Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey

by Yspaniola Incorporated
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Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Sofia and Daniela planning the activities
Sofia and Daniela planning the activities

We are delighted to announce that in January 2022, Yspaniola launched a new community engagement project “Tiempo para mi hijo/a” (Time for my son/daughter).

This exciting new initiative responds to a need identified by our teaching staff, which was confirmed by a community survey conducted in 2020 by Yspaniola. 

When questioned, 60% of parents surveyed in Batey Libertad reported that they didn’t feel confident helping their children with their homework and online learning. Parents also stated that they lacked the necessary resources: only 26% said their children had coloring pencils,57% had a pencil and pencil sharpener, and just 9% of families owned a ruler for their children to complete work at home.  

Tiempo para mi hijo aims to strengthen student’s knowledge, give parents tools and confidence to be able to help their children with schoolwork, and help foster positive mother-child and father-child relationships.The goal is to provide parents with skills and resources that can be used now and in the future. In addition to this, a psychometric test will be administered at the beginning and end of the program in order to generate valuable data that can be used by Yspaniola and the community in the future. 


This project is coordinated by Yspaniola’s talented scholar, Sofia. She is in her third year of a Bachelor Degree in Psychology, and a keen interest in developmental and family psychology as well as education. Her academic knowledge in these areas allows her to implement educational support with our kindergarten students and their families. 

Sofia conducts fortnighly home visits in which she assesses and advises the parents on how to best support their children in order to complete educational activities.

All the activities have been curated by Sofia with the support of one of Yspaniola´s fellows, who has extensive experience in Social Work and Education. The educational activities have been tailored to match the learning level of the children and also for the parents to practice different learning strategies. 

Sofia counts on the help of an assistant, Daniela. Daniela is a young professional from the Batey Libertad community who has experience working with children and is interested in early education. Daniela is using this internship to improve her IT and managerial skills. 


Tiempo Para Mi Hijo/a began in January 2022 and will end in June 2022. It is benefiting 15 families and has had a positive reception from the parents, the students and even their siblings, who on many occasions also want to join in with the tasks.

We love seeing all these families together and we wish Sofia, Daniela and the parents another three months of successful learning! We thank all our GlobalGiving donors for helping to make this possible!

Yspaniola student working with his mum and brother
Yspaniola student working with his mum and brother
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have struggled to access education as schools implemented remote learning systems. In Batey Libertad, where Yspaniola works, the local public school switched to online classes, and we watched in dismay as most students struggled to access schooling due to a lack of technology and regular internet access.

As we braced for a possible decrease in funding, the opposite happened! We at Yspaniola were overwhelmed by our donors’ generous response to our emergency fundraising campaigns, including GlobalGiving donors like you, who, during our Little by Little fundraiser for COVID-19 support, donated over double the amount we had raised in previous campaigns - amazing!

Your generosity compelled us to work harder than ever to maintain our support for students and their families in the face of COVID-19 economic and academic difficulties. We used your funds to:

  • Adapt our classroom management and class structure to continue to deliver daily in-person classes to over 50 students who were at a critical stage in their literacy development
  • Provide food relief for students and their families 
  • Offer fun, literacy-focused competitions for all community youth

Since the Dominican vaccine program kicked off, all adults and all children over the age of 12 in Batey Libertad have been offered the vaccine. This enabled students to return to their classrooms this September and at Yspaniola too, we were able to bounce back and re-energize some of our key programs.

This semester, we have focused on two important aspects of education: healthy lunch boxes (see our other GlobalGiving Project: Healthy Lunchboxes for our Preschoolers) and high-quality programming in our preschool classes.

In Preschool, we were finally able to re-open our Kinder class for four-year-old students, which provides one additional year of Early Childhood Education (ECE) to children in Batey Libertad.  

A second year of preschool has been shown to contribute substantial gains in cognitive outcomes [1,2] along with substantially improved future earnings and health benefits of up to $10 generated for each $1 invested in an additional year of schooling in low-income countries [3]

In addition to our Kinder Class, we have also continued our classes for students aged five to seven years, with a total of 56 students enrolled in Yspaniola's preschool program.

While it’s too early to see the results of our Kinder students, positioning tests conducted this semester will allow us to track our youngest students’ academic and cognitive developments throughout their first year of formal schooling.

