martes, 1 de abril de 2014

Recognition of Empowerment

Teachers were paid on time today again. This year we have a perfect record so far for the first time since 2008! (Last year was close to a perfect record, but we were late some months.) Paying teachers on time makes such a difference. They feel more secure, understandably and have a much more positive presence at school as a result. However, I think that God may have had a purpose in these years of backed up teacher pay. 

Today I met with Vladimir, the new morning director in Padre Granero, and Wanbert, the prior director and co-founder, who is still a teacher. They recently formed a committee among the older students in the school and have been teaching them about taking responsibility over some things in the school and learning to manage things as well. They led them each to make a small contribution of money, with one of them being the treasurer and money handler. They then used this money to purchase jugs of water so that water is always available for drinking in the school. This is an expense that the organization has not covered, but they found it to be a need that the school had. We also have some donated fortified rice and recently purchased a stove, pot, plates, and utensils. We have some oil as well. We mainly lack the ingredients to make a sauce to serve with the rice. 
This month our students learned about solar energy and constructed show boe solar ovens, along with one out of plywood!

Wanbert suggested that we ask for the participation of each student to complete the ingredients and get started serving school meals. Vladimir thought that that may not go over well, and we should leave the contributions to just the water. I think we agreed to follow Vladimir's ideas in the end, but Wanbert's reasoning for wanting to solicit the participation of students was gratifying. 

He said that he didn't used to think the way that he does now. But he realizes that when he accomplishes something for himself and provides something for himself, it is better than if he relies on others to give to him, or expects others to give to him. When everything is given to you, it actually weakens you rather than strengthens you. He said that Project Esperanza hasn't been able to provide him with everything, but he has received much formation and personal and professional development through working with the organization, and that is what he wants to pass along to the kids. 

I was astounded. Real, true collaboration and trust between those we are helping and those who are giving has taken years.. but I saw some light bulbs light up today. It's great to know that school leadership is finally teaching the kids to truly respect those sacrificing to make the school run, and encouraging them to "pay it forward". 

We have many students who still are not sponsored and more kids continue to register this far along in the school year. If you haven't already, please consider sponsoring one of our students for $100 a year. E-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org for more information.  

miércoles, 22 de enero de 2014

More Students!

The first trimester ended on December 18, 2013. Over Christmas break we had a parent teacher meeting to give out report cards, a youth/teenager meeting where a psychologist talked about important choices they face, and a visit from our friend Martine, who brought gifts! Although the soccer team was on hold, about 10 boys still came to the school each Saturday and eagerly waited for the bus. 
Report card meeting.



At the youth/teenager meeting, one of our current students pulled a girl over to me by the arm. She said that this girl wanted to go to school here. We talked and it ended up that she had never gone to school before, but at age 16, was hoping to enroll. I told her to come on January 7, when school would start back up, and the director would gladly enroll her. She did show up and enroll and has been attending regularly. However, she does not yet have a uniform but comes in regular clothes. 

Just this morning I spoke on the phone to Vladimir, the morning director, and he asked for me to excuse him, as he knows that funds are tight, but new kids have been registering daily at school since it reopened and we don't have enough benches to seat them all. The plastic chairs we purchase for the pre-school and kindergarten children are not very durable. About half of them have broken. We need to invest in wooden chairs with metal legs, but that is another matter of funding. At the beginning of the school year, 100 students had registered. It is true that all do not attend regularly, and I have not gotten an exact count of how many more have registered, but the number is somewhere now around 120. The first grade classroom has moved from a small room to under a tree in the yard, as there was no longer enough space in the room. Only 36 of these students are sponsored so far for this year. We hope that supporters will help us in recruiting more sponsors, as there are so many students seeking an education and we would hate for them to be discouraged in that effort because they have nowhere to sit!
Parents receiving Christmas gifts to give their kids.

You may have heard of a law that was passed this year that removed citizenship from people of Haitian decent. This has caused quite a bit of negative backlash from the international community. Most of our students have immigrated here illegally from Haiti. Some were born here and have never known Haiti. We have held two meetings with a group called MUDHA which advocates for documentation rights and aids people in getting their birth certificates and passports at times. Several parents have attended in hopes of receiving aid, but no one has received anything tangible yet. However, I was recently contacted by someone with the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority near Chicago. They are visiting in early February and contacted us in hopes to learn more about our organization and especially about the struggle of the Haitian immigrant population and the issue of documentation. 

