News

WELCOME BACK, BIENVENIDOS, BYIENVENI!
UP, UP, AND AWAY!

Welcome back, Yspaniola family!
Our entire team would like to extend a warm welcome to you! We have plenty of exciting updates and new beginnings for this academic year 2017-2018, and we want you to be a part of it.
First of all, our Learning Center officially opened its doors in Batey Libertad on Monday, September 18, and 155 students attended their new classes with smiles and enthusiasm all-around.
In another exciting new development, 2017 is the first year that our Learning Center is run entirely by our local staff! We have strived towards this goal, and thanks to much hard work from our dedicated local teachers, it is here and here to stay.
We will be sure to keep you updated on their successes and achievements in the months to come, as we are sure there will be plenty.
Here's to the new academic year 2017-2018!

Facts and Achievements
We are proud to see how far Yspaniola's Learning Center students have come this year! Here, we would like to share some facts and achievements by the numbers.

144 plus students enrolled; more students than ever before.

4 new Early Childhood Education classes

79% attendance rate across all classes

3 students reached the highest level of the Reading A-Z series

22 non-reading students learned to read this year

200 plus donations received for our library

University Scholar Graduate Mayra Rodriguez completed her 1st full year as a teacher at the Learning Center

Our Learning Center classes ended this year on May 29. For the first time, our 140 plus students will be given a report card reflecting their growth as readers over the past year.Teachers held a parents night on May 30th where students' families were able to hear more about the individual achievements of their children and hear directly from their teachers.

The academic year culminated with an annual beach trip rewarding older students with high attendance. The younger ones, featured in the photo, stuck around in their newly built park for a class party. Congratulations to all on another successful year! We wish you all a happy summer vacation and hope to see you again in the Learning Center in September!

Yale Service Learning Trip
On Saturday, March 11th, students from Yale University arrived in the Dominican Republic for an Yspaniola Service Learning Trip, which consisted of visits to Santiago, Dajabón, Batey Libertad, and Santo Domingo. While in Batey Libertad, the group of five Yalies performed a service-learning project on dance as a form of intercultural exchange. During their stay, the Yale students taught a step dance to students from Classes 5 and 6, and in turn, Classes 5 and 6 taught the Yale students a folklórico dance. Both of these dances were filmed, and the Yale service learning group will finalize their project by compiling the footage into a music video.

The University of Delaware decided to dedicate their time in the Batey to working in Yspaniola's library, organizing and cataloging books. They also participated in a Reader’s Theater activity with Classes 4 and 5. Students read short stories and acted them out along with the visitors as a culminating activity to this month’s “I Am a Reader” theme in our Learning Center. We are happy to have had Yale University and the University of Delaware visit Batey Libertad, and we look forward to hosting students from these institutions again next year!

Lincoln-Sudbury High School
On Monday, February 20th, our second service-learning group of the year arrived from Lincoln-Sudbury High School in Massachusetts. Made up of five students and two teachers, this group not only sought to learn more about Dominican history, Haitian-Dominican relations, and life in the batey, but to engage in meaningful discussions and intercultural exchanges with youth in the community.

The group first visited the anthropological and modern art exhibits in the Centro León in Santiago and then traveled to Dajabón to visit the international market and observe the border opening between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The group of students and teachers then arrived in Batey Libertad, where they participated in activities with Learning Center students and Comité members, worked on projects for our library, and stayed three nights with a family in home stays. The group ended their trip with visits to the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor and the Alcázar de Colón in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo. Through meaningful discussions on issues of race, documentation, and migration we hope that both members of the Batey Libertad community and visiting American students will learn to think critically and be inspired to become change-makers in their respective communities.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Happy 2017!!! We are grateful to announce that Yspaniola's Matching Campaign was a success: from December 26 through the end of the year, we received $20,714 in donations, allowing us to take advantage of all of this year's matching funds to raise $40,714 total to support our programs in Batey Libertad. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign and for your generosity that sustains Yspaniola!

THANK YOU!
Dear Yspaniola Supporters,

We are pleased to share Yspaniola's 2016 Annual Report with you, which you can find on our website. We hope you enjoy reading about our work in the Dominican Republic over the past year!

We are also happy to announce that Yspaniola will be holding its 3rd Annual Matching Campaign from December 26th to December 31st. Our goal is to raise $20,000 before the end of 2016, which will be matched by three generous donors, meaning that every dollar donated during the campaign will be doubled until we surpass $20,000 in new contributions. We hope that when the campaign begins, you will support our education work in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you and Happy Holidays from the Yspaniola Team!

Ani Yanachkova
JOIN OUR TEAM!
This year, Yspaniola won first place in Global Giving's "Fail Forward" Contest, winning $1000 dollars towards our programs! This contest encourages nonprofits to rethink the way they perceive failure and reflect upon the ways that organizations can learn and grow from these mistakes. For this year's contest, we decided to share our growth from failure in an article entitled " Using Creole to Create a More Inclusive Classroom," written our Princeton in Latin America Fellow, Kayla Tamara Lemus.

The article discusses how the incorporation of Haitian Creole in the classroom has not only benefited our students’ language learning, but has also created a space for students to value and celebrate their culture and mother-tongue. Although we had previously implemented a “Spanish-only” rule in our Learning Center so that students could have a space to exclusively speak Spanish, in doing so we had failed to realize that such a rule was disadvantaging less fluent students who could not effectively learn in a Spanish-only classroom. Being a part of this contest allowed us to reframe our perspective on failure, thus allowing us to continue upholding our commitment to transparency, honesty, and growth as an organization.

STAY IN TOUCH!
The weekend of October 8th and 9th, members of Yspaniola along with our partners, The DREAM Project and The Mariposa DR Foundation were invited to Dajabón to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Parsley Massacre at the Border of Lights event. Border of Lights organizes various activities every year on the anniversary of the Parsley Massacre to raise awareness and maintain the current day discussion about past and present human rights abuses. That day, we remembered the lives lost and renewed our promise to support all initiatives to rebuild strong relationships between the Haitian and Dominican communities.

The event included the screening of the film, “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, a documentary which sheds light on the illegal production and traffic of charcoal from the Dominican Republic into Haiti, and the terrible price certain families have to pay. After the screening of the film, participants were able to engage in a discussion with the director through a question and answer session. The evening’s culminating event was a very moving ceremony which involved a Mass and a candlelight vigil along the banks of the massacre river, where all participants came together to remember and vowed never to forget.

Back to School in the Batey
The week of September 12th marked the beginning of a new school year in our Learning Center as we reopened our doors to over 140 eagerly awaiting students. Our Learning Center has grown in many ways for the 2016-2017 academic year, and a record number of students enrolled.

Amongst the newcomers to the center are our preschool age students, who are part of the first group to have class in our newly inaugurated early childhood education building. A second building allows our teachers to run simultaneous classes, permitting extended class hours, learning spaces tailored to student level, and increased enrollment. Students are able to work at their own speeds and teachers are designated to specific levels to focus their lesson planning efforts. We are also proud to welcome new local staff members Mayra Rodriguez, recent USP graduate, and