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! 

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

A New School Building for the New School Year!

Front entrance and porch.

We are happy to announce that we have moved into a new school building! The building we were in previously had been undergoing slow construction for almost a year and did not seem to be ending in the near future. The doors and windows were not secure because of this and there were many class interruptions, so we decided to change buildings. We also have had more students register this year than in the past, and therefore needed more space. The new building we are in is in much better condition and also has a small, fenced in backyard for recess. 

Switching buildings caused us to delay the school opening one week. We pushed back the first day of school from Monday, September 3rd to Monday, September 10th. The first few days of school, students have been trickling in, finding the new building and coming unprepared, as is often the case here, unfortunately. On Wednesday, enough students arrived so that class was held. Things will pick up from here. 

6 students have been sponsored so far this year, with about 60 left still needing sponsors.(The number of students still needing sponsors will become more accurate within the first few weeks of school as we see who attends regularly.) Below are some more pictures of the new school building. 

Large classroom

Backyard area



There is one classroom that is not pictured which we have arranged on the car port. I want to remind readers that in addition to student sponsors, we are seeking groups or individuals that would like to support teachers monthly, taking on the responsibility of the teachers' pay, much as a church would support a missionary abroad. We believe that investing in a local teacher is just as, if not more worthy than investments that send missionaries abroad, since you are supporting someone who faces difficulties finding work otherwise and who has an advantage at reaching the community, being from the community him or herself. Contact Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org to sponsor a teacher or student. 

In the next post, we will tell about a new sewing class that began in the school this summer and continues today, led by a local tailor with the participation of about 20 community members, the majority of whom are women. Thanks for reading!

martes, 21 de agosto de 2012

A Look into Some Lives

School begins in two weeks and we are rushing to get children sponsored and to purchase books and uniforms. We have spent weeks visiting the houses of children, meeting with parents, answering questions, creating student profiles, taking family pictures, and registering kids for school. Last year 21 of our students were able to be sponsored. This year we hope to get many more sponsored. Please e-mail Sponsor@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you are interested. We would also like to rent a new building to hold school in as the current one has been undergoing interruptive construction for months now, and it doesn’t appear that it will be finished anytime soon. It is also quite small for the amount of kids that have registered so far this year. So we have quite a lot of work to do in these next two weeks, and in the first few weeks of school as well. 

While we don’t have a specific program for widowed mothers or young single mothers, we have always lent a helping hand to women and their infants in this situation in the communities where we have our grassroots schools. This blog post talks about one case in Padre Granero we helped out with a few years ago. Here are two more mothers pleaing for help. If this touches your heart and you would specifically like to support them, please contact us. 

This is Flavi (left) with her son Wendel (middle) and friend Mari. They are new to the Padre Granero community. They have been having an extremely hard time as they have no family here but were led by someone called a passer who helps people cross the border and make it to safety, and were dropped off in Padre Granero. They made the trip over from Gonaives, Haiti to search for help for Wendel who is developmentally behind and has an oversized head. Flavi's husband recently died of sickness in Gonaives. She left two older kids with friends (she says she has no family) and brought Wendel. She is also about 8 months pregnant and is expecting a girl. Mari's husband died in a flood in Gonaives a few years ago, along with many other people, unfortunately, and her family has suffered since. She left two of her children at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, hoping they will be adopted, and has one more with a friend in Gonaives. 

We have helped these ladies out with some food items, a few outfits for Wendel, and two months of rent so far. As we were going to help with the purchase of some things to sell, such as avacados and bananas, Mari, the one who would be selling, had to run to care for her sick family member. I'm assuming it is her child but was not told specifically who it is and did not ask. So Flavi is now alone in Padre Granero with Wendel, almost due to have a baby. We have taken Wendel to a nearby clinic called Centro Medico Cabarete and the CT scan showed that he has hydrocephalus. He will need a spinal tap to make sure he has no current infections (around $80 US), and then a surgery (between $1,000 and $2,000 US) where a shunt is inserted into his brain to then drain the extra fluid into another part of his body, I believe the abdomen. These prices are reduced because Centro Medico Cabarete has a foundation that can receive some donated surgical products and donate their services as well. If you can help, please let us know, as this is life and death for Wendel. 

