miércoles, 22 de junio de 2016

Smooth Craziness


JD jumping into our future "pool" or maybe cistern, mainly dug by Junior and Enelbi.

Sometimes so much happens in 24 hours that I think, "I have to share this day." I can't share everything that goes on all of the time and it would take dialogue with someone to answer questions to bring them up to speed, but sharing the events of a day can give some insight. 

I am adding this sentence in after having finished the post. It has occured to me that some of the boys would be upset with me sharing this. However, they would also understand that Project Esperanza is supported by sponsors and people need to know what is going on. At the same time, it's probably not necessary that I always share so much detail and people have advised that I share more positive stories as well. Well some blog posts are more positive like my last one about the talking to for Junior. Junior finished the school year strong after that. And I don't see this one as necessarily negative.. fighting did occur, but really no one was seriously hurt. I guess we can see it as some intense sibling rivalry? But also as a situation that is very hard.. hard to help people. We can also see this as why foster care is better than living in an institution or group home, but a group home can still be a family, just maybe a more challenging one. It's all challenging...

Yesterday we had a clinic in PG with Team Helping Hands and found out that woman I had a bed set aside for because she has an almost two year old who is developmentally behind and just had another baby. She is very young and has on family support from fathers or her own father who is in the area, etc. I kept planning to bring ht ebed to her and visit her but have been too busy. so I just found out that she left the almost two year old and the newborn with a neighbor woman who I have known for years. Team Helping Hands gave her some supplies and I went with her to the pharmacy to get some milk. She says she is trying to get the mom to come. I said tell her to please do so and I'll spend more time with her teachingher art stuff to sell int he shop. And if she can't raise the boys, we'll go together to CONANI so they can be put up for adoption. Anyway, I share this to say, it is much easier in many ways to help little kids and woman than teenage boys. As you'll read some examples of if you read through this post. 

In conclusion, I hope that no one mentions to these boys these stories in any way that would embarrass them but that this is only used for collaboration in helping to raise them up.

It's not that I have time to write, but I just want to record it while it's fresh. I am preparing to do a Community Property midterm and will resume after I write this. Apologies that I didn't finish the NEVER a Dull Moment updates... I told about Nelson busting my car windows, Jean Donald biting Kendy's ear, and Kendy's neighbors coming after Jean Donald with a knife in hopes of getting paid off in exchange for not hurting him.


Restraining order
Well, Nelson apparently got into the excitement and decided that Kendy was his friend who he needed to defend too. As we packed up my car to move beds to Munoz for spring breakers one night in early March (I think the day after I wrote the first post), he opened the car door and exposed a long knife. I saw him, stepped on the gas, and he actually ran after the car with the knife. Jean Donald was in the back seat and he was apparently going after him. Long story short, he was arrested and I now have a restraining order. He is ordered to pay 500 pesos a week until he pays 10,000 pesos for the car damage but has not paid any yet. The judge said if he does anything else he'll go to jail and the key will be thrown away. So he has not done anything else since then, thankfully. 

I will say that I saw some interesting things in the court system going through this process. That's another story, of course.

So, we built on the land that was purchased a few years ago for the group home. The landlord of the green house we rented did not want to rent to us anymore so we had until April 21st to move out. We built simple wooden structures as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The boys helped one man build it for the most part. We also built a house for house parents, where my family is currently living, but we probably won't live there forever. You'll understand why after reading this post. We would like to live nearby, however, and have local house parents stay there. We have one compost toilet for everyone. We don't have any running water yet. We are trying to get a well. Our neighors were nice enough to let us hook onto their electricity as the electric company says that we are too far off the grid. It's strange because our neighbors have contracts, but we haven't been able to resolve that yet either. Here is a video, although things have developed more since then.

Ezayi oversees a lot at the group home but it's still a work in progress. He's very passive and sets a good example in many ways, but they don't really have any fear of him. Jeres, they do fear, but he's not as good of a communicator as Ezayi. And Willy is great to have around still. Everyone together makes a good team, but we're still in training, I would say.   

Since vacation started, I have talked to Ezayi about making sure he spends 40 hours a week at the house like it says in his contract as I thought he was slipping up on that. The past two days I have noticed that he has left before 3pm and not come back until around 9pm. I envisioned him going home at lunch and coming back until later in the afternoon but haven't shared that with him yet, as we are just getting the summer schedule down. 

Last night I got home with the kids around 8:30 or 9pm. Enelbi and Willy both were at the car, helping us enter the house when we arrived. Junior and Jean Donald approached the house. Pretty soon everyone was at our door as I opened it and I said, "No one's coming inside." Willy shared that Enelbi had driven his moto and damaged a part that was quite expensive. Jean Donald shared that while everyone was sitting around, someone had taken his card from the colmado where the woman writes down the purchases he makes which she substracts from his account, and he wasn't sure who had it but whoever it is was going to pay him back for anything they took. Carlo and Ivenson reported that Jean Donald had thrown dirt in their cornflakes. Jean Donald defended that he paid for the cornflakes. They acted as though he did not, or they weren't satisfied. This is all the information I was taking in as I got the kids out of the car and into the house, opened the lock, and entered. Junior said, "Shut the door! Just shut the door!" and helped me to do so from the outside. And I did. I shut the door and shut everyone out.

