miércoles, 31 de diciembre de 2014

I Was a Grandmother... RIP Sweet Angelina. :(

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I announce the death of little Angelina.

You Tube doesn't want to show this video but here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A62TBpUmseg

This is the daughter of "Ewode and Jilande" I wrote about previously. They were living in Montellano. They had been through so much but stayed together and were raising their daughter. A few days ago, Ewode showed up asking for help. I spent a lot of the day at a plot of land Project Esperanza has planting cacao trees. When I came back, I saw him on the road but did not speak with him. When I went inside, Jeres asked to talk to me. He told me that their little girl, who was now two and a half, passed away in the night.

The explanation they gave him was that she was fine. She wasn't sick. She woke up for a bit in the night and was playful. Then a bit later they woke up and saw that she had blood running down her chest, coming from her nose. They rushed her to the hospital in Montellano and they were told to take her to Puerto Plata. I'm sure they were traveling on motorcycle. By the time they got to the Puerto Plata hospital, she had passed away.

Ewode was seeking help (2,500 pesos) for the funeral. I gave it to him (on behalf of Project Esperanza) and he rushed off to bury her. I didn't get to talk to him and Jilande yet. I want to tell them that they did a great job and that God has great things in store for them, I know it. My heart is broken for them. May the Lord ease their pain and give them hope. Oh how I saw Ewode make efforts for that little girl and for his family. Rest in peace, sweet little Angelina....

domingo, 28 de diciembre de 2014

Ilayas and Laura Vitale

When Ilayas was about 2 years old, he always wanted to watch Betty Crocker Kitchen videos and Laura Vitale videos. Laura Vitale is a woman in New Jersey who makes fun videos about every dish. We recently started watching her again to learn how to make cookies this Christmas. Last night Ilayas insisted that we make cookies but it got too late. First I should note that we don't have an oven so any baking takes place in the dutch oven, so they don't really look like cookies, but we try. To appease him, I said, why don't we watch Laura Vitale cookie videos and figure out which one we want to make tomorrow. Here he is watching the video and drawing the ingredients. He told me this was so I knew what to do when we make them. I found that too funny and had to take a picture. He started the video to let it progress, then stopped it to draw the mixer, stopped it again to draw the cookie sheet. Love this little guy. 

sábado, 27 de diciembre de 2014

Grreeat Christmas..

This was a very nice Christmas. I was so busy leading up to it and then extra relieved to have the family time. I am so sad that it is coming to an end with volunteers starting to come for the winter break trip, but happy for volunteers to come as well.

I downloaded Windows Movie Maker on Christmas Eve, I believe, and made two videos on the 25th, then another on the 26th. Here are those. And then below are photos of kids painting a table I got them.

Our Christmas morning:

Munoz project:

New building for the school in Padre Granero:

Pictures from the table painting:

lunes, 22 de diciembre de 2014

The Newbie is Gone!

So, the newbie, Jemps, didn't last very long. Good thing no one responded to the request for help in warding and educating him. We started questioning his story within the first few days of his stay. His Spanish actually was pretty good. This is never the case with people who have just come from Haiti for the first time as he said he did. When I asked him how he spoke Spanish so well, he said that his brother used to go to the capital and he would ask his brother how to say words and write them in his notebook to learn. I didn't buy it. He spoke like someone who had learned Spanish from living in the country, hearing it, interacting, etc. 

The other boys then reported that a woman asked him, in front of them, if he wasn't selling peanuts anymore. He replied back to her in Spanish that he didn't do that anymore and now lived with them. I spoke to the people he was staying with before us and it was true that he had just showed up and only been with them for a few days, but he had obviously been on the streets of Puerto Plata for an extended period of time prior. Sony and Loren encouraged him to tell the truth. He refused to share any more information or admit that he had lied about anything previously, and laughed it off. He did have a suitcase, which made it look like he had come from Haiti, but it looked like a brand new suitcase, not something a struggling mom in Haiti would send her son with. When I mentioned that, Sony and Loren figured that a foreigner bought that for him on the streets wanting to help him.

Also, within the first few days, he proved to be very... well... annoying! The boys kept reporting him eating meals with them, then waiting for them to leave, and stealing food, giving food to Chinaider who is not included in those food rations because of his older age, and then he would come and tell me he was hungry. He sold his suitcase right away as well. One afternoon he came to our living room window and told me he was hungry, that they had not given him food. Enelbi had been at the window about one minute before him. I said, "Call Enelbi for me". I was going to ask if it was true that he had not eaten with them. He said, "He left". I said, "He just now left, go call him." He left the window for maybe 15 seconds and came back and said, "He left". I told him I wasn't giving him any money or any food. I had a babysitter that week as it was exam week and I spent the full days out of the house, so I needed the extra help. He called the babysitter who was sitting in the living room and told her to give him some food.

If he was 11 or 12, we could've put up with this sort of behavior and disciplined him, but he reported being 16 years old. Unacceptable. The straw that broke the camel's back was that he apparently kept annoying an elderly neighbor and Jeres said that she wanted to or attempted to physically fight with him... something about him using her water spicket. This was at night, so he told him that there had been too many complaints about him and the next morning he needed to take his things and leave. I didn't find out until after he had left about any of this as I was so busy. The boys said that he reported to them that he had 3,000 pesos stored with someone somewhere and was going to retrieve it and go to the capital. Maybe he did know where his aunt's house was after all, if he did have an aunt in the capital. Or maybe he was going to live a life of grapiyay. Grapiyay is a word that basically means a person who lives on the streets. Sometimes it is not someone's fault that they live on the streets. Sometimes, as even happens in the US I believe, kids choose the lifestyle and get some high out of it. Not that they don't have big family needs, but they may have other siblings who, despite the family's needs, live at home with the family.


