Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico

by Nuestra Escuela, Inc
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Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico
Rebuild a School for 120 Students in Puerto Rico

At Nuestra Escuela education signifies discovery of oneself, of the fellow other and a glance of reality with an eye on the common welfare. The support of each member of the Global GIving community has helped girls, boys and young people to connect with a capacity for wonder through the beauty that permeates the spaces of the school. We know that beauty is always a mystery for the human being, but also one of his great desires.

Walking through Nuestra Escuela in Caguas connects our students with the magic of this mystery. In their formative process they have an environment that promotes the awakening of sensibility and develops the capacity for resilience with a critical look.

This project began to rebuild the school after the Hurricanes, today the process is in its final stage and all our effort is focused on investing every dollar that is invested in the space for the common well-being of all who are part of this community. There are many elements that allow this to be possible in the daily life of our students:

Each semester the aesthetics of the classrooms change depending on the interests of the students. The space matures with us. In addition, it is the students who are in charge of organizing assemblies and debates in order to improve their organization and design, and how to face the new semester.

  • Every corner of our school has a pleasant aesthetic design. It is not about the superficial beauty of things, but about how they are placed, how they are arranged, how they are organized, whether there is a harmony in each colors and in the pleasant location, not only to the eye, but also to the relationship of the person with the objects and the environment.
  •      The layout of the spaces is constructed from the point of view of a child or teenager as applicable.
  •    From the entrance to the school you can perceive the care in the details, as is the sign at the entrance that says "Nuestra Escuela. Una Escuela Amorosa" which translates to Nuestra Escuela a Loving School.
  •     Nature enters the classroom. Small and large plants, pots with soil, sand, stones. Everything is in creating a relationship of respect with nature and that is only achieved by interacting with it, not by moving it away from our schools.

Achieving this is a daily challenge that moves us to continue looking for more and better resources so that girls, boys, youth and adults from the most disadvantaged sectors of the country have access to quality education with a Service Model that tends to full development.

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Challenges continue to be part of daily life at Nuestra Escuela, yet they invite us to collectively rethink and build new forms of resilience. Going back to school in the last stage of 2020 was super encouraging. We managed to finish the semester with all the health and safety measures in place. We transformed our facilities and evolved to continue to be a community where love and care merge into learning in every classroom.

Physical distancing did not prevent our students from participating in decision-making at the school. The video conferences and virtual meeting technologies allowed us to remain close to each other and make crucial decisions regarding the school's future during a raging pandemic. Training for academic staff continued to be an administrative and programmatic priority for Nuestra Escuela. During the recess, school personnel took a break to focus on campus beautification. We painted our centers and continued the construction of the Caguas school cafeteria. To do this, we installed new equipment and identified funding opportunities for kitchen equipment. Every day we are one step closer to completing the construction of our Resilient First Response Center. 
Finally, we fulfilled one of our significant goals: purchasing Nuestra Escuela in Caguas from the Municipality. In addition, the expansion of our headquarters continues with the remodeling of the Patria building, which will house, among other things, three new rooms classrooms, and a store for students to sell products made at school. Reasons for continuing to provide free, quality education in Puerto Rico abound.
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Nuestra Escuela was founded to be a safe place that provides healing opportunities to girls, boys and young people from the most vulnerable sectors. Time has passed, 21 years building cutting-edge resilience alternatives to meet the real needs of our community. The opportunity to rebuild the building of Nuestra Escuela in Caguas has turned the space into one of full beauty, color and life.

Passing the threshold of Nuestra Escuela in Caguas is an experience that connects us with the loving essence that our Mission inspired. In the midst of the urban context, we are integrating nature and alternative forms of energy as part of our strategic plan. As part of this process, thanks to the generous collaboration of each and every one of the donors through GlobalGiving, we have managed to install solar panels on the terrace of one of the three main buildings that make up our headquarters in Caguas, the building is called Love. To do this, it involved making improvements in the sealing of the roof, in the area where the solar panels are now installed. Thanks to your support, we managed to cover an important part of that investment.

This was possible in the context of a face-to-face return to class, in which all of our student enrollment had the opportunity to return to school grounds.A very challenging process, tested our ability to respond to changes and which proved once again to include the voice and participation of each young person, each boy, girl, mother, father, each grandfather and grandmother in the process. We put into practice an educational, awareness and mutual support process. This involved improving each process so that the plan is responsive and inherent in improving the quality of life of our participants.

Our School in Caguas has become an inspiring place, where reality reflects that when we share dreams, everything, everything is possible.

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No one could have imagined what happened in March of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted nearly all aspects of 21st-century life. Among the areas of society most affected by the pandemic, schooling worldwide suffered tremendous shocks. Despite the global health crisis, however, at Nuestra Escuela, we were and continue to be ready to do what we do best: listening to our community and doing everything in our power to guarantee a quality alternative education for our students and families. Through natural disasters, economic turmoil, and public health crises, Nuestra Escuela has organized its community to better understand its needs and find alternatives to address them together. As a community-based organization, we maintain our responsiveness and flexibility thanks to the sustained support of organizations and individuals who trust in Our Mission of Love and understand the commitment that characterizes our efforts to support the education of children, teens, and adults from marginalized communities in Puerto Rico.

