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Project Esperanza

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Educational Services, International, International Migration & Refugee Issues, Residential Care & Adult Day Programs

Mission: The mission of Project Esperanza is to create positive change in the city of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and in the New River Valley of Virginia. We do this by uniting the two communities in mutual support while providing innovative educational and social efforts in both. In the Dominican Republic we work with the Haitian refugee population through providing a home for boys and supporting several grassroot schools. In the U.S. we run an after-school program and engage our community in social awareness and involvement.

Results: Since 2007 we have maintained two grassroots schools as well as a group home and school for kids from the streets. This past year (2012) we have worked hard to improve our international volunteer program and small business endeavors in order to create sustainability for our schools and group home over the long run.

Target demographics: Haitian immigrant youth and adults in the Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic area.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 700

Geographic areas served: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Programs: Home and School for Haitian street kids living and working in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic 2 Grassroots Schools which educate Haitian immigrant children who face many difficulties attending school otherwise. International Volunteer program which leads hundreds of expats to serve in the area and receive great insight into the societal problems and successful solutions. Small business endeavors that employ locals who were without work otherwise and raise to support our other service programs.

Community Stories

62 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My week volunteering with Project Esperanza was one of the best weeks that I have had. I made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I learned so much about the country and the locals. Caitlin made sure that the volunteers had everything that we needed and was there to help if we needed it. She truly cares about the community. Project Esperanza is making a difference in the community. I would volunteer with Project Esperanza again in a heartbeat.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Project Esperanza this past summer and loved every moment. It is clear that Caitlin is passionate about what the organization aims to do and will stop at nothing to ensure that the community is working along side with the organization. Additionally, I found the orientation fascinating and explained a lot more about why the organization exists. Project Esperanza is doing big things one step at a time, but this is how change should happen.

Irina P.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It would be an understatement to say that Project Esperanza changed my life. My team from volunteer UCF were able to become part of the community in Puerto Plata. We were welcomed, housed, fed delicious Spanish-creole home cooking and became part of the community. We gained the kind of insight of the local problems and issues and contributed our time and good will to help both the students in need and their families. This is not about just being a charity case this is about speaking and actively engaging in the community. Project Esperanza helps others develop and grow, receive an education and provide a better future for other generations. I can't think of a more wholesome or sustainable humanitarian mission.

Sydney S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

During my week with Project Esperanza I met so many wonderful and passionate human beings. I learned a lot about international volunteering and the needs of a foreign community and just how much college students can contribute. My team was welcomed, housed, fed and to be honest became family with the people of Project Esperanza and I can't wait to return one day!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had an incredible time volunteering with Project Esperanza! Caitlin has an amazing bond with the community and she genuinely cares for the people of the Dominican Republic, native and Haitians alike. The volunteer house and community never made me feel unsafe and were in fact very welcoming and kind. The kids where amazing! We had so much fun playing and teaching physical education and nutrition at school and camp. If you aren't sure what you could do there, Caitlin had a number of jobs lined up as suggestions. I would highly recommend Project Esperanza to anyone who has a desire to serve.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a great experience volunteering with Project Esperanza in July 2014. I was very impressed by PE's (and Caitlin's) involvement in the community. They very much work "within" the community vs. working "at" the community. There is an obvious respect for the organization, both from the local Haitians and the Dominicans. Caitlin is working on several grassroots projects that will help locals build a sustainable income.

I would encourage anyone with a desire to volunteer to consider Project Esperanza. If you aren't sure what you can do to help, Caitlin has a number of jobs already lined up where you can fill in quickly. If you have new ideas for projects that haven't been done yet, Caitlin is willing to consider those as well.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It was a privilege to volunteer and have the opportunity to meet Caitlin and her amazing team. Project Esperanza is beyond impactful in the community they serve, despite working with little. I was very encouraged to see PE's efforts in working toward sustainability through multiple grass-roots projects, as donor funding can be volatile, both short and long term. Caitlin and staff are amazingly hard working, excellent stewards of resources, and they have an insightful long-term vision despite how overwhelming day to day operations can be. I can't wait to volunteer again in coming months and continually as needed, and if you haven't worked with them yet, you should!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a teenager, and so it was a bit of a risk for me to travel to a different country for 6 weeks and volunteer. I am happy to report that it was an amazing experience, and I would happily return for a second trip.
Caitlin does a really very impressive job managing her organization with relatively few resources, and everything that she does seems to come from the bottom of her heart.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had an opportunity to volunteer with Project Esperanza during my Spring Break 2014. I had a great time getting to know the locals and get to know what life is like in the bateys of Munoz. I felt like I could really connect with the people since I was living so close to them. Hearing their stories and seeing what their life was like strongly impacted me. I can see how this organization can benefit the community and imrove the lives of those who live in it.

