Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We Had a Great Summer!

We had a great summer here in Munoz! We had four volunteers who were here the entire summer, as well as several others who came and went. They have now all left and we hope they can return again one day!

The summer was great, but there were some great challenges for the community as well. In June, a fire broke out in one of the three bateyes and burnt 62 houses to the ground. We were able to distribute many donations our wonderful supporters and volunteers gave to help out families in this time of extra need. The government has shared plans to rebuild but nothing has commenced yet. In conjunction with Sewing My Future run by Julie Baker, we received a donation from The Dewe Foundation to make school uniforms for the fire victims and are working on that currently. 

This summer was a bit of a crazy time for all Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, as there was something going on by the Ministry of Interior Policy and Foreign Affairs called Regularization. June 17th marked the deadline where people without proper documentation were able to register their identity, and then given 45 more days to submit certain required documents such as a background check, commercial reference letters, notary acts, etc. Those who did this were to receive a residency card, and those who did not were to be deported. We were able to reserve some spots for community members during the last few days as many put it off to the last minute and were standing in line and sleeping outside of the office for days, trying to get a chance to register.

This summer, one volunteer, Kiki, especially immersed herself and engaged with the Munoz community. In her free time after camp, she took kids to the beach, led them in recycling activities, and just shared her time with them, getting to know them and their families. 

Ashley and Kayla led a dance class two days a week for the girls. Ballet, tap, and jazz is actually a
foreign form of dance where the norm in the batey is provocative dirty dancing tied to the high percentage of involvement in prostitution. They even rounded up donated tap shoes. 

We ran two weeks of English immersion camp during the month of July. Simultaneously we ran a five week camp in the other community where we work called Padre Granero. AB conducted research on the success and methodology of the camp. You can view stats from her research on the camp program's blog in the very near future. 

We also had a visit from the Berryville Baptist Rascals who put on an awesome puppet show one Friday morning! The kids and community members thoroughly enjoyed it!

We also had a sad loss this summer. Jimmy, one of our artists and a skilled electrician who had just done some work for us in the school in Padre Granero passed away in a motorcycle accident in July. His wife Miranda is also an active artist in the shop. They have two children ages 5 and 3. If you would like to support his wife as she really needs it during this time, please consider purchasing one of her bracelets

One last bit of news is that the cacao project is developing a bit! The Northeastern University students who joined us over Spring Break have done some fundraising toward the project and plan to come back during Spring Break 2016 to get started planting some seedlings! 
Joseph Jostine and Caitlin

School began on August 17th. We had a great two weeks of teacher training before the start of school. We are happy to welcome Joseph Jostine as our new director. 

Stay tuned for more updates to come!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Break 2015 in Munoz!

Last week we had two awesome university groups join us for their spring break! The University of Central Florida stayed at our volunteer house and the Northeastern University from Boston stayed at SunCamp. Both did anti-littering education in Project Esperanza's two grassroots schools, as well as the public school in Munoz. They also did trash can construction out of recycled bottles, human compost construction, and a variety of other things. And of course, they got to enjoy the home cooking from our cooks and some of the recreation activities in Munoz, such as a hike that leads to a view of the ocean and city! Here are some photos from their trips. 

We have lots of great things planned for the quickly approaching summer, including our 5th annual Change My Stars English immersion summer camp. While Munoz children have attended in the years past, we hope that this year we can have a separate camp in Munoz. This depends on the amount of volunteers that sign up. Please e-mail Volunteer@EsperanzaMeansHope.org if you are interested in joining us!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Recent Learning and Field Trip-ing of Munoz

To me, the most notable and impressive quality expressed by students in Munoz has been their eagerness to learn. In less developed countries and regions, young children often don´t have the same access to toys, books, pictures, or activities that are taken for granted in a lot of modern schools. This past week, we got our hands on some activities and worksheets in Creole for our students at the United Brothers School of Munoz who are still gaining control of their writing hand. It´s hard to just start whipping out t´s and y´s-! We forget sometimes that we had to learn how to hold a pencil or how to draw a circle... and with these new worksheets and activities, it´s been a lot easier to teach and to learn basic writing skills. Small activities with pictures that say ¨Help the bee get to the flower in order to pollinate!¨and ¨Draw small circles on the butterfly´s wings, like the example¨and ¨Draw lines of how the bird flies¨ and ¨Draw a line of how the mango falls to the boy¨ not only work on hand control, but introduce concepts like pollination and gravity.

