jueves, 28 de julio de 2016

Juxtaposition

I walked into the Art station room before camp one morning and the juxtaposition was too much. I had to grab my camera and take a picture. One of our kindergarden students was looking at a book that a volunteer had brought for art activities. It was a book about ideas for kids' bedrooms. Many of our students sleep on the floor in a room shared by their entire family. 



The cost of creating each bedroom could perhaps sponsor all of our students for one school year. You may not have grown up in as immaculate of a bedroom as we see in those books, but you probably did have a bed and a school properly equipped with necessary materials? 5 of our 200 students have been sponsored so far for the 2016-2017 school year which starts on August 17th. 

At $100 a year to chip in, we know we can get all of our students sponsored this year! E-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you are interested.
http://esperanzameanshope.org/student-sponsorship

martes, 5 de julio de 2016

Summer 2016 Update



There is so much to update about and we apologize for going so long without posting. The 2015-2016 school year finished well on June 17th. Report cards were given to parents and students on June 24th. Our sixth annual Change My Stars English Immersion Summer Camp began on June 27th, with this being the fourth year it has been held in the school.
Old rough floor, new smooth floor.
 
The school year was different for us in the renovated space with a new director. We extended the school day from 8am to noon to 8am to 1pm. We served meals five days a week for the first time ever. The space, while functional, still needs work. The floor is not finished but is a rough concrete that creates lots of dust and is not able to be mopped. As soon as school ended, we began working on finishing the floor. 


A teacher volunteer named Kristine who visited and observed in May helped us to create more thorough behavior charts and teacher evaluations that can be conducted monthly. In April, we finished paying off the building and now are building owners. We were able to do this thanks to an amazing year of fundraising where we fundraised more than we ever have before, along with a $70,000 loan from a generous couple of supporters in the U.S. We are paying off the loan at a 3% interest rate over the course of nine years. 


We used the code of another school called Niños de Dios (Children of God) this year as we continue to work on meeting requirements to solicit our own code. We were able to register all pre-schoolers and first graders into the system. Any student who is above the first grade level but has no proof that they attended an accredited school previously is automatically sent to first grade in the system. This is a problem in this country often. The aid community likes to say that kids without birth certificates can’t go to school, but often the problem is that the student attended a school without a code or a school in Haiti but was not able to properly transfer the original documents to the Dominican Republic. Or the child entered school late and was not allowed into his or her grade level because of their age. 


We requested that the District office of the Ministry of Education send a technician to evaluate our students in 2nd to 6th grade and enter them into the system at the grade level that their academic level corresponds with, but we were told that it was too late into the school year. They would do the evaluation in August of the following school year. At the end of the school year, we had problems with our scholarship student in 8th grade that almost caused him to not be allowed to take the national 8th grade exam that allows him to go onto high school. We had to jump through hoops to resolve that. The District office again told us to come first thing in office to get those evaluations off the ground. So we hope and pray that all goes as planned and we are able to have all grade levels entered into the system next year. 


We are also undergoing some personnel changes. The Ministry of Education requires that accredited schools have 80% of their teachers licensed to teach with a college degree and the other 20% working on their final years to do so. We do not have that. Two teachers were recently let go. We have a group of resumes whose owners we will be calling to hold interviews to replace these teachers. The rest of the teachers who do not have teaching degrees and are not working toward them have been notified that if they do not enroll in the university seeking the proper degree (as we have some who are studying Accountability, Information Technology, and other fields), then the 2016-2017 school year will be their last year working with us. 


Now that we have paid off the building, we have control over the outdoor space as well, which has been rented to a group of mechanics for a few years now. The rental has transferred to us and we get the 20,000 pesos (around $450 US) they pay for rent each month, which helps out with the $750 US we pay toward the loan each month. This has also given us access to a small office space on the mechanics’ side, so we will move Project Esperanza’s office, which is in town, to this room, within the next two weeks. We are still in negotiation with the renters, but this change will slightly lower their rent as they will no longer have access to the office space as they currently do. 


One day we will turn the outdoor space into recess space, but we are happy to rent out the space for now, although it is tricky having no outdoor recess space, but holding recess inside. There are a few building improvements we would like to make ASAP. One we have already started taking action on: the floor. The rough
cement creates lots of dust and is unmoppable so we are putting on a smooth cement finish. We have a 600 gallon tinaco that stores water on the roof throughout the week. However, we often have problems with this system. City water is available through the pipes one or two days a week. It does not always have high enough pressure to force it to go up into the tinaco and fill it. Therefore, sometimes we have to buy truckloads of water to fill the tinaco and during the time it takes for the truck to come, we have to haul water by buckets for cooking and cleaning. You can imagine that the bathroom gets bad. 