I definitely feel like I made connections in the community that will last. I plan to return to the organization in the coming years to continue supporting the area and the people of Munoz and Padre Granero.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to visit DR this past spring 04/2014 while I was looking for a charity to volunteer. I came across Project Esperanza and was very impressed with Caitlin's work. I reached out to her and shared my interest to volunteer at the school. Since the first time we connected, she was very supportive and open to answer all of my inquires. I decided to volunteer for a few days while in the DR; it was a life changing experience, I enjoyed my time with the children of Project Esperanza. I admired Caitlin for everything she does for children and youth in need is truly admirable. Since then, I have been sharing information about this nonprofit with my friends and I've been supporting the program by donations when needed. Whenever I go, I am always sharing details, pictures or any relevant information about this great organization. I am truly blessed I found Caitlin's project and look forward to continue supporting the children of Project Esperanza.

1 Holly59

Donor

Rating: 5

I am so impressed with this organization. I have donated for several years. The emphasis on giving disadvantaged children life skills to succeed is really important. Project Esperanza has inspired me as an educator to join my school's global education trip this summer to the Dominican Republic. My students will be working with the children, but I know they will probably learn just as many meaningful lessons. I cannot wait for July 2015!!! ¡Nos vemos pronto! See you soon!

CharleneinVermont

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to join my daughter at Project Esperanza in July. It was an experience I will soon not forget. The children are excited to learn and in a few weeks you could see the difference we were making with them in behavior and English lessons. They are children who also need our help with basic things like clean water to drink and maybe 2 to 3 meals a day to start. One of the meals for breakfast that was provided with funds raised for their summer camp was simply spaghetti with ketchup. The children loved it and appreciated that meal so much! What I am trying get at is, any small thing you can do to help is a GREAT help.
If you want an experience of a life time...come join us! Bring a friend! You can make a difference in these children's lives.

Rob_38

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I am a pastor of a church in North Carolina. We sent a team of volunteers in August of 2014 to work with Project Esperanza in Peurta Plata. I asked two of the volunteers to evaluate Project Esperanza because I am considering future partnership with that work in the Dominican.

Both team members from our church gave Project Esperanza a glowing review. Both said we should go back and in the future should continue working with PE. One of the guys was so moved, I know he will continue with PE in the future whether our church does or not. But I think we will. The positive experiences these guys had touched me deeply.

I hope in the summer of 2015 to send a much larger team. I want us to invest in the good work PE is doing. I love director Caitlin McHale's Christlike heart. I believe this organization is doing God's work and I am excited that our church can be a part of it.

Richard103

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

I am Chair of the Haiti Committee at my church in Blacksburg, VA, and we sponsor Haitian students (primary school) in Pignon and several seminarians, one studying in the D.R. When I visited him last year, I also visited Project Esperanza with him to see first-hand the work being done for street kids in Puerto Plata. I know what it's like to run programs on little money, and how much volunteerism is needed to make up the shortfall for employees needed but not available to run a first-class, funded operation. I was very impressed with the dedication of Caitlin and her staff, running schools out of passion and not profit. Like so many non-profits competing for donors to be sustainable, keeping the interest and commitment of donors is difficult, especially as they age and divert attention to other projects or have unexpected financial constraints. Third-world assistance relies on first-world charity, so I hope that current sponsors remain committed to this worthwhile project, and that other sponsors are located by word-of-mouth. Caitlin and crew have the dedication to make a difference in the lives of these kids; all she needs is the financial support to make it happen. That's where we come in.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've known Caitlin since the inception of Project Esperanza, when it began as a student organization at Virginia Tech. It is absolutely amazing to see how it has grown since then into a non-profit that reaches so many both through the schools it support, community-supporting activities, and volunteer trips. Caitlin has an amazing heart and drive to truly make a difference in the world regardless the trials that come up (an believe me she faces many!). Caitlin's drive to make Project Esperanza create positive change in the world never ceases to amaze me. PE is always seeking new avenues to lift up and support the families that is serves in the DR. The focus is on sustainability, not temporary or short-term changes. It is for this reason that PE will make a lasting change in the communities that it serves. I am honored to be part of the organization.

Mara W.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We were fortunate to connect w/ Caitlin & Project Esperanza during our family trip to the DR. She was so easy to work with & welcomed myself & my daughter in the school & we had a wonderful experience working w/ the students. It was clear both in organizing our trip to the school and seeing the school & students that she is dedicated to the it's success & cares about the future of the students. I have enjoyed hearing about all the growth to the program & not only recommend it as an essential & important resource to the Padre Granero community but hope to one day return.

