The Caterpillar Project Amid COVID-19

by Ileri Inc. dba Project Promise
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The Caterpillar Project Amid COVID-19
The Caterpillar Project Amid COVID-19
The Caterpillar Project Amid COVID-19
New Army of Caterpillars
New Army of Caterpillars

After an extensive screening process during which a number of local fifth grade students and their parents got an opportunity to “dip their toes in the water” to see if Project Promise’s Caterpillar Program is a good fit for them, a new group of Caterpillars has officially joined the Project Promise family!

Please join us in welcoming Melakht, Firas, Charnaja, Jamoy, Malique, Dayniah, Alejandro, Seniya and Kamira. These energetic fifth graders from a variety of local elementary schools are now participating in all nine aspects of our holistic Caterpillar Program.

As an added bonus, each of the new Caterpillars has been paired with one of our older students, who will be acting as peer mentors.

Sincerely,

Resa O'Reilly

Executive Director

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It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by! As always, I have a lot to share…
 
Our dream of having our own home is finally becoming a reality
Since Project Promise’s inception we’ve been operating out of borrowed facilities, as our building in downtown Christiansted was not habitable.

In April our world was turned upside down when the Humanitarian Experience for Youth surprised us with an offer to provide $25,000 of funding plus seven weeks of volunteer labor to start rehabbing our building. The catch: We had five weeks to raise $50,000 and get the roof replaced, so that the building would be safe for the volunteers to be in.
 
The community response was so strong that between cash and in-kind donations over $86,000 was raised! This summer seven groups, each with 19 volunteers, got an incredible amount of work done, and the work has been ongoing since then. We anticipate being able to move into our building, which will also serve as a community center, just in time for the 2022- 2023 School Year.
 
This year we started the 5th year of the Caterpillar Project
In 2016 we kicked off our flagship Caterpillar Project with a promise to provide an intensive, holistic multi-year afterschool program to a group of fifth grade students. I’ve loved every aspect of this journey. This is real life, and regardless of what life has thrown at us, from the devastation of Hurricane Maria to the unimaginable disruption of a worldwide pandemic, we’ve persevered. This year most of our program was presented virtually.
 
I’m incredibly proud of the amazing growth that our first group of Caterpillars has experienced. This year our Career Exploration component transitioned from guest speaker presentations to hands on internships! We are so thrilled to see how Project Promise’s impact continues to expand.

Speaking of expansion, we are now recruiting our next group of Caterpillars. This summer we hosted “Caterpillar Camp with a Twist.” The “twist” was that we invited a group of prospective Caterpillars to participate, and our older kids served as the camp counselors. The selection process then continued in the fall, and we will officially be kicking things off with our next group of Caterpillars next month.
 
Our other programs went virtual as well
In February we presented a virtual version of our annual Havana Nights fundraiser that took place on the beaches of Cuba. Party-goers tuned in to Cuban music, took a salsa dancing lesson, had a chance to win a trip to Cuba (including a 4-night stay at an all-inclusive beach resort!) and more. We also honored three high school seniors who have overcome adversity to succeed academically
. New for this year, our honorees were each awarded a $500 scholarship.
 
In March we then kicked off the new, virtual version of our popular Salt River Basin field trip. To make this happen we added video production to the Project Promise team’s list of accomplishments, as the entire virtual tour was produced in-house.
 
Other 2021 highlights include service and art projects
In January our kids, who had become Certified COVID-19 Youth Ambassadors, led a COVID-19 informational session and discussion for other youth. I’ll never forget the one girl who said, “Thank you for asking how I’m doing! No one had asked me that in a while.” It was quite profound, and another reminder of the impact that Project Promise is having.
 
This summer four of our Caterpillars participated in the St. Croix Mural Project, ‘All Ah’ We’. This was our first time getting together in a classroom in a year! The kids each created a part of the image, which is on display at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts from December 28th throughout January 29, 2022.
 
This year we continued our support of an orphanage in Tanzania. Thanks to the generosity of two donors, we were able to purchase $450 worth of toys! Participants chose everything from sports equipment and small cars and helicopters to jumping ropes, board games, books, art supplies, stuffed animals, dolls and more—over 250 toys in total, to date, the most toys that we’ve donated all at once.
 
We’re looking forward to continuing to expand our impact
Moving forward into 2022 our plans include expanding our Caterpillar Program to start with a new group of kids, moving into our own building and, hopefully, getting back to in-person programming.
 
