Greetings from Puerto Plata!
It’s been a while since this blog has been updated, so this is a brief summary of what Project Esperanza has been up this fall and summer:
A New Year in a New School Building!
Welcome back to school! We have started this year in our new and improved building in Padre Granero, thanks to all those who donated to make it possible.
We reached our $20K goal for the Indiegogo fundraiser last spring, thanks to many of you! However, that was just a chunk of what we need to raise to finish purchasing and rennovating the building. We worked hard all summer getting the floors and bathroom in shape, putting up classroom dividing walls, and much more! You can read about the progress here.
This year we have over 150 students in the new building in Padre Granero. In Munoz, there are right around 50 students. Classes are in full swing, and the kids are excited to be back!
We have 31 students sponsored so far this year. Sponsorship means a lot to our students and helps us to maintain our schools! If you would like to sponsor a student for $100/ year, please contact our sponsorship coordinator, Crystal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kati Hinman has taken over as our volunteer coordinator this year. A recent grad from UC Berkeley, she is excited for this opportunity to live in the Dominican Republic and work with “such a fabulous team of people”. She’s also looking forward to helping coach soccer and all the mangos! If you have any questions about volunteer opportunities or what’s happening on the ground, please do not hesitate to contact her at email@example.com.
Fire in the Bateye
In June, a fire broke out in one of the three bateyes and burnt 62 houses to the ground. We were able to distribute many donations our wonderful supporters and volunteers gave to help out families in this time of extra need. The government has shared plans to rebuild but nothing has commenced yet. In conjunction with Sewing My Future run by Julie Baker, we received a donation from The Dewe Foundation to make school uniforms for the fire victims and are working on that currently. We continue to serve the community through the school, eco-construction projects, art shop, and are still fundraising to set up a cacao garden.
2015 Volunteer Challenge!
84 people have volunteered with Project Esperanza so far this year. When one volunteers with us, they meet those we serve and interact with them closely. But we hope that the relationship does not end there. Out of the 84 volunteers so far this year, 2 have sponsored students. 0 have come on board as monthly sponsors, although two already were. We rely on these contributions to do the work that we do. We would like to challenge each volunteer who leaves here to either become a sponsor or recruit a sponsor!Global Giving is matching re-occurring donations that are signed up for this week. Who is up for this challenge!?
Change my Stars Summer Camp
2015 was another successful summer for the Change my Stars English Immersion Camp! After 5 weeks of fun activities and games designed to improve their English skills, the 31 campers who participated in the research on average scored 44% higher on the post-test. You can see what they enjoyed in these graphics made by Ashley-Brooke Moses.
And last but certainly not least!
THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUMMER VOLUNTEERS!!
Ashley McKenzie, Kayla Jacobs, Ashley-Brooke Moses, Kiki Spiezio, Pace Academy Group, Reed Kennedy, Crystal Fox, Melissa Fancey, Berryville Baptist Rascals, Shanyce Campbell, Jessie Montana Cain, Faith, Hope, and Joy Foundation, and the Noel Family!
It means a lot to us to have volunteers donate their time and energy to our work. We appreciate all that you have done and we hope that you stay in touch and continue to support Project Esperanza!
If you have ever visited Puerto Plata, you have seen the beautiful blue beaches set against a backdrop of gorgeous green mountains speckled with tropical flowers and fruits of all kinds. If you have been out of the tourist all-inclusive resorts, you have probably experienced all of this while also noticing piles of trash along side roads, in gutters, in people’s back yards, and marring those lovely beaches that nobody is paid to clean up daily. Because people often have to rely on bottled (or bagged) water to drink, because the negative aspects of littering are not emphasized, and because there is little infrastructure to deal with many things such as sanitation in the local community (and this could be a discussion for several blog posts but is not the point of this one), the trash problem quickly gets out of hand!
Project Esperanza has found an exciting new way for the students we serve to help clean up their community and at the same time contribute toward the fundraising for the new, permanent school building they desperately need!
Students have been going out to collect bottles and cans, and when they have collected enough to fill a truck, they load up their recyclables and take them to a recycling center, a Recicladora, in Santiago where they are paid for their efforts!
While the ability to fundraise in the Dominican Republic is limited, this is one way that the local community can be part of the work as we come together to raise the needed funds to purchase a place where our students can be educated and play safely!
This is also a potential project for short-term volunteers who could lead a group of volunteers and/or students in a day or several days of clean-up and recycling.
Along these same lines, if your state or province has a deposit on cans and bottles, a weekend bottle drive is a quick way to help us fundraise in solidarity with our students! Sometimes Redemption Centers even add 1 cent for each can/bottle brought back when the money is being donated. Send us your photos to post on the blog and on Facebook!
Some people have also started programs in schools to recycle a variety of objects…from trash to old electronics…in an effort to help PE fundraise! If that is something you think you can do, check out
They, and other organizations like them, give money to charities like Project Esperanza for those enrolled in their recycling programs.