I have often asked boys not to call each other grapiyay. It has a very negative connotation. But I will admit that when one of them makes me really mad by doing something blatantly rude, like, for example, spitting on the floor inside of the house, I have started using it on occasion. It just has a strong effect and gets the point across. I guess I could also say, "You are inside, not outside. We don't spit on the floor inside," in a more patient way... but I think I lost my head a bit these last few months as I had never been so busy in my life, and didn't have the patience to spare. I really can't believe how much law school I covered in the past few months. I was so very far behind and had to give it all I possibly had to get through the year. We'll see if I passed.

I also recently invented a new word with the root of grapiyay. The word for ungrateful in Creole is engra. So when a boy is being especially rude and also ungrateful, like Jemps who asked the babysitter to give him food after I had told him that I would not be giving him money or food, one could use the word "engrapiyay". An ungrateful grapiyay. And by the way, when I caught up with Enelbi, he said that they did, of course, give him food, so Jemps was lying and scheming. Some people just cannot control themselves. He was probably on the streets prior, struggling to get meals. He found a spot in a home where he received meals, and he needed more? And he needed to scheme? Perfect example of how sometimes it is not just the physical needs that brings someone down, but their lack of education and principles! I will say that no one who acts this way normally lasts long in the home and everyone who is there permanently has not acted this way. You have to have a certain amount of humility, patience, and self control to live in a group and extreme poverty and hardships doesn't automatically create humility in some people.

However, I was impressed by Loren and Sony talking to him about telling the truth. One day, Ilayas was crying because he had lost his toy watch. I was trying to console him and told him I was sorry he lost his watch but he had other cool toys. Jemps told me to tell him I would get him another one. Sony said, "She can't lie to him." Ilayas kept crying a bit and Jemps told him that he himself would get him a new one. Sony got upset with him for lying to him and told him that things would only be worse if he lied about things, in reference to him lying about his background, time in the Dominican Republic, etc.

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!

lunes, 8 de diciembre de 2014

A Newbie!

So I don't remember when something has been this confirmed by God before. A house opened up next to ours, the boys begged for us to rent it for them. Within the same week or two, a man moved in a few doors down and happens to have more experience and education in this area than anyone else I've ever met around these parts. I posted about it, shared the post on FB, and got a very large monthly commitment. Immediately. That never happens. I posted again to share the success and tell about the remainder. That request got met immediately as well! Actually, it was met with a little excess.

Okay, those were good confirmations of the next steps to take - rent the house and hire the man whose name is Pastor Eustach. The house is rented, they are moved in, and Pastor Eustach is waiting until Dec. 11th when my final exam is done to talk about his position and get started. I told the boys in the meeting on Saturday that with the size of this house, we have room for two housemates. I also said that I was thinking of how to arrange Pastor Eustach's schedule, since I think for him to have a full schedule, it makes sense to have a few more kids in there. I had received the keys from the landlady just about an hour before our weekly Saturday meetings. Right after the meeting, they began moving in. 

Enelbi and Sony moving in.
That very same night, a friend was visited by a boy on the streets she has helped for at least a year. She does not want him to live where he is living, but he has been reluctant to make the change for various reasons. (Feel like maybe I should keep this anonymous at this point.) They had a bit of a hold out going on about the issue. Anyway, that same evening, he went to her and broke down about some things and... well anyways, I don't know if he will come live here or not, but it was another sign to me of, "Glad we have a little more space just in case!" I read her Facebook message with the news the following morning and it just was another confirmation.

Today is Monday. Just two days after we got the keys. And wouldn't you know. Jeres came walking home with a boy who he said needed to talk to me. The boy's mom was sending him to his aunt's in Santo Domingo. He is from an area outside of Cap Haitian. She paid a moto concho to take him from Ouanaminthe, Haiti to Santo Domingo. That is a VERY LONG motorcycle ride! He said that somewhere close to here, the moto concho pulled a gun on him and ditched him. His mom doesn't have a phone. He doesn't have a number to reach her. Or his aunt. This is his first time in the country. The moto concho knew where his aunt lives and was supposed to take him here. It sounds like he is a passer, who takes people and items back and forth from Haiti on a weekly basis for a living. 

Through pleading his case to other Haitians around, he found a man who has let him stay with him these past few days in Los Dominguez, our neighborhood. But the man wants him to smoke and he doesn't want to smoke. The man also wants to take his little suitcase with his belongings. I said, okay, okay, you can stay. But I need to find help ASAP for your food, or else others will complain of smaller portions because you are here, (I didn't say that last part but thought it), and for your transportation money to go to school because you can't be hanging out without doing anything! He said no, no, I like to work. I'll do whatever you ask me to do.

I said, "Why was your mom sending you to Santo Domingo?"

"My aunt lives there." 

"But if you were going to school in Haiti, why was she sending you to your aunt?" (I pretty much already knew the answer.)

"She doesn't have money to send me to school anymore." He told me he made it to 4th grade and is 16 years old, although he is tiny and looks younger. I asked about his dad and he said his dad had died. He has older siblings but he is the youngest. 

I told him I'll take his picture tomorrow in the daylight because my camera doesn't have very good flash. (done)

Those that are under 18 get 90 pesos a day for food, each, which they get together on Sunday mornings and collectively buy food rations to last the week. I feel like it should be upped to 105 so they can have a little something in the morning. Enelbi at least can't seem to manage without it. Anyway, let's say 90, so 2,790 pesos a month, which is $63.41 US per month for food. Then his school transportation will be 60 pesos a day, about 20 days a month. 1,200 pesos, which is $27.27 a month. $90.68 a month to cover his meals and transportation to school. Of course his sandals will break and he'll want deodorant and to wash his clothes on Saturdays and such. But food and going to school are the most, most essentials. Actually, with the excess commitment from the last requests, we can put the number at $80 US.