The director suggested that we dig and construct a cistern, which would cost between 40 and 50,000 pesos, or right around $1,000 US. The cistern would be an extra water reserve which we could pump water into the tinaco from when it runs out. We looked into digging a well and found it to come out to the same price. So that is probably the smarter option and it is safer as well as we won’t have a large underground pool of water where the top could potentially be left open and a child who doesn’t know how to swim could fall in.



The wall divisions are definitely a step up from a large open
building without walls to divide classrooms, but we still have the
Drop celings would go on top of the cincerblock wall.


problem of noise carrying from one classroom to another. With improved behavior charts and system of dealing with behavior, this may change, but we still would like to, at some point, put in drop ceilings. Our inexpensive wall fans are not creating much ventilation and some have broken. We would like to invest in industrial fans at some point, or large ceiling fans. Someone also recently suggested that we use foam spray to spray the inside of the tin roof
Our current wall fans are not getting the job done.
so it does not create as much heat. 


One thing that I hope we can accomplish within the five or so weeks before school starts back up is to purchase sheets of clear roofing to put in the back part of the school where little air comes between the space between the roof and wall, as it does in the front, to create sun lights. Electricity is not consistent and when there are no lights, it is hard for the pre-schoolers back there
We hope to replace some pieces of tin with transparent pieces.
to learn! These sheets cost around 2,000 per sheet and we hope to buy six. 


One last update is that we plan to put in a seventh grade class next year. Up until now we have functioned up to sixth grade. After sixth grade, if the student has a sponsor, we send them to Colegio Mundo Feliz which is the closest private school where the students from Padre Granero can walk to. Seventh grade here costs 1,500 pesos a month. After that, they attend the same school, but in the afternoon, for 8th grade. 8th grade costs 500 pesos a month. For high school, there is another very good school nearby called ALIC. ALIC is expensive in the morning and has an all-day bilingual option, but also a more inexpensive high school option in the afternoon. This is also 500 pesos a month. Therefore, we have inexpensive options within walking distance for 8th to 12th grade. However, 7th grade is more expensive. We have several 6th graders who passed this year and are going onto 7th grade. It will be less expensive to hire a 7th grade teacher and add one more class and then send the students to 8th grade elsewhere after finishing 7th grade. 


This year we had over 160 students enrolled. Attendance averaged between 130 and 140 a day. However, we only had 74 students sponsored. We have kept student sponsorships at $100 a year, even though the cost for each student to attend school is much more than that. Imagine, these students are receiving a meal each day! We have kept the sponsorship at such a low amount in order to supplement other fundraising efforts, and make it possible for more people to sponsor. We think that it should be possible, therefore, for us to get all of our students sponsored each year. Yet for some reason, we have yet to do that. We believe that 2016-2017 is the year to make that happen!


domingo, 20 de septiembre de 2015

Brain Games!



Every day that I am at the school, I have to take bottles away from kids during recess to keep them from kicking them around like soccer balls. The recess area is in the back by the bathrooms, pre-school classrooms, kitchen, and storage room. The pre-school classrooms are made of sheetrock and the storage room and kitchen are made of plywood. So running into them could cause holes and the lock on the storage room was already broken off once by someone running into the door.



Yesterday a group of sixth grade boys had their own little ball and were playing. They whined and complained when I took it away and explained to them why they couldn't play. They followed me back to the office and promised that they would not run into the wall. I told them that when they get into playing soccer, they won’t even see the walls or think about it but will just be running after the ball. And that I was sorry, but until we had access to the outside area, we could not run during recess or any time during school.  



They continued to whine and complain. I told them that there were other fun things to do that were quiet and didn’t involve running, and then remembered the cool game that had come in the latest barrel that Cole and Adam sent. It has pieces of different random

shapes, sizes, and colors along with connectors to connect them together. On the box, it has examples. I brought it out, put it on a table, and told them that I would give 10 pesos to the person who made the best creation out of these pieces before recess was over. Five boys (Ivens, Jon, Ronalson, Frandly, and Renaldo) participated. Some of the soccer players had gone to get snacks or do something else.



