Friday, April 24, 2009

In which Tim visits a school...

My girlfriend, Kim, is thinking about extending her Peace Corps service. She found a website about a small school run by an American group that offers classes to poor Haitian students who the government refuses to educate (Haitians get a really bum deal in this country. They come to the DR looking for opportunity and a generally better life, but they end up getting treated like second class citizens. They do all the dirty low paying jobs that no one else wants, and they deal with all kinds of discrimination. They don't receive services from the government, and they are often made to live in slum/ghettoes that are called "bateys". It is a very sad situation.).

The school that Kim discovered claimed to be located in a sub neigborhood of Barahona (big city near me) that I always thought to be pretty wealthy. Sure enough, as we zipped through town on our motorcycle taxis I was looking at massive, pillared houses that put my mountain hovel to shame. But then we turned off the main road, and the picture changed drastically.

We found ourselves bumping along roads that clearly hadn't seen any kind of maintenance for the last ten years. All dirt and rocks. The houses were packed together like sardines, and seemed to be made of whatever was laying around. Some dwellings were cement, but others were nothing more than piles of zinc or sticks that might fall down with the next stiff breeze. There were kids everywhere in the streets, and a lot of teenagers hanging around looking bored. These are the marks of an underprivileged community here. The kids don't go to school, and the young people have no work opportunities.

The streets wound this way and that, and we wandered in circles for a while before figuring out where we were going. Eventually we found the school building, which was bigger than the website made it seem, but empty. We tracked down a care taker, and later one of the teachers, who told us that the school is currently closed due to lack of funding. They hope to re-open in the fall.

They've been operating for about five years, bringing education to those who probably would not have it otherwise. They started in a backyard shack, but the deluge of students meant they had to expand. They now have over a hundred students sitting at home, waiting to go back to school. It is a sad story, but hopefully things will get better, and hopefully Kim can play a part. If anyone is interested in learning more, or possibly contributing to help get this school on it's feet again, their website is here.

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