viernes, 9 de noviembre de 2012

Lost Generation

The bus, complete with gated windows and armed guards, waited outside of the market - a kind of cruel immigration trick. The Haitians inside could not leave without the chance of being corralled up, and pushed onto the bus. Once on the bus, it was back to the border.

It's not always a bus. Sometimes it's a white, unmarked van or a pickup truck. The immigration guards have been deployed in force in the Dominican Republic.

Three of our four schools serve the Haitian community. Each and every day they wait for the immigration services to knock on the door and ask for paperwork, permission and proof. Most days they never show up, but when they do, there is always a chance that not only our students, but our teachers, pastors and coordinators will be taken in.

It's a tricky situation. Many of our Haitian students were born in the Dominican Republic - but due to a "in-transit" law (women illegally residing in country must declare children in their own country), they are not considered Dominicans. Because their parents are afraid to re-cross the border, the children aren't Haitian either. About 80% are undocumented - children living with nothing to prove that they are alive.

This second generation of Creole-speakers is lost. They belong neither to their parents' country nor the country where they were born. And because they are often without documentation, they lose the opportunity to study, to work, to healthcare. All of this compounded with a historical racism, distrust and indifference create so many problems for these children.

Three of our schools - Familia, Amor and Esperanza - are working hard to provide education to this lost generation. This year 180 students are off the streets and in the classroom - many for the first time in their lives. Next year, we hope to begin a true bilingual program that can build a bridge - from Haiti to the Dominican Republic - and show our students that there is, in fact, a future filled with hope for them!

miércoles, 17 de octubre de 2012

Blessings from New Jersey.

People often ask how they can best support ministries. It's a complicated question because there is so much that goes into successful ministry - and the answer is different for each person. Of course, any organization needs money to survive and supplies for each task. Trained and committed staff is necessary to offer quality services.

Beyond the nitty-gritty of budgets and staffing, we need people to support our work and pray for us. We're interested in having relationships with people who believe in the work we're doing - to pray for us, to visit us. And while we, like any other organization, need all of that other stuff, we need our brothers and sisters to share in holy communion with us.

We've been blessed with short-term missions teams this first year that have invested in Futuro Lleno de Esperanza with time and effort. We're amazed to see the energy and joy that each group member brings with them - offering of themselves through the love of Jesus.

This past week we shared with an amazing church from just outside Atlantic City, New Jersey.

We were able to give anti-parasitic medicine to a large majority of our students this week. Because of the lack of clean drinking water and less than favorable water situations in most areas, "de-parasitando" is necessary about every six months. This medicine is "kid-friendly"and comes in a tasty liquid.
 The group brought with them two sets of clippers to shave heads! Who would have thought of hair-cutting as a ministry tool? The parents were happy to have that expense - about two dollars - taken away this month!
 The boys looked sharp with their new "do" and were pretty pleased with themselves!
 While the majority of the mission group travelled around visiting all of our schools, churches and the mobile clinic, three dedicated ladies stayed behind to offer the message of God's love to our little guys in Cienfuegos. Each day they worked a craft - balloon animals, bracelets and finger-painting - to reinforce their message!

Come back soon, dear friends! We cherish the time we had together!

lunes, 8 de octubre de 2012

Forming the future

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. - 
Nelson Mandela

When we began this journey, we knew that there would be challenges - everything from parental irresponsibility to learning difficulties to child labor to chronic illnesses. We planned as well as we could, and charged forward. We had forgotten, however, to factor in educators. The education system in the Dominican Republic is poor - on the bottom of the world list, and dead last in Latin America. Why hadn't we figured that the teachers would lack skills to implement any education that takes them out of the Dominican education "box"?

It was apparent after the first few days of school that we had a problem. While our teachers have heart, they lack some of the basics of education. Even though most has some sort of upper level education in teaching, they hadn't ever planned more than a day-to-day. Objectives and goals and continuity were foreign concepts, and classroom management involved writing so much on the board that the students would be forced into silence.

We had to rethink. We prayed and planned and prayed some more. Finally, we added to our vision statement to form teachers through training and experience. We don't just want to transform our students' lives, we want our teachers to be transformed as well -and hopefully, our teachers will go out in to the world and transform education in the DR. Not only do we want our teachers to learn more, we want to share our resources with others.

