S: Joan Rose Foundation '12
FC: JOAN ROSE FOUNDATION 2012
2: Hello All, Over the past six weeks the foundation has experienced significant improvement. The organization and general atmosphere have reached a new level of success, and we have also been able to make some significant structural improvements. The organization of classes, activities and general operations has finally been fully implemented and followed. Every child has a specific class at a specific time in a specific place. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but getting all of the children to obey a schedule has been quite a struggle. We have also created a “girls only” section and begun a new and more efficient record keeping system used to measure individual children’s progress as well as how efficient our teachers are doing their jobs. We are pleased to have implemented a new way of taking attendance, and have become much stricter about tardiness and absences. I would like to take the credit for all of this, but in reality the vast majority of it is due to our newest employee, Director of Operations Catherine Serrano. She has been instrumental in our organizational improvements and we are very grateful to have her. The atmosphere and general behavior of the children at the foundation has also been rapidly improving. In the past, our rules and their corresponding punishments have been based on the fact that we are dealing with street children. Things like fighting and foul language have always been punished, but not nearly as harshly as they would be punished at an American public school. Holding street kids up to a standard of behavior similar to that of an American public school is nave and sets them up to fail. The children have always been expected to show improvement in their behavior, but it’s a process filled with baby steps. The children’s behavior has finally improved to a point where we feel we can significantly raise our expectations of them. Some new rules include: if you are tardy you do not get to eat meat (we serve rice, beans, meat, vegetables), if you get into a fight you are sent home and often suspended for a day, if you skip class you are suspended, if you ignore a teacher you are suspended, and there are several others as well. The new rules challenged the children, and we did have a number of kids going without meat or being suspended, but their behavior has improved to meet the new standards and the foundation is much better because of it. Two weeks ago we started our biggest construction project to date. We are building two walls: one to close off the backyard, and a wall on our top floor to improve safety. We are also building two new classrooms, which will do wonders for our classes and ability to teach efficiently.
3: I have been helping with some of the construction and as usual I am an absolute terror to the wellbeing of our pvc pipes. When you put a pick in my hands and let me loose pvc pipes always seem to be broken. I am improving, though. This time I only broke the pipe that brings us water, last time it was the pipe that brought waste from the toilet to the septic tank. In the next few weeks we will be getting official documentation for over 30 Haitian children, finishing the restoration of 70 desks that we found abandoned by a local school, beginning a library, improving our buildings security, and continuing to improve our classes and daily structure. As always, thank you all for your generosity and support. None of this would be possible without you.
8: The foundation has been busy these last three weeks. We recently had a field trip to the beach and it was a blast. Despite the fact that all of these kids have lived on a fairly small island their whole lives, 90 percent of them had never been to the beach. The foundation has taken field trips to a local river before and we were planning on doing this again, but at the last minute we decided that the kids should see the beach. The beach we went to is absolutely perfect for children because it is no more than three feet deep for about half a mile. To get to the beach we rented a small bus that had about 32 seats. We managed to get about 90 people into it and were off. It rained the entire drive to the beach and then rained on the entire drive back, but luckily the sun came out and it did not rain at all while we were there. When we arrived back at the foundation I overheard the bus driver telling a group of people about the fact that it was rainy on the way to the beach and on the way back. He was convinced that the reason it had not rained while we were at the beach was that God saw that the foundation was going to the beach and intervened in order to give us good weather. I’m not sure meteorologists would agree, but if people want to think that God is looking out for us, who am I to stop them? If word gets around that God has our back it might even stop people from trying to rob us. When we got to the beach most of the children immediately jumped out the windows of the bus and ran into the water. I noticed that one little boy walked up to the water, turned around and sat himself down under a tree. I went and asked him why he didn’t want to play in the water with the other children, and he responded, “That is far too much water for me,” and decided that sitting around and playing in the sand was more his cup of tea. Towards the end of the day one of the little children informed me that he had drowned 5 different times; he was a bit confused and thought that putting his head under water meant that he had drowned. The children were shocked and none too pleased that the water was salty, but did decide that the beach was better than the river. It was a great day. I have attached a picture of us at the beach. We submitted our applications for 25 of our Haitian children’s birth certificates last week. It costs about 15 dollars to get each birth certificate and is one of the expenses that I most loathe. The process includes going to a Haitian official and telling him you want a birth certificate with x name and x birthday. The child does not have to be present, nor is there any proof or due diligence whatsoever. You could literally get thousands of these birth certificates for people who do not exist if you were so inclined to spend money like that. It pains me to spend money on this because almost all of it is going to some corrupt official’s bank account and there is no way to know if the official you’re dealing with even submitted the application to the proper office, or if he just took your money, gave you a piece of paper and then went home to chill.