Look for updates about our recycling project on our recycling for Padre Granero Facebook page.
You can donate to our fundraising efforts for a new, permanent school!
When volunteers come to work with us, we usually ask them to reflect on their experience by asking them a few questions about their time with us. Morganne was a remarkable 16-year old who came to volunteer for 6 weeks during the summer of 2014. Among other projects, she did a wonderful job leading the “songs” station at Cambia Mis Estrellas Summer Camp. She expertly changed the lyrics of many common American children’s songs to incorporate the theme of the week and the kids had a great time singing and dancing in her station. The following are her thoughtful and mature answers to some of our questions. Perhaps they will inspire you to come and spend some time with us if you haven’t already!
PE: What was your favorite part of your trip?
Morganne: I really enjoyed knowing and working with my housemates. They had a really cool diversity of experience and I feel like I learned a lot. I also thought that camp was a really fun and engaging experience.
PE: What was your least favorite part of your trip?
Morganne: Personally, I missed both wifi and the comforts of home. But I hardly think these even qualify as woes because they were just a part of the adventure. I had a great trip in general.
PE: Had you seen poverty/lack of opportunity to this extent before?
I had not experienced it so personally or for such an extended period of time. I traveled to India a little more than 4 years ago, and briefly saw similar conditions, but it was a glance at best.
PE: How do you feel about returning to the US?
To be perfectly honest, I felt relieved. It took some doing to get here (I had some money troubles trying to navigate Dominican customs), but it was nice to come home. 6 weeks was a long time for me, and while I wouldn’t trade a moment of it, I was happy to see my family.
PE: Do you feel like anything in your mindset/world view will change? What will really stick with you? My mom has worked extensively in the international development field, and I like to think that her values and ideals are a part of my own outlook. So there weren’t any dramatic worldview alterations, but I still feel that I learned a lot. We had some excellent in-house discussions on the ethics of voluntourism and development that helped me to clarify my own views on what we accomplished this summer and also future projects.
PE: Do you feel like those of us from developed countries that have received good education, have job opportunities, etc. have a certain amount of responsibility to the developing world?
Morganne: I heard an excellent anecdote recently that I think is apropos to the work that NGOs do in the developing world (and by extension what we did this summer). There was once a little boy who was drawing a bath, and in doing so he accidentally let the tub overflow. Water soon flooded the bathroom and his father came in. The dad asked his son what on earth had he been thinking, to which the child replied, “There isn’t time to look at the bigger picture, dad! We have to get buckets and bail!” Similarly, the problems that non-profit organizations battle are immediate and pressing. We have a responsibility to help with these needs. There is an issue that is eminently solvable, but equally needs attention in the long term. The educations that we have been fortunate enough to receive in the United States give us the tools we need to help with this, and I think that it’s admirable and necessary to address it. However, these problems stem from a socioeconomic and political system that is fundamentally broken, for whatever reason. There isn’t anything we can do, as foreigners, to foment the change that is necessary. The instigation needs to come from a grassroots level and sweep it’s way through the government. These larger changes have a tendency to go horribly awry when large and powerful countries inflict them upon the developing world. Iraq is the example that springs to mind, though it is extreme. As individuals, it is both satisfying and frustrating to work on the local level with underprivileged communities. On one hand, there is a tangible difference that you can make if your project succeeds. On the other, it feels as though you are bailing with a thimble, to reference the allegory above.
Food for thought on this last question:
-We (from the developed world in general) have a responsibility to our own country built in with taxes but what about responsibility to the developing world?
-In our generation we are not directly responsibility for the development of our home countries. We did not take part in setting it up but we do reap the benefits.
We are fundraising to purchase a school building! On January 24, 2015, we will be forced to move out of our current school building, where 130 kids in 9 classes grades pre-K through 6th receive an education. One of our supporters has generously donated 22 time share points through RCI Time Shares. This translates into a week long stay at your choice of resorts located in the USA and around the world. All costs related to the time share are covered. The only cost not covered is transportation to and from the resort of your choice.
Tickets are just $10 each. Purchasers of 10 or more tickets (or any $100+ donation to this cause) receive a t-shirt designed by one of our students, indicating that you have helped to support the new school building!
To confirm that the names you want put in the drawing are entered, in addition to sending in the funds, please e-mail Info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org with the name, e-mail, and phone number of each ticket recipient.
Funds for ticket purchase can also be sent via paypal or check made out to Project Esperanza, sent to 1291 Valley Mill Rd. Winchester, VA 2202.
The winner of the raffle must use the vacation by April 2015. Our students will do the drawing at 11am on December 18th. A video of the drawing will be posted within two days of the drawing.
