days of the week and months of the year, where they live, the weather and count how many children are present today.

Since our Kinder class began in September 2018, children are beginning their first year in public school with increased knowledge, better behavior and improved classroom etiquette. Our recent evaluations show that our students have improved on average 9 points between October 2019 and February 2020. One student began the year with a score of 3.5 out of 30, and now has a score of 19, increasing by 15.5 points!

Our teachers are constantly adapt their classes to the needs of the students.Throughout the morning, the they pay attention to what the students are struggling with, so they can focus more on these areas.   

After a morning full of learning, playing, coloring, and other activities, our kinder students enjoy a recess where they learn to play, share, and improve their motor skills. They also learn to clean up after themselves by putting everything back in their boxes when they are finished. 

When asked what her favorite part of Kinder is, one student responded that she loves to learn the colors. Another responded that he loves to learn about animals.

Early childhood education is proven to aid development in both the short and long term. Short-term benefits include basic cognitive and language skills, increased social competence, and emotional development. Early childhood education is also correlated with “better educational, occupational, and social outcomes for disadvantaged children over the long term.” Our Kinder class provides a foundation for learning that prepares students for public school and beyond. 

We are so thankful to all of our GlobalGiving donors for making it possible to run the Yspaniola Preschool Program - thank you!


Recess allows students to engage in creative play
Recess allows students to engage in creative play
Dec 2, 2019

Student Spotlight: Idelove and Paulino

Paulino and Idelove
Paulino and Idelove

Yspaniola utilizes the internationally-recognized Reading A-Z system to track our students’ progress. Once students reach the highest reading level, Z, they are eligible for class 6, a voluntary after-school course that runs twice a week. During class 6, participants discuss the books they are reading and complete work on higher-level literacy topics. They also have the opportunity to serve as mentors to younger children who are struggling with their reading. Two of our class 6 mentors, Paulino and Idelove, have been assisting Yspaniola’s Learning Center for years. Below, they reflect on how this has impacted their lives. Paulino, 17, was born and raised in Batey Libertad with his two brothers and four sisters. “In school, all of my friends knew how to read at least a little in Spanish but not me. The teacher would make us present in class but I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t read or write,” he said. At age seven, Paulino began attending Yspaniola’s Learning Center. Through years of dedicated attendance, he has gained important academic knowledge that will pave the way for a professional career unattainable for many batey youth. “The biggest obstacles in this community [are] that there are lots of young people who have graduated high school and cannot enter a good profession because of a lack of funds or legal identity documents. They try to find work in stores, auto repair shops, or agricultural plants to earn money, get some ID documentation and pay for their studies to become professionals.” “With these skills, I have more options for what I do for work. Learning to read and write in Spanish has changed my life,” he said. Paulino hopes to become a Spanish or social science teacher in the future.


Idelove, 16, also grew up in Batey Libertad, with her mom, stepfather and two younger, siblings. Idelove only spoke Creole until the age of 5, when her stepfather taught her Spanish. She began attending Yspaniola’s Learning Center in 2009 and rapidly progressed academically. She skipped Yspaniola’s class 4 because she was so advanced and reached the highest reading level quickly. She now tutors a younger peer through our mentoring initiative. “I like being a mentor because I like teaching another person everything that I have learned.” Idelove has many goals for her life, including moving outside the batey, graduating from university, learning many languages, and getting to know more people. “I want to surround myself with people who bring out the best in me and challenge me to be the ideal version of myself.”

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