The first trimester ended on December 18, 2013. Over Christmas break we had a parent teacher meeting to give out report cards, a youth/teenager meeting where a psychologist talked about important choices they face, and a visit from our friend Martine, who brought gifts! Although the soccer team was on hold, about 10 boys still came to the school each Saturday and eagerly waited for the bus.
At the youth/teenager meeting, one of our current students pulled a girl over to me by the arm. She said that this girl wanted to go to school here. We talked and it ended up that she had never gone to school before, but at age 16, was hoping to enroll. I told her to come on January 7, when school would start back up, and the director would gladly enroll her. She did show up and enroll and has been attending regularly. However, she does not yet have a uniform but comes in regular clothes.
Just this morning I spoke on the phone to Vladimir, the morning director, and he asked for me to excuse him, as he knows that funds are tight, but new kids have been registering daily at school since it reopened and we don't have enough benches to seat them all. The plastic chairs we purchase for the pre-school and kindergarten children are not very durable. About half of them have broken. We need to invest in wooden chairs with metal legs, but that is another matter of funding. At the beginning of the school year, 100 students had registered. It is true that all do not attend regularly, and I have not gotten an exact count of how many more have registered, but the number is somewhere now around 120. The first grade classroom has moved from a small room to under a tree in the yard, as there was no longer enough space in the room. Only 36 of these students are sponsored so far for this year. We hope that supporters will help us in recruiting more sponsors, as there are so many students seeking an education and we would hate for them to be discouraged in that effort because they have nowhere to sit!
You may have heard of a law that was passed this year that removed citizenship from people of Haitian decent. This has caused quite a bit of negative backlash from the international community. Most of our students have immigrated here illegally from Haiti. Some were born here and have never known Haiti. We have held two meetings with a group called MUDHA which advocates for documentation rights and aids people in getting their birth certificates and passports at times. Several parents have attended in hopes of receiving aid, but no one has received anything tangible yet. However, I was recently contacted by someone with the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority near Chicago. They are visiting in early February and contacted us in hopes to learn more about our organization and especially about the struggle of the Haitian immigrant population and the issue of documentation.
After dialoguing, it turns out that they will be visiting the school on their trip and we will hold a meeting with a representative of the Haitian consulate and MUDHA, as well as some select students and parents. They will have a chance to ask questions, get some answers, and will providing, I believe 8 students and parents with passports! We plan on sending 5 6th grade students to the national exam in Haiti this June. Some students have received extra support for their sponsors to help out with this, but others have not, so it is wonderful that this group is stepping in to help, and also to aid some parents who have been attending the meetings.
Other than that, this first semester held a lot of drama among teachers which led us to further investigate the law in running such an institution and create an ideal game plan for the future to assure that the Dominican government is supportive of the institution. We have always tried to do this, but it has not always been within our financial capacity to do everything as required by law, and quite honestly, it is not always straight forward in figuring out what the true law is! However, this has been a time of education and enlightenment for sure!
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!