**NOTE: If you donate $10 through our Global Giving project on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, your name will automatically be entered into the raffle and you can help us win an extra $5,000! If you donate right at 9am EST or 3pm EST your donation will likely be matched, and if we get enough unique donors throughout the day, we win an extra $5,000 toward the cause!**
Introducing… a t-shirt contest for a cause! This is an idea that has brewed for years and is finally coming into existence! Good Fruit Designs features designs that portray positive themes and hold periodic competitions for new designs that portray given themes. Winning designs are featured and designers are awarded a percentage of the profit.
The purpose of Good Fruit Designs is:
– To get people thinking positively as they ponder about how to portray positive themes.
– To create apparel that depict positive theme and get wearers and the people around them thinking positively.
– To engage artists in a fun quarterly competition and give them the chance to get their designs on marketable t-shirts, &
– To raise money for Project Esperanza!
The deadline for the first design contest is July 1, 2014, 12pm noon. The design theme is “hope”. To enter, your design must be in one of the following formats: jpeg, gif, ai, or png. Two colors maximum are allowed but unlimited shades of each color are acceptable. Depending on the amount and type of submissions received, we may break the contest into a 17+ age category and 16 & under.
Contest entry fee is $1 per submission. Artists can submit as many designs as they want, provided $1 is paid for each entry. Designs can be sent as an e-mail attachment to GoodFruitDesigns@gmail.com. Payments should be made via PayPal to GoodFruitDesigns@gmail.com.
Winners will be announced within 30 days after the July 1st deadline. The winner of the 17+ category will receive 50% of all profit from t-shirt sales up to $300. Payments will be made via PayPal. The winner of the 16 & under category will receive 50% of all profit from t-shirt sales up to $200.
T-shirts are for sale at www.goodfruitdesigns.storenvy.com. T-shirts are from Alternative Apparel, printed for free by Ink Wear Screenprinting in Atlanta, Georgia. Ink Wear Screenprinting has generously donated many services to Project Esperanza in the past!
Please help us to spread the word of the design contest and t-shirt sales!
On March 15th, I had the opportunity to travel to Cien Fuegos in Santiago with Project Esperanza to investigate an area with a high Haitian population not in school. Wanbert Elie-Tireus, co-founder and teacher at the school in Padre Granero, requested this visit to assess the extent of the lack of schooling for the youth. Another teacher, Francois Oreste and a parent to four students, Damus, were also quite excited about the thought of bringing education to Cien Fuegos. They requested funds to travel from Puerto Plata to Santiago to do an initial investigation on March 8th with the intention of presenting their findings to Project Esperanza.
After this trip, they reported great need with many children either not in school or walking long distances to attend. They organized a meeting with Project Esperanza through their organization Association of the Improvement of the Conditions of Life of Haitians (ACoVHa). At this meeting, there were many misunderstandings about expectations. While Caitlin and I were invited to visit Cien Fuegos, some group members believed that we were definitely going to start a school there. We had to reiterate that Caitlin and I visiting Cien Fuegos was solely a research trip. There were also some power issues with the elected president allowing Wanbert to travel with us and represent the entire group. I also felt a lot of individual pressure because ACoVHa saw me as someone who could personally support a school and not as part of Project Esperanza. Before Caitlin and I agreed to travel with them, we shared our thoughts about different ways in which they should approach proposing their ideas that do not involve pressure.
When we were visiting Santiago, we collaborated with Wanbert in conducting more research assessing the need in Cien Fuegos. Several mothers there reported that their children were not attending any school. While we did determine that there was a public school nearby, we did not visit this school due to many issues registering Haitian immigrant children in public schools. Some of the students in Cien Fuegos did report going to a Haitian school at a 7th Day Adventist Church. This school is an estimated 15-30 minute walk from the area and charges students 200 pesos a month. It became apparent to us that preschool and kindergarten aged children would have an extremely hard time traveling to this school without a parent accompanying them.
After hearing of this other Haitian school, we decided to visit in order to collaborate over what to do about the large amounts of children not in school. The 7th Day Adventist school is funded by student fees and the efforts of a Haitian pastor in the US. It has been functioning for 5 years and employs 4 teachers. We talked to some teachers who were asked objectively where the most need is for schooling with a high population of Haitians and they said both Cien Fuegos and another area.
We identified many potential approaches to bring more education to the Haitian children in the area. These approaches include:
1. A sponsorship program to pay the school fees for the children in Cien Fuegos who are old enough to walk the long distance to school.
2. A small school in Cien Fuegos for preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade.
3. Conducting an investigation of the other area mentioned that is not within walking distance of the existing school.
If this investigatory trip is acted on, it would be something where an already existing Project Esperanza employee, possibly Wanbert, would move to the area and maintain a fixed salary to run things. However, any additional funding would be disbursed to ACoVHa. Teachers in the possible new school would work with the understanding that they would be paid on a random basis and students in the 7th Day Adventist School would only be supported when they are sponsored.