9: If you pay someone who has some connections, which we did, you can be reasonably sure that the applications will be submitted. Almost none of the children have any idea when their birthday is, at best they know a month or year, but most don’t even know that. We have a couple of boys who have been claiming they are the same age for well over a year. I generally ask them if they have a favorite number or month and make that their birthday, and they seem to be satisfied with the process. The papers are necessary if one ever wants some form of ID, a bank account, a passport, to attend high school or basically prove to a government that they do, in fact, exist. We finished our two classrooms and walls recently, and it has made our facilities far more functional. We also finished fixing up the desks that we found on the roof of a local public school (we were given permission to climb up and grab them). In the next few weeks we will be accepting some more children (we currently have 90), having a professional video made by an American marketing company (at a great discount), and continuing to prove our daily organization and classes. As always, none of this would be possible without your support.
13: EVOLUTION OF BACKYARD
14: Hello All, The foundation has had a very busy six weeks. Tim Leonard from Zero Sun production was kind enough to come down and make us a professional video, and only charged us the expenses that went into making the video. It will be out in the next couple weeks, at which point I will send it along to all of you. Our organization and educational component have never been better. As I have written, we recently constructed two new classrooms. We also recently finished refurnishing 70 desks that a local school let us take down off their roof. Now that we are back and things are back to normal, we have been able to fully utilize those classrooms and desks, and it has made a huge difference. All of the teachers now have their own large, clean teaching space, and Catherine and I also have our own space to give classes. Before, Catherine and I gave classes in a space that was used for eating and playing, so working in that area usually meant dealing with many distractions. I cannot express how much easier it is to give class when one has a classroom and desks. The kids are much better behaved when sitting in organized desks, and we no longer have to spend so much time trying to keep other children out of the area in which we are giving class. The children now have block schedules, which means they will have math class one day with myself and Catherine, and reading and writing class the next day with our Dominican professor. They are not only better behaved in class with this set up, but are also better behaved when playing. I believe this is due to the increased level of organization; it makes them feel less like they are in their normal environment (the street) and more like they are in school. We have also started a library/game area. The kids love to read books (or at least look at the different pictures books have to offer). In late April, we had a visitor who brought several hundred dollars worth of books with them, which has provided the foundation with our library thus far. We are extremely strict when it comes to the books because, left to their own devices, the children will destroy anything within a matter of days. Fighting over books or playing with a ball in the library area is grounds for immediate suspension, and the kids are getting the idea that the care of books and the library are not areas in which they want to test us. Tragedy struck the foundation the week before Catherine and I left for the states. A 12-year-old boy, Esteban, who had been at the foundation since November of 2010 died of a bacterial infection. He was perfectly healthy and playing around on Wednesday, got sick on Thursday and didn’t show up to the foundation on Thursday or Friday. When he did not show up on Monday I went to his house to check on him, and he had flu-like symptoms, but was seated at his table eating some soup broth.