After dialoguing, it turns out that they will be visiting the school on their trip and we will hold a meeting with a representative of the Haitian consulate and MUDHA, as well as some select students and parents. They will have a chance to ask questions, get some answers, and will providing, I believe 8 students and parents with passports! We plan on sending 5 6th grade students to the national exam in Haiti this June. Some students have received extra support for their sponsors to help out with this, but others have not, so it is wonderful that this group is stepping in to help, and also to aid some parents who have been attending the meetings. 

Other than that, this first semester held a lot of drama among teachers which led us to further investigate the law in running such an institution and create an ideal game plan for the future to assure that the Dominican government is supportive of the institution. We have always tried to do this, but it has not always been within our financial capacity to do everything as required by law, and quite honestly, it is not always straight forward in figuring out what the true law is! However, this has been a time of education and enlightenment for sure!

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

sábado, 26 de octubre de 2013

Stats for the New School Year

The school year successfully started on September 9th! Pre-school through 3rd grade have class in the mornings and 4th, 5th and 6th grades have class in the afternoons. Several volunteers, teachers, and a director, worked on registering students for this year. Below are some stats taken from those registrations. 27 of our students are sponsored so far, which leaves around 73 left we need to get sponsored! We have a new fundraising software to facilitate support for the school. Click here to view the new page which displays our goals, progress, and deadlines.

Lastly, the pictures in this post were taken toward the beginning of the year by the landlord of the building we rent. He asked if he could take pictures to show to his family in Austria, as he is proud to be renting his building for the use of a school! You can see that most students were not in uniform at this time. Many students unfortunately wait to get their uniforms to come to school, although we encourage them to come in colors. This can be frustrating to observe for those of us who went to high quality schools without uniforms, but here it is completely the norm, and we just have to go with it. But this is another reason why it is important that we get our students sponsored!

One last thing to clarify before you read the stats is that where you see K for Kindergarten, it actually encompasses 3 years of schooling, following the Haitian school system, so this somewhat coincides to two years of pre-school and one year of kindergarten, with students entering as young as 2. You will also notice that we have students at low levels but older ages, who have never had the opportunity to go to school before. And we have two adult classes at the basic levels that we started holding at night this year, which are not included in these stats.

STATS FROM REGISTRATION
 

There are 100 total students listed on the spreadsheet. Some of the information is incomplete, so these averages are slightly inaccurate, but should give an overall picture of the school roster.

21 students report being at the school last year, plus 2 who started but didn’t end the year. One student reports having attended the P.E. school in Muñoz last year.

STUDENTS PER GRADE
91 students reported their current grade
Average grade of all students: 2.8


K: 25

1st: 11
2nd: 21
3rd: 15
4th: 9
5th: 7
6th: 3

AVERAGE AGE & RANGE

Average age of all students: 9.74 (age range 1.5-24)

Average age by grades:


K: 3.7 (age range 1.5-7)
1st: 11.8 (age range 5-21)
2nd: 11.5 (age range 5-20)
3rd: 10.6 (age range 6-15)
4th: 12.6 (age range 6-18)
5th: 15.8 (age range 11-24)
6th: 15 (age range 13-18)

NUMBER OF STUDENTS OF EACH AGE

(89 students reported their age)

1 – 1.5 years old
6 – 2 years old
6 -- 3 years old
7 – 4 years old
3 – 5 years old
7 -- 6 years old
7 – 7 years old
4 – 8 years old
3 – 9 years old
10 – 10 years old
5 -- 11 years old
3 -- 12 years old
5 -- 13 years old

4 – 14 years old
3 -- 15 years old
3 -- 16 years old
2 -- 17 years old
6 -- 18 years old
2 -- 19 years old
1 -- 20 years old
2 -- 22 years old
1 -- 24 years old

TIME IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

49 students reported how long they had been in the D.R.

18 were born in the D.R.

3 – less than one year
7 – one year
3 – two years

3 – three years
3 – five years
5 – six years
5 – seven years
1 – eight years
1 – 9 years

NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN HOUSEHOLD

69 families listed the size of their household.