Thank you for your past and continued support, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

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Dear Supporter,

As you know, The Caterpillar Project is a long-term program designed to make a significant difference in the lives of at-risk youth in St. Croix. The Project’s initial pilot group of selected fifth-grade students meet with staffers after school on a daily basis through high school and into college.
 
This free 8-year holistic program includes activities in Life Coaching, Mentoring, Career Exploration, Creative Expression, Community Service, Personal Health & Wellness, Cultural Awareness, Family Support Services & Academic Intervention.

Next month, we will begin screening and working with newly recriuted students for our Caterpillar Project. The final selection process will take place in January 2022. Stay tuned for details.

Best Regards, 

Resa O'Reilly

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During the last half of the 2020-2021 School Year, we continued to impact our Caterpillars using our holistic approach, one major focus was Mental Health. We hosted a series of Coping with COVID-19 workshops for the Caterpillars and other high school students on island. In January, we also partnered with the Biden Inaugural Committee to host one such workshop as our virtual MLK Day of Service activity.

We are currently preparing for this summer’s Caterpillar Camp! We have new students that will be participating in our summer camp this year and our Caterpillars will be Camp Counselors. Our 5-week ‘Lessons in Leadership’ Camp starts on June 28th and will take various approaches in teaching leadership.

Thank you for supporting our Caterpillar Project Amid COVID-19! We appreciate it!

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As I look back on 2020, all I can say is, “what a year!”

One of the many goals of our flagship Caterpillar Project is to help our participants develop the problem-solving skills, flexibility and resilience that will serve them well throughout life. The COVID-19 pandemic gave us all an unexpected opportunity to put these skills and traits to use!

The year started off on a few high notes

In January we had a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Working with four partners we rehabilitated the playground at Altona Lagoon, including repairing the pavilion roof that was damaged by Hurricane Maria.

At our annual Havana Nights event on February 8th, over 350 people dined on authentic Cuban food, soaked up the irresistible Cuban ambiance and danced the night away to pulsating Cuban music.

While on my own birthday celebration trip to Cuba, I was thrilled to be able to take books and school supplies to 270 Cuban school children. The generosity of Project Promise’s staff, who each contributed to the cause, made this possible.

Our last in-person activity in 2020 was another service project: sprucing up Asa’s Garden at the Juan F. Luis Hospital. We pulled weeds, trimmed, and replanted the areas that needed some love.

When the coronavirus hit, we simply pivoted

Once the “stay-at-home” order began and schools shifted to distance learning and so did we. Schools were shut down on a Wednesday and by Friday our Caterpillar Project was “back in business” online. Since then, we have delivered every aspect of our program remotely, we even took virtual field trips. Life coaching, homework assistance, creative expression, service projects and more are all taking place. In some cases, we’ve simply had to get that much more creative to make it happen.

In April, for example, our service project involved letter writing. The Caterpillars wrote letters of hope and encouragement for the residents of a Chicago senior housing facility that they visited in the summer of 2019 during our Summer of Service Trip.

During the summer we focused on job readiness

The focus of this year’s six-week Caterpillar Camp was on giving our teens the tools and skills they’ll need to be ready to join the workforce. Topics included interviewing, teamwork, customer service, problem solving in the workplace and more.

In October the students completed Heart to Heart International’s Youth Ambassador program. They are currently implementing the social media-based COVID-19 community education outreach plan that they created as part of this program. In December our 5th annual Toys for Tanzania Project went virtual, too. Instead of heading to K-Mart to purchase toys for the children at an orphanage in Tanzania, we purchased the gifts through the Tanzanian Children’s Fund’s online holiday gift shop.

We remain positive and upbeat

When unexpected challenges hit, our philosophy is to figure it out, push through and adjust as needed. We made a commitment to these at-risk youth and we are going to seeing it through. Whether it’s Hurricane Maria, a global pandemic or a difficult situation that a child is facing at home, we will be there for them.

Moving into 2021 we are looking forward to relaunching our Salt River Bay Program with virtual (instead of in-person) tours. This program aims to give every fourth-grade student on Island an opportunity to visit and learn about the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. Apart from the shift in the tour portion of the program, the lessons will be presented in the same three-part, ranger-led format as before.

Plus, of course, we are excited about our plans for a virtual Havana Nights on February 13th. Stay tuned for more information on this unique and interactive event.

Thank you for your past and continued support! In times like this, we’re reminded of how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community. Without you, none of it is possible. 

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year!

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Organization Information

Ileri Inc. dba Project Promise

Location: Christiansted, VI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Project_Promise
Project Leader:
Resa O'Reilly
Christiansted, VI United States
$20,410 raised of $25,000 goal
 
214 donations
$4,590 to go
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