Lisa405

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first learned of Project Esperanza when I was planning a volunteer vacation to the DR. We were planning on volunteering with another group but learned some not so nice things and someone told us about Caitlin and the work she was doing. From my very first conversation with Caitlin to the updates we have gotten since being home, she has been inspirational. The work that Project Esperanza does with the children (and really adults also) is amazing. We were able to stay in the neighborhood that we were serving in and truly get a small feel for what life is like on a day to day basis. We met, worked with and served. In the week that we served we got to spend time at two different schools doing art projects and making solar ovens. We also helped dig a composting toilet and had a bingo night and a movie night within the community. We were blessed enough to be staying on for a month and Caitlin allowed us to come and work in the schools as much as we wished. We really got to know some of the students and fell in love with many of them. The best part is even now that we are home, we are able to send support and know that Project Esperanza will be using it responsibly to support the boys who live in the home that Caitlin set up. If you want to truly experience life in the batey, and get a real feel for life in a developing country, Project Esperanza is a great place to start.

1 Maureen38

Client Served

Rating: 5

I became aware of Project Esperanza when I consulted with Caitlin in regards to another organization. Her dedication to the success of this project is immeasurable. As a member of the community she works in, she is able to assess the groups basic needs and knows how to address them. I would highly recommend this group to anyone looking for legitimate, successful giving opportunities.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I officially met Caitlin of Project Esperanza in January 2014. I had been following her progress and general school happenings for well over a year before meeting.... knowing many of her students from the streets of Puerto Plata for many years now.
I felt Caitlin's passion immediately upon meeting her. She truly has the children's best interest at heart. She is dedicated in helping give them the change they need for the hopes and opportunity of a brighter future that so many take for granted. Project Esperanza is a huge asset for so many Haitian families in need. The school has persevered through the easier of times to very difficult situation and they continue to stay focused, making a difference in the lives of many. And facing any challenges head on. It is a pleasure to see a trustworthy organization. Keep up the great work Project Esperanza.

Volunteer

Rating: 5


Dear Board,
I had the pleasure of visiting Project Esperanza lately for 8 days, and just arrived back less than a week ago. Caitlin and my daughter started PE back in about 2005, and I visited it then when they were just beginning. My daughter has gradually become more involved here in the States with other matters, and Caitlin is now carrying the organization through her dedication and by living there within the Haitian community.
I am a professional with a graduate degree and a mother of 3 young adult children, I have traveled a fair amount in my life, and lived in Argentina with my children for some time in the late 90's. I mention this because I feel I have "been around the block" a few times in life, so my views below come from being a mature adult who has a bit of international experience.
I can say from first hand viewing that virtually every cent that gets donated to PE goes into the program. Caitlin lives a modest life there, seems happy with a very simple life with few frills. She has married and lives with her two adorable children. Her children are tri-lingual, seem quite happy and well nurtured.
While I was there, I was able to escort a few visiting chiropractors around who were assigned each of three days to PE as a part of their Chiromission group. Each of the 3 groups of chiropractors was so impressed with Caitlin, one described her as the "real deal." She manages these two schools with much energy and enthusiasm and has built up a fair amount of trust from the Haitian communities there. She has managed to find quite impressive teachers to work at each of the schools.
My most positive experiences there were watching the school classroom during real class time. The Haitian children were in their uniforms, well groomed, and well behaved. The classrooms are startlingly bare: nothing on the walls, almost no books, just long tables at which the children sit, and a teacher with a book and blackboard up front. The kids seemed so focused to me, and eager to hear the teacher's lesson. I am accustomed to the American classrooms where the children wiggle and squirm and seem to demand more. Granted, I did not observe for hours, so this was a sampling, but nonetheless, this was my most positive memory of my trip.
I do feel that schooling is these these children's way out, of course. Being educated, developing a sense of hope and future, learning English and Spanish, these are essential skills for these children if they are to ever have a decent life. The communities in which they live broke my heart, I had not seen such poverty before, and yet walking around with the children was uplifting in some ways. The children have beautiful smiles and are eager to engage. The teachers from what I could see were very positive role models for these kids, and each of them also had a beautiful smile and energy to make a difference.
There are numerous challenges and problems that Caitlin faces within this Haitian community and within the Dominican Republic as a country, and I do not mean to paint an idyllic picture. How she manages to get up each morning and face the challenges astounds me, for I would have moved on to an easier life some time ago. The challenges are huge, but I say with sincerity: thank goodness that we have persons on this planet like Caitlin who tackle the solutions one child at a time, one school at a time, one community at a time.
Caitlin is doing excellent work, and I know that whatever I donate goes directly into her good works down there, for the "overhead" of non-profits that we all hear about and worry about when we donate to something is just not there.
If I can answer any questions, please feel free to email me, and I can also give you my cell phone number at that time.
R.K. Preve, Ph.D. in Charlottesville, Virginia
October 8, 2013
rp3691@aol.com