15: I was not concerned and told him I would see him at the foundation tomorrow or the next day. He died that night. I had not asked his parents any real questions about his health, but a few days after his death they informed me that he had had a 104.9 degree fever on Friday when they took him to the local clinic, but t clinic had refused to admit him, and instead gave him a shot for his fever and sent him home with some Tylenol. His death was senseless, unnecessary and truly tragic. The other boys attended his funeral, and we told the children that his death was heartbreaking, but because nobody in this world could do a thing about it our only option was to accept it, remember him, and move on. We will never forget him or the circumstances that lead to his death. While in the states I learned a good bit about warning signs for serious illnesses. I now visit children upon learning that they are sick to take their temperature and check their basic vital signs. The doctors in Santiago (about an hour from Esperanza) are quite good, and while I am in no way a doctor, nurse or even EMT, I have learned enough to help better decide when a child needs to get to a real hospital in Santiago. My mother and step father, both nurses, and a pediatric surgeon at St. John’s have also been kind enough to be on call to answer any questions I may have. Esperanza is truly a third world area and horrible things happen frequently. Generally, I feel that there is no reason to mention these in the updates, and I debated long and hard about whether or not I should tell you all about this. I came to the conclusion that I write these updates to tell all of you about how the foundation is going and the challenges these children face. One of the main challenges is the almost complete lack of a caring government that provides them with basic security. While this is hard to write and hard to read, I feel it would be cowardly, as well as a complete disservice to you and the children, to sweep it under the rug in order to save myself and all of you some discomfort. While his death was horrendously unfair, we have learned from it and adapted our approach in order to try and ensure that something like this never happens again to one of our children. As always, thank you all for your support. We are making a difference and we will continue to improve and help these children.
16: REST IN PEACE, ESTEBAN
18: MAKING | THE VIDEO
20: Hello All, I am happy to announce that the Joan Rose Foundation just celebrated its second anniversary since opening its doors. It has been a while since my last real update and a lot has happened. I am going to change up our usual routine and send an update the next two Fridays, as well as this one. One will be about medicine and the other will be about our infrastructure upgrades. Today’s update will deal with education. We started an English class in the evenings for our best children about a month ago. Catherine teaches it and has done all of the work for it. The class meets four days a week, Tuesday- Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. The rules are rigid (by Dominican/Haitian kid standards) and include not being able to miss more than 3 classes without previous notification, as well as above average performance. After giving the first test, a few slackers have been kicked out of the class and a couple more are on thin ice. When a child gets kicked out of the class, we make it clear to them that it is due to their lack of commitment and responsibility that they lost the privilege to learn English. Getting kicked out of the class has been a great lesson for the children. It humbles them and shows them that there are consequences for their actions. Compared to the usual punishment of eating lunch without meat or going to "jail," getting kicked out of a class that their friends are in has been taken a bit more seriously. The class has already been cut from its original 28 to 20, and Catherine hopes to cut about 5 more and settle at 15. This fall we hit a major milestone, there is now only one child in the entire foundation who is not in public school. The one child who isn't in school is 16 and has no desire to start night school from first grade; however, he is learning to read and do basic math at the foundation. Of the 95 children at the foundation, we are responsible for over 60 children's attendance of school. Reasons for the kids not being in school before included not having any or few resources, like money for a uniform and supplies, and not having an official birth certificate, all of which the foundation now provides. We do not know how many children at the foundation will manage to graduate from high school, but we can at this point say that not only have we taught them basic math, reading and writing skills, but have given all of them the opportunity to succeed at an official public school. Our classes and schedule also continue to increase in quality. We have taken a much bigger role in supervising and planning the specifics of our Dominican teacher’s classes. They now have to make lesson plans for each day every two weeks and state their goal for each class for those two weeks. We have also started to save tests and better track children’s progress. Our children have really jumped ahead of their public school classmates in math. They enjoy telling us about what they are learning in school and how easy it is for them.
21: I will leave you with a funny opinion held by several of the kids. The other day the children were talking about Americans and rich people. They were talking about how so many of them are fat and one boy chimed in that it is because the smell of money makes you fat. He was adamant that smelling money too often makes you fat, and that rich people had so much money and were around that money so often that they got fat. I thought he was kidding, but upon further questions learned that he was dead serious. His evidence was that rich people are fat and poor people aren’t, I spent a minute or two trying to convince him that it was all the food that rich people buy with that money that makes them fat, but he was not to be budged. As always thank you all for your support, none of this would be possible without all of you.