The highlight of our back-to-school evaluations this year has been our older students, now aged six and seven years old. Most of these children are now entering their third year of Yspaniola classes. This group has already demonstrated marked improvements on their tests this year, compared to last.

One of the key elements we test is students' letter recognition skills. We noted that while this group has demonstrated excellent letter recognition advances on the letters that we have taught in our classes, when we speculatively tested other letters, they showed little to no knowledge, despite being in their second year of public school classes. 

This is likely a reflection of the past year, where these students lost out on their first year of public schooling because of the pandemic. It demonstrates the crucial role that Yspaniola’s in-person classes have played throughout the crisis, and will continue to play as we accompany these students through their first year of in-person public schooling.

Despite increased government investment in the country’s education system over the past few years, the persistent poor quality of public school provision in the Dominican Republic was highlighted in a recent study published by the Dominican government, which showed that 62.3% of 10-year-olds in the country cannot read and understand a basic text [4]. 

In light of this reality, at Yspaniola we are challenging ourselves to work even harder this year, with a holistic set of goals for each of our preschool classes which encompass literacy, motor, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Our dedicated teaching team is more motivated than ever to achieve the new goals they have set, and to contribute to breaking cycles of intergenerational inequality by turning the tables on state-wide low academic performance, which disproportionately affects children in batey and other rural communities. 

We are deeply grateful to all our GlobalGiving donors for giving so generously throughout this time, and making all this work possible - thank you!

[1] Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, P., Espinosa, L., Ludwig, J.O., Magnuson, K., & Zaslow, M.J. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. New York: Foundation for Child Development and Washington, DC: Society for Research in Child Development

[2] Engle, P. L., Fernald, L. C., Alderman, H., Behrman, J., O'Gara, C., Yousafzai, A., ... & Global Child Development Steering Group. (2011). Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, 378(9799), 1339-1353.

[3] Schäferhoff, M., Evans, D., Burnett, N., Komaromi, P., Kraus, J., Levin, A., & Jamison, D. T. (2016). Estimating the economic returns of education from a health perspective. Berlin: The Education Commission, SEEK Development.

[4] Boletín de Competitividad Sectorial, 2021, Ministerio de Economía, Planificación y Desarrollo (MEPyD)

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Our mission at Yspaniola is to provide high-quality education to the students of Batey Libertad. This typically looks like literacy classes, tutoring or other classes created to help students build their reading, comprehension and writing skills in Spanish. However, this summer, we decided to expand our programming to incorporate a six-week English class directed by our summer intern Emery Turner. 

Most of our students at Yspaniola grow up bilingual, speaking Haitian Creole at home and Spanish in school. Yet many of them are so ambitious that they are eager to learn a third language, like English. And in the Dominican Republic, English is a helpful language to learn for many reasons. 

In the DR, tourism is a very important industry and many of the tourists that visit this beautiful island either speak English as their first language or know more English than Spanish. Therefore, tourism-related jobs usually require their employees to know at least conversational English.   

In addition, there are almost 11 million Dominicans in the world, of whom over two million have a permanent residence in the United States. Many of these Dominican-Americans visit the island regularly or send remittances home to support their family. According to World Bank data, in 2014 over US$4.5 billion was sent homebound from the US to the DR. This close connection between the two nations also motivates students to learn English, as many dream of one day visiting or moving to the United States.

We always aim to keep our classes interesting and fun. We also try to engage as many students as possible, and that’s why these classes cater to older students who have already graduated from our Learning Center programs, or have not been able to attend class this year due to our reduced COVID-19 schedule. We wanted to provide these students with something a little different from our regular programming that we hope will help them in the long-run. 

Our older students at Yspaniola are not the only ones benefiting from the development of these English classes. One of our university scholarship holders, Daniel, is working as an assistant in the classroom alongside Emery. He is helping prepare lessons, translating when needed, and of course, practicing his English.

One of our students, Oriana, said, “I like English class because it is fun and every class I learn more things.” Like Oriana, all of our students want to learn as much as possible! We have had many students ask to join the class, but due to space constraints and COVID-19 restrictions we have had to limit the number of people that can be in the classroom at once. However, we hope to continue to provide more English classes in the upcoming academic year!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our GlobalGiving update. Here at Yspaniola we are so thankful for all of our GlobalGiving Donors. It is thanks to your support that we are able to provide classes like these in the community of Batey Libertad! We can’t wait to update you on our progress as the year goes on. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@yspaniola.org.