Willy came to the other door shortly thereafter to talk about how Enelbi would pay him back and he could fix his moto. Now, I never wanted Willy to have a motorcycle but that is the job he felt as though he could do. He always says he will sell it and do other work and has not. Although now he is helping Jeres and another guy finish the floors at the school in Padre Granero. 

As we were talking, Jean Donald came up and said that Carlo or Ivenson had hit him and he saw Carlo give Ivenson a machete. He stayed with us a bit and I asked Willy to go down to their house with him and take care of things.  As they went, I watched out the back door. I also asked Willy where the drill was and he said it was under his bed. He went to look under his bed and came back calling to me to come see the poop that Jean Donald had put on Carlo's bed. 

Is this ridiculous or what? I didn't go. I had just come home and didn't want to go down and see poop Jean Donald had put on Carlo's  bed. We have a human compost toilet where you dump out a bucket of decomposing poop into a barrel where it decomposes more so it was a bucket almost all the way full of decomposing poop. 

Willy and others kept telling me to come look and I did not. I asked where the drill was. Then I saw Ezayi showed up and told me that he had come a different way because on the further end of the house they were throwing rocks. Wait a second? This is why writing things out is good. The man responsible for overseeing the home did not stop the rock throwing but decided to go another way? I already had a list of things to address with him... it's been really hard to find someone to fit in this role. We'll see. Anyway, as we stood there, I saw three boys come running from the end of the house where he said rocks were being thrown. But I was confused because Jean Donald was not there. He was with Willy at the boys' house. Ezayi went down there and started talking with them. 

Then Ivenson appeared by my side. I don't even know where he came from, really. I thought he was one of the boys running on the other end of the property. Maybe he was. Anyway, he talked innocently and told me that Jean Donald thought that he hit him but he had not. I said, "Jean Donald says you have a machete." He said, "No, I don't have a machete." 

Moments later, without either of us having said anything else, Jean Donald appeared. Ivenson stepped back and pulled out a machete from his pants like a true sword fighter. I had Wevli in my arms. Oh, who is Wevli? He's an almost two year old who is developmentally behind because he was starved during his first year. My friend Wendy took him in and nursed him back to health and then we took him from her as she is past the mothering age but she still is in his life. Of course there is more to that story, but he has been with us for almost six months now. I grabbed Jean Donald's arm and told him to go in my house. (Trying to separate the fight.) He stood there and held something in his hand too. Others came up and I guess Ivenson ran off. I passed Wevli to Yenilove, told her to shut the door, and ran after Ivenson. He ran as I came after him and I told him to give me the machete. He held it out behind him and passed it to me like a baton. I grabbed the handle and then swung it at him. He ran faster and said, "I'm not living here anymore". I ran faster and he got away. Then Carlo came running behind him, I swung at him too, and he ran away with Ivenson. I didn't plan on actually hitting them. If I did, I would've done it with the flat part of the machete, but I know I'm not good enough for that either.

More afterthoughts. Am I crazy? Running with a machete is very dangerous. If only you knew the crazy things I have done here. I once rode on a scooter from Los Dominguez to Maimon without brakes. But on this occasion, I just wanted to show them they couldn't get away with that. 

Went back to where Jean Donald, Ezayi, Willy, and everyone else was (except Lorenzo who hadn't come home yet), and saw that Jean Donald had been cut on the head. Carlo hit him with a stick. This happened when I saw the three boys running and then Ivenson appeared by my side.

Within minutes, a scooter shined lights into the yard. Everyone went down. I was looking at the poop filled bed and wondering if Carlo and Ivenson would come back soon or someone would have to go talk to them. Then they called me over. It was our neighbor Wilson who is really nice. He gave a great talk. He had ran into Carlo and Ivenson in the road with sticks and come to see what had happened. They showed up in the yard after he arrived and were there for the talk. 

Most of the blame was put on Jean Donald because he first heard about the poop on the bed. I don't know what a reader of this story would think of that and who is most to blame for the madness. When Jeres came and heard about it, he defended Jean Donald a bit and said that others were picking on him. But Jean Donald definitely is problematic. Carlo is too, but less than Jean Donald I would say. Carlo also has an extremely sweet side. The issue is that Ivenson is Carlo's side kick and will normally do what Carlo tells him to. In Jean Donald's defense, he did not intentionally throw dirt in their cornflakes and did pay them for it, but was trying to throw dirt at Enelbi who was instigating things.

