Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic

by The Bienvenido Project (FUNFONAVI)
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Lunch time!
Lunch time!

Last month, I had the privilege of spending a whole month in Santo Domingo. It’d been about a year and a half since I last visited The Bienvenido Project, and the first time since we’ve become partners with GlobalGiving. I couldn’t believe the changes I experienced, and I want to share a couple of them with you because YOU have helped make them possible.

  1. The whole time I was there we were never without or running low on food and haven’t been since partnering with GlobalGiving. In prior years, lack of consistent funding meant we were always scrambling to find food. There were even days when no food was available. Veronica, our program founder and director, shared with me how amazing it is to no longer worry about food. It not only has freed up her time, so she can focus on other aspects of the program, but means the children are consistently being fed nutritious meals. This has led to improved health, behavior, and the ability to focus better in school.
  2. We have hired a full-time Program Assistant. Daniel joined the team last year coming to us from Venezuela. He has done an excellent job working alongside Veronica and assisting her in countless areas. He also serves as a much-needed positive male role-model for the boys in Bienvenido. It’s hard to imagine how the program ever functioned without his support. Having him on our team is such an asset!
  3. The overall atmosphere of the program has gone from feeling rather hectic, to one of joy and peace. I think the previous two points are a big part of this. The kids are consistently being fed and fed well. As a result, Veronica and Daniel have now been able to devote more time on the sociological and psychological development of the children. And because the kids aren’t hungry, they’re mentally able to process these things. As someone who has been working with the project for over 5 years, the biggest change I experienced was a difference in the behavior of the children. I didn’t witness fights or arguments during my time there, but rather children helping one another, cleaning up after themselves, etc. It actually brought me to tears! Of course, kids are still kids, and I don’t want to paint a picture that everyday is problem free. But calm days are now much more the norm than the exception.

When we became a partner with GlobalGiving, my hope was that (at a minimum) we’d be able to fund the feeding program, so the children would be guaranteed a meal and Veronica would be able to devote her energy to other needs in the project. With a lot of hard work on my part, and a whole lot of support on YOUR part, we’ve achieved this. Together, we’ve also now raised school scholarships for 46 children to attend school this upcoming school year between one-time and reoccurring donations made over the past couple months. So, what’s next?

We need to raise enough funds to purchase a small bus to transport students to university; which we estimate to be $20,000 USD. Although university tuition is fairly inexpensive, the cost to take public transportation from Bienvenido is more than double what the average person makes in a day. We don’t want this to stop our youth from receiving a college education. A few of the students shared their dream to attend university in videos we posted on Facebook. Check them out here! For further information on this need, please reach out to me at thebienvenidoproject@gmail.com. And if you know already this is a cause you want to support, donate today!

And finally... enjoy a few photos from my time there!

These sweet girls oversee our wash station.
These sweet girls oversee our wash station.
Heading home with a full belly.
Heading home with a full belly.
We're much more like family than friends.
We're much more like family than friends.
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Meet Miguelina!
Meet Miguelina!

Have you ever seen the smile of a child who just learned how to read and write on there own? That was the radiant smile we saw from ten-year-old Miguelina this week!

Our after-school program, Sala de Tarea, or "homework room", teaches kids to read and write in small, interactive groups led by qualified tutors. It's an important program because many kids in the community never learn these skills even if they attend school. Through Sala de Tarea, many have sucessfully learned to read and write!

Miguelina came to the project two years ago when she was eight. At the time she had never attended school and she didn’t know how to read or write. Her father had abandoned her family and she lived with her younger brother and her mom, who worked as a maid. Miguelina often misbehaved, didn’t listen to her mom, and would get into fights with the other kids in the neighborhood. Her mom wasn’t sure what else to do and considered taking her out of the community to see if she would fare better somewhere else. Instead, Miguelina became one of the recipients of our school scholarships and joined one of our Sala de Tarea groups.

Although Miguelina initally didn't enjoy attending school because she was the oldest in her grade and didn’t know how to read and write, she always looked forward to coming to Sala de Tarea because she loved her teacher and liked the activities—especially writing on the white board.

The day Miguelina declared she knew how to read and write, she was beaming. In fact, she’s been beaming every time we’ve seen her since. She says school is more fun now, and her favorite subjects are math and social studies. Her mother is just as excited, and says she is very happy that Miguelina has been able to attend school and learn to read through our programs.

Our programs at The Bienvenido Project are meant to provide our kids with the skills and resources they need to excel long-term, in every area of their life. Miguelina’s home life has improved, her self-esteem is higher, and she can now complete her school homework and be successful as a student.

Thanks to support from our donors, we are able to provide similar experiences for many other kids beyond Miguelina. The impact is real— their smiles say it all!

And speaking of financial donations… SAVE THE DATE! For those of you interested in making a donation towards our school scholarship fund for the 2018-2019 school year (or towards any other part of our program), on Wednesday, July 18th one-time donations will be matched 50% and reoccurring donations 100%!!! Plus we’ll be competing for additional bonus funds for raising the most funds, most donations, or most reoccurring donations. It's a great day to make your donation go even further and have an even greater impact.

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Poco a Poco... Little by Little...

