My teenage daughter and I volunteered with Project Esperanza last summer. We had the most amazing experience! The organization is doing amazing work to support the educational, social and emotional needs of Haitian refugee children living in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to the work of founder Caitlin McHale and her wonderful staff, Project Esperanza has been instrumental in providing housing and schools for dozens of children who were previously living and working on the streets around Puerto Plata. This is a very worthy, well run organization doing great things for children and families in need.
Awesome non profit to work with! Lots of great options for projects to get involved with, the biggest being the two grassroots schools. The kids are always so sweet and Caitlin, the director, is amazing! Would highly recommend.
I have been a long-time supporter of Project Esperanza, served briefly as a member of its Board, and know the organization to be truly dedicated to changing lives living in at-risk conditions for the better, primarily through education but certainly with heaping amounts of love and faith as well.
THE FUTURE BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS
In his New York Times bestseller Mountains Beyond Mountains, author Tracy Kidder tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer’s indefatigable and maniacally obsessive commitment to deliver world-class health care to some of our planet’s poorest peoples living in Haiti, Peru and Mexico.
Reading page after page of situations where people face impossible odds and succeed, Project Esperanza came to my mind.
Ten years ago, Project Esperanza was established as a Virginia Tech student organization by Caitlin McHale, then a junior studying Interdisciplinary Studies, and English major Kristin Preve, a sophomore at the time. The previous fall, the two had visited the community of Esperanza in the Dominican Republic and upon their return they set about inspiring support for an orphanage they visited as well as for the people who lived in nearby “bateys,” areas where the poorest of the poor lived under metal roofs, on dirt floors, and without regular access to electricity or water.
Today, Project Esperanza is a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization celebrating its tenth anniversary of helping youths who have emigrated from Haiti to secure a better life in the Dominican Republic. Its grassroots schools educate nearly 200 students, ages five to 18, some without family, some living in the bateys, and others who live in a group home operated by Project Esperanza. Formally, its Mission is “to form a global community focused on creating positive change and a sustainable future for Haitian immigrant youths in the Dominican Republic through education and empowerment,” and to do so in ways that respect local culture, promote socialization and are sustainable as well as scalable. In reality, the organization routinely provides support services beyond the focus of its core programs, based on need, not creed. Its day-to-day programs are carried out by approximately two dozen employees and a host of volunteers. McHale serves as its director, and she and a Board of Directors (which includes two Virginia Tech alumnae) lead the organization with support from Faculty Advisor Reed Kennedy, Director of International Programs, Pamplin College of Business.
In 2016 alone, Project Esperanza successfully completed two crowdsourcing campaigns, revitalized its connections with the Virginia Tech community (including uniting with the student organization Hokies for Haiti), and secured a loan to facilitate the purchase of a 4,367 square-foot building that will become a permanent school. In addition, its education program is on a path to become the first within the Dominican Republic to be accredited with a bilingual Haitian Creole-Spanish curriculum.
Kidder’s title, Mountains Beyond Mountains, echoes a Haitian proverb that acknowledges how problems in life often reveal themselves only after a first challenge is conquered, and at that same time a new perspective into what’s possible is revealed.
It’s apt for Project Esperanza.
Its work will never end, the challenges faced by staff, volunteers, donors and the children they serve will never cease, and the opportunities to make life better will forever expand.
Working side-by-side and hand-to-hand, with abiding faith, Project Esperanza is creating a brighter future “beyond the mountains.”
God blessed me with the opportunity to find this ministry while trying to find a way to get a homeless illegal Haitian boy of the street. I met Watso in Sosua and he was living on the beach. He was picked up by CONANI and had escaped. I made my way to Caitlyn and her organization agreed to meet Watso and see if he qualified. We spent a few short days at the school and spent time doing activities such as soccer and water jewel finding. Project Esperanza whole heartedly accepted Watso. If God allows, I want to go back and spend some more time doing anything that I can do. I see a lot of need but I also see how well they work with what they have. I pray that God will continue to bless and anyone who has experiences with PE, will continue to share their good works with everyone they can. The need is great to provide illegal Haitians a refuge and learning opportunities. Unfortunately, the life for a Haitian may be better than living in Haiti, it is also more dangerous. Thank you for going above and beyond to help me with my situation.