Anyway, Wilson stood by Jean Donald as he cleaned the room. At one point, he threw some on Willy and Willy chased him all around the property. When Lorenzo showed up, he reported that JD had taken food out of his locker. Before it was all said and done, after both Ezayi and Wilson had left, JD did receive some belt slaps under my supervision.   

It was about midnight when I went inside. Yenilove was the only one still awake but then went to sleep. In the middle of the night, Wevli woke up and cried a bit. He had been feverish that day. We just had one bag of water and no milk. I barely slept all night. I rubbed his warm back and he fell back asleep, but seemed to wake back up when I stopped. In the morning, I got him milk. He ate before he went to bed but had the fight not gone on, I would've bought more water and milk before the stores closed. 

So this morning, Jeres, Willy, and the other guy went to work at the school. I got going with the kids a little later around 9am. As I drove up puente seco, I smelt gas and the car started to jerk. I was surprised the propane gas was already running out. There is no guage other than one on the actual tank you have to get out and look at. I thought that if we could make it to the top of the hill, we could probably roll most of the way to the nearest gas station. A new propane station was put in near Padre Granero. Otherwise, we would've had to go to Munoz and there would be no way we could make it. 

We made it up the hill and at the hospital, got the stoplight just as it was turning red. I knew if we stopped we would lose momentum so I decided to go. The motos who like to zoom before their light turns green got mad about that. I heard one yell, "Oye, gringa, blah blah". I held my hand out of my broken window in a "stop and excuse me" manner and said, "The gas ran out!" as we rolled through the intersection. 

We made it past the roundabout and entrance to Padre Granero and as we rolled by Deposito Ferreteria, the car turned off. Yenilove and I called out to a moto concho and he came after us. We now had to stop at a stoplight, where he caught up to us. I stuck my head out the window to yell back and asked him to push the car to the gas station but didn't have to finish the phrase. His foot was already on the back bumper and he nodded that he knew what was going on.

Just a few blocks further and we rolled into the gas station. Yenilove and I celebrated. That was awesome! Smooth craziness.  

Here is the little boy, Likenson, whose mom has taken off. His little brother looks a lot like him. He has some mental issues, but his baby brother is fine.



viernes, 13 de mayo de 2016

A Great Talking To...

Junior has had a hard school year. He will be 17 in June and is in 9th grade now. I sent him to a more expensive bilingual school along with Ilayas, Maraya, Yenilove, and Eriverto (Change My Stars scholarship recipient), and I think the knowledge that the school cost more money made him go a little crazy. It was as if he thought, "If there is more money available, I don't want it spent on school, I want shoes!" This seemed to cause him to lose sight of school and do worse this year than last year attendancewise. Everyone else has done really well. 


Anyway, this week Morehouse College volunteers helped construct a human compost toilet in Munoz and they helped us install rain encatchments at the boys' new home, as well as do some other random projects such as digging a ditch for the base of the chain link fence. On Wednesday morning we went in a room to get the tools and the door was locked. The frustration rose in me. That morning I had fought with Junior to go to school Ezayi oversees the group home but he doesn't do much fighting, just advising. He normally calls me when it's down to the final straw. Anyway, I lost the bottle, but I thought he had at least gotten up to go work with the welder. I didn't know he was lying in bed at 10am. That's a failure.  

I explained to the volunteers with me what was going on and said that they needed him to talk to them. That morning he had declared that he wasn't going to school anymore. The school year is just a month from ending! I said I had done all that I could and I think God had sent them. What followed was beautiful. Atrell and Greg talked to him about the importance of school. They asked him why he didn't go to school and shot down many of his illogical thoughts. I translated into Creole. Atrell had me talk to him about "Imagination, dedication, consistency, and perseverance". It was perfect. He said, "Delayed gratification is not a bad thing." That took awhile for me to translate and explain. 

Atrell called in Keith and Keith shared some of his struggles and ways he persevered to get to Morehouse. Charles popped in, pointed to his brain, and said that his mind is his most powerful tool. Zavier asked Junior his name and shared his own name. He then bowed halfway down before him in a praising way and called him a king. I fought back tears. I can't show Junior any weakness these days. He said that he is a king but he needs to believe it and act like it and move like it.  Atrell told him that they came from the U.S. to uplift others, especially other young black men. He said they love him and they want what is best for him and are willing to help get him there. 

Yesterday, Thursday, Junior made it to school. Today, Friday, he did again. Day by day. It's day by day. But talks like that sure are nicer than running after someone who is quite a bit bigger than me now with a belt! All of the boys were really encouraged by the Morehouse guys' presence. Atrell finished his talk with sharing about Morehouse College, an all male historically black university, and the Bonner program where they do 10 hours of community service each week in exchange for a full scholarship. Then they do an international trip during their Junior year. 

