As we prepare for the 2011-2012 school year, some things are falling into place nicely and that gives us hope that this year will be different than the past few years where it was a struggle to pay teachers on time and we’ve had to go without meeting some basic needs due to lack of funds.
First, the Project Esperanza Art Shop of Muñoz is up and running. Artwork made by local artists is sold in a fair trade fashion, after paying out artists, the shop worker, and the person who leads tourists to the shop, leftover profit goes toward Project Esperanza. This also draws people into the community and introduces them to our efforts, as well as the charm of the little community itself. The attitude of the community in general has changed. You can feel a sense of hope and excitement as artists receive their weekly pay, tourists come through with the offer to gain valuable items rather than just to gawk at the extreme poverty, giving residents a sense of pride rather than humiliation. Other vendors have been able to share their specialties too such as delicious natural juices, homemade bread and peanut butter, and fried dough filled with egg and vegetables, called a pate, (pronounced pah-tay). However, things are slow moving as far as getting the excursion guides to bring their tours through on a regular basis. We continue to talk to guides as they pass by, to visit the companies and speak directly with owners and managers, and believe that with persistence we can establish routines, but this is still an effort that needs attention to bring the shop to its full potential. We are encouraged though by the idea of 10, 20, and possibly 40 or 50 people learning about Project Esperanza through the shop each day! It is also exciting that the shop is creating an income for so many who truly face extreme poverty and lack of opportunity! We are eagerly waiting for a recent volunteer to post a video she is editing on YouTube which interviews several women who have been involved in the jewelry group about their lives.
The movie theater effort to create income to pay for the rent of the school building continues to meet challenges as the electricity has been so very inconsistent. To read about the inconsistent electricity in the Dominican Republic, you may want to check out this blog post:http://lavidaidealist.org/2010/07/30/inconsistent-electricity-trained-laziness/. The problem we face is that the building has been included in a circuit that includes all of the houses of the batey. A batey is a word used to describe a housing complex usually bordering fields of sugar cane, inhabited by sugar cane workers, and government owned, at least at one point. The sugar cane industry has been non-functioning all along the north coast of the Dominican Republic for 6 years now which has left sugar cane workers in even worse situations than before, as well as sugar cane fields overgrown and unkempt. The entire batey of at least 100 houses have one contract with the electric company and one man goes around and collects a fixed fee from each household each month. During these past few months, this system has gone wrong a few times as the fee to the electric company was not paid and the electricity to the entire batey was cut off, affecting the school and the movie theater as well. On top of this, the electric company, Edenorte, does not seem to be in agreement that the school building is included in this circuit as it is actually outside of the batey, and I think they have good reason to feel this way. However, the reason that the landlord attaches the building to the batey circuit is because he was left with a debt from a previous tenant that he has not yet paid. So we have been going through a bit of a war with me paying partial monthly payments and then holding out, asking him to fix the situation with the electric company as it is ultimately his responsibility. Today he threatened to kick us out so I paid the other half of the rent but then talked to him about the lights and he gave in and genuinely said he would pay the debt in order to have a functioning and individual relationship with the electric company. Another plus of this is that this should cause the school building to be on a circuit that makes electricity available almost 24/7, whereas houses in the batey receive electricity only in the evenings and throughout the night, but it is cut off in the early morning and throughout the day. So hopefully we are nearing the end of this battle and will have consistent electricity throughout the school year, which will also allow the movie theater to function.
Volunteers have successfully created over 50 profiles for returning students whose parents attended parent-teacher meetings. We are still seeking sponsors to support each student. The sponsorship is an annual donation of $100 which covers the purchase of the student’s uniform, books, and school registration. There is no tuition throughout the year as parents would not be able to pay, but this sure does make it hard to maintain the teacher salary payments! With school beginning the first week of September, we just have two students sponsored this far. You can help by sponsoring one yourself and by sharing the opportunity with others around you who may be interested. Sponsors receive a profile with information on the student they are sponsoring as well as a family picture. Here is more information and an example of one family in a different community where we have a school on our website: http://www.esperanzameanshope.org/student-sponsorships-2011. We have chosen to include family pictures rather than individual pictures in order to respect and recognize the students’ caregivers.
We thank you for your support. Please consider this request of sponsoring a student. The week long teacher workshop we plan to run before school begins actually depends on our ability to collect school registration fees, so your sponsorship here will truly have a direct impact on the quality of education given this school year. Thank you!
**The best way to look at updated photos is through our facebook group: Project Esperanza.