In 2011, we started a summer English camp. 2020 was the first year since then that it did not take place because we did not have volunteers, due to covid-19. This year, we almost had to cancel it as well for the same reason, unfortunately, but pulled it off with a local teacher who speaks English, some local English speaking volunteers who visit some days, and a set of videos that we created to guide each day of camp. Normally we run camp for around six weeks throughout the summer with age groups rotating through stations. However, this year we are keeping the group smaller by receiving one age group per week.
The 10 videos (opening and closing for each day) are available on YouTube. We are sharing them with the parents of campers who have smart phones so that they can continue to review what they learned at English camp. These videos are made specifically for Haitian Creole speakers, as all of our students speak Haitian Creole.
We plan to modify the videos to have them available for Spanish speakers as well, but we are currently excited to share this set of videos with educators, volunteers, and missions in Haiti. If you use these videos to run your own camp, please write to email@example.com for ideas of activities to put this vocabulary into fun practice. We would love to hear about how your camp goes!
Lastly, if anyone can help develop worksheets to go along with these videos, which campers can fill in as they go through the videos and take home with them, that would be a great help. Please e-mail info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you can help out here. Below you can find two videos per day for a 5 day Beginner’s English camp for Haitian Creole speakers.
We are very excited about a new project we’re working on. Two Virginia Tech professors have joined us on a project of creating educational videos for our parents and students. Students in Dr. Kim Carlson’s Leadership class and students in Dr. Angela Anderson’s Human Nutrition Food & Exercise class spent the past semester researching strategic topics and creating educational videos on the topics, that we feel will be understandable and applicable for our parents and students.
The students even did the bulk of translating these videos into Spanish and Creole. We have done Creole voice overs and finishing touchrs on four of the videos so far. Such videos are more abundant in Spanish, but almost non-existent in Creole. Therefore, there is quite a demand for this work! We are excited to contribute and hope other groups with Creole speakers find them useful.
Here is one video on the scientific method in English:
Here it is in Haitian Creole:
In addition to the educational videos, Thayer Academy senior students, led by Spanish teacher Señora Gloria Blanco spent their last month of school creating educational materials for our students. They created a writing workbook as well as varying materials to be used at our educational farm. They also raised about $500 to help with the printing of books next school year through selling items from our art shop on Thayer’s campus!
We have already put these videos and materials into use as throughout the month of June, our students have been finishing their school year with weekly field trips to the educational farm. Below is a sample from the alphabet field journal, created by Thayer students.
This past week, students met a new street dog we recently adopted, and read a story created by Thayer students, where one man learns to treat his dog well.
Next up: English camp! This year, camp will run from July 5th to July 30th. Updates to come! You can still join us if you would like! E-mail info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org.
In August, we’ll be bussing in kids from outside of our schools for a week long camp at the educational farm, where this same material will be covered. The cost per student which includes lunch and transportation in addition to materials, is $35 per student. Sponsor one camper here: https://projectesperanza.giv.sh/f3d9
Sunday, February 21 was International Mother Language Day. If you are a native English speaker, this day may not mean much to you. For Dominicans living in the Dominican Republic, this also may not mean much to them. However, for our students who were either born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents or have migrated from Haiti to the Dominican Republic during their childhood, this day means a lot to them. It also means a lot to the majority of children growing up in Haiti.
If you look up the stats, you’ll find that about 95% of Haitians speak Haitian Creole fluently. It is their mother language. It is the language that they are immersed in day in and day out. About 5% of Haitians living in Haiti speak French. The ability to speak French well is seen as proof that someone is educated and elite. We have observed among our teachers that received schooling in Haiti that the attention focused on learning to speak French well is inconsistent with attention focused on other areas of school: math, natural sciences, problem solving, critical thinking, and general communication skills.
In the Dominican Republic, French is taught as a foreign language beginning around 6th grade. English is also taught as a foreign language, usually beginning around 4th grade. Our schools are designed to be taught bilingually in Creole and Spanish. This is what is natural for our students. As we follow the Dominican curriculum, the foreign languages of French and English are taught at the aforementioned grade levels as well.
You may think that Haitian Creole is not an international language like French, Spanish, and English, and therefore not very valuable for our students. However, it is the mother language of our students and their families. They learn best and feel the best when their schooling includes, celebrates, and validates their mother language. And in Haiti, a top priority should be teaching the population to communicate effectively amongst each other, which would make the most sense when done in Haitian Creole, the language that almost the entire country speaks fluently. Hear Jerry Floreal’s thoughts on the matter in this video.
During this pandemic, we have developed new books per grade level, per semester which contain Science, Social Studies, Spanish, and Creole content for the entire semester. For Science, Social Studies, and Spanish, we simply copied excerpts from Dominican textbooks. For the Creole section, we pieced together content from books in Creole which we have purchased from Haiti, also from the United States, and then also some online content. We have received much advice on the matter from Matenwa Community School in Lagonav, Haiti, which functions in Creole up until 9th grade. In our fifth through eight grade books, there is an excerpt included which explains the origin of the Haitian Creole Academy which was formed in 2011 and includes reading comprehension questions.