This is Viergenie and her baby boy Elow. Viergenie is 16 and Elow is 5 months. She came to join her mother in Padre Granero, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic about two years ago and ended up with Elow, abandoned by the father. Her mother has four other children and is unable to help out much with this new addition to the family. Therefore, as we went around registering students and creating the profiles, they asked that we search for help for Viergenie. Teenage mothers are all over the world, but when one has absolutely no means to bring in an income other than perhaps prostitution, we would hope to be able to encourage another way to provide for one's child. We have not yet begun a jewelry program in Padre Granero as we have in another community where we have a grassroots school, but it would be great to in the near future. Also, we have begun offering sewing classes in the school and hope to get an additional machine (we have found a used one for $85 US) to further this opportunity for community members. These are more ways that the school is used to educate and empower community members rather than just provide the classic education for youth. 

We hope that you will join us in supporting the Institution for the Improvement of Life Through Education. Thank you for reading! 

domingo, 15 de julio de 2012

Discussing and Planning for Next Year

The school year ended fairly smoothly with the Institute of the Improvement of Life Through Education. 48 students finished the year by completing their final exams and we are currently preparing to hand out report cards. A few students moved away or stopped attending school throughout the year, unfortunately. The reason why we have not yet set a date for this meeting is that there is lots of discussion taking place regarding plans for next year. Our summer volunteers have been leading educational activities for students in the school in the afternoons and at the end of some of these activities, we visit the houses and parents of children. Parents have been reporting information about the past school year that we had not heard before, and they have been reporting it consistently. So we will have to make changes accordingly, and it seems as though these changes should be made before a report card meeting occurs so that everyone can be informed at that time. We're trying to work things out as quickly as possible. 
One point of discussion is how student sponsorship funds should be allocated. For the 2011-2012 school year, 21 students were sponsored. Sponsors donated $100 for the year to sponsor their student and received a student profile complete with a family photo in return. The funds went toward a uniform and set of books for each student, with some left over to go toward the monthly costs of running the school including paying rent on the building, cleaning supplies, and paying teachers. Somehow we purchased books and uniforms for much more than just the 21 sponsored students, not wanting to make the opportunity available only to those 21, but to be fair among all students. This year we are trying to get started earlier and have these students re-spondered, as well as find sponsors for those who were never sponsored. Last year we were purchasing books and uniforms throughout the entire year. This year we hope to have all of this done before the year begins, or within the first month of school. If you make a donation of $100, we will contact you with your student sponsorship information and keep you updated throughout the year. 
It is our desire that the sponsorship funds go toward uniforms, books, and some sort of food at the school. Parents have expressed that their most pressing need is proper documentation for children and for themselves, as all of the students in the schools we serve are living in the country illegally. In January, I believe, Immigration officers broke into houses in the community of Padre Granero at 4am and hauled people into a truck, then took them to Haiti. One of the families in our school was separated as the mother and some children were taken, but other children were left behind. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is very unorganized and inhumane in this way. Of course, the situation of illegal immigration would be almost completely under control if Immigration guards at the border were not corrupt and did not accept bribes. I have never heard of a guard not accepting a few hundred pesos to let someone pass. Nonetheless, you are only safe when you have your proper documentation. This is the request that parents have been making. I have let them know that this would cost more than $100 per student per year and that our best bet is to develop strong relationships with sponsors of the students and share this situation with them. Maybe one day we can collaboratively help these families to obtain legitimate documentation so that they can live legitimate lives in the Dominican Republic. 
One last bit of drama in the community is that there is a rumor that a new school is opening that will offer all that we have been able to provide and more. This rumor sprouts from a young woman in Montreal who once pretended to be interested in financially supporting the school. In the end, she wound up meddling in the school and community, attempting to create division. It is all very strange and out of the ordinary but true nonetheless. Now she takes pictures of students from the Institution of the Improvement of Life Through Education and claims on her blog that they will attend her school next year. However, I think she is playing a game more than anything as she used to collect funds to support a school in Africa but apparently mishandled the money on several occasions, leaving many untrusting. 
It is sad that there are people who like to toy with the most vulnerable communities, but it is true. At a parent, teacher meeting last Friday, I told parents to not pay attention to such rumors about a different and better school opening. I let them know that I have more insight into the source of the rumors (as they are highly disconnected from the Internet and non-profit world), and that these were games that were being played. You should believe something when you see it. Our school has finished its sixth year, about to begin its seventh, and things improve every year. And we aren't going anywhere!