Project Esperanza is a top-notch grassroots organization that truly cares about the community it serves. I was lucky enough to spend a week down in the Puerto Plata region in a local, family-run hostel and work with some of the children. Caitlyn was absolutely amazing in her dedication and commitment to improving the lives of the community there.
I journeyed to the Dominican Republic to help Haitian immigrants start their own businesses last summer, and my group and I would've never been given the opportunity to help these people if not for Project Esperanza. They contact and care for the less fortunate within the impoverished country and do everything in their power to give them a better life. I witnessed first hand the difference being made in the children's lives, socially and academically , all thanks to Project Esperanza.
I had an amazing time with Project Esperanza. The people were so comforting, accommodating, and smart. My experience with this group gave me a new founded look on the world and I haven't looked back. Project Esperanza did a great job organizing our service trip, as their top management is very on top of their duties. Overall 10/10 and I would love to go on another trip with this group!
Project Esperenza's commitment to the Haitian people in the Dominican Republic is so genuine and unwavering in their efforts to create sustainable, community based improvement. They deserve all the recognition they can get for their work, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it as a college student volunteer.
A great nonprofit starts with the passion of the people leading it, and Caitlin definitely has a great passion for the work that she does. It's genuinely inspiring and motivating as a volunteer (even a short term volunteer) to see how committed everyone is to serving and loving the people of Puerto Plata. As busy as everyone is, people are putting their best efforts into everything they do and it shows in the kids that come out of their schools and programs. It would be extremely difficult to walk away from Puerto Plata after seeing their work without being changed.
I have taken college and sigh school students 4 times to work through Project Esperanza in Puerto Plata, DR. Each time the students have had a tremendous experience. The cultural immersion is amazing and working with the Haitian population there has been quite rewarding.
Project Esperanza takes the right approach... a hand up, not a hand out. Their philosophy is admirable. I call Caitlin, the Director, the Mother Teresa of Puerto Plata!!
I teach in the business school at Virginia Tech, and took students to the Dominican Republic for a second time this past May. We repeated the program because it had such a postive impact on my students the first time. We work with Project Esperanza to help Haitians start or improve their businesses. We plan for students to go eveery year, as Project Esperanza and its director, Caitlin McCoy, are such an inspiration to my students. In fact, my church as now gotten involved with Project Esperanza, and will be doing a youth mission trip there next summer to teach in PE's English camp and do sports clinics.
Project Esperanza truly provides hope and education to the youth in Puerto Plata. There is definite heart and soul in this organization, and it shines through the people whose lives are positively effected. I bring groups of college-aged students to the Dominican Republic to work with this organization, and they are met with challenges, friendships and growth opportunities. Awesome work providing hope and future for fabulous people.
In July 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany a group of middle school students to volunteer with Project Esperanza. We served at their summer camp, Cambia Mis Estrellas, for one week and worked with children of all ages. We supervised activities including art, music, sport/games, and story time, all the while incorporating English vocabulary. Caitlin is the amazing, dedicated director of the school and summer camp and was an absolute pleasure to work with. She is organized, and along with her staff, provides an excellent support structure for the volunteers. I do not speak Spanish but the Project Esperanza staff was always available if I needed help translating and with their guidance, I felt that I was able to effectively work with the children. Caitlin has worked selflessly for many years to grow the school and to provide a loving, nurturing, and educational haven for the Haitian children. Observing the older students there, it is obvious that her efforts are paying off and that Project Esperanza is definitely making a difference in the lives of all it touches - the children as well as the volunteers!