Why doesn't he get a job to buy those other things he will need? Well, at this point, he doesn't speak a lick of Spanish, even if there was work for him, which maybe there is. We have had a few kids find jobs that actually pay. The Nintendo business went well enough while it lasted but that is another blog post. When I am done with exams I plan on leading some serious gardening efforts on the plot of land we have.

Oh, I forgot to tell you his name! And I almost forgot to ask him as well. He said "Junior". 

I said, "We already have a Junior so you'll have to be called something else." 

He smiled and said, "Jemps". Sometimes this pronunciation is spelled James. But they say Jemps. I said, I'll take your picture and show others to say, "Look who God brought to us." He smiled and went to get his suitcase.

Alright, I need to get to sleep because I have Real Property and Criminal Procedure exams tomorrow! Please consider helping us to help Jemps! I'll post his picture tomorrow.. or it might actual not be until Friday because my last exams end 8:30pm on Thursday.(done)

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!

lunes, 24 de noviembre de 2014

Great News!

I honestly did not think that the last blog post would get the response that it did. I don't know if the donor wants me to reveal her identity, but I will just say that she visited our programs last spring on a ChiroMission trip, and Louran, one of the boys now in the home, befriended her and explained his situation to her. She really wanted to help him, so after she read this post, she jumped on board and committed to $200 a month!! (Okay, after the Pay Pal fee it is $193.30). When I wrote the post, I thought, we'll just try to get the rent covered and then try to raise money for the employee afterwards. Well it was $57 for the house, a minimum of $182 for the employee, so a combined $239. We now only have $46 left to go to be able to put this plan into action! What an encouragement and a reinforcement that this is a good idea! 

sábado, 22 de noviembre de 2014

New Home, New Father Figure?

Well, quick Elisenia update. Adeline went with her to CURE International in Santo Domingo and the plan is to amputate below the knee, but she will probably have to be hospitalized for a week or so before the operation to get her chronic cough gone before putting her under anesthesia. Tammie and her husband and a few others came and visited at our house before they went and brought wonderful presents!

Alright, I'll get to the point of this blog post. In June we moved a few houses up on the same street to a house with a better water situation, more privacy because we don't share the yard space, it's a little bigger, and has a tile floor and bathroom, so it's easier to keep looking clean. The picture above was taken in our living room. It's a huge difference from our last house. We built an outdoor kitchen in the backyard for the still fully dependent boys for their meals. Actually, they continued eating with us in our house until August when Louran moved in to the group home, at which point it would just be too much to have yet another one spending so much time in our house.

Our new house is closer to theirs than before. There are about 4 properties between us and them. Well, just within these past few weeks, the houses on both sides of us have become vacant and up for rent. So they started asking me to rent one and move them there so they are right beside us. At the same time, there was a 3 week period where Chinaider missed several days of school. He said it was because he kept arriving late when the door was already shut, at which point they won't let you in. So in addition to waking up Junior, Yenilove, Ilayas, and Maraya and getting them ready for school, or in Junior's case, nagging him to get ready, I now started walking down to the group home and getting everyone up, specifically Chinaider.

There are three bunk beds in their house, (so beds in 3 sets), one twin bed, a tiny kitchen space, and a bathroom. The beds take up all
Current house.
the space, other than the kitchen and bathroom space. The front door has been broken twice and we just cheaply replaced it. They lose the lock or keys or dismantle the puerta candado which is what holds the lock, on a consistent basis. Literally, it seems as though every week something has happened and their house is once again insecure. I have realized that the only solution in the long run is a doorman. They barely have any yard space. We pay 2,500 pesos a month rent. It is a room off of a man named Nelson's house. Nelson is a very easy going landlord! They have been there since 2010, with some overflow at times into other rooms and such.

One of these mornings when I woke up Chinaider, I couldn't figure who one sleeping body covered in a sheet was. I kept asking and asking about everyone's whereabouts to figure out who was the sleeping body. I located everyone else and then someone admitted that it was Ti Rasta, which means Little Rasta, whose real name is Franco. He quickly popped up, uncovered himself, and started explaining that he had just come in late last night and slept because he lives up the mountain and had come back so late from working at the flea market. I reminded him that I had given him 3 months to stay after he was sneaking and sleeping before and asked that he respected that short opportunity and didn't enter the house anymore.

Yesterday Enelbi came to get me and told me to go visit their house. Bob was sleeping on his bed, passed out drunk. I asked around for where Bob lives so that we could remove him and place him in his own house. Enelbi found his keys in his pocket so we could open his door if it was locked. But then Willy came and got him up and got him out. Bob walked down the road and cussed us out as he went. The other day Louran found his pile of books not in his book bag as he had left them but on the ground, and no trace of his book bag. I suspect Bob took it.

Anyway, point being, I agreed it would be great if they lived right next door. I would be able to create a healthy fear around the house so that NO ONE other than those who live there enter, it also has more yard space and a fence that can lock, and I could ring a bell each morning at 6:30 am rather than having to walk down the street. Not letting anyone who doesn't live in the house should prevent the door from being broken again.