I wanted to send Junior to a summer camp at this school in Jarabacoa which is about two hours away. We still have the goal of getting him to Gabby's house for a year of school. Gabby is my mom's grandma name. But we'll see. The fallback goal is just to make sure he stays in morning school until he's 18, and then can continue with night school after that until he graduates if he chooses. That's the goal for all of the boys. At 18 he can work during the day. But he has to work. Consistency, dedication, perseverance. Please keep him in your prayers. And a huge thank you to Morehouse Bonner students and their sweetest professor Dr. Whitney. You guys touched my heart deeply this time. And thank you Lord for taking care of us as you always do.





lunes, 4 de abril de 2016

Group Home Update Video

I have to give in update in contuation of the "Never a Dull Moment" post, but here is a video with clips from group home stuff throughout the past year and an update about construction we are doing.


miércoles, 2 de marzo de 2016

NEVER a Dull Moment

I wrote this last night but wasn't able to post it until now: 


I am tired and have not written in so long but I feel like I must share this tonight. I haven’t written because third year of law school kicked my butt. I got waaay behind and then played catch up during the last few months. My exams were in December. I had one deadline that surprised me and caused me to get a D in a course. This caused me to only earn half of the course’s credits, and that would have caused me to have to repeat the year, had I not been able to talk the school into allowing me to do an Independent Study, which consisted of a 30 page research paper although mine was much longer. I focused on the National Plan of Regularization for Foreigners in the Dominican Republic and it was super enjoyable!

So that meant I had no break. I did that during my break. Then I started right away with the 4th year. I made another crazy life choice right at this time that added much more onto my plate but I’m not going to share that yet. But that is why I haven’t written. It is definitely not because nothing exciting has been going on. Just a week or two before my finals, a crazy neighbor busted my front windshield, back windshield, and passenger window with a machete. He did somebody damage as well. Why? Because he, a 30 year old man, had stored some scooter parts at Biby’s house. Biby is 22. He has his own house. Why did he store them at Biby’s house? We don’t know. About a month later they say he said they had disappeared. He went to two different voodoo priests and the person they both described as having committed the crime was just like Chinaider. Chinaider had been itching to visit his home town in Haiti. The day that he left, this man came to me and explained to me that Chinaider had stolen a scooter part and then gone to Haiti. 

I told him that I didn’t know if that was true or not. But regardless, he is an adult now and is liable for his own actions. He told me that if I didn’t pay him for the part, he would bust my car windows. I told him I would have him arrested. He went that afternoon and did it. I, of course, wanted to arrest him, but was talked out of it because people told me about the violence of this man who is into drugs and I too did not have full faith in the protection of the police. He came and apologized and said he would pay for it, but has just given small pieces. 


Something crazy happened with Jean Donald who is mentioned in that second update. There is a boy in our neighborhood who goes on the bus to school every day. His name is Kendy, but his nickname is Ti Towo which means “Little Bull”. The director in Munoz has complained about him all year and he has been suspended from school three times for one week each time for the same thing every time – fighting. They say he has even kicked teachers. On the bus I have heard many complaints about him as well. 

One day as they got off the bus, Kendy hit a girl and ran off the bus in a playful way, they say. In running away, he ran into Jean Donald. Jean Donald pushed him in response and a fight broke out. They say that Kendy was getting in a lot of punches but then Jean Donald bit his ear. He actually bit off a chunk. I was in the house and they came and told me and brought Kendy to us. Jeres ran with him to the hospital. When he dropped him off, he told him to ask his mom to come by the house later on so we could talk. She never came.

The next day, I asked Ezayi who is working at the home to go with him to Kendy’s house to apologize. When they arrived, neighbor men said, “Oh. Isn’t that the boy who bit Ti Towo’s ear?” Ezayi started prepping them and letting them know that they had come to apologize. One man sort of warned Jean Donald that he could not enter there and he started inching away and then ran. Men ran after him with knives and rocks, apparently, all the way back to the house which is a long distance. We then started getting messages that they would cut him if we didn’t pay them 10,000 pesos, which I later heard went up to 20,000 pesos. 

Jean Donald spent several days without leaving the house except to go to school. One man that was in this group visited the house several times looking suspicious but nothing had happened. I spoke to his mom and we shared some verses and opinions but she basically said that she is a Christian and doesn’t seek revenge. She had also shared previously that she didn’t know what to do with Kendy as the punishments she gave him for fighting didn’t seem to work. 

WELL, I pulled up around 3pm this afternoon after going to the bank. It had been more than a week since the original fight. Maraya and Ilayas were with me. After parking the car, boys came and told me that a man had just entered the house to attack Jean Donald. Ezayi grabbed the man and told him to leave Jean Donald alone. The man pulled out a knife on Ezayi and held it back like he would stab him. Ezayi backed way up and the man left. 