I don’t like the idea of bringing money prizes into the school, but on this occasion, I wanted to make an exception to get them quickly
into a new game, as there were only 7 minutes left until their recess was over. Their teacher, named Mentor, observed and encouraged them. After the 7 minutes were up, he and I judged. We chose two different creations as our favorite, so we called Claudion, the doorman and asked him which was his favorite. He chose yet a third creation, so I looked out the door to see who was nearby. A student from prior years, Peterson, was outside the door listening to a little hand radio. I called him in and he chose Jon’s creation, as did Claudion, thus breaking the tie! I awarded Jon with the 10 pesos and we took pictures.




I want to come with mini marshmallows and tooth picks one day soon and challenge them to see who can make the highest tower out of a limited number of materials! Looking forward to a few days of a Bible and science after school program Hillsong Church volunteers are coming to do in October!

Don't forget, if you haven't sponsored a student yet, the cost is $100 for the year. http://esperanzameanshope.org/student-sponsorship

domingo, 19 de julio de 2015

Is this the same building?


Wow! We have been so very busy these past few months! School ended on June 15th, just two days before the regularization deadline. Regularization is something the government is doing where foreigners without proper documentation register, submit a certain number of required documents proving the amount of time they have spent in the country and what they have been doing here, and the end result is a residency card. The threat is that those who do not complete this process will be deported. So June 17th was a scary time and we moved forward the last day of school to accomodate. 

Thankfully, to this date, no deportations have taken place during this process in Puerto Plata, and many are starting to receive their residency cards!


It has now been just over a month since school ended, and boy have we done a lot with the building! First of all, thanks to your wonderful support, we met our goal during the 60 day Indiegogo fundraiser. We raised $20,000! We had some great matching gifts there that spurred us along, and a donation of 12 RCI time share points to throw a raffle into the midst. The drawing has been done and was video-taped, but we are editing the video before the announcement. Special thanks to Good Kharma Foundation who donated $4,000 toward matching and an extra $16,000 on top of that!


Let me tell you what we have been up to. We ended a great school year, handed out reports cards, and began English camp on June 29th. We just ended our third week of six weeks of English camp. Last week was especially special as one of our members of our board of directors, Edna May Hermosillo who is a French teacher in Atlanta, Georgia at Pace Academy, brought 3 fellow teachers and 16 middle school students to run the camp for a week! They also were each paired with a local buddy to do afternoon excursions to the cable cart, beach, a scavenger hunt in a batey, cooking lesson, and more.


Building-wise, we have done a lot in this past month! From the time we moved in the building, we had already made an office with plywood walls as well as a storage room and kitchen, also with plywood walls. Someone advised that we try building with sheetrock, as it is not really any more expensive than plywood, and it looks better. We started by putting up two sheet rock rooms in the back, which will be our pre-school and kindergarden rooms. We put doors on both classrooms as well. Then, before we could do the classroom divisions in the front part of the school, we needed to even out some uneven floors. One of our artists suggested a pastor in Munoz who did nice cement work, and put us in contact. He did a great job with the floor, and then inquired about the cost of the sheetrock. He explained that he could do the remaining classroom divisions for the same price as the sheetrock, and it would last decades longer. We began planning for that. He then said he would need to up the price a few hundred dollars, but we were already sold. So that work began. 

The walls went up, the finishing cement went on, and
the doors were put in. The right side of the building has chain-link walls. It will do for now. After all, we have to finish paying off the building! We just wanted to make it functional rather than oen large open space with 140 energetic youngsters and no divisions. But the right floor was looking really bad, so we flattened it out as well.

Now, the bathroom. Our 65 gallon tinaco (tank on the roof that stores water in communities where water only comes through the pipes one or two days a week) was NOT doing the trick. We
Old tinaco with new tinaco.
purchased a 600 gallon tinaco and installed it. The bathrooms the builder's owner had made were not working either. Both wooden doors had fallen off the hinges and both ceramic sinks had fallen to the ground and broken. We raised the walls with block, put a plywood roof on, put in sinks with a stand under them, aluminimum doors, lighting, toilet paper holders, and a cement floor in one that was looking rough.

I forgot to mention that there were only a few light switches and plugs in the whole big building, so we employed an electrician from Munoz to do the lighting. He also installed a
Bathroom doors being installed.
wall fan in each room and repaired our super strong stand alone fan that had come unscrewed. Unfortunately, shortly after completing the work, Jimmy was killed in a motorcycle accident this past week. We will truly miss him as he was our Mr. Fix It in Munoz, his kids are our students, and he and his wife often participated in artist trainings and sold in the shop, as his wife still does.

The last tasks we need to do to prepare the building for the new school year is to:

1. Figure out why water is not going up into the tinaco. We have been having to pay a water truck to put in water, but it should fill up when water comes through the pipes twice a week. This is a matter of continuing to bug the plumber, who has already come to check it out but did not actually solve the problem.