Another funny situation. I often want to record all issues that are brought to me in a day but don't have time to record them, but I'll share this. Yesterday morning Junior couldn't find his uniform pants. He then found them wet and in the washing machine. Adriana is the woman who helps us with washing clothes in our house and she had made the mistake of washing his pants before the week ended and leaving them wet. I called the director and asked if he could go in navy blue pants instead of black. Negative. Other kids would want to do the same if he was allowed. Uniforms are such a strict thing here in ALL schools. Right after I got off the phone (I was in the street as I had to go buy the phone card to call), I saw Enelbi with black pants on. He goes to our school, which is more leaniant with the uniforms since the kids are so impoverished, but the uniform is not black pants, but khaki. I asked him what happened to his khakis. They ripped. Can you please go put on Junior's navy pants and let him wear those. That worked out. But the whole situation made me late in getting the little ones to school. Chinaider and Miguelina both showed up after the pants got figured out. Their motos had not shown up. I went and got another guy to take them and he let me pay him later. This is what happens most mornings. And you think it is all figured out, but then something else always comes up.

Took this last night when landlady showed.
One of the houses was less desired but less expensive. Less desired because it shares a yard with others, which isn't ideal for them. But someone else rented it quickly so that left only one choice. I had someone lead me to the landlady's house and we planned a time to meet at the house to see and talk about the price. She waited for me until I got home last night around 6:30pm. The lowest she would go is 5,000. I think this is a must. It will mean we have to cover an additional 2,500 each month, since the current rent is 2,500.

I'll just mention this quickly. Another 4 houses down from us is a little Haitian church. The
Living room
kids of the pastor and his wife are quite involved in different Project Esperanza activities and we really enjoy the family. Day before yesterday one of the sons asked if I could go speak with a visitor of theirs. I did. We sat in their yard and talked. He had been here for 3 months, working at a call center, but two pay days had gone by and they had not been paid. He is a pastor from Cap Haitien but had come, as many do, in search of life in the Dominican Republic. He was staying with the pastor who runs the church and his family but had already put a deposit to rent a nearby room, it just wasn't prepared yet. He was doing some teaching in the church as well.

Well we talked a little and he mentioned that he ran an orphanage in Cap Haitien for two years, three months and the only reason he left it was
One bedroom.

because a staff member was threatening him, he said, and he didn't want the conflict. It turns out that I know the woman who funds and runs the orphanage! Anyway, I have always wanted a wise older male to have a role at the group home and be a presence helping to manage things, and also just being a fatherly presence. The right person was yet to come up,
Other bedroom.
although we have had a few who have done a good enough job, it just wasn't meant to be a permanent thing for them. I could tell right away from speaking with this man that he was very educated, and he said that he studied four years theology at the university and four years education. I asked for proof and he was about to go get it but I said that he didn't need to right then.

The yellow house is ours.
Anyway, let's talk funds. The new home is 2,500 pesos more than the current one. That is around $57 US. This is an immediate need. I don't want this opportunity to go by. I think to initially hire this man, he should be paid between 8,000 and 10,000 pesos a month. This is between $182 and $228. But I am not worrying about that right now. I am just feeling things out with him still and our need for him. So right now, I have an urgent request that Project Esperanza brings in $57 more per month to rent this new space. I wonder if anyone can come on as a monthly sponsor or commit to doing a monthly collection or anything to help out with this?

Here is a video we made the other night for my mom, whose "grandma name" is Gabby:

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!

sábado, 8 de noviembre de 2014

Dreaded Motorcycles

I often have a post in mind...something I feel I should write about, and then something happens and I say, "Okay, now it's really time to share."

Moto conchos are moto taxis and they are all over the place here. Traffic is very fluid. No one really comes to a complete stop but just look and go. If you are from a developed country where traffic laws are more strict, this can seem very scary, but to locals, this is the norm.

I first came to Puerto Plata in May 2006. I spent two months, came back in Nov. for a week, back in Dec. for about 3 weeks, and then spent about half of 2007 here. In Jan. 2008, I moved down permanently. I have used moto conchos a lot. They are just convenient. But did I think I was invincible? I was just always focused on getting errands done quickly and that was the quickest way to do it.
Carrying an art shop shipment box to a guagua. 

At some point I started experiencing fear. I really don't know why I didn't for years before this point. Motos drive on the wrong side of the road sometimes if they miss a turn or something along those lines. All of the "rules" are just much more fluid. I remember one day my moto went head on toward another moto and it reminded me of a time I crossed through the doorway at the same time as a veterinarian I was shadowing in Stephens City, VA. He went to pass on one side and so did I. He switched sides and so did I. He made light of it by saying, "May I have this dance? Thank you." And we eventually passed each other and got through the doorway. This actually happened as the other moto and my moto went toward each other head on. I found myself beginning to plan what I would do if I was in an accident and thrown onto the ground. I decided I would try to keep my head up so it didn't smack the ground and get up and out of the road as quickly as possible, so as to not get hit by oncoming traffic. I actually thought about this often as I was on motos.

Just as my fear increased, I was given more reason for it to increase. One night I went to an ATM via motorcycle. The driver didn't even stop to look as he crossed a street. I saw the car coming before he did it seemed, and screamed! We ran right into the side of the car and fell over in the road. I kept my head up, landed on my butt, and got up and ran onto the sidewalk as soon as I hit the ground. The driver tried to convince me to get back on but I refused and found a private taxi to take me home. My tailbone hurt for quite awhile there.

You see, all of the neighborhoods surrounding Puerto Plata, except for a few wealthy ones where it is assumed that pretty much everyone has cars, have a taxi route that passes through the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is the only one that doesn't. So I either have to walk really far to get home, or take a moto concho. OR pay a private taxi, but that really adds up. I vowed to not go on motorcycles anymore but the convenience of it got to me and I was back on them in a few months.