I said, “We need to go to the police”. I got the same responses of no faith in the police. Others said, we need to go over there and talk to these men and by talk that meant… give them a piece of our minds.  I hopped in the car and when I saw it was all teenage boys hopping in with me and no adults, I decided against that. Then Carlo said, “Here comes the man who said you have to pay for them to not cut Jean Donald.” I asked where. He pointed him out. He was coming down the road. 

I asked Ezayi and Willy to stop him with me and we cornered him. He went on about how talking to the mom wouldn’t do anything as she did not send the man. I eventually got into it that he had requested money which he denied. He then started ranting about how I didn’t even go and talk to the mom. I got really angry as he is not Kendy’s family and did not know what he was talking about but yet continued talking. I called Carlo over and asked who was the man who said we needed to pay 10,000 or 20,000 pesos to keep them from cutting Jean Donald? He pointed to the man.

I got angry, made it very clear that he wouldn’t be receiving any money out of the situation, and made it clear that I knew he had sent the man with the knife. When he continued to spew out lies about things he was ignorant about and refused to listen, I ended up putting my bag down and basically asking him to fight, haha. Jeres eventually jumped in and said, “I thought I told you to send Jean Donald to Haiti!” Jeres and I fought/argued a bit and people pulled the man away and calmed us down. I went on about how was I going to calm down when men were entering into the house to stab kids!? Other neighbors came and everyone heard what was going on. Many neighbors were angered and promised to help protect the house and put a stop to this. 

Not long after, the man who had come with the knife came walking. I just stayed in the pathway toward the house where Jean Donald was hiding but 8 men or so surrounded him and tried to aggressively talk sense into him. He eventually went on his way but Jeres later told me that he had said that other men had sent him. It was the same man who had been suspiciously approaching the house since the event occurred. 

After all of this I had to hurry to do some stuff. When I came home, Jean Donald was hiding out in our house. That’s all for now. I hope this is legible as I’m falling asleep and not going to read it over right now. But just know that this is but a small fraction of all of the drama that has been going on. We have a plot of land for the group home. I think it’s time that we build on it and put up a wall around it.

jueves, 13 de agosto de 2015

Hilarious 9th Birthday



(Front) Loren, Ilayas, Yenilove, Maraya, Elideau (Back) Junior, Sony, Willy


Last night was perhaps the most comical birthday party I have ever been a part of. For Yenilove’s ninth birthday, she wanted to go to the pool and eat pizza and cake. She requested that her brother Elideau who is 10 and lives in Muñoz with a different family go with us. A few days ago we planned with the family to pick Elideau up at 2pm and then bring him back the next morning. We were late in picking him up. It wasn’t until around 4pm that we were able to do so.



Earlier in the morning we did uniform shopping with our kids as well as some of the kids who have scholarships. Miguelina was one of the ones on that trip. As we dropped her off at her house, she asked if she could go to the pool with us. She is our neighbor. She hadn’t gotten to go on the end of camp pool trip. I asked Yenilove if she wanted her to and she said yes. I told her we would come get her after we got Elideau.



After we picked up Elideau, we came back to get Miguelina, but she was not in the spot where she said she would be. I then realized the time and thought that she would likely be at the soccer field as practice was going on and she liked to watch. We drove up there and got caught in a crowd of the players asking about cleats and just updating us on things. Because we were running late, she thought we weren’t going anymore or had left her behind. We found her and she ran to get her bathing suit.



We left soccer practice and drove down from the field to the main road to wait for Miguelina there. I soon realized that Jameson was in the back seat and he also asked if he could go to the pool. I asked Yenilove what she thought and she said he could go but not with an extremely happy heart. As we reached the main road, Junior, Loren, and Sony pulled up. Junior was excited to see his brother Elideau and it slipped that we were going to the pool. They all three hopped in uninvited and chatted up their excitement about going to the pool. I tried to kick them out but they wouldn’t budge. Miguelina came back and squeezed in the front seat with Yenilove. Ilayas, Maraya, and Elideau sat on the laps in the back. And we set off.



They had a great time at the pool, especially with the water slide. It was late so we couldn’t stay for too long. We stayed for maybe an hour and a half. On the way home, Junior requested that we listen to Ray Charles, “Hit the Road Jack” so we found the CD and put it on. I now have a car with a CD player in it so my CDs from middle school, high school, as well as a few from college are getting put to good use again! I got a kick out of hearing the nine of them sing the song in my little ’87 Toyota Camry.



We pulled up to the house and the kids had already been ordered to not tell the boys that we were going to eat pizza. I told them that we were going to get the cake and would be back soon. They got excited and requested that I bring soda or juice.. and then settled on juice because it is healthier than soda. Jameson tried to go with us but I told him he should stay. Elideau got out of the car and Yenilove called him back in. Jeres was waiting for us and hopped in the car.



