…in the impoverished village of Saman, outside of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. I am waiting to see a performance. Six Haitian boys around the age of eighteen are huddled around a small stereo eagerly discussing last minute stage directions. They all sport tee shirts freshly spray-painted with the band’s name, Hip Hop Family. Similar shirts (“Yours free with a minimal donation!”) are available. The band is now ready. They proceed with their one and only song – a catchy, upbeat rap number reminiscent of American pop but completely in Haitian Creole. The crowd goes wild. It is time to get my concert souvenir but before I dole out 60 pesos for my shirt I want to know what these boys are using my money for. A new TV? Trendy sneakers? An hour in a recording studio? No. They tell me they are saving up to open an orphanage for Haitian children who were displaced because of the earthquake. The moment I discovered these people with nothing were out here trying to help people with even less was the moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Since my first experience with the organization, I’ve been working with Project Esperanza for two years. I’m the leader of the student organization at Virginia Tech and have traveled to the Dominican Republic to volunteer three times. As a blogosphere newbie, I humbly welcome you to the Project Esperanza blog. I’ll be writing about what’s going on in the Puerto Plata community as well as Project Esperanza events, fundraisers, and updates, and posting pictures and videos.