Offering hope is a not a process that can be rushed. It takes time, money, patience, trust, and a whole village behind us. It's putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, no matter what comes our way. And every single moment is worth it because it truly makes a difference in the lives of the children of Bienvenido.

Although we could write out many stories of how we work towards this, sometimes there's nothing better than hearing them first hand. So with this, we invite you to view our newest video where you'll hear the stories of Onis (age 8) and Ricardo (age 18), and learn how the little by little has added up to big change in their lives.

And speaking of little by little...

This week, April 9-13, there's an exciting opportunity for YOU to become part of our village and join us in offering hope. To celebrate the power of the crowd and how small donations add up to big change, GlobalGiving will be matching donations $50 and under at 50%, plus an additional 100% match on reoccurring donations. 

And to top it off, one of our current supporters has also offered to match all reoccurring donations an additional 50%!!!

We will be using donations from this campaign to fund our school scholarship program for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year; a program than both Onis and Richardo have benefitted from. It's just one of the many steps we take to offer hope, and you can be a part of this change too.

Join us! 

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Meet Michela!!!
Meet Michela!!!

There are many reasons why we do what we do at The Bienvenido Project. You could look at it from a mission stand point; to offer hope of a life beyond poverty to the youth in Bienvenido, or from an alturistic standpoint; to selflessly give to those most in need. But you can also look at it from the standpoint of the youth, and the difference it makes in their lives. Today, we want to share Michela's story with you. 

Michela is 6 years old, and known as a sweet, loving girl. She lives with her mom, step-dad, and two brothers, ages 1 and 4 years. Although Michela's Mom works very hard to provide for the family, they still live in extreme poverty. Aware of the need in this family, we have been able to help by providing Michela with a scholarship for school, as well as additional help with her clothing and shoes. 

Not long after the school year began, we found out that Michela had become very ill and was no longer able to attend school. When we went to the house to check on her, we found out a large part of this was because her and her 4-year-old brother did not have a bed and had been sleeping on the floor. We were able to bring her to the doctor, purchase the medication she needed, and provide a bed for the family.

We also learned that Michela had become the primary caregiver for her two younger brothers as a result of her no longer being in school. We were able to sit down with her parents and explain that the responsibility that had been placed on her was too much. Michela needed to get healthy again and return to school. The parents agreed to make the needed changes for her health. With our support, and in only a week’s time, Michela's smile returned. She has since been well enough to attend school and our program.

Without the help that came from The Bienvenido Project, Michela and her brother would have continued sleeping on the ground. She would not have the opportunity to attend school, she would have remained the primary caregiver for her younger siblings, and she would not have received the medical care she needed. Michela's mother and step-father also wouldn't have received the support and guidance they needed in learning how to best care for her and her siblings. 

Michela is why we do what we do, and she is just one of the hundreds of children we work with.

Thank you for helping us care for Michela! Thank you for making The Bienvenido Project possible!

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This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving’s 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn’t go as planned and how they learned from it. Enjoy!

Four years ago, we began following a dream to ensure that all children in our program receive an education. In the Dominican Republic, public schools are free, but once the classes are full, they are full. And with only one small public school in the community of Bienvenido, many of the children in our program were being left outside the education system. Education is one of the biggest factors in determining one’s ability to climb out of poverty, and it had been our dream to offer this to all of our children for years.

In 2014, our scholarship program began with 26 children. We partnered with a local private school, and were offered a lowered tuition, paying only $125 for each child for a whole year of schooling. This is very little by American standards, but unimaginable for a family living in extreme poverty. So, we took it upon ourselves to raise the funds to send these children to school without any expense for the families. We had no idea that in doing this we were making a huge mistake.

As the year went on, the scholarship recipients began missing more and more school. We’d see the children out playing in the streets while they should be in class, and the parents always had an excuse: “Their uniform is dirty” or “They didn’t have a pencil to bring.” The excuses were never reasonable though, and we soon realized where we went wrong. By the parents having no stake in their child’s education they felt no responsibility for ensuring their child attended. In wanting to care well for these children, we had actually failed.

Thankfully, the story didn’t end here though. We recognized our mistake, and began implementing changes. We held a meeting and made it clear to the parents that in order for their children to remain a part of The Bienvenido Project, they must ensure their child attends school. We helped the families understand that others were making sacrifices for the benefit of their children, so the least they could do was sacrifice their own time to wash their child’s shirt or purchase a pencil. I wish I could tell you that in this moment every parent understood, but that’s not what happened. We had to make the hard decision to remove some of the children from our program. But not only did we learn from our mistakes, the parents learned from their mistakes as well. The following year they returned asking for us to give them another chance as they had come to see the value in their child being offered an education. Therefore, not only as a program, but also as a community, were we able to “fail forward”.

Thank you for believing in us and the community of Bienvenido even in the midst of learning from our mistakes. And thank you for giving the gift of an education to the children most in need. We’re in this together!

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Organization Information

The Bienvenido Project (FUNFONAVI)

Location: Bienvenido - Dominican Republic
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FUNFONAVI
Project Leader:
Laura Collazo
GREENWICH, CT United States
$175,530 raised of $200,000 goal
 
1,949 donations
$24,470 to go
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