We went to Il Giardino restaurant on Calle 27 de febrero. It has the outdoor brick oven where the kids can watch them make the pizza and a little play area too. We thought we would try it out. It was good. Afterwards, we picked up a 2L bottle of red soda and headed home. The cake is where the funny stuff happened.



When we arrived home, Junior and Sony were sitting in front of the house and jumped up with excitement to open the garage door and enter with us. The kids hopped out of the car for me and Ilayas asked for the key to the fridge to get the cake out. Yes, we have a lock on our fridge. I passed him the key and took maybe all of two minutes getting out of the car and to the fridge. When I got there, Sony asked if I had taken a piece of the cake. I quickly saw that a piece was missing on the bottom left corner under where it says, “Felicidades”. I tried to get them to write Yenilove’s name at the store but they said their cake writing thing was broken. The cake had been locked in the fridge since last night, but the key is on my key ring which I either keep in my hand/on my body or in my safe. I was confused as to how someone got in to get a piece.



Notice the bottom left corner of the cake...
Anyway, we put it on the table and sent Elideau to go buy a box of matches at the colmado as we couldn’t find any. Ilayas began putting party hats on everyone’s heads. I was able to get my battery eating camera open long enough to take a few pictures. Junior called to me and hurried me several times throughout this process saying that they would eat the cake if I didn’t hurry up. We started lighting and putting candles on the cake via a team effort. We commented that there were nine candles and we were done. Then Loren went to put on a tenth and a few of us exclaimed “No more!” Junior yelled, “God doesn’t agree with that!” I cracked up at that and asked him to show me where it says that in the Bible.



Just then, as we finished placing and lighting the candles and determined the correct number that should be on the cake, a time when you would then turn off the lights and start singing Happy Birthday, the electricity went out. The light from the candles made it not much of an issue. We sang, and she blew. They were trick candles and she eventually needed help. Ilayas, Maraya, and Junior all helped and they finally were all out. But now we had no lights. Chinaider held his cell phone up to give a bit of light, but it flickered a little. Junior continuously called me to hurry up and cut the cake or it would start disappearing. I forgot to mention, in addition to the four boys who went to the pool with us, Chinaider and Willy popped in and we put party hats on them as well.



I did my best to cut up the cake and dish it out. I cut four rows of five which made 19 with the one missing piece. I gave to the birthday girl, then the little ones Ilayas, Maraya, Elideau, then Sony, Junior, Loren, Jameson, Chinaider, Willy, and Jeres. A few times Chinaider’s phone flickered out and then he got it back on. Each time that happened, a piece came up missing. At one point I took the whole cake and announced that I was taking it away so that pieces would stop disappearing. Junior agreed that that is what I should do. Other than that, kids asked for spoons and commotion went on but it was dark and all a blur. I got a piece for myself and then struggled through the dark to lock the remaining three pieces in the fridge. I then joined everyone else out on the porch and ate my piece. They chatted and commented and I observed that although most of them had had two pieces by the math of how many pieces came up missing, they were all completely done in what seemed like a very short amount of time and sat there without a sign of cake that I could see in the moonlight.



I told them that that was the funniest birthday cake experience I had ever had. Chinaider then asked me about the Russian folks who I bought a cake from for his 13th birthday in 2008. I told him that they went back to Russia shortly after that. I used to tutor their daughter in Russian and Spanish when she came not knowing either language, and I don’t know any Russian! Chinaider is the only one of the boys I have ever bought a cake for. When any of them have a birthday, I make sik sou bonbon. When Ilayas, Yenilove, and Maraya have a birthday, we go all out with the cake and pizza. If we did cake for everyone, it would be too much. But Chinaider was our “little one” at that time so I got a cake for him that year. Plus, the Russian family forced me to eat a cake every time I did a lesson so I wanted to pay them back by buying one. And man were their cakes good!



Looking back on the evening, I wish I had a video of the car full Hit the Road Jack singing, and a video of the cake distribution, hahahahaha. Happy birthday, Yenilove!



On another note, the other day around 1pm when I bought food items at a colmado to make lunch, a small boy maybe 10 years old max. was ahead of me in line and I watched as he handed the woman money and she filled up a soda bottle with rum and handed it back to him. I commented to her about selling rum to a small boy and said shouldn’t his parent have to come to purchase. She shrugged and said it looked like they sent him and I said that she should only sell to people over 18, the drinking age here, but I don’t know how much she paid attention to me… 


Don't forget, if you want to support me and my family and work, please consider purchasing these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. If you want to use this method for gaining your own personal support to enable you to do similar work or to just supplement your family income, please e-mail me at CaitlinMcHale@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. Don't forget to read this book as well, and recommend it to others! If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless! 


sábado, 25 de julio de 2015

Funny Stuff

Today some volunteers planned to come to the school to help paint. We expected them at 4 so I got there at 3 with some helpers. Jameson, Sony, and Jempsley came with me, and then Makenson saw we were working and came to join us as well. Oh, and Ilayas came too. The volunteers ended up not making it, but we got a lot done and then went and got pizza at a food court at a Sunix gas station. They didn't make too much of a mess except for Jempsley. He got desks and floors pretty dirty and I got on him about painting the corner blue of an intersection of a blue and white wall.. putting blue on a white wall, and then he did it again on a second well. So we still have some touch ups to do now but the school is pretty much ready for the new school year! Read here about all of the rennovation work we have done this year, as well as fundraising throughout the course of the past year. 

