lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 1 of 5

This is a 5 part story I sent out to Project Esperanza's list serv beginning January 1, 2010. It's about the journey a young man took, leaving Haiti in order to search for life here in the Dominican Republic. You'll read about his time with us and the difficulties he faced, overcame and continues to face and overcome. Enjoy! 

            In January 2008, I moved to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic with plans of staying long term in order to oversee our ongoing programs here. I began living at the boys’ home for Haitian immigrant boys that had been working and sometimes living on the streets of Puerto Plata. I directed the home school, taught science, oversaw staff and daily activities such as food preparation, worked at an English school in the afternoons, and often met with directors and teachers of our grassroots schools, paying them their salaries, giving organizational aid, etc.

At this time, the boys’ home was located in a rural area on the coast known as Maimon. We rented a large, run-down farmhouse that sat on a number of acres, complete with a creek. It was a wonderful setting and the year and one month that our program was located there was great for everyone. However, we were not able to sustain it for the long run. When I moved in, I joined nine other household members, including paid staff, younger boys ranging from ages 12-15, and older boys or unpaid “big brothers” ranging from ages 16-20. Two additional teachers came to the house every weekday to hold school. All were Haitians that had come to the Dominican Republic in “search of life”.

Before this point, the boys’ home had been held in a few different locations in the city of Puerto Plata. This country setting was ideal for the time. At its maximum, the home had 22 residents, way too many for the stage we were at. Several asked to be sent back to Haiti and because we were overloaded and overwhelmed, we sent those that asked back throughout the summer of 2007. Little by little and sometimes in groups, the majority of the boys who had gone back to Haiti returned to Puerto Plata. Sometimes they came with new street boys from Cap Haitian, introducing them to the Dominican Republic. Out of the returners, only one was immediately accepted back into the home. We were determined to have a more controlled setting.

One boy that had lived in the house, went to Haiti, and had now returned, was Bouki. His real name is William and he asks to be called that, but everyone still calls him Bouki. I’m sure that past volunteers who got the chance to meet him have not forgotten him as he is quite a character. When I moved in long term in January 2008, Bouki came to the house almost every day, asking to be brought in as a member. I did not allow that since his personality is anything but small and I was careful, forseeing what effects entering him into the group could cause. However, I invited him to participate as a student in the school, under the conditions that he arrived on time, although he didn’t live in the house, and abided to the same expectations as the rest of the students.

When Bouki visited the house during this time, he always brought a friend named Ti Ronal. “Ti” in Creole means little, so this young man’s name in English is Little Ronald. This was the first time I had met Ti Ronal. He had been in the Dominican Republic for a few months. This was his first trip. He was from Cap Haitian and had become friends with Bouki and many others through a program for street kids in Cap Haitian. It was in this program that he had received about a year of schooling; the only schooling he had received up to this point. Since he always came to the house with Bouki and showed an interest in school, the offer of becoming a student was extended to him as well, under the same conditions.

The second trimester of school began, school hours were Monday through Friday, 8am – 12pm. Bouki and Ti Ronal showed up the first few days. Then Bouki began missing days here and there or arriving at 9 or 10, always complaining that he didn’t have transportation money. Eventually, he stopped coming to school altogether. However, Ti Ronal showed up on time, if not a few minutes early, everyday. I, along with the other two teachers, was very impressed. Bouki and Ti Ronal both shined shoes, so I know that if Ti Ronal could manage his money well enough to have transportation money every day, Bouki should be able to as well. 

Ronal’s reading and writing skills were on a very beginner’s level when school first began, but he paid attention very well. It was obvious that he wasn’t interested in playing games. Through talking to him and listening to him tell stories about life on the streets, I learned that he slept in a broken down house on a flattened cardboard box along with Bouki and a few other boys. When the police ran them out of one place, they moved to another. Other boys participated in different sorts of mischief that Ronal was not at all judgmental of but was not interested in. Once I saw that this was the case, I felt bad for him. I wanted to invite him into the house but was careful due to his age. He said he was 19 and I believed him. Many boys say they are a few years younger than they truly are in hopes of receiving more assistance or in fear of being denied assistance because they are over a certain age. For many, it has been easy to pull off because these boys often look younger than they are when compared to Americans. I think at this point I have learned to more accurately determine age in this population, but at first, 14-year-olds said they were 10, 16-year-olds said they were 14, and 19-year-olds said they were 16. It was all believable because of their small size. I told Ronal that I knew that he wanted to live life differently than those he was currently living with and that he could stay at the house for awhile. I would help him to find a job, save up his money, and begin renting a place, but until then, he could stay at our house. He was thankful and accepted. I was naive at the time and thought that finding a job and renting a place would be much easier than it actually is.

When Bouki saw that Ronal began staying at the house, he was a little jealous, sought a bit of revenge on Project Esperanza in general, then went to Haiti. However, he returned after a few months, very remorseful, and worked to make amends. He eventually found a spot in the Los Limones Home & School when it opened in July 2008 and continues to do quite well today. 

Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

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