Willy began moto conchoing a few years ago. I didn't want him to do it and didn't want any of the younger boys to think they could do it when they came of age. But he was so determined and of course talked me into lending him the money to put the down payment. The way the companies work is, you put a down payment of about $60 and then you pay daily until it is paid off. He has yet to ever fully pay off a moto and is on his third attempt now. What happened with his first two is a whole other story but he didn't pay for them anymore than the days he had paid off, so it was as if he had been renting them. He conchos diligently. Willy is going to be 23 in November. He grew up in the boys' home... or at least has done a lot of his growing up there. He couldn't write his name when he entered, but a few years ago we sent him to the 6th grade national exam in Haiti which he passed. He is now in 8th grade here in the Dominican Republic and will do this national exam after this school year. I am really, really proud of him and really appreciate him. He knows that he is only still allowed to live in the home to help out with younger boys and he does a fairly good job at that. There are, admittedly, a few things I wish he would do more, but without him, I would have to pay someone to stay there with them, and I find things work out much better with a family feel than a paid employee. 

One day last year we did a "compra" for a mom of 3 students in Padre Granero who had had an operation. A compra is a grocery store purchase. I went on Willy's moto with him from La Sirena to Padre Granero. Right in front of the police station, he went to pass a parked truck. Motos often pass vehicles so closely that they almost touch them. Vehicles do not open car doors on the side that is open to the road, but on the side next to the sidewalk. That is one "rule". Right as we passed, this truck swung its door open and knocked us over. Again, I jumped up and ran out of the road ASAP. But this time I had a hard time with a swollen knee and the compra was all over the road. Luckily nothing broke, we picked it up, and Willy and the man who stepped out of the truck started arguing. The man happened to be our neighbor. I got in a carrito PB that goes through Padre Granero and delivered the food, limping to the house with ripped bags. People watching helped me.
Current condition of the bridge entering our community.

At this point, I stopped taking motorcycles. I only took them from the entrance of our community to my house, so I didn't have to do the long walk (if I lacked time or had too much stuff in my arms) and couldn't afford a private taxi. But this is an area with lots of speed bumps so lower speed and no big intersections. So to get around town, I took the public taxis and guaguas. Guaguas are vans. They pack people in like sardines. I used to moan and groan to squish in with others and take the time it took, but after these scares, I have just enjoyed sharing with others who were living their lives and trying to earn their pesos in Puerto Plata in order to care for their families. If I had a vehicle, I would've missed so much of the interaction and solidarity!

However, there is a critique to be made about the planning of the public transportation routes in Puerto Plata. When you get to Calle Beller/La Sirena area, all cars go in the direction toward Munoz and Sosua. None go in the opposite direction. So I can get out of my neighborhood to the main road and take a carrito or guagua to get to most places in town, but as far as getting back, there aren't really any choices. From Parque Central, the SM goes to La Javilla, but that is far from La Sirena. If you aren't too familiar with Puerto Plata, it probably sounds like I'm speaking another language and I apologize. The point is, I have found myself in situations having to take a moto, especially at night when certain public routes are no longer running.

So this happened one night. I got 30,000 pesos out of the ATM at La Sirena. I clenched my wallet in my hand with a strap around my wrist and started walking home. I said, once I see a moto concho I know, I'll go with him. But I don't want to! I bought a hamburger at a stand along the way and had that dangling from the same wrist of the hand that I clenched the wallet in. I was almost to Supermercado Tropical when I saw a moto concho I knew and got on. When we got close to La Pulga, another moto passed us and swerved into us. My moto swerved away. The passenger of the other moto grabbed my hand and tugged but had no success and they rode off down a side street. I told the moto concho that they must've been trying to grab my hamburger, as I didn't want him to know of the money I carried. We made it home and I opened the wallet to pay him. He saw that it was full of money and exclaimed. I told him I had clenched it tightly in my hand since I knew of the dangers of taking out money at night.

At the recycling center in Santiago.
You may be wondering why I would go get money out at night. Well, stuff happens. Normally it's an emergency situation someone has and they've come to me about it. But true, I shouldn't do it, unless I'm traveling in the private vehicle.

So this added to my growing hatred for motorcycles. I don't want it to sound like Puerto Plata is a dangerous place. This is the closest I have ever been to being robbed.. sure if you leave something somewhere someone will take it. My sandals were taken from my front porch the other night. But as far as an assault is concerned, I mean. And we have had very few incidences with volunteers as well. The incidences we have had have been a moto concho passing a person on the street and snagging their necklace off of their neck in a quick moment. Other than those 2 incidences among our volunteers, there was one assault/attempted robbery but the girls fought the guy off and he ran away on his awaiting moto!

When I get off of the guagua C or carrito Munoz, the moto conchos at the stop at the entrance to our neighborhood call to see if I want them to drive me. I give them the "wait" hand, cross the street, and then take one home. Sometimes they come over to get me and I refuse to get on before I cross the street. Now they pretty much all know to just wait on the other side. But other than that, no thank you. I won't take a moto anywhere else. I would rather walk two miles home. Hopefully I can get a vehicle before too long, but also dread the maintenance there. But no, it will be better. I really, really get discouraged sometimes; especially when it is raining. And it limits how much I can do with my kids. 

