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Project Esperanza

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Educational Services, Human 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

72 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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

Denise73

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered with Project Esperanza in both July of 2012 and 2013. I was very impressed with the program....I had been to the DR many times but only to the All Inclusive resorts. Having the opportunity to go off resort and to meet the people, talk with them and see how they live was life changing. After my first summer there I decided to sponsor two students and I actually got to meet them and their families this summer. I had driven through the community they live in before but had never had the chance to actually walk in and around it.i was shocked by the poverty there....my daughter who is 23 and came with me on both trips came home and posted on Facebook saying, " I always thought that the commercials from groups like World Vision were fake....now I know they are not." We plan on going back again this summer and hopefully many more after that.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered with Project Esperanza before and I thought they've done excellent work so far. Their work in the Dominican is fantastic and though I haven't visited they go through great efforts to ensure that volunteers go and actually help out

Rachel108

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of spending a week volunteering with Project Esperanza last March with a group of students from my university. I was impressed by how punctual, approachable and helpful Caitlin was during the planning and organizing of our trip. She was organized, answered all of my questions and really went the extra mile to ensure we had a great and meaningful service trip. Upon arriving we were immediately greeted by smiles and open arms, as it seemed the majority of the community had come to welcome us. Our experience was truly unique as we were able to work in the school, the fair trade jewelry shop, and around the yard planting a garden and constructing a compost toilet and hand washing station. I loved ever minute of each day I worked with Project Esperanza and the week seemed to fly by. When we weren’t working we were able to play baseball and cards with the children, get our hair braided and eat amazing empanadas, as we were living, and able to engage, with the community. Being able to have so many interactions with the community really allowed us to see the impact we had in one week, and opened our eyes to what continuous volunteer work and sponsorships could do for this community. I wish we could have stayed longer because this really was an amazing trip and this organization is truly making a much-needed difference in the community. I have so much admiration and respect for Caitlin, as she has devoted her life to this mission. I remember on our last day being in the school and listening to some of the teachers and students talk. They thanked God for sending Caitlin to them and for the volunteers that came because of her work and vision. Leaving the Dominican Republic was such a bittersweet feeling. I felt good about volunteering, but my heart was breaking leaving the people we had grown close to over the week. Needless to say, I know my time with Project Esperanza is not over and I fully intend to go back. I have done many international service trips and I especially respect Project Esperanza because you know exactly what is needed and expected of you, and you know exactly where your money is going when you make a donation. Caitlin is an advocate for so many who need help and she truly has created something inspirational and incredible with Project Esperanza. I think this is a great organization and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to do meaningful service work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered for Project Esperanza on multiple occasions, beginning in 2010. I have aid in funding, sponsoring, tech, as well as actually traveling to the Dominican Republic to work with them in 2011, and intend on continuing my work with them in the future. It is well run and truly for the communities it works in, supplying needed aid to the Haitian communities, which is especially needed due to recent events.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Project Esperanza this summer 2013 for the first time and it was life changing. Project Esperanza is an organization that is heavily focused on addressing human rights issues with undocumented Haitian I'm/migrants in the Dominican Republic by equalizing access to education, health care, vocational training, and teacher development with several of their programs. This summer I had the opportunity to work in several of those areas including identity development/empowerment workshops. Being able to create learning communities in which all of us were producers of knowledge was such a powerful excuse. It was amazing to see the transformation, especially with the identity and empowerment workshops.

Throughout my time there, I was able to fully understand their commitment and passion for justice, equity, and inclusion with the hope of creating sustainable communities and empowering community members. Project Esperanza is invested fully in the community, which is something I cannot say about other organizations which I have worked with. I would highly recommending working with Project Esperanza and/or supporting their cause. As a matter of fact, I am returning again to help out in summer of 2014.

Tiffany Y.

