Nov 26, 2019

Dreaming of a Caribbean Christmas...

The Collazo Family
The Collazo Family

My husband, Tony, and I (and two boys) have been working with The Bienvenido Project for over six years, and even though we lived in Santo Domingo for two of these years, we have never had the opportunity to attend the project's annual holiday dinner. This year, our dreams of a Caribbean Christmas are coming true though. In less than a month, we are headed to Santo Domingo to spend a week helping to prepare for the 12th annual "Noche Buena" celebration.

Noche buena means "good night," and for the children of Bienvenido it truly is a really good night! This celebration is our biggest outreach to the youth in the community and extends much beyond our regular attenders; last year over 450 children came through our doors! It's a night of music and laughter, but the most anticipated part is a huge Christmas feast. In the Dominican Republic this looks like roasted chicken, slow cooked pork, pastelon (a lasagna style dish made with plantains in place of noodles), rice with pigeons peas and coconut milk, potato salad, and the most exciting part, grapes and apples! Now grapes and apples might not seem like something to get excited about, but these fruits are not local in the Dominican Republic and are definently a special treat. Think how excited you get about christmas cookies, candy canes, or hot cocoa with marshmallows this time of year... grapes and apples are this in the Dominican Republic.

A feast like this is costly for a low budget program like ours, yet we whole heartedly believe it to be worth it. Just look at the smiles on the kids faces last year! (Note: select subtitles for English)

We wish you could all join us for a Caribbean Christmas next month (and if you ever want to, please let us know. We'll make it happen!), but there's still a way to be part of the festivities even if your Christmas will be white. For every child that attends Noche Bunea, we need to raise $5.50, and this year, we hope to invite 500 children to celebrate with us. Would you consider making a child's night? Or ten? Or 100 :)

To make your donation go even further, December 3 from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm EST is the day to give! Our project is eligible for Giving Tuesday matching funds, and the more that's given this day, the more bonus funds we receive. Donations should be made right here through Global Giving.

For all of our American supporters, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving this week. And for every one of you around the world, thank you for your support!

Until next year,

The Collazo Family (United States Coordinators)

Sep 5, 2019

Regresemos al colegio!

Every year the boys and girls of The Bienvenido Project anticipate the day they will receive a new backpack full of school supplies. Most of the children’s parents or caregivers do not have the resources to purchase these supplies, and without them, they would not be able to attend school. It really is hope in a bag! I’ve personally been involved with this yearly event, and been taught a lot by these kids about being thankful for the little things. For instance, I’ve never placed a lot of value on a pencil before, but in Bienvenido, a pencil means everything to these kids. It really is a special day!

This event is made possible each year by different organizations. We’d like to give a special thank you to Fundación Dale Un Deseo and el Ministerio de adolescente de la Cristianización who helped us provide supplies for more than 100 children for the 2019-2020 school year. ¡Gracias!

Speaking of school, this year we were able to provide scholarships for 22 children thanks to the generosity of our supporters. These children would have been left out of school otherwise due to public schools being at capacity; a scholarship has an immediate and lasting impact! 

A challenge this year was not having enough funds to provide scholarships for all of the children from the previous year. This is the first time in 5 years, since we began the scholarship program, that we had to significantly reduce the number of scholarships offered rather than grow the program. This was not an easy thing to walk out, nor is it an easy thing to share with you. However, if you are reading this it’s because you are part of our team and we want to include you not just in our victories but also in the hardships. 

We hope your take away from this update is two-fold. 

  1. We are SO grateful for those of you who consistently give to The Bienvenido Project each month in support of our school scholarship program (as well as those who give throughout the year!). Twelve dollars a month pays for one child to attend school, and as we’ve already shared, the impact is immediate and lasting.
  2. We need your help growing our team of financial supporters. If you’ve personally been thinking about doing so, would you consider making this the month that you partner with us in this way? If you already support us financially, or are unable to do so at this time, would you consider sharing our work with at least one other person this month and inviting them to join our team? In order to grow our programs, we also need to grow our network. We can’t do this on our own!

With gratitude, 

Jun 11, 2019

Our latest venture...

Cassidy and Manuela conducting an interview
Cassidy and Manuela conducting an interview

I am so excited to hand our latest update over to Cassidy! We've been in conversation with her for over a year and we can't wait for you to hear about the work she's just begun in Bienvenido this month. So without further ado...

Hi! My name is Cassidy Gallagher and I am a junior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. As I am writing this, it has been 21 days since I arrived in the Dominican Republic to work with The Bienvenido Project. These past weeks have been nothing short of complete cultural shock in amazing, astonishing, and difficult ways. I have not only been warmly welcomed by the smiling faces of all who help run the project, but also by the sweet, innocent faces of the children who beam with excitement just to hold my hand and dance alongside me. 

You are probably wondering how I found out about The Bienvenido Project and what I am doing here? I cannot wait to tell you! About a year ago, I was searching for global volunteer opportunities and I just so happened to stumble upon the Project’s website. I reached out to Laura, the U.S. Coordinator, and we set up an appointment to meet, along with Veronica, the founder and director, last June 2018. After learning more about the Project, and getting to know each other and our intentions better, I returned to my university to talk with my mentors at the School of Nursing about arranging a visit for Summer 2019. We decided to design a community health needs assessment to evaluate the main health problems of the community and the social determinants that affect the prevalence of those issues. Through various research grants, I was able to register and fund this project.

Now that I am in Bienvenido, myself and a group of three young women (who live in the community, have graduated from the Project, and are in university) have been conducting interviews throughout Bienvenido. We are asking residents about the most common health issues within the community, where they usually seek health care, and their opinions on the services and education that the people need to better their health. We have conducted over 100 interviews! Once I return to my university, I will analyze the information collected and propose potential interventions that can be implemented in the future. My hope is that I can work with my professors and mentors to design and implement a follow-up project focused on resolving a certain health issue within the community for next summer and beyond.

Looking back on my experience conducting interviews throughout the community, I am astonished at how warmly I was greeted and welcomed into the homes of the residents asked to participate in the interviews. Even though most people in Bienvenido live in houses being held together by metal scraps and rotting wood, they still showed incredible hospitality by always eagerly finding me a chair as I entered their house or porch. The care that the many mothers had for the health of their children and the insightful, sometimes heartbreaking, stories of their fight to provide for their family was so touching and life-changing to hear. Although I valued and appreciated every second of the interview process, I was also deeply saddened by the conditions of some of the houses and of, most notably, the children who live in the community. It is not uncommon to see toddlers walking around in only dirty underwear or no clothes at all. Looking at the skin infections that sometimes painted the entire frame of a child brought me to tears just imagining their pain. However, you would never know of these conditions based on the sound of their laughter or the excitement in their footsteps playing with other children. This is what most amazed me. Even though people may be in the worst imaginable conditions (and believe me, you don’t know it until you actually see it, so let me be your eyes and ears for you as best I can), their will to live and to make the best of their situation is nothing short of inspiring.

What I have learned about myself from this experience is that no, I can’t save the world, but what I can do is give my time, my attention, and try to help to my best ability because honestly every little bit counts in the lives of those most in need. Sometimes I think that the people I met with mostly valued the time I gave towards listening to their problems, stories, and ideas because, in all truth, all most people hope for in life is to be heard. I hope I can continue to listen to these people, the Project, and my colleagues to one day make a great impact on the community of Bienvenido. And I hope that you keep helping too, in any way that you can, because you are making an amazing impact on the lives of these children!

Thank you for your help and support towards The Bienvenido Project. Believe me, if you could meet the children at the Project, they would give you a huge thank you with a bright, beaming smile and probably a hug too! 


*If you are interested in partnering with us financially for this specific work, please reach out to us at

Walking through Bienvenido
Walking through Bienvenido
The interview team
The interview team
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