Warm Regards, 

The Yspaniola Team

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Striving for quality and inclusion

 

At Yspaniola, we envision a Dominican Republic where all students can access inclusive, high-quality education. The difficulties and disruption of 2020 greatly impacted our work, however, in February 2021 we came back to our socially-distanced, COVID-safe classrooms with great energy, striving as always to find new ways to strengthen our preschool programming. 

 

Our preschool classes aim to help our students to develop basic literacy skills, as well as other key cognitive and non-cognitive skills such as socio-emotional, problem-solving and motor skills. All these abilities have proven to be crucial in building a foundation for lifelong learning capacities as children grow. This work all underpins Yspaniola’s aim to encourage children to become happy learners and community leaders with a will to share their learnings and be creative in overcoming the obstacles that life will bring.

 

We have also recently been working to review and update our education metrics as we strive to provide high quality literacy and skills training. Based on both our internal curriculum and international best practice standards, our newest set of learning goals will help us to better track our students' progress over time and zero in on activities to build key skills. 

 

Each Thursday, our preschoolers have “Reading Hour”, where their teachers conduct a readaloud of one of their favorite books. Followed by a related activity. In February, our students celebrated International Mother Language Day with a book entitled “Haiti Is”, by talented Haitian-American author Cindy Similien. Amazingly, Cindy was able to call in to our session and speak with the students!

 

The bilingual read aloud allowed students to discover and discuss their Haitian cultural heritage, and the beauty of haitian landscapes. For many, Haiti is the country where their parents or grandparents were born, or sometimes where they were born themselves. For others, it was an occasion to discover more about the culture and heritage of their classmates. 

 

As always, Yspaniola is deeply grateful to all of our GlobalGiving donors. Your support is critical to the success of our organization and the continuation of our programs. We will update you on our plans for 2021-2022 school year in our next report. In the meantime, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting us and following our work!

 

-The Yspaniola Team.

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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dominican government declared that the 2020-2021 school year would be fully virtual. Although the government promised internet and tablets for all homes with children enrolled in the public school system, they have so far been unable to fulfill this commitment. In many communities, including Batey Libertad, students must rely on radios or televisions where available, or simply working from home in an exercise book. 

Students in Batey Libertad already faced great challenges to learning. The local public school is greatly lacking in both staff and learning resources, leading to many students struggling to master basic reading and writing skills. The distanced-learning plan imposed in response to COVID-19 has put the responsibility for students’ learning on their parents, asking parents to create home environments suitable for learning and to explain the tasks laid out in workbooks. This system disproportionately disadvantages the majority of students in Batey Libertad, whose parents mostly did not graduate from school, and who cannot provide their children with the books, resources, and study spaces they need to learn. Now more than ever, Yspaniola’s supplementary, literacy-focused classes are vital.

Funds from our GlobalGiving donors have been used over the past months to keep our talented local staff on payroll and work with them to design novel, proactive teaching plans that ensure that learning can continue. We have restructured our programming to provide daily, small-group literacy lessons for our youngest learners and learn-at-home competitions to keep older students academically engaged.  

Our small-group, in-person literacy program provides classes for groups of three-to-six students four times a week. Students wear masks, wash and sanitize their hands regularly, and undergo temperature checks before each class. The classes of students ages six through twelve  have been highly successful, with students regularly gaining familiarity with letters, words, and sentences. 61 students have enjoyed in-person classes since they began in late September.

The other students usually in our classes have been provided with biweekly, learn-from-home competition packets. Each student is provided with an envelope containing a series of challenges relevant to their age and reading level, and the best work each week is rewarded with prizes and certificates. Return rates of the competition packs surpass 80% weekly and reflect consistent learning for our students.

Yspaniola has not let literacy learning halt during the COVID pandemic. As always, we continue to address barriers to our students learning and assure their safety during the process. We are so grateful to all the donors who have funded these initiatives aimed at ensuring that students attain and retain literacy.

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Organization Information

Yspaniola Incorporated

Location: Jamaica Plain, MA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Amy Porter
Director of Development
North Haven, CT United States
$13,233 raised of $50,000 goal
 
288 donations
$36,767 to go
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