Donor

Rating: 5

Earlier in the year I read about Project Esperanza online while researching honeymoon destinations! Knowing that we were heading to the Dominican Republic we were searching for local non profits in Puerto Plata that we could visit while on our honeymoon. We got in touch with Caitlin and verified if we could stop by and visit the artisan shop where locals sell their handmade crafts.
We weren't sure how much time we'd have based on our car rental agreement, the location, and navigating around an Island we knew nothing about but in the end it worked out.
Caitlin was so kind to show us the artisan store and to walk us through the Batay to meet several of the local people with whom Project Esperanza works.
We were so impressed with her dedication and passion for the work and her willingness to sacrifice on behalf of a greater cause. It was also great to meet some of the volunteers as well as the children of the community.
Project Esperanza is one of those organizations that literally 'gets it'. They are on the front lines of a battle that so few are willing to fight. They are in the midst of those in need and they are doing their best to provide a brighter future for the people of their community through relationships, education and care.
It was an honor to spend the little time we did checking it out and learning about the great work that is being done.
We look forward to seeing all that will be accomplished in the lives of these amazing people and we feel blessed to be a small part of such a great work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first volunteered with Project Esperanza in 2009. My experience with the organization in the Dominican Republic truly opened my eyes to the developing world and so began my interest in international development. Helping educate Haitian street boys about HIV/AIDS got me interested in global public health, which is now my career. Caitlin's continued passion and commitment to Project Esperanza is inspiring and remarkable.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It is difficult to express how lucky I feel to have found Caitlin McHale and Project Esperanza. I have been working with the organization for about three years and have come away from this work with innumerable friendships and an immense appreciation for a community that is so interested in working together to create positive change. Project Esperanza is one of the few authentically grassroots organizations with every penny going towards furthering education in the Puerto Plata area of the Dominican Republic. Without the efforts of Caitlin, the organization, and the community, many of its members would not have access to education as well as other activities such as the English camp I have had the privilege of volunteering with for the past three summers. It is impossible to summarize the impact of an organization like Project Esperanza; I would, without hesitation, recommend working with Project Esperanza to anyone looking to donate or lend a hand as a volunteer.

Troy2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first volunteered with Project Esperanza and met Caitlin McHale in the Spring of 2010. Since then myself and my family ( including my 10 year old )have visited and volunteered at least once a year. We have been to both of the GrassRoots Schools, meeting teachers and children, delivering supplies and even held an Easter Egg Hunt at one school. We have been able to meet and visit with the child my family sponsors. We always make sure to visit the Art Shop and make a few purchases and have met several of the artists. We spent time with some of the boys who live in the Boys Home. This has been an amazing experience for my family....my children have learned so much from these trips and they have made lifelong friendships. Project Esperanza is very much a no frills organization....they do the best they can to help those in need with the few resources they have available. They have put education at the top of their priorities and respect the people they are serving....

Donor

Rating: 5

Project Esperanza in Puerto Plata and Munoz , Dominican Republic run by American Caitlin McHale is one of the few organizations that truly does what they say they do. Caitlin runs schools for Haitian children, organizes and coaches soccer teams, runs a boys home, runs an art centre, runs summer camps and English schools and, most of all, assists displaced Haitians living in the Puerto Plata area. Every dime raised goes to the well being of others. I have donated items and helped with a special Easter program in her school in Padre Ganero. Project Esperanza is a wise charity to invest in as your money will always be used correctly. I have seen first hand the good that Caitlin does for her Haitian community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to work with Project Esperanza in the English Immersion Summer Camp known as "Cambia Mis Estrellas" over the course of 3 weeks in the summer of 2012. The Camp served both Dominican and Haitian children (most of whom were also born in the DR). As an experienced teacher, I can say that the work was challenging but rewarding and I met some great people who were volunteering and some wonderful Haitians/Dominicans as well. I think they could use more help structuring the camp from teachers who have experience teaching ESL and languages to diverse populations. I saw first hand the difficult but excellent work that PE and especially Caitlin (the President) have been doing in the Puerto Plata area of the Dominican Republic. Moreover, I can attest that Caitlin "walks the walk"...she lives a simple life (by most American standards) with her family and devotes incredible time and energy and her own funds to the project...she seems to live and breathe Project Esperanza and I admire her courage and work. Although there may be larger organizations who make a bigger impact in different ways, there is no doubt that any money donated to PE will not be used unwisely and will make a difference in the lives of some wonderful, bright children. I loved my experience and highly recommend Project Esperanza to those who are looking to donate money or lend a hand.