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

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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The Rebuilding Scholl project has been most medullary for Nuestra Escuela. After hurricanes Irma and María, the spirit of resilience in our communities have been a great example and inspiration to us. Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving we have been able to rebuild our facilities in the Caguas center, getting us closer to the school that we dream of.

 Our Mission of Love guides us, seeing our students and their family’s happy faces, while reaching their goals it’s our main motor.  It’s a challenge to provide good quality education to the most vulnerable sectors, but it is also a great opportunity to construct a world of more solidarity and justice. Quality Education also defines the best resources to service our people, and that is the goal we pursue every day.

We are standing on the fourth phase of recovery of our buildings.  Thinking back of the state that we received the school and remembering our first assembly right after the two hurricanes, it is such mesmerizing and proud to see how it looks and stands today. For now, the challenge is to close this cycle and that this school, more than strong, beautiful and resilient, can be sustainable, with clean energy and economic entrepreneurships that are capable to sustain in a permanent matter.

Our intention is to complete this project with much success and to share with the GlobalGiving community the faces of realization and collective overcoming from our participants from the island to the whole world.

 

*Each person that appears in this report provides complete and total authorization for GlobalGiving to use their image and name. 

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This period has been one of constant challenges but also a period full of opportunities for all our
projects. Just while we were trying to face and attend the crisis caused by a series of earthquakes on
January, the COVID-19 crisis came and changed everything. Our plans had to be adapted to a new
reality, but our spirit of service continues to move in the same direction: empowering our communities
to build together a better quality of life and a more stable future. Nuestra Escuela conceives education
as a liberating practice, so going through the COVID-19 experience has been purely a learning process.

What have we done to continue the project of rebulding the school ?


Although at this point, donations for this project were less than on prior occasions, we continue to
advance towards our goal of having a safe and comforting space, imbued with the power of the beauty
and the resilient spirit of our people. We have gathered sources of funds to advance in the necessary
structural reforms to continue with the planned phases in our 3 buildings in Caguas: Homeland, Love
and Freedom.

With GlobalGiving funds we have continued to equip our spaces, with bookshelves, desks and racks.
This has enabled us to move forward in creating welcoming learning environments that are inspiring for
our youth. This spaces also provide a collaborative work environment for our staff, where creating with
young people is part of the daily enjoyment of being part of Nuestra Escuela.

Although we have been able to continue with our projects, all our energy has been focused, as always,
on responding to the needs of our students, their families and our community in the face of the
onslaught of the aftermath of the crisis. We have worked in alliances with many third sector
organizations, and we have managed to attend to three main aspects: well-being, food insurance and
access to technology. All of this has been part of a comprehensive and overall response strategy,
designed and implemented to ensure that our services can continue despite the physical distancing
measures taken during the pandemic.

Our goal is getting closer. We are sure that as soon as we can return to our facilities, the building will be
more beautiful, safer, and ready to continue building up from a resilient spirit.

*Each person that appears in this report provides complete and total authorization for GlobalGiving to use their image and name. 
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Organization Information

Nuestra Escuela, Inc

Location: Caguas - Puerto Rico
Website:
Project Leader:
Ana Yris Guzman Torres
Caguas, Puerto Rico
$66,300 raised of $100,000 goal
 
332 donations
$33,700 to go
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