Esperanza means hope. And hope is what my message today is about. I hope to inform. I hope to inspire. I hope to help. And I hope to inspire you to help.
My sweet (and mostly willing) family “sacrificed” their Christmas holiday, foregoing fudge, presents, and traditions, to spend 10 days on a Dominican Republic-based adventure where we volunteered with Project Esperanza, http://esperanzameanshope.org/., an organization founded by Caitlin McHale Floreal and dedicated to serving the Haitian refugee and immigrant population. I put the word “sacrifice” in quotations because the things we gave up were miniscule compared to the things we gained. It was a life-changing, mind-expanding, heart-swelling experience. I have truly been given to and, with all the space in my now swollen heart, I desire to give back.
Let me introduce you to Caitlin. She is a younger-than-me, older-than-Tanah, mother of 5 young children, some of whom are hers by birth and some by heart. She is honest, intelligent, and strong in a flexible, unbreakable way, sort of like a wand of willow. Caitlin came to the Dominican Republic as a college student volunteer. The children captured her heart and never gave it back. In 2005 she started Project Esperanza and has not looked back.
When Caitlin started working as a volunteer in the DR she found there were many homeless boys, some as young as 8, who were working in and living on the streets in a constant struggle to survive. One of the first things she did when she founded Project Esperanza was establish a Boy’s Home to give those children a place to lay their heads at night. In addition to having a place to stay, the Home provides education and vocational training for the boys.
Project Esperanza has grown and continues to grow. In addition to the Boy’s Home, there are two Project Esperanza schools in Puerto Plata; one in Munoza and another, larger school in Padre Granero. Caitlin employs 28 people, 24 of whom are teachers. She told me that she wanted to write a blog post about manna because only about 25% of the money she needs to meet payroll and other bills each month comes from funding that is consistent. Every month the remaining 75% just shows up. “There is never extra, she said, “but always enough.”
Funds are a constant concern. (Imagine living month to month knowing that only 25% of your expenses have a firm funding source…) Caitlin accepts outright donations-- graciously and thankfully--but her vision calls for self reliance. “The cry of my heart,” she said, “is for the Art Shop to grow and reach its full potential as it could be a great fundraiser and small job creator for many of our beneficiaries.”
Project Esperanza’s Art Shop features crafts, jewelry, and shirts designed and created by the population Caitlin is seeking to empower. Women and children develop skills and learn trades, the products of which are sold in the Art Shop. However, training the craftspeople and creating the crafts are just part of the equation. True success requires buyers. This is where we come in. Please visit https://prezi.com/view/wKES07EVwGHFJADMagGB/ to catch Caitlin’s Art Shop vision and visit https://www.goodfruitdesigns.com/shop to purchase Art Shop products.
At the end of our Christmas visit, when I reluctantly said good-bye to Caitlin, she walked away into the dark on a lonely road with only her children at her side. It seemed so symbolic to me. The path she trods she trods alone, strengthened only by her will, her vision and her faith. And her will, vision and faith carry others. True she does have help but the buck stops with her. She is the energy and force and passion that make it all happen. And her path is often unlit; she encounters answers and solutions because she is willing to step into the dark to find them.
We can add some light to her path. We can be some of the answers she has willingly stepped into the dark to find. We can help empower immigrants and refugees who are seeking to be self reliant. Please consider visiting the Art Shop and making a purchase today.
I hope this helps. I hope we help!