 So, on October 6, we hosted our first teacher training. We invited our teachers from Futuro Lleno de Esperanza in Cienfuegos and the teachers from The Joan Rose Foundation for a workshop entitled, "Classroom Focus: Goals and Objectives" led by Josh and Rebecca Rousculp.

The teachers learned why it is important to set goals for their students and how evaluations can be helpful for both the students and teachers. The workshop was taught in a style similar to how we'd like to see our elementary classes taught - hands on, interactive and meaningful.

We plan to continue teacher trainings and hope to invite more teachers from all walks of life!

martes, 2 de octubre de 2012

Lessons from Death

Our school year began with death. dear doris, our older-grade teacher, lost her father somewhat unexpectedly. With his death, we lost doris as she resigned to take care of her mother. 

A young mother lost her child just hours after his birth, another suffered early-term miscarriage. Elizabeth, our 3-year-olds teacher lost her brother - the head of their family - to diabetes. the woman who cleans in the afternoon, lived at the side of her father-in-laws bed for 15 days before he was also taken to be with the Lord.

Most tragically, two of our students, Juan and Jose, lost their baby brother just days before school begun. Living next to a landfill is far from healthy. Add the "recycling" plants that burn tires and plastic and styrofoam, and the result is downright toxic. Baby brother suffered from all sorts of respiratory problems since birth, and when his chest pulled and tightened that tragic morning, she put him in a public car and headed to the children's hospital. There were no beds in that hospital, nor in the following two on her journey. By the time she was turned away at hospital number three, Baby Brother was unconscious. When they arrived at the emergency room of the fourth emergency room, he was dead.

Juan and Jose arrived three weeks after school began, crying hysterically as mom tried to leave. She tried to assure us that the boys didn't really understand what had happened, that they were too young, that they were crying because most kids cry on their first day of school. She wanted so badly for them not to be feeling the pain that she was feeling, so badly for them not to understand so that they could avoid the heaviness of death.

It became clear to us that this wasn't the case. These boys clearly understood what had happened, and were terrified to be separated. They would sit by the doors in their respective classrooms so they could see each other, to make sure that the other was still here. Jose, the younger of the two, begins his day by affirming, "we're going home soon, right, brother?"

Elizabeth, Jose's teacher, has expressed concern about Jose's ability to cope with his loss. This week when she began a unit on family, she gave the students clay and asked them to "make" their family. Jose made a dead body. She brought him to the office to talk to me.

"Is this dead guy someone you know?" "Yes, it's my chichi.*" 
"What happened to your chichi?" "He's in heaven with Papa Dios. He went to the hospital and never came home, but i still have my big brother, right,directora?"

"Yes, and you know, he's not going anywhere, right? And he loves you very much." "I loved my chichi so much, directora."
"I know you did, buddy, and he knew it too." "Can i go now?"
"Yes, sweet child, go to class."

And in the midst of this little conversation, it occurred to me that this little boy understood more than any of us. His brother is in heaven with Papa Dios. He's not in the hospital, but he's no longer in a box either. He's somewhere safe and with someone who loves him. And beyond that, he was loved while he was here. As far as earthly love goes, I don't know that there is anything as strong as family love - and the grief these boys are experiencing is evidence of the love they have for their chichi. How much greater must the love of our Father be? 

I pray that Jose learns to deal with his grief, and remembers that he does have another brother still, one who he loves and who very obviously loves him and that through all of this they will both know that Papa Dios loves them and that someday they'll be reunited with their chichi

In this death, we are reminded to live. To love. To share God's blessings. 

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012

Welcome! Bienvenidos! Bienvenue! 환영

Welcome to Futuro Lleno de Esperanza - 
a Future Filled with Hope.

This school year has flown by. We started out with a dream, an idea... and now, classrooms are filled with laughter and learning. While we started with just a few students, we are now filled to capacity and figuring out how to best serve our communities.

Summer now gives us the chance to strategize, plan and, most importantly, pray - what can we do to bring the light of Christ to those we serve?

We will be working with World Vision to bring food and education to more undocumented Haitian immigrant children in some of our schools. This collaboration is such a blessing for us! We've also implemented a full-day program in our Cienfuego center that will feed 40 children breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack during the week.

A church building and school are underway in Los Reyes that will offer classes to Haitian children in both French and Spanish.

As we grow and expand to empower more and more communities through Christ, we ask for your prayers! Watch this blog for stories about how God is transforming lives in the Dominican Republic.