In the seventh grade book, there is a short biography about Yves Dejean (1927-2018) and an excerpt from his book An Upside School in an Upside Country. Yves Dejean was a Haitian linguist and pioneer in promoting Haitian education in Creole. His book begins comparing eight year old boys from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He argues that if they both have been schooled, the Dominican boy will be able to read a text given to him and simultaneously understand what he is reading. A Haitian boy will be able to read a text given to him in French, he may even have good pronunciation, but he will not likely be able to understand the words he is reading. Although a lot of French vocabulary is incorporated into Haitian Creole, the sentence structure is very different. It is not a dialect but a separate language. This creates an unnecessary challenge, as Jerry also explains in the above video, and both Jerry and Dejean see this as a primary reason behind Haiti’s stunted development.
If you would like to share the beautiful language of Haitian Creole with your children and support our efforts simultaneously, purchase this children’s book about the life of a boy in rural Haiti. This is book 1 of a series.
We all know that 2020 brought situations and events that we did not expect. Everyone had to adapt in some way to staying at home more, changing plans, virtual school, wearing a mask, etc. For non-profits, The Council of Nonprofits provides this list of links from each U.S. state with information about how the pandemic is affecting nonprofits. Virginia’s link shows that an average of 68% of nonprofits in the state were experiencing or anticipated a decrease in donations, earned revenue, and long term financial stability. We share Virginia’s link because Project Esperanza is registered with the state of Virginia. Amazingly, the opposite has been true for Project Esperanza. The bar graph below shows our gross income over the past 10 years. The numbers slightly differ from our 990 IRS reports available at GuideStar because our tax year runs from October to September, whereas this graph reflects the calendar year.
What is even more remarkable is that since 2014, 20-35% of our income has come from the volunteer program. The volunteer program was basically non-existent in 2020, making our successful income even more amazing.
In summary, here are some of the achievements we have made this year. We have:
Provided our students’ families with four hearty food distributions, helping them to get through the challenges of the pandemic.
Provided the opportunity for each of our students to ride a horse as part of an educational farm summer camp led in small groups. This has turned out to be an amazing reward motivation, something we’ve been experimenting with for years in an attempt to raise standards and motivate better attendance and higher achievement.
Provided a severance to teachers and employees who we did not have work for during a period of months.
Developed and printed new learning materials and implemented a strategy to allow for individualized education plans, specifically in math and reading.
Fundraised to pay a downpayment of $38,000 US on a building for Colegio Costambar, which is where we send our top students to high school. We have also been able to help in renovating the building. This was an incredible team effort all around!
Started a small computer lab at the school in the Padre Granero school and have introduced our students to online learning, computers, and computer science. This is something we are excited to grow on!
Divided Padre Granero students into morning and afternoon sections, providing special attention for our overage students in the afternoon. (Afternoon school has been put on hold due to covid.)
Renovated the Padre Granero school quite a bit, redoing the roof which was rotting and leaking, redid the kitchen, divided classrooms up to the ceiling for better noise blockage, installed ceiling fans, and more!
Provided the Padre Granero school with new desks for students and teachers!
We are in the process of improving the sanitation at the group home, building a septic tank and bathroom with flushing toilets, as a human compost toilet has been utilized since 2016 when we built.
In addition to continued commitment to the youth and young adults in our care, (young adults bridging to independence), we have taken responsibility for a newborn baby (now 3 months old) who was saved by one of our previous group home members.
Partially fundraised for a necessary surgery for one of our previous group home members. This fundraiser is still in progress.
Helped pay for the emergency knee surgery of one of our teachers’ sons.
Wow! It’s exciting to reflect on all of 2020’s blessings. On a final note, 42% of our 2020 income came from a series of donations from one person who first got involved with Project Esperanza volunteering in late 2019!! She is a Canadian woman who wishes to remain anonymous. She gave at this level without even the absolute security of a tax deduction, as we are still in the process of registering as a charity in Canada. Although she wishes that her name remain anonymous, she does want one name to be celebrated and receive the honor for this wonderful news. That name is Jesus Christ.
This year we started something new in order to let students work at their own pace in math. Obviously they missed some practice the last school year, and some perform at lower levels than their grade level regardless.
We evaluated each student at the beginning of the year and assigned them a math workbook with about 50 pages of worksheets, full of practice for the topics of each grade level they proved to be functioning at. When they finish the book they were assigned, they are given an evaluation to see if they are ready for the next book. If they pass, they start on the next book. If not, they are given more practice.
We are so proud of the five students who have already finished their first book and are evaluating for their second! Yolguine, a 7th grader is pictured below with the book she completed.
Each summer since 2011, we run a summer immersion English camp, usually for six weeks. This year, that isn’t possible due to covid-19. Therefore, we have been bussing 10 kids each day to our volunteer house and “educational farm” in Muñoz.