Esperanza means hope. This truly embodies the experience Project Esperanza gives to all the people they work with. I co-led a group of 16 volunteers and the experience was unforgettable. We got to work at the Muñoz school where we taught lessons to the students. The opportunity was very eye-opening. There is so much that they still need but it is incredible how hard they work to provide the materials and an educational foundation. We also got to work with their local art shop and teach some skills to apply and later sell on the shop. These were some of the best times we had as a group. We were truly able to connect with the community and create that bond that made it hard saying good bye. We could not be more grateful to everyone within this organization and cannot wait to go back!
I have known Project Esperanza for 7 years but have brought Middle School students to volunteer at the Cambia Mis Estrellas (Change My Stars) summer camp for 3 years in a row. We also have been able to partner our students with older students from the camp (or community) to do activities in the afternoon so that the students will have a chance to interact in meaningful ways. Some of my students have returned three times and stay in touch with the students of Project Esperanza during the school year. It has been a marvelous experiment in Global Education, community building, and experiential learning. Project Esperanza has been welcoming and flexible enough for us to build an excellent program for our students and we know that the students of Project Esperanza have enjoyed getting to know American peers. It has also been wonderful to see the improvements over the years that the organization, with the leadership of Caitlin McHale, has made to both the physical infrastructure and the program. Caitlin has a heart of gold.
Project Esperanza is an amazing movement of bringing out full potential in those who are heavy with hopelessness. Caitlin and her team have given their all to provide safety, education, love, and hope to many. My husband and I have supported this movement from its beginning and we are proud to provide the aid we are able to such a wonderful organization.
I helped co-chaperone a group of Middle School students from Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, this past July for a week of working in the Project Esperanza "Cambia Mis Estrellas" summer camp. A dear friend of mine has been actively volunteering and working with Project Esperanza for years, and I was lucky enough to join her as she organized a group of students to work in the summer camp. To say that she has poured her heart and soul into the organization, would be an understatement, and I finally understand why. Along with the founder, Caitlin McHale, these inspiring women have helped turn around a lot of kids' lives. I was very glad to finally meet Caitlin and see firsthand, all the love and hard work that she has put into Project Esperanza. Caitlin has helped turn a sad situation for the kids at Project Esperanza into a story that truly has hope. The kids who come through the school are given a safe, happy and loving place to learn, and Caitlin is indeed changing their stars. Although our time at the camp lasted only a week, I was deeply moved by the kids I met - they all love to learn and love Caitlin and Project Esperanza! I also met other volunteers who have given months of their time to work with the school and the camp, because they believe so strongly in giving these kids a valuable education. I hope to continue my involvement with Project Esperanza by sponsoring a student for the duration of their schooling, by returning to volunteer in the summer and by continuing to help advocate for this charity.
For the past three years Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA has had a successful partnered with Project Esperanza. Our Bonner Scholars Program has their junior students participate in a international service trip with Project Esperanza in Puerto Plate, Dominican Republic. We utilize the service of Peacework, Inc for making the travel, accommodations and service projects appropriate for our group. Approximately 15 African- American males each year completed several service project which include renovations at the school and the group home. We also participated in a cultural exchange program that involved sports activities. This year our students sent backpacks, pens, pencils and other school supplies.
Although our program was only one week each year we have been able to see the impact on the school and the youth at Project Esperanza, but also the impact on our students, since many of them have never been outside of the United States. The program has motivated our student to continue their international service and several student have changes their major and now work in the foreign service office.
We are in the process of planning our fourth year service trip with Project Esperanza for December 2017. Several other Bonner program are also planning their service trips. Working with Project Esperanza and Caitlin has been a wonderful, valuable and rewarding experience for our students. We hope to continue working with Project Esperanza and letting pother program know that if you want a great program to support that is making the difference in the lives of others- this is the program!!
Dr. Wilbur (Monty) Whitney
Director, Bonner Program
Atlanta, GA 30314
I co-lead a group of university students to volunteer and conduct research with Project Esperanza. We were provided great support and wonderful opportunities to serve and learn. Project Esperanza is doing very meaningful work in the community, and I am grateful to have been able to contribute to its mission. I would highly recommend collaborating and working with this organization!