Average household size: 4.3

7 households of 2
18 households of 3
15 households of 4
11 households of 5
9 households of 6
9 households of 7








Thank you for your support!

sábado, 10 de agosto de 2013

A New Building & New Directors for a New School Year!

We have been blessed with a new building! All summer we searched for a new school building as we knew that the one we were in last year was a little expensive for the amount of space it provided. It also was in an area of the community where the water pressure is so low that it doesn't even rise from ground level up into the taps. We found an apartment for a bit less rent money and a bit more space with better access to water, but the downside was that it had no yard area, whereas the one from last year had at least a little. Plus, it was not a house, but an apartment connected to other apartments and on the second floor. Nonetheless, we were going to go for it. 

As time neared to pay the deposit and move, Willy, our first grade teacher, told me of a great house he found in a neighboring community that is a little.. actually quite a bit wealthier, which means better access to water, electricity, cleanliness, and peace in general, not to down talk the barrio by any means. One day during summer camp we left the group to go check it out. While on the way, we passed a yard and building with a playground that used to be a restaurant. I had noticed it before. It had a large "For Rent" sign and a phone number. I pointed it out to Willy. We immediately stared at it and commented at how perfect it would be for the school. I quickly called the number and spoke to the landlord who told us the rent - about $40 more per month than our current building. 

The landlord's wife was next door and would come to open it. Once I got off the phone, we celebrated and expressed our disbelief that a building with a yard so big and beautiful with a playground could cost just $40 more than the building we were previously in. Willy, who had just been talking about the persecution he was facing and health problems he continued to experience, which he believed to be a result of his involvement with the school and effort to advance it despite of jealousy and competition among other community members, something that has unfortunately come up a bit among our teachers and I believe falls under the category of spiritual warfare, said, "I think.... I think it's God that is giving us this building." I (Caitlin) agreed. He didn't mean literally giving it to us to own, but led us to it to use for the school.

After checking out the building, we saw that it didn't have enough space inside to house all of the classrooms, but it had adequate porch space in the front, side, and back, and with the Caribbean climate, this is perfectly fine. I ran back to camp and after it ended and local campers were dismissed, led volunteers, teachers, and the campers who travel to camp with us to check it out. Everyone was pleased with it. The landlord said that someone else was looking at it and deciding about it. After missing out on great houses in such situations before, I shared this with the volunteers and let them know that the deposit money was not yet available from organization funds. Three volunteers generously fronted the money so that we could move in that weekend! So English camp had a new home for the last week! 

We quickly discovered that a big lesson kids would have to learn was playground etiquette. It was heart warming yet also heart breaking to watch teenagers pile up on see saws, swings, and a slide, as though they had never been on a playground in their lives, and maybe some of them had not been. So we did demonstrations of waiting in a line behind the slide, having just one camper on a swing at a time, and taking turns. The first day before we sat them down and talked about this, we were lucky that the most serious injury was a busted lip!

One last announcement is that we have a new morning director and new afternoon director. Wanbert, school co-founder and director since 2010 has stepped down as director and will be working as a teacher in the
morning and afternoon. Pastor Milien has proposed a man named Vladimi as morning director and one of our teachers Met Prosper will be serving as afternoon director. Spreading out the responsibility in this way will undoubtedly cause the staff to work more in a team fashion and will make the overall effort more productive. We had a meeting this morning that ended up lasting 3 hours! After spending the summer with volunteers, teachers have learned a lot about the life of a volunteer and therefore a little more about the base of the organization. We will be visited by a volunteer placement organization the week of August 19th in hopes of establishing a partnership where they send up to 200 volunteers a year throughout the year to work with us! We have high hopes for establishing this partnership as it will be a great opportunity to work with more folks, as well as with the trip fees volunteers will pay, it will be a steady source of income that will hopefully allow us to make some improvements such as an increase in teacher salaries. 
 
 Don't forget - we are starting a new school year and need sponsors for each of our students. We have had around 100 register so far and have 11 sponsored for this school year. School starts September 9th so we need more sponsors before then as it goes much better when we can get books and uniforms before the start of the school year, rather than throughout! It's $100 for the year. E-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org for more info. 

Thank you for your support!

domingo, 23 de junio de 2013

Lots of Meetings!!