First, the campers have a lesson with horses at our neighbor’s house. He teaches them about how to become friends with the horse and to build a trusting relationship. They get to go on a small ride around the ring.
Then, the campers walk over to the educational farm to talk about the three R’s and how to be friends with the planet. They eat some fresh fruit and also make a craft. The individual discussion about how we can use what we learn to make best decisions for the earth has been awesome!
They get to look at ants, their skin, cloth, leaves, and more objects under a microscope. They learn about the five groups of vertebrates and then find them each on the farm! After their search, they spend some time under the tamarind tree, snapping open pods and sucking the sour brown goo off of the seeds.
Everyone goes home with a sack of rice and bag of beans. We throw in some math such as, “If you give your mom this sack of 10 pounds of rice and she cooks half a pound each day, how many days will the sack last?”
Perhaps the best part is when we ask the kids which subject they have been learning about that day? It’s science. Do you like science? What kind of jobs can someone do when they study lots of science? Many report that they don’t really like studying science in school, but they really enjoy learning about it at the educational farm!
We are hoping to get each of our students sponsored this year. We’ll open up full swing when the public schools do, which has not yet been announced. In the meantime, we will continue to send lessons via whatsapp for those whose parents have smartphones with Internet.
Also in the meantime, we hope to open up the schools as drop-in centers with a few computers set up and teachers to guide. Limited kids will be allow to enter at a time. The computers will be set up for ABCMouse.com in Spanish, Code.org, and Typing.com. We will distribute reading workbooks for those who are learning to read, and math workbooks for students, depending on their levels. They will be able to drop in for help with these books. Once completed, the plan is that they’ll get a reward field trip to the educational farm! The idea is to also use field trips to reward kids for making progress on the three online programs at the center as well.
We are looking for donations of a few used, but still functioning laptops for this purpose. We can receive these laptops if shipped to Miami. We have a way to get them here from there. Please email Info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you have a laptop you would like to donate. And read more here if you would like to sponsor a student.
The United States and other parts of the world have erupted into protests over the issue of racism. The completely unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd caught on tape and the actions taken by authorities (and lack there of) in the aftermath of these murders have brought the topic of racism to the forefront of issues.
Both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are countries where the majority of the citizens would be racially defined as black or brown in the United States. Racism does exist, but it is also confounded with nationalism. With the majority of Dominicans being various shades of brown, racism is sometimes projected towards blacks, but is confounded with the issue of nationalism, as the large majority of blacks on the island are Haitian. Haitians, who are predominately black and actually led a genocide in a revolution that ended French-led slavery, can be racist toward whites in their speech. However, this issue, again, is confounded with nationalism.
Although racist speech, generalizations, and negative sentiments exist, there does not appear to be what one could define as systemic racism coupled with high incarceration rates as it exists in the United States and is being addressed through these protests. However, the Dominican Republic has been much more hesitant to provide citizenship to immigrants when compared to the United States and has been a focus of the UN’s efforts to end statelessness by 2024. It is also a country of much lower income when compared to the United States, and people have lower expectations from the government in general.
Another point to be made is that the police force better represents the population it serves, racially speaking, as compared to the U.S. This means that there is not the issue that a predominately white police force is policing a predominately black community. Lastly, rules are a bit more relaxed in the Dominican Republic in general, as compared to the United States. Laws exist and are enforced, but it is common knowledge that the government has limited resources and capacity to intervene, and matters should be settled within individuals and communities in amicable ways as much as possible.
Lastly, there is more mingling among families of varying races in general in the Dominican Republic, as low-income housing can be quite compact and communal. The hot climate also allows for simpler housing structures that do not need as much insullation, thus making low-income families even closer. We have had several Dominican students in our schools who have learned Haitian Creole through growing up with many Haitians in the batey.
Thanks to an awesome outpouring of generosity, in April we were able to provide care packages to 157 families. In May, we provided care packages for 207. We raised over $6,500 in to do this!
a carton of 30 eggs,
a head of garlic,
4 bouillon cubes,
a 1/2 jug of cooking oil,
5 pounds of beans,
some plantains, sweet potatoes, and yucca.
We have been on lockdown here in the Dominican Republic since March 18th. There has been a 5pm curfew and masks are required in public. Only essential businesses that sell groceries, pharmacies, health care centers, and agricultural products were allowed to function. On May 20th, the curfew was extended to 7pm and some businesses were allowed open, including hardware stores!
With hardware stores being open, this means that construction projects have resumed, which means that many of our beneficiaries are getting more opportunity for work. Therefore, we don’t feel the need to lead another fundraiser for a sizable food distribution for the month of June. However, we do hope to provide some support. More details on this to come.
We also will not be doing an in-person graduation and awards ceremony as we have in years past, but will be awarding three prizes in each classroom: Best Academic Performance, Best Attendance, and Best Behavior. We have continued to communicate with parents and students who have phones with the app whatsapp, sharing math practice, readings, and excerpts from a Creole encyclopedia.
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