The funny stuff mainly happened when we went out for pizza afterwards. It was karaoke night and the only available table was right by the mic. They were a little sheepish to go in as it was all Dominicans but we made our way to the table and sat down. Karaoke was to start any time but in the meantime, Dominican music was blasting. Either merengue or bachata, I honestly don't know which is which, which I know is sad. Every other table was full of adults mainly dressed up and drinking beer. I sat down with a group of teenagers and kids covered in paint and we ordered water and pizza. A few minutes after we sat down, people realized it was time to dance. They started getting out of their chairs and pairing off to dance in the skinny walkway between the plastic tables. They know their stuff. Step, twist, step, twist. Move their hips back and forth while taking their baby steps to the music, etc. 

One man probably in his sixties had jean shorts on, a red t-shirt, and a straw hat. He got up to go through the aisle alone (everyone else had a partner) and flat out got down. Jempsley pointed him out and we giggled, although we couldn't hear each other over the super loud music. One song ended, they stopped the music for a second to announce which cars needed to be moved as they were blocking others in, and then started it back up. Our pizza came pretty quickly since we were the only ones ordering food. We each ate our first piece, then our second. There was an extra second piece. I inquired and learned that Jempsley didn't want a second. Strange, I thought.  

As we finished, I squeezed past the dancing people and went to pay at the counter. There were three employees behind the counter. They wore white polo shirts with the name of the business on it. One shook from side to side to the beat of the music as she gave me the bill, took the money, and gave me change. The other two were male and female and they danced just like the couples in the walkways did but from behind the counter, holding each other close, moving their hips, and smiling at me as I paid the check. I found the whole scene to be so funny and adorable. 

We got a take home box to bring the last two pieces to Maraya and Yenilove and went out to the car. The boys got to the car before Ilayas and I. We arrived to find them cracking up. I thought they must've been letting lose about the older guy who was enjoying himself so much. But for the whole car ride home, they continued to laugh about another subject. When they got to the car, Jempsley had said, "Ti fil yo te kenbe nan goj mwen", which means, "The little strings got stuck in my throat". He was talking about the cheese. This is why he had only eaten one piece. After having heard the line repeated about 20 times, I asked him if he had eaten pizza before today. The others howled with laughter. He replied that he had not. They talked about saving up their money to come eat another pizza together. 

Jempsley, Sony, Ilayas, Jameson, Makenson - star painters!

martes, 23 de junio de 2015

Confused, Sad, Relieved, Hopeful

So I guess I had not even written yet that CURE International agreed to do the surgery for Elisenia for free, and they even have funds to support her first prosthetic. The surgery I am talking about is an amputation because she was born without a tibia in one leg.

Adeline went with Elisenia the first time for the surgery. They understood that she has chronic respiratory problems and said they would allow her to stay and be treated for that for a few days before surgery, as she cannot go under anesthesia with any sort of a cough. They did let her stay for a few days, sent her to a pulmonologist, but when they saw that the treatment would last more than a week, sent her back home. 

As the treatment was going on, the secretary contacted us and told us her next surgery date. This trip was a bit frustrating/had some miscommunication as I tried to tell the secretary that her treatment was not done and to confirm that she would be treated there if she had a cough still. Although I was confirmed, they sent her back the same day she arrived for a small cough. 

Well one good thing about that second trip is that Adeline retrieved a perscription from the pulmonologist that she had not come with before and those meds made her stop coughing completely! It was like we had found the magic solution. They told us to send her yesterday morning and we did, sure that this time the surgery would take place. Dr. Glen Rowe has been wonderful in communicating and has really taken the case on. He wrote to me last night to let me know that she looked good and would be operated on this morning (Tuesday). 

Around 7am this morning I got a phone call from Glen who told me that Elisenia's HIV test had come back positive. What!!?? Read here and here where I was medically assured that she was negative, despite the fact that her bio mom is positive. Before I could feel sorry for Elisenia or be frustrated about a third trip to the capital and still no amputation, my heart sank for Adeline, Elisenia's caregiver, and her family, who I knew would be shocked and scared at the news, since they have lived so closely with Elisenia for years now. Glen said that the main reason they could not operate is because Elisenia's white blood cell count was very high.. 1600 or 16000? She was fighting off infection but they didn't know where. She may not heal well if they did the surgery.