Teacher Judith Cadet and her kindergarden/pre-school class.

Throughout the spring, we had a series of meetings with educators in the community of Padre Granero. Some of these educators work in our school, some work in another school that popped up nearby this year, others are parents of students in our school, and others are hopeful employees. Everyone expressed one desire. To work in collaboration toward the cause of providing the best education possible to the children in the community, as well as to illiterate adults. They also expressed the need for educators to stop putting money first when providing social aid, but to put the advancement of the school first. We hope that teacher salaries can increase in the future and their standards of living can improve, but putting money first will not make this happen.

There seems to be a phenomenon that often occurs when a local group of educators receives foreign support. Rather than using the support as a boost to do more than they could've done before, they sometimes put money first and hold back, refusing to do certain basic tasks unless more money is given to them. They aren't motivated to visit the houses of children who are not in school and encourage their parents (who are unschooled themselves and don't always give school the value it deserves) to send these children to school. They are more concerned about their monthly paycheck and don't seem concerned (or at least enough to act) that at the end of each year, attendance dwindles significantly, or some students who register and receive free uniforms don't actually attend school. This group whom which we held a series of meetings largely criticized this phenomenon and spoke passionately about their collective desire to create a school where this is not the case. Educators who act in that way are producing much less fruit than is possible to produce, and they/we want to produce as much fruit as possible.

So in response to this, we began forming a committee to govern the school. This committee is still in its formation stages. I am happy to announce that we have joined forces again with the first educator we ever worked with in Padre Granero, a pioneer of Haitian education in the community, Pastor Milien Dieufils. Also as a result of this series of meetings, the man who has served as the school's director from January 2010 to present, was asked to step down and work as a teacher. If he does not accept peacefully, he will not work with the school at all. It was determined that his practices do not represent the ideal practices stated above, but more so the negative practices that lead to a less fruitful school and effort.

Tomorrow we will begin a volunteer run English immersion camp in the school. This summer we will also execute a soccer team for boys in the community ages 7-14, which boys in our boys' home will also participate in. We are searching for a new school building to rent as the previous director declares too much authority over the current building, and also because we believe we can find a better location with better access to water. Volunteer Chloe Bootstaylor and teacher Willy Previl spent a week and a half walking all around the community and surrounding communities, motivating and informing parents and registering students for next year. Chloe has created student profiles of these students who are ready for sponsorship for the 2013-2014 school year. Remember, this is a $100 per year committment which goes toward the student's uniform, books, and some toward the general functioning of the school. If you would like to sponsor, please e-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org

Lastly, if you are in the Puerto Plata area and would like to volunteer with the English camp this summer, please e-mail cambia.mis.estrellas@gmail.com.

miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2012

Immigration Control Strikes Padre Granero Again!

This past Sunday morning (December 9, 2012), Puerto Plata's Immigration Control police went into Padre Granero and rounded up Haitians without the proper documentation (passport with visa or residency), put everyone they rounded up in a truck, and took them straight to Haiti. They did the same thing in Padre Granero a little less than a year ago.

Padre Granero, the community where our school is located, has a huge Haitian immigrant population, most of whom are from the Northern Cap Haitian region of Haiti. They took our wonderful teacher Met Oreste the day before he was about to give his exams to finish of the first trimester. They took the Cheridor family who have been in the school since it opened in 2006. And they took many others as well.

The Cheridor family -
excuse the poor quality
of the photo.
Ironically, it was the Cheridor family along with their cousins the Philistin family who pleaded for help with the proper documentation at the house visits we did with teachers and volunteers this past summer. They spoke of their fear of being picked up by Immigration at any time, although at that point their family had been in the country for more than a decade without it happening, but they were fearful that it would. Their children who were born in the Dominican Republic don't even have birth certificates.

This is most definitely a human rights issue that I wish would be properly addressed by organizations that work to achieve human rights where they are lacking. Project Esperanza would be more than willing to partner on such an cffort. The Dominican law states that children born in the Dominican Republic receive Dominican citizenship. However, they put in a loophole specifically designed for Haitians, to keep from giving them citizenship and therefore justify the continued discrimination and abuse. If the parents don't have documentation, (and I am not sure exactly what documentation is and isn't accepted, as far as one parent with a passport, one parent with a passport with a visa, one parent with a Dominican birth certificate, etc.) and I think it varies depending on the hospital or civil office and the decision-maker present at the time, then they do no give the baby a Dominican birth certificate. These babies then spend their lives in the Dominican Republic and are really stateless people. They could be picked up by Immigration and taken to Haiti, a country they have never known, at any time.