2. Figure out why the lights are flickering a bit when they are turned off. One long light burnt out a week after it was installed.

3. Put windows in the back two rooms as even with the fans, there is less ventilation and it is super hot back there.

4. Paint! Faith, Hope, and Joy Foundation who helps with our school and camp meals is donating $250 toward this. This week volunteers will do a white coat over all the new walls, and then colors!!

So far, we have raised $41,481.70 toward the building. We have spent $9,452.25 on remodeling and $36,741.57 has gone to the owner. We estimate we will need another $5,500 for rennovations and with the total cost of the building is $130,337.08. We have until April 24, 2016 to pay off the remainder. If we pass that, we will be charged interested. So here we lack $93,595.51.  We are currently working on a fundraising strategy as to how to close that gap. If anyone has any ideas or wants to help out, please contact us!



martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Moving Forward!

It has been an amazing couple of months since the blog was last updated! So much positive change and new experiences for the kids! We had a volunteer group come called Black Women Empowered who came and taught African dance for a day at our school. We quickly realized what a challenge it was communicating to a hundred kids spread out for exercises, as they wanted to clump and basically be touching the instructor, haha! The back room space is great because volunteers and leaders can stand up on an elevation to give space and better sight for the children. This element of our building proved helpful when two volunteers came to do fitness classes. It also introduced them to Jeffrey, who teaches drumming and dance lessons. Jeffrey plans on staying long term and continuing dance lessons on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, for children that have maintained a longer lasting interest into learning the art. Creative Arts is a powerful outlet for children in high risk situations as it lessens negative emotions and provides a safe environment. We are very thankful for our volunteers.

Montague Rotary Club from Prince Edward Island, Canada, has blessed us in donating books for the school! We have two pending book orders and are working towards an organized library system in the future. 

We have the incredible opportunity to send two teachers to Matenwa Community School for teacher training at the end of this month! They have also agreed to send two trainers to us in August so that the rest of the teachers get the training as well! This is such an incredible step towards bettering our schools and empowering our teachers as well.

Our fundraiser for our Padre Grenero School has raised $17,216 with  $927 left in matching funds! 5 days remaining! If you donate $1000 you get a classroom named after you. Three classes have been named so far and there are six yet to be named! We have some ways we want to bless those who are fighting for the purchase of this building with us. If you donate $100 you get a t-shirt. Every $10 enters your name into a free vacation raffle. The winner gets 12 RCI time share points! We are more than halfway to our goal and we can't do this without you all!

Give towards the school through this link!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-school-for-the-children-of-project-esperanza 

Thank you so much for your continued support of Project Esperanza. We have the incredible privilege of seeing life change every single day, and we wouldn't have that opportunity if it weren't for you.

domingo, 15 de marzo de 2015

Hope in Action!

Hello, all of you wonderful Project Esperanza supporters! My name is Emily and I am a long-term missionary volunteering with PE! My focus has been tutoring the kids that are falling behind in reading at the Padre Grenero School. So, every day I usually have about four to five students and we read one book in Creole and one in Spanish. Every child reads at a different pace, so each day is different. It’s amazing! I get to see progress educationally and observe how they socially interact with me. Now that they have gotten to know me, spending one on one time with the kids gives me the chance to pour that time solely into them; to encourage them, love them and get to know more about their lives.

This month, we had the honor of hosting two volunteer groups. They used their spring break to invest in this beautiful place, and
that is something we are so grateful for. They spent their time here working with the children at both schools and accomplishing many different projects for Project Esperanza. We had one group that painted the outside of the school with our logo, along with the phrases, “Paz para Hispaniola”, “Colegio Esperanza”, and “Juntos Somos Fuertes.”

We had the other group that educated the children of the importance of recycling and followed through by making really cool recycled trashcans. I see them used every day in the school. They also did physical activity and art projects. Science projects, art and
physical education are supplemental activities we invite volunteers to do in our grassroots schools that add to their curriculum in their native languages of Spanish and Haitian Creole.

We got to hold our first movie night in the new space! We popped popcorn and watched Princess Bride. Both volunteer groups were a part of this, and dozens of people from the community joined us.

We still have the indiegogo fundraiser going on with the goal of raising $20K toward the purchase of the school in 60 days! $2,245 amount has been raised with 47 days left. Please chip in if you haven't already!

We appreciate and honor you! Thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do as you join us in the vision that God has given us. 

Thank you!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-school-for-the-children-of-project-esperanza