Wait, let me back up. We finally got Elisenia's birth certificate last Wednesday!!! It was a bit of a painful day where Zette had to be there and she complained the whole day. It was the first time she had seen Elisenia since she left 3.5 years ago. You would think she would be happy to spend some time with her but instead she complained and apparently spoke negatively about me the whole day. I was up urging things to move along which is why I didn't hear all of what she was saying, but did get my earful of complaints. This was the first time Adeline had met Zette. We took Elisenia to see her one evening in Munoz which I had planned with Zette about and she found something else that was more important that evening and was not there... so this was the first she had seen Elisenia since her return. Yenilove was there too and her birth certificate is in process. But it was a hard day for Yenilove. she reported lots of negativity that was said, and Adeline and I had a heart to heart too after it all. I don't think I wrote in this blog about the years of trouble it has been getting these kids' birth certificates and Elisenia's is the first of 5 to have come through.

Back to today. I asked Glen about Adeline and he said that he hadn't told her yet because he wanted to tell me first. I told him that I should probably call and tell her and he said that would be good. We were rushing out the door to teachers meetings and a construction project in the Padre Granero school, so I planned on calling her in the car. Oh, I got a little 1987 Toyota Camry which is great! Anyway, as I went out to the car, Adeline's partner Ose was at our door looking... the worst I had ever seen him. He simply said, "Adeline says for you to call her." I starting splurring explanations to him as I realized that they must already know. He looked stern and angry but lightened up as I got around to explaining to him what white blood cells are. 

I stepped in the car and the phone rang. It was Adeline. She was crying. We both expressed our confusion as her test had come back negative before. She said that she couldn't care for Elisenia anymore. She cried and talked and I told her that I would ask the doctor to do an HIV test with her and I would go with the rest of her family to do it as well so that they could be able to have peace. She seemed to like that idea and passed me to Glen. Glen said, "I didn't tell her. Someone else must have told her." 

I said, "She said she saw it on a paper."

He said, "Nothing was written on the paper. Someone must have told her." 

Just a few hours ago when Adeline arrived and we sat and talked, she gave me a great account with perfect pauses of, "They put the IV in Elisenia and the operation clothes and then I saw blan receive a paper and did (surprised/confused look). I knew something was going on. I'm not stupid. Then they told me to put her clothes on her and gave me this paper." She pulled out a perscription for more blood tests. Two boxes were checked, one which says HIV. All of the nurses were coming and talking amongst each other and looking at them. A Dominican doctor finally sat down with her and asked if she was Elisenia's mom. She said no, she is more than a mom. He asked about her mom and she told him to contact me. He told her what the results said. Her suspicions were confirmed. She said she stood on one foot and cried and prayed. They calmed her and explained to her the misconceptions and how the disease is and isn't transmitted... 

I will write the rest of what happened soon, but to kill the suspense, Adeline's test came out negative. Her kids, niece, and Yenilove's second test (I tested her the same time when Elisenia came out negative 2 years ago) all came out negative as well. They kill you with suspense at the Ceprosh office... which we walked a few blocks to and then to and from the laboratory with Aniverca who is 12 years old and has cerebral palsy, so she needs lots of assistance. I explained to the lab that there was a potential false negative test result given by them two years ago. Their response was that it must've been during the incubation phase. I didn't argue, but how would a child born with HIV have the virus in incubation stage at 2.5 years of age? 

I wanted to grab the papers away from the guy who opened each paper slowly and wrote out each patient's information before sharing the darn result! He asked me, "Why are you afraid?" As soon as he said that, my head filled with verses of "Do not fear" and the peace that transcends all understanding calmed me instantaneously. When they read Yenilove's result, tears came rushing to my eyes and I fought them off, which took a lot. I used to cry a good bit here due to sad and frustrating stuff and people observing quickly say, "Don't cry. Don't cry." I don't know if it's because I'm older or my heart is harder or stronger but I am much more able to hold back tears now. The guy ended by talking about both oral and anal sex in front of Yenilove, my eight year old, who looked at me at the end of the talk and said, "kapot"? which means condom. This allowed us all to release our bursts of laughter which was building up throughout the talk.

Driving home, relieved for everyone's good news, I was now able to feel for Elisenia. Maybe I did let a tear fall for her. After our talk tonight, Adeline says that she still wants to care for Elisenia (although she wants separate plates and cups for her) and is not convinced yet that she is actually positive. I am joining her in her faith. Please help us pray.


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
-Ephesians 6:12

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

-2 Chronicles 20:15

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. - Genesis 26:24

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  - Deuteronomy 1:21


Don't forget, if you want to support me and my work, please consider using this credit card or these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. If you want to use this method for gaining your own personal support to enable you to do similar work or to just supplement your family income, please e-mail me at CaitlinMcHale@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. Don't forget to read this book as well, and recommend it to others! If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless!