Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic

by The Bienvenido Project (FUNFONAVI)
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic
Offer Hope for 300 Youth in the Dominican Republic

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, 

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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! 

Cassidy

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

Walking through Bienvenido
Walking through Bienvenido
The interview team
The interview team
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Manuela at her high school graduation
Manuela at her high school graduation

Last year, Manuela achieved a dream of hers when she graduated from high school. She didn't stop there though and is now going after a bigger dream: to graduate from the University of Clinical Psychology.

In January, Manuela began her studies at the La Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (referred to as La UASD- pronounced "waz" more or less). And here's a fun fact, did you know that La UASD was the first university founded in the Americas? It began 481 years ago in 1538! 

Manuela desires to use her future degree to further help children and adolescents in Bienvenido, and specifically those in The Bienvenido Project. She has already showed her commitment to this community through her current involvement as a youth leader, aiding in the socio-spiritual formation of the younger children in the project. She is also a motivator for the other youth in the community and has paved the way for three more young people to attend the University since January; Luis Miguel, Ninosca and Manuela (another Manuela!) are the next professionals who will help many other young people in the community of Bienvenido!

We would love to help many more youth in Bienvenido achieve their sueño (dream) of attending university, but finances are the biggest hurdle for the youth and their families who wish to attend. We've shared before that it is actually the cost of transportation (approximately $100 a month), not tuition, that becomes the main obstacle. If higher education is something you feel passionate about, and you'd like to help the youth of Bienvenido reach their big dreams, please reach out to us with any questions! And if you're ready to donate, let us know you'd like it to go straight towards this need, and we'll make it happen.

Thank you for your continued support! YOU make what we do possible.

Please don't forget to rate us below ↓ 

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La Quince
La Quince
So many things have happened this year at The Bienvenido Project, and after some time reflecting, we've determined that these three events were our favorite...
La Quince
In July we celebrated the fourth annual "Quince" celebration (the traditional Latin American coming of age party when a girl turns 15). Watching all of the proud parents see their daughters dressed up and confident in the women they are becoming was such a beautiful part of this event. A highlight for all was watching our youth dance group put on a wonderful series of dances. They definitely stole the show!
Happy Birthday to EVERYONE
Who doesn't love to celebrate their birthday?! On "Everyone's Birthday" we celebrated the birthday of EVERY child in our program. We blew up balloons and put one on each chair-- pink for the girls and green for the boys. There were three big birthday cakes shared by everyone, plus yummy snacks and juice. We also played games and danced. We've never seen so many smiling faces.
Graduation
A huge accomplishment for the program this year was that 12 of our students graduated from high school. Some of these students have been with the project since it was founded 11 years ago when they were just seven and eight years old. With the support of our programs, they have blossomed into smart and capable young leaders who dream of education and bright futures; Manuela wants to study Child Development, Bernarda wants to study Clinical Psychology, and Luis Miguel wants to study Chemical Engineering. This month our graduates are headed off to univeristy at La UASD, the largest public university in the Dominican Republic. We can't wait to see where this takes them!
2019
2018 was a big year, and there is even more on the horizon for this coming year. As mentioned, the 12 students who graduated high school are starting university, yet there are are still some challenges to overcome. We have a two-part goal for 2019 to make this a long-term reality:
  1. Secure university scholarships for our students
  2. Purchase a bus that will transport the students back and forth to university
Why is this important? Because even with scholarships for college tuition, the cost of transportation every day adds up to a monthly cost that is not feasible for the students and their families. Therefore, we need a bus to make education accessible to these students. It also opens up the opportunity for others in Bienvenido, who are not a part of our program, to attend university. We estimate needing about $20,000 USD to purchase a bus.
Another exciting development this year will be the continuation of our construction project on our building. In March, we will be taking the next steps toward building a second floor at our program center. This will open up more class and activity spaces, and allow us to expand our programming.
Now it's your turn! What was your favorite event or story from The Bienvenido Project in 2018? Interested in supporting us in one of our upcoing 2019 goals? Let us know at thebienvenidoproject@gmail.com.
Thank you for all of your support in 2018! We're looking forward to partnering together with you in 2019, and a very happy New Year from all of our staff, volunteers, and youth!
Our youth dance group stealing the show!
Our youth dance group stealing the show!
Happy Birthday to EVERYONE
Happy Birthday to EVERYONE
2017 & 2018 Graduates
2017 & 2018 Graduates
2018 construction prep for this year's addition
2018 construction prep for this year's addition
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The school year is now well underway, and we are excited to share that, thanks to the support of so many of you, we were able to provide scholarships for 50 children for the 2018-2019 school year. This is 14 more than last year and something to celebrate! Education is a vital piece of being able to offer hope of a life beyond poverty to the youth in Bienvenido, and we hope the following story helps to paint a better picture of what we mean when we say this.

Romero, or “Romeo” as his friends call him, is one of the youth benefitting from a scholarship this year. He is the oldest of 5, and lives with his mother and stepfather in a single room with one bed. At 14 years old, he had never attended school, and instead spent most of his days out on the street making poor choices while befriending the wrong people. ``

Earlier this year, he approached us at The Bienvenido Project expressing his desire to study. “I want to study. I am intelligent,” he told us. And he was right. Despite having never attended school, he had managed to learn to read and write on his own. This is how our journey of working with him and his family began. Not only were we able to place him in school, but 3 of his siblings as well.

Since entering school, Romeo’s past is beginning to be re-written. We no longer see him wasting time on the streets and disrespecting others. He has improved his way of dressing, speaking, and acting. He’s excelling in school with good behavior and attendance, and is enjoying being in a positive environment with the support of teachers and peers. He’s even begun to help during our feeding program, and tutor his siblings in reading and writing.

Romeo is just one of the 50 children benefitting from our scholarship program, which is about so much more than just learning to read and write.

Thank you for allowing us to offer hope!

Romeo
Romeo
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Organization Information

The Bienvenido Project (FUNFONAVI)

Location: Bienvenido - Dominican Republic
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FUNFONAVI
Project Leader:
Laura Collazo
GREENWICH, CT United States
$168,360 raised of $200,000 goal
 
1,892 donations
$31,640 to go
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