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

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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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
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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
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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.

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Idelove, 16, was born in Ouanaminthe, Haiti and moved to Batey Libertad as a young child. 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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Organization Information

Yspaniola Incorporated

Location: Jamaica Plain, MA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Amy Porter
Director of Development
North Haven, CT United States
$12,673 raised of $50,000 goal
 
265 donations
$37,327 to go
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