And the kids love them! One little boy, Eneorie, was jumping up and down after finishing each sheet, asking for the next one. ¨Another one, Kelly, another one!¨

Edwin focusing hard on his new worksheet!

The students in the English classes are been equally engaged and excited about learning. After learning some basic vocab of colors, shapes, and some animals, we introduced a fun competitive game to make sure the vocab stuck. You´d be amazed (maybe not) at how competitive middle school kids can get! We erased the number of points and switched around team members a few times to keep the fun up and competition low. Kids would race to search for the cut out of the ¨blue star¨or ¨green pencil¨ to then hold it up and tell the leader ¨This is a blue star.¨ At one point, students were rushing towards me holding up the ¨red cat¨ and shouting ¨She is red cat!¨ It was comical at times how into it they got... eventually we got them saying clearly ¨This is a red cat.¨ Success! 

We moved away from traditional vocabulary this week as we prepared for our big excursion this weekend into sea life and beach vocab. Project Esperanza was lucky enough to connect with Andrew Joseph Morin, a biologist from Alaska, who brought lots of scuba gear for children and laminated photos to teach about aquatic life (in English!). He´s been helping in PE´s English class and wanted to take our English students on a scuba excursion to the beach. So we prepared! Our kids learned ¨lobster,¨¨octopus,¨ ¨shrimp,¨ ¨to swim¨ and other sea vocab. 

Gabby describing a ¨frog¨ to the group

And finally our beach days arrived. Saturday we weren´t expecting many kids, the majority said they were coming on Sunday. We said come at 10 am (Latino time, meaning hopefully we´d leave by 11), and by 11 am we were on the Pueblito beach with ten of our English students. The next day, at 9:30 am there were students ringing my doorbell saying, ¨Kelly, let´s go to the beach, let´s go!¨ (in English, of course, which made me happy). So Sunday we took on Pueblito again with twenty students. They searched for sea life scubaing, spotted an inking octopus-!, caught small fish, learned about the decomposition (and lack there of) of plastic bags and cups, had a wonderful lunch, and lots and lots of fun. It was so heart warming to see ten students run across the beach shouting ¨We saw an octopus, We saw an octopus!¨We even managed to fit in a beach clean up for half an hour after our lesson about the importance of recycling and the detrimental effects littering on the beach can have on the delicate eco-system. 

It´s also been a goal to help impart important moral lessons and values to our English students. If they come in late to class, they have to stand in front of class and apologize for their tardiness. The rest of the class responds, ¨It´s okay, (enter student name here)!¨ No fighting is allowed, respect is always required, and kindness and consideration are always encouraged. Hence, on our excursion our students learned to say ¨I like to share¨ in English as they shared parts of their lunch or drinks or shells found on the beach. All in all, a successful and educational excursion for our Munoz kids! 

Wilfrido sharing his jugo natural with Mario- so sweet!

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Latest Happenings in Munoz

A short introduction- My name is Kelly Terry and I am the current Volunteer Coordinator/Assistant Director for Project Esperanza and the writer of the Munoz blog for the time being. I hope you enjoy my relaying of all things exciting about Project Esperanza in Munoz, and feel free to give me comments, feedback, or ask questions! I try to be very open and personable to our Project Esperanza community.

So. February. So far so good. The Fair Trade Art Shop has been running smoothly and things have been moving forward with Sewing My Future and the sewing of hats and bags by women in the Munoz batey. We're getting ready to put them in our shop and on our online store! Hopefully, in the future, the trained seamstresses in Munoz will be employed by various textile producers from major shopping websites, like Etsy.