And the way that Immigration picks people up is incredibly inhumane. One woman who works with Project Esperanza as a caregiver gave her account of being picked up and sent to Haiti by Immigration while talking about her children and the ages at which they were weaned.

"I weaned Eriverto at a year and Aniverca at 8 months."

"Why did you wean Aniverca at 8 months?"

"Because Immigration took me to Haiti so I had to be separated from her."

"Did you tell them that you had a nursing baby that you would be leaving behind?"

"Yes, they saw her crying on the porch as they took me away."

I think most people who read this would agree that a change is needed. The Dominican Republic may or may not be your country, and the same with Haiti. But regardlessn, we are all God's children and we have responsibilities to do what we can when we know of such difficulties faced by our fellow humans throughout the world. Those who believe in the pursuit of happiness for all on a global scale, please join us in our attempt to make a difference. Here are three ways you can help right now, and we hope that there will be bigger efforts made legally and politically in the future involving larger organizations such as the UN, for example.

1. Oreste (our teacher that was taken on Sunday morning) has been calling asking for money to properly put a year long visa on his passport and come back to Puerto Plata where he can finish his job before the break and then have some sort of a break before the next trimester starts January 7th. This is not even a favor he is asking as he is still owed 3+ months pay backed up from the past two school years, as not enough funds were entering to pay the teachers on time every month. The 3+ months owed to him total $757 US but $300 US would cover his visa and transportation back. We are thankful that we have been able to pay teachers on time each month so far this school year. But as far as paying back the months that were never caught up with, we have no pennies in sight for that purpose at this time.

2. This past August we were inroduced to a lawyer in Santo Domingo (through a Peace Corps function) who helps children who were born in the country, but not granted a birth certificate, to obtain one. He did not give a fixed price per birth certificate he will help produce, but just asked us to contact him when we are ready. He has done this for other organizations in the past, and we hope to work with him in order to provide birth certificates for some of the students in our school. This is something that sponsors may want to inquire about extra for the children they support, as it would truly provide them with more security, should they be a child that falls under these conditions of being born in the Dominican Republic and having no birth certificate.

3. Building more and deeper relationships with families involved in our schools is the first step to change, we believe. It is through relationships that our lives are shared and in learning about each other's lives, we go on to share what we have with one another, whether it be tangible or non-tangible. Our student sponsorship program is set up to facilitate such relationships. We hope that these relationships will grow over the years and produce much fruit. If you would like to sponsor a student in the school, perhaps in the name of a loved one for Christmas, please check out this section of our website.

Thank you for reading and for considering all of this with us!

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

Sewing Lessons


A local tailor, named Nikola, has begun giving sewing lessons in the school. This has been going on for a few months now. He has around 20 students, almost all of whom are women. Students pay 300 pesos (about $7.65 US) each month and receive lessons for a few hours at a time, four days a week. 

There are three women in the community we would love to be able to help receive these lessons, as they are not able to pay for themselves. These women are Flavi and Viergenie who were mentioned in this earlier post, and Adeline, who is the mother of the baby we served in this post. All three are single mothers who need this extra opportunity to learn a trade and perhaps use it to make their own clothes in the future, or to provide an income for their families. (By the way, as an update on Wendel, Flavi's son who has hydrocephalus, someone has donated towards his spinal tap and we just wait for an answer as to when the anasthesiologist is available to get that done. We have not, however, received any funds for his necessary surgery yet.)

If you are interested in supporting one or more of these women, you can donate one of the ways explained here and just write a note as to what the donation is for. We will be in contact to confirm that the donation is received and used for the intended purpose. 

Nikola is also the tailor who has been working on school uniforms. We have 10 students at the school sponsored so far, so that leaves at least 40 without sponsors. If you would like to sponsor a student for a $100 US annual fee, please also donate one of the ways outlined here, and e-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. 

Thank you for your support and for reading!