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I just wrote to Crystal:

Willy came to our bedroom window last night at 2:30 (so this morning actually) crying. Around 8pm he hit a 5 year old boy on his moto and the adults watching chased him with sticks and machetes. Someone he knew lived nearby and he ran to his house. They even hit the owner of the house on the head with a stick. (The owner of the house he hid in was with him at our house at 2:30am. He hid in there until that time. The boy has a broken leg and broken arm apparently. He hung his head and cried. :( I just loaned him 5,000 pesos to give to the family (who had confiscated his moto) and he says he's going to try to sell his moto, although he hasn't paid it back yet - but sell it and let that person continue paying.. so at a fair price. And he says he'll help me with everything now. :) He is helpful but does have a certain amount of things he doesn't help with that I want him to. Soccer practice is one of the things he hasn't been as helpful with, but he asked me what time practice was today and guaranteed he would be there. That was so sad to see him cry, though. I thought he was going to say the boy had died, so thank God he didn't. And I'll be so glad if he gets rid of the moto once and for all. 

**This is an edit a few days after I finished this post. Someone just shared a link with an article about traffic here and some chilling stats: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/dominican-traffic-death-rate-among-worlds-highest**

On a final note, is this Passenger, popular in the US? We recently discovered him on You Tube and we can't get enough in our house! I especially like when he is with the group and the girl is singing as well.

So I've got to get back to studying. But felt like it was time to share these motorcycle/transportation woes. Final exams for 2nd year of law school on Dec. 9th and 11th and I am at danger of being ineligible because I am so far behind! It's Project Esperanza's fault, along with that Baby Bar I had to study for, but thank God I passed it and am done with that! But please pray that I can catch up this month and pass these exams!

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! 

domingo, 28 de septiembre de 2014

A Summary of this Journey

Small white line next to the fibula is a finger-
nail scratch, not a tibia!
Here is an e-mail I just wrote to Tammie, a volunteer with Project Helping Hands, a medical group that comes here a few times a year. She visited Elisenia when she first came last year and has been supportive of her care ever since. I recently took Elisenia to get a new x-ray of her leg, where she is missing a tibia, and sent it to both Tammie and CURE International where we had consulted her in Santo Domingo in 2012. We now are planning on taking her again this month and they may do a surgery within the next five months or so! 

I am posting this e-mail because I gave a summary of the events with the kids and the mom over these past 3 years and since I mention the kids and the situation so much, I thought it might be good to share a summary.  

Hi Tammie, 

Thank you so much! :) I will talk to Adeline to see when we can take her down. I wish I could go and see the consultation in person but I don't think I can spare a day right now. Just wanted to give you the dates of when we took in Elisenia since you said we found them early last year. It was Nov. 2011 when we first found her being toted around by her sister who was 9, but very sick. She had just turned one. Her sister and other siblings were students in our school but had not attended that year because of family problems. The mom had been gone for three months at that time and the dad had gotten sick. The mom came back but Elisenia was in critical condition with pneumonia and malnutrition... picture attached of her and my daughter. My daughter was 4 mos. and Elisenia was a year.  So we had her in the hospital for weeks, volunteers and one of our staff members taking turns sleeping with her, and then moved her into a missionary house in Cabarete and she spent another month there. The guy holding my daughter is our staff member who was taking turns with volunteers staying with her in the hospital. Then we have had her since then but went through 2 caregivers before we found Adeline who cares well for her, just the facilities are not ideal. 

The mom was back at this time but her husband had just died and the brother, age 12, was refusing to go to school so we took him in since we work with boys from the streets and have special school efforts for them. This was Jan. 2012. We paid the house for them and got food for 3 months, which is what has been the rule of thumb for a woman when her husband dies if they're involved in our schools. The mom asked me for transportation money to go to Santiago and said she would come right back, she couldn't leave the kids. I was reluctant for her to even leave the kids for a day but she promised she would come right back. Then we didn't hear from her until she showed back up July 2014, so 2.5 years she was gone without a word. I had taken her to the AIDS clinic before, she knew she had it, but was embarrassed to get her meds! She said when she came back from Santiago she would start taking them. 

So when she left in Jan. 2012, her three others who were 5, 6, and 9, were alone and going from house to house in the batey. One man in the area who had volunteered some with Elisenia even set up an account for them at a colmado where they could get 100 pesos a day to make food. They finally settled somewhat, and we eventually took in the 5 year old girl. So we have Yenilove who is now 8, Junior who is now 15, and Elisenia is with Adeline and will be 4 on Nov. 2nd. Elideau who is 9 is with a family in Munoz, a Haitian woman who has a Canadian husband, and Alexandra who will be 12 in Dec. was with her godmother but was having a really hard time, her godmother has tons of kids, extremely poor, lives right on the road, and I was getting lots of reports of her being involved in really vulnerable situations. I planned to go take her to child services, who I had talked to about her lots before but I just couldn't take hearing those things anymore. I had made the decision that day that I went to that clinic with Helping Hands (July 8, 2014) that I would take her that same day and then the mom showed back up while we were in the clinic. So since then she has stayed with the mom. Her husband (who passed away)'s aunt is allowing the mom to stay in a room of hers in the batey. The mom at this point can't walk and is very thin. Alexandra goes to our school but she cleans clothes, cooks, and takes care of her mom. :( She is the one that breaks my heart most at this point but we couldn't take her in because we have a little group home with boys from the streets and she is a wanderer and the two wouldn't mix. Plus the godmother was adament that Alexandra wasn't going anywhere and many people began to question her motives... but right before the mom came back, she left her house and went to Haiti for a bit, which is when I had planned to take Alexandra to child services in hopes that they would put her in a home. 

So that's the story! This Nov. it will be 3 years since we've had Elisenia under our care. :) Thank you so much for helping her... early on a few people donated but since then there has been no success in fundraising for her except for you. I think I told you another nursing group that has started doing deworming in our schools every six months got a stroller and a nebulizer for her? The nebulizer has helped a ton. 

Thanks always, Caitlin

P.S. Junior lived in the group home during his first year, which is just down the road from us and from Adeline and Elisenia, and then when Yenilove moved in with us in Feb. 2013, he moved into our house too. I find this funny, but as soon as they both moved in, they started plucking white hairs out of my head! :) 

 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! 

jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

What's Going on...

I had been planning on writing a post about the motorcycle accidents/incidences I have gotten into and my need and desire to buy a little three-wheeled vehicle, but in the craziness of end of camp, teacher training, and back to school, I haven’t had time to go to the dealer and take a picture of one of the cute little guys. So I must write about last night’s events, and then maybe that will be my next post.

Update 1: I passed the CA First Year Law School Exam (FYLSE) A.K.A. Baby Bar!!! On my first try!! It has a super low pass rate, (see here), so I am so very relieved to have passed and not have to leave my babies behind again and travel by myself. Leading up to the results, I had thoughts of, “If I don’t pass, I’ll just drop out,” because it was such a big deal to travel to LA to take the test. So now I can truly and freely envision a life as a lawyer! The Bar test I will take after I have already graduated, and that can keep me from practicing law, but it can’t keep me from being a lawyer.

So my plan as far as paying off student loans is to do the public service loan forgiveness plan. If I can start receiving a salary from Project Esperanza by the time I graduate, then as a 501c3, that should qualify me for the program. After 20 years of making consistent payments, the rest of my debt will be forgiven!! (I go back to this later on in this post in a less confident tone.)
Last day of camp.

Update 2: This summer was awesome because our volunteers were spectacular, Joanne was volunteer coordinator and went above and beyond expectations, and returning volunteers ended up coming at overlapping times so it was a big reunion/team effort/fun time. Crystal, EM, and Cole all three came within 36 hours of each other.

During these same 36 hours, another person came into town VERY unexpectedly. I was helping to organize a clinic in the school in Munoz when a woman in the community came to the door and told me that Zette had just showed up. Then the woman ran off. I took it with a grain of salt, not knowing if it was true, but then a few other people came and told me the same. Talk about confusion. In my last post, I mentioned how long she had been gone and how we had assumed she had passed away. People then started telling me that she wanted me to go see her. I didn’t know what to do. Jeres was translating for a station of medical volunteers and I scuddled over to him, told him the news and sobbed on his shoulder. He couldn’t go with me because he was translating. So I got myself together, then some medical volunteers asked me what was wrong and I sobbed again. I got my female comforting and talking in, and then went down to see her.  After caring for Ebo for five months, I made the decision that I would not foster a child for free anymore…I would only adopt. It was too hard for me to attach and unattach. And I treated Junior like a non-family member for a year until my heart softened for him and I treated him as my son. I watched Yenilove go from house to house for a year before I committed to taking her in, and as soon as I took her in, I didn’t plan on anyone ever taking her away.

I don’t want to take up too much time writing every detail of our conversation. Elideau and Alexandra were both already with her when I got the house she was sitting in. Alexandra was so happy to see her but Elideau looked like he didn’t know what to think. Ironically, that very day I had made the decision to take Alexandra to social services because I got nothing but bad reports of… well she wasn’t being watched and protected and her godmother she was living with left her and other kids and went to Haiti. I was set on it, and then Zette ironically showed up, which changed that.

She said she had been at “kay boko” which is a voodoo priest’s house in Artibonite. She said a friend took her there because she was sick. So I tried to take her to the AIDS clinic before she left, (January 2012), but she was embarrassed to go and asked for transportation to go to Santiago (one hour away) to go and come right back, which I gave her. Then we never saw her again. Now she returned and her explanation was that she was sick and was at a voodoo priest’s house (several hours away). I called Junior. He came and saw her for a few minutes and then said, “I want to go to my house.” I gave him transportation money and he went home. I got Yenilove from camp and then took her to see Zette. She was happy and sweet but… I didn’t feel threatened after the visit, despite the fact that Zette never thanked me and when questioned if she would take the kids, she said she would send all five to her aunt’s house in Haiti. I asked if she had been at her aunt’s house, her aunt who was capable and willing to take in five kids and she said no, she never did make it to her family’s house. I find it all a bit confusing.

So that’s that. I didn’t take Elisenia to see her, but promised to. That was before she started sending Gaddy and Nanie to ask me for money. On Yenilove’s birthday we took Elideau to get pizza and cake, which was Yenilove’s wishes. I visited with his
Yenilove's 8th birthday. 
caregiver, Vlidgitte, and she let me know that Zette had gone there complaining about a tooth ache and she gave her 500 pesos. I said, you are a good person. Because I didn’t plan on giving Zette any money. Then I started getting messages from Zette asking for help with her toothache. I haven’t gone to see her since. Alexandra let me know that Zette now smokes whereas she didn’t before as well. I don’t want to judge her, I just don’t necessarily want to help her, either. I feel like the only help I could provide her at this point would be transportation to go to the aunt she has in Haiti that is apparently willing to take in 5 kids. Maybe my heart will change over time, but I struggle to take care of her kids, so it’s not just that I don’t have a heart for it right now, but I don’t have the capability either.  She’s currently living with the aunt of her husband who passed away, Yenilove, Elisenia, and Elideau’s dad, but this aunt never took in the kids after Zette left, but let them be passed from house to house, and she even tried to get money from me through it all. I don’t want to judge her either, but just telling it like it is. She tried to get money from me because she said that the house Zette was renting that the kids continued to stay in after she left them, was hers, and she needed to be paid for the months Zette owed her for the kids staying there! With all of that said and done, she is a little old lady with a sweet disposition and sells good homemade peanut butter!

Now that I have updated about that, let me get onto last night’s events.

Wow! Once again I began a post and couldn’t come back to it to finish until weeks later. It is now September 18th. I wrote the above part on August 27th. So by this time, Zette ended up in the hospital for awhile and I visited her and helped her out a little more, whereas I was reluctant to at first when she was asking for funds.

The events I was going to write about was something that happened with Junior and school. He is doing really well, by the way, getting up and going to school, whereas last year he was quite a handful there, unfortunately. But a lot of it had to do with the fact that we couldn’t get him into morning school, and this year I did.

So I was helping him with his homework. When the teacher asks questions for him to find the answers by reading in the textbook, he needs a large amount of help.  I don’t mind helping him, but I don’t want to do it for him. This night he for some reason started insulting me as I searched for the answers, saying that I must not know what I was doing because I was taking a long time. I realized that his reason for insulting me must stem from his own lack of confidence, which he was projecting on me, but it made me mad nonetheless. I forget the full details of what followed, but it ended up in him threatening to rip up his books. I told him that if he ripped up his books he could go live in Munoz.  I guess I should note that his school and homework is in Spanish, but as we were exchanging such comments, we were speaking in Creole.
Teacher training 2014.

Sometimes when I take a step back, I realize that I have said something that I shouldn’t have, but I have to defend myself and my home and can’t let him run the show. Shortly after, he came with a ripped up book and threw it in the trash bag hanging on the doorknob. I told him to get his stuff together to go live in Munoz. He went and started packing all of his clothes in my suitcase that I let him store his clothes in. I reminded him that that was my suitcase and he wasn’t leaving the house with it. He argued that I had given it to him.

I went and shut the door in my room and sat imagining what would happen to him if he went to live in Munoz. How far we had come with him and school and how he would not go to school if he lived in Munoz..not to mention, he could get into bad stuff. But of course, I couldn’t let him be impossible and destructive either. A bit later he showed me that it wasn’t one of his new books he had ripped up, but one the public school had given him the last year and never asked for it back, True, he should have returned it and not ripped it up. But the point is, I hadn’t just bought it!  (FYI – Public schools supply books to students, but not always and not all of the books. But at private schools, students have to buy their own books.)

I was relieved that he had not ripped up his new schoolbooks. He then sat by me and asked, “How do you find the answers in the book?” This might sound like a lie to be cheesy, but it’s true. We had a breakthrough. So I talked to him about finding the keyword of the question and looking through the subtitles in the book to find where it’s talking about the keyword, and also about skimming. And when you find the right section, you just have to take the time and read it. We finished his homework with him making more of an effort. The next day he told me that 3 out of the 4 answers were wrong and I told him that I never studied Dominican history in school, but the answers we put looked good to me. J I can be more of a help with math and science, I suppose. But I enjoy learning more about Dominican history through it all.

So we didn’t get any help to pay for his schooling. So I’m paying for it through my student loans. We weren’t able to register him in the bilingual school I wanted to, but hopefully next year. The main reason is that he was in our grassroots school in Padre Granero in the afternoon last year, and did adult public school at night. That was the only spot I could find for him in the public school. So he had switched from the day system to the night adult system, and they wouldn’t let him switch back until after 8th grade because there is a national exam to pass that year. However, the school I did register him in guaranteed me that he could study there during the day, even if he was just now entering 8th grade.

I thought I explained the situation clearly and let them know that other schools said he could not switch from night to day, and they continued to guarantee me that he could, so I registered him. They let him begin even though I had forgotten his report card, and said I could bring it the next day. I did, and he came in uniform, complete with books. They called me that afternoon saying that there was a problem with his report card, and they were not sure he could study in the morning. I reminded them that I verified with them 3 times before registering him. They replied that they had thought I was asking about something else, about a process necessary when someone is switching countries. They put me on hold for a few weeks and then said they could let him stay in the morning. So by chance, I got him into morning school! But he’ll have to wait until next year to go to the bilingual school. Let’s hope he keeps doing well until then! I should note that the school he is going to this year is much less expensive than the bilingual school. 

So student loans… how will I pay them back? Will I move to the US to work? Well, there is a public service loan forgiveness plan I would like to take part in. It involves making monthly payments for 20 years and then having the rest forgiven. If you work for a non-profit, you should be eligible. So this would mean I would have to start taking out a salary from Project Esperanza when I graduate, paying consecutive loan payments, and then after 20 years, I would have them forgiven. But my mom keeps telling me
CONANI HQ in Santo Domingo.
not to rely on this and I am agreeing that I shouldn’t completely. (I am leaving this paragraph in here even though I have realized that I wrote about this at the beginning of the post, but just so you can see my change of tone.)

I went to Santo Domingo a few weeks ago to register an adoption agency. Hopefully things will go smoothly and I will be their in country coordinator. But we shall see.  CONANI said they will look over things and be in contact. I have never so much wanted to move to the US to work as I do now. But I don’t want to give up the work that I do here. I wish I could be compensated for it, if only to have the chance to buy a property and build a home some day, and to send my kids to the Montessori school I hope to, as well as to visit family in the US sometimes. I would also like to be able to send friends and family presents on special occasions. If I could run Project Esperanza, be coordinator for an adoption agency, grow and sell cacao, and write some books, that would be wonderful. Oh, and I want to home school my kids after 6th grade as well… Ilayas and Maraya that is. These are my dreams. I pray to God Almighty they will come true!! If they are within his will. And that yours will come true too, if they are within his will.

I almost forgot to mention that I had chikungunya, which is a mosquito born sickness that was taking over the country this summer. It causes lots of joint pain. I only had a fever for a day, but my feet still ache weeks later.

 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!