 

According to a report recently published by UNICEF, 1 in 7 children worldwide lost a year or more of schooling due to COVID-19 and the lockdown measures that ensued. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure becomes even more startling, where 3 out of 5 children in the region interrupted their studies for over a year. Naturally, COVID-19 presented significant obstacles to our community. About half of our students live in rural communities, and an overwhelming majority of them come from low-income families with little to no access to the internet and other digital technologies. Yet, we could not allow these challenges to handicap our services. Aware of the role schools play in children’s development and the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships during times of hardship, Nuestra Escuela moved to galvanize the support of the philanthropic sector and raised over $100,000 to purchase 158 electronic devices for students. This effort allowed Nuestra Escuela to be online and virtually in-session only three business days following government-mandated school closures. By purchasing laptops, tablets, and personal hotspots, Nuestra Escuela gave its students and families the resources needed to attend school and work remotely.

 

Because the effects of the pandemic were varied, our response to the crisis had to be holistic. First, we adapted our teaching and learning model to provide quality alternative education services to students, despite being online. Second, we supported the families of our students and personnel affected by the economic shocks of the pandemic by distributing over 357,840 pounds (162,313 kilograms) of food supplies. To this day, Nuestra Escuela continues to donate groceries to families in need. Third, our biopsychosocial support staff (composed of social workers and psychologists) maintained contact with our students and remained available for those in need of our support. Fourth, we maintained the totality of our personnel on the school’s payroll and were thus able to provide stability to our employees and their families at a time where everything seemed uncertain. Finally, the pandemic did not stop us from holding our yearly graduation ceremony. Although we could not hug each other as always, our students were able to wear their graduation regalia, receive their diplomas, and celebrate this important milestone (at a safe distance, of course).

Parallel to our virtual learning efforts, Nuestra Escuela has leveraged all public and private sources of funding at its disposal to adapt its facilities to an eventual return to in-person schooling. Among our investments, we have installed acrylic dividers in all classrooms and office spaces, rearranged all classrooms to maintain appropriate distance, installed air-purifiers in all air-conditioned areas, developed health and safety protocols for students and personnel, installed disinfecting stations in every room, facilitated employee access to vaccines, and much more. Yes, returning to in-person schooling is important. Still, as we attempt to open our doors to our students, our top priority is to ensure that our community is and feels safe from the virus when at Nuestra Escuela.

 

Our work is not over. We continue to look for ways to ensure student safety when they return to school next term. However, as we look back and reflect on the past year, we cannot help but feel grateful for the support we received from GlobalGiving and so many other organizations and individuals that make our vital work possible. We also feel hopeful, for our close relationship with our communities has allowed us to remain nimble. We will continue to lean on close relationship with those we serve, and we that this closeness will lead our way out of this pandemic and toward a better future. The pandemic is not over, but time and time again, we learn that taking care of each other is key. It always has been.

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We started the reconstruction project of Nuestra Escuela in Caguas more than 3 (three) years ago. It has been a unique adventure: in 2017 we found ourselves with our students in a powerless building, completely destroyed, but with the clear vision that we wanted to transform that space into a safe space for the community and a landmark for the city. Today, after going through more than a year of continuous emergencies, our experience could be summed up in one word: enriching.

We have rehabilitated three buildings, and also acquired a fourth to create a first response center for possible new emergencies.Our dreams were transformed into concrete realities: classrooms that are spaces to cultivate love and carry out projects; a radio room for recording podcasts; a care and development center with environments inspired by nature; a workspace based on a collaborative model, meeting areas, a theater, and many corners full of life stories that mark the transformative course that inspires our vision: A great family, that by believing in themselves and in others, develop a sense of belonging, based on love, peace and service, to achieve their goals in life joyfully and in solidarity, obtain victory.

During the earthquake’s emergency and the crisis provoked by COVID-19, we have conducted follow-up surveys to 100% (one hundred percent) of the families to support their needs; and continue creating a sense of community and familiarity, which is the cornerstone of our community-based work. Despite the crisis, we managed to sustain all of our projects with a methodological adaptation that implied developing our model remotely. It was a challenge, but the families and the community were present and aware on a revealing level: 90% of our students remained linked to the same groups they had at school. 

Our students are eager to return to school. Nuestra Escuela is home for all of us who day by day live there. When we return, we will return to a more beautiful school. Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving, we succeeded to day by day move ahead to build a school that is even more beautiful than the previous one. A school where its students learn that in every emergency and in every crisis, there is a valuable learning experience to build a solid community that promotes the collective emancipation foundation of each one of its members.

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Organization Information

Nuestra Escuela, Inc

Location: Caguas - Puerto Rico
Website:
Project Leader:
Ana Yris Guzman Torres
Caguas, Puerto Rico
$68,927 raised of $100,000 goal
 
367 donations
$31,073 to go
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