At the United Brothers School of Munoz, we've been having lots of fun. Filo, our recent new teaching assistant, has been so helpful in Jacob's big class (filled with 1st - 4th graders) and has taken the reins in teaching the young students their letters, numbers, reading, writing, and mathematics. Today, like all Fridays, students stood at the front of the class and sang songs of their choice. It's amazing how little "verguenza" (shyness) these kids have- they jump up without inhibitions to sing a solo (or duet) and can't help dancing a little as they sing. The older students in the class are working on their multiplication and division. They've mastered addition and subtraction... and are excited about it. A few boys insisted that I stay inside with them during recess and give them "really really really" hard addition problems, with 7 digits!

Pierre practicing writing "a"
In the back of the school, Daisy (our preschool and kindergarten teacher) has taken on an assistant, Francia, to manage her almost 30 students. As they were getting a little out of hand during recess, Francia got the small kids engaged in a fun jumping, clapping, and singing song. From what I could understand, the jist of the song was "Dios me hizo, y soy especial" (God made me, and I am special).

Volunteer-wise, our most exciting recent development has been giving English classes to any interested children in the Munoz area. For a few weeks so far, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5 - 6 pm, eager students flock to the United Brothers School of Munoz to convene for class. Several travelers from all corners of the world (Belgium, Alaska, France, North Carolina...) who are currently residing at the SunCamp Apartment Rentals (also in Munoz) have been extremely helpful with the classes. We're currently encouraging any interested-in-volunteering individuals in the Puerto Plata area to link up with us to give English classes or work on our continuing recycling project in Munoz! 

Today we reviewed the alphabet, numbers, several emotions, and basic conversation skills then jumped into alphabet, number, and emotion BINGO! Kids were trickling in throughout the class, congregating to the loud sounds of laughter and English coming from the school.

In conclusion, Munoz has been a happening, fun place for Project Esperanza and we (as always) have big plans and lots of hope for the future. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

La Vida in Munoz!

Welcome to Project Esperanza´s blog for all things Munoz!

Munoz is home to Project Esperanza´s Fair Trade Art Shop, the Volunteer Program, the United Brothers School of Munoz, and the sustainability and eco-construction projects that the school and volunteer take on collaboratively. So, as you can imagine, we´ve always got a lot going on. But the weather, people, and positivity of the region- the life!- keeps us full of energy and always moving forward. Entonces, our Munoz blog is your go-to informer for all iniatives specifically Munoz.

Most recently, we´ve been getting the Munoz students excited about recycling, moving forward with the organization ¨Sewing My Future¨ in the production of beautiful hats and bags sewed by local Munoz women, and making some changes in the school to better teach and nurture the students.

As you might know, the recycling iniative in the Padre Granero school has been quite successful. Students have been learning about recycling and collecting bottles, cardboard, and metal cans from around the neighborhood. After students have collected enough recyclables, several ¨star recyclers¨ get to accompany an adult to the recycling center in Santiago, where a company purchases the recyclables and a small profit is turned to benefit the school. Excited about the success of the project in Padre Granero, we´ve started to implement the project in the United Brothers School (UBSM) in Munoz. Recently, after learning about the difference between artificial and natural materials, we had our first big collection day. Kids got so excited about picking up recyclables, one student (Joendi) even donned a trash bag as a cape to really get in the recycling mood.

We were visited last week in the art shop by Julie Baker with ¨Sewing My Future.¨ She began to train the ladies of Munoz to sew specific designs of beautiful hats and backpacks. We can´t wait to get more women trained, more products sewn, and to put them up on our website and sport them in our store! Stay tuned.

Although the winter months aren´t the busiest months with volunteers, Project Esperanza still has its hands full of exciting iniatives and continual, sustainable projects. If you´re interested in volunteering or getting involved somehow... you know how to reach us! volunteer@esperanzameanshope.org and art@esperanzameanshope.org