Help Give a New Life to Haitian Street Kids

by Project Esperanza
Vetted

We have another new addition to the home. Jean Donald arrived after Christmas. He is from the same area of Haiti as another boy in the home, Louran. Louran used his Christmas money to go find his family after being separated for five years. We planned with an adult neighbor who is from the same area to take him. He arrived safely and came back on the day he said he would. A few days after he arrived, he said that he found a friend in town who had come in search of Puerto Plata to find him. Jean Donald says that he came with what money he could make by selling belongings and found his way to Puerto Plata. Louran then saw him on the street as he came home on the bus from school. It is either a true story or very well-staged, as the other kids on the bus saw Louran call his name and run off the bus in excitement to see him. He was very thin, had no belongings, and had not yet learned to read or write. They say that he does have a mother living, but due to hard circumstances, lived most of the time in the streets. He reports being born in 2003. We had no choice but to take him in.

 

We are also glad to have a new staff member to help oversee the group home, Ezayi. He started in January and is very patient and caring with the boys.

 

With two new boys and a new staff person, some of the boys have had trouble adjusting. A few have tried to rebel against our most important rule, that they have to be going to school. It is hard with so many boys in one place, when one of them tries something, the others will sometimes copy him. But we have been working with them individually to make sure they stay in school and stay safe.

 

Two more boys and a new staff has also added to our monthly costs! We are always grateful and appreciative for ongoing sponsorship. Thank you for caring!

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Carlo (left) was a winner of logic puzzles!
Carlo (left) was a winner of logic puzzles!

Carlo has been a student in our school for Haitian immigrant youth in the community of Padre Granero for a few years now. When his mother passed away a few weeks ago, we were happy to have a place to offer him. His first few weeks in the home has been a hard adjustment with many days of skipping school, but it seems as though he is finally on track and into a routine!

 

We learned after taking him in that his biological father died years ago, and his older brother passed away in Haiti a few years ago as well. He told the story like this:

 

"There was a boy who wanted to fight with me. I forget why. My brother stood in front of me to defend me and the boy took a knife out and stabbed him and killed him."

 

Carlo's mother's cousin who is in the area confirmed that this is a true story. It is hard to understand how young people who have gone through so much can keep such a smile on their face as Carlo does. Thank you for helping us to build a program that will give this young man and others the opportunity reach their full potential despite major setbacks in life. We couldn't do it without you!

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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

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Back to School
Back to School

Well Louran, who was featured in the last report, moved into the home successfully just in time to start the new school year in mid-August. Before we could move him in, we had to create a new cooking situation! Perhaps a quick history of this program is needed in order to explain how meals are prepared. 

 

We began the program with a street census in 2006. We had a day program where boys from the streets could come for meals and lessons. After discovering that some were homeless, we began the residential program. Early on, staff prepared meals for the boys. Throughout the years, they came to an age where they were able to prepare meals for themselves, and we found that it was good for them to do so. Those who were 11 when we met them are now 19 years old. You understand. 

 

We were hesitant to take in younger kids too quickly as the responsibility of raising up the first group and transititiong them to adult life proved to be a daunting one. But in 2012 we brought in two 12 year olds. It was apparent that we should prepare meals for them, and so we did. Sony moved in in 2013, adding a third to this cohort, and then Louran made the fourth. At this point, it made sense that these now 15 year olds began cooking for themselves. Ideally, they would have meals prepared for them until they are 18, and then from 18 to 21 bridge into a halfway house situation where they receive a small weekly stipend and prepare their own meals. At 21, they move onto independence. However, we do not have the program set up with proper facilities and the ability to pay staff and they have some free time, so it makes sense that they cook for themselves. A program where meals are cooked for them up until age 18 should also be one where their days are full with schooling, vocational training, and jobs, and since we are not yet to that point, the reality is that a young man in this situation sitting around with free time and having meals prepared for him gives him the wrong idea.

 

So in order to move them out of our home where meals were prepared and to give them a space to prepare their meals, we built an outdoor kitchen in the yard area, put in a tap, and a picnic table. They love it! We did not set things up in their home, because the boys in the halfway house program who live in the same house would be tempted to eat the food of those under 18.

 

So there is some insight into that. Things are going well. Everyone has great attendance at school, some behavior issues, one extreme case of ADHD, but things are always moving in the right direction!

 

Thanks always for your support!

New Colegio
New Colegio
Louran
Louran's New Shoes!
Outdoor Kitchen
Outdoor Kitchen
Picnic Table
Picnic Table

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Louran
Louran

In February, a new boy showed up at BINGO night at our school in Munoz. He spoke bits and pieces of English and let us know that he is 14 years old, born in July 1999, has no parents and he had just come to the Dominican Republic from Haiti. We got him started in school and after observing him for a few weeks, told him that once this school year ends, he can have a spot in our group home for boys from the streets. So at the end of June he will move in. In the meantime, we pay a family in Munoz to include him in on their meals. Here is his story as he told me:

 

He says that his mother gave him to his father to raise him but his father passed away. His mother lives with “a man she likes” and he thinks she may have moved to France because he thinks the man has family in France. He saw her perhaps five years ago. She lived in Mibalet which is the Central Plateau region of Haiti. He knows that his birth certificate is stored with a woman he knows there. He has a twin brother who was apparently adopted at some point. After his father passed away, he lived in Gonaives with his stepmother.

 

In September 2008 there was a flood that was fatal to many in Gonaives. I assume this is the flood that he is referring to. He said that he was playing marbles with some other kids and the water came rapidly. He ran up a mountain and stayed there for three days with others, but his stepmother and the other kids he was playing marbles with died. He then became a street kid in the area without any real home or family.


Then not long ago he won a singing contest. He won 1,500 goud, which have basically the same exchange as pesos, two beach chairs, some chicken seasoning, and some t-shirts. He gave away the seasoning and t-shirts, and sold the beach chairs. So now he had more money. A group of men confronted him and convinced him to go to the Dominican Republic with them. They confronted him because they wanted in on his money.They came as a group of seven. Four or five were sent back to Haiti by guards and after walking for days, Louran ended up in prison somewhere not far
from Santiago. While in prison, they made him clean the floor with brillo pads and bleach until the cracks between the tiles were white. They also made him sickle the grass. He somehow ran away and continued on his way until he
came to Santiago.

 

Someone let him stay with him for a few days but suggested that he go to Puerto Plata where he could find more opportunity for school. He took a bus to Puerto Plata and arrived at night. He met a man picking up trash in the night and asked him if he could stay with him. He said he would work for the man for his stay. The man said that he can’t do the same work as him, but he would let him stay, and there were schools in his area as well. Darius has been letting him stay with him ever since. He has had perfect attendance at school so far. He reports passing days without food but is very thankful for the money and food items volunteers him.

 

We have constant needs for the group home. We currently have 9 young men we are helping, and the amount of help they receive depends on their age, as we lessen the help as they get older. You may remember that we have a plot of land but have not yet build. Our biggest needs right now are a new door on the home as the current one is broken, and lockers.

 

June 25th is matching day beginning at noon EST. All donations up to $1,000 are matched at 100%. Please help us to make the most of it! Thank you!

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Organization Information

Project Esperanza

Location: Winchester, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.esperanzameanshope.org
Project Leader:
Caitlin McHale
Director
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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