Project Esperanza will start featuring an involved PE member and share a little bio about them. Help me welcome our first “featured” member!
Name: Crystal Fox
Location: Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada
Occupation: I run a home child care business.
When did you get involved with Project Esperanza?
I took my first trip outside of Canada to the DR in 2007. I had lots of friends who had been there before, so I had heard how beautiful it was, how the AI hotels were amazing and about the poverty. The drive from the airport to our resort was about 1.5 hours. We drove through several towns and the tour guide talked the whole time, I didn`t hear her, my face was pressed to the window. There was just so much to see and to take in. I felt like I was in a different world.
We arrived at the resort and it was paradise! I fell in love with the country immediately. Sun, sand, palm trees and the people were amazing! Everyone was so friendly. We went on several excursions to Puerto Plata and surrounding areas, I loved meeting and talking to people and seeing the different places. Sitting on the resort was not for me, I wanted to see the real DR. I thought I was prepared to see the poverty that I had heard about but seeing it for myself was different. I found myself having a very hard time with the luxury of the resort and the poverty that surrounded it. I felt guilty having all the food I could eat, unlimited drinks, and having someone cater to my every need. It was paradise for sure but I was constantly wondering if the person waiting on me would have food to eat when they went home that night. I also hated how many of the tourists treated the staff.
The day I got home I immediately starting looking at prices to go back. I knew I was hooked! I also knew that I wanted to give something back to the people who had been so kind to me, I felt a need to help in some way.
A few weeks later my son`s Aunt (Roberta), cousin (Raella) and her baby (Jack) were involved in a car accident. Raella and 4 other people involved were killed instantly. Her son Jack had a broken leg and her mother, Roberta, was in critical condition. I was devastated…they had both been a huge part of my son`s life. I threw myself into being there for Roberta, she was in rough shape both mentally and physically. My family and I spent most of our time in the hospital and brought Roberta home with us on weekend passes when she was able. After nine months she gave up her fight, I was lost….nearly every moment had been spent with her or trying to help her in some way.
It was nearing Spring and we decided to go back to the DR. After checking out several travel forums I threw myself into gathering supplies to take with me for schools and orphanages. We had an amazing trip and once again when I got home I started checking prices for our next one. I then decided that a vacation wasn`t what I really wanted…I decided to look around for groups with whom I could volunteer and help the people who had captured my heart.
I contacted several groups and settled on one who looked good. I threw myself into preparing for my trip, raising money, gathering donations etc. I was so excited! Several months into my preparations I stumbled across Project Esperanza and began emailing Kristin asking questions. Hearing what she had to say made me want to educate myself about the histories of the DR and Haiti. I read every book I could find. I had hoped to meet up with Caitlin on my trip but sadly I was mistakenly told she was not there at the time.
I spent two weeks that summer in Puerto Plata working with children in some of the poorest barrios. I had an amazing time and met some absolutely wonderful people, sadly in the end that group was not for me. There was a lot of drama, bad talking of volunteers, members and others who were helping in the area. I decided that I could no longer support this organization.
I decided to get in touch with PE again and I knew immediately that I liked Caitlin! She was brutally honest and I found that refreshing. We talked back and forth for some time and then met up in April of 2010. She showed me both of PE`s grassroots schools, the boys home school and other projects that PE was currently involved in. I immediately saw the need for help and I liked how PE was going about providing it. I knew that I wanted to be involved. Caitlin and I started emailing back and forth even before I got home and I decided to sponsor with PE. After a few months of near daily emails between Caitlin and I, I offered to help out however I could. That`s how I ended up as PE`s sponsor coordinator.
After meeting Caitlin and volunteering with PE I noticed that I felt differently than I had when I volunteered previously….I had felt such an urgency, almost to the point of obsession to do everything I could before. Getting to know Caitlin and seeing how PE ran changed my outlook entirely. The want to help was still there, possibly even greater than before, but I felt an ease with it now….it just felt right. I realized that I had thrown myself into volunteering right after Roberta`s death, and I think that in the beginning I was trying to fill a void. The feeling of urgency and obsession had come from my need to save someone…. I think that my comfort and trust in Caitlin and PE allowed me to realize this.
In April of this year I took my sons` Brandon 18 and Cole 8 to the DR for the first time and we spent time volunteering with PE. It was an amazing experience for them and Cole even decided to donate his birthday money to PE when he returned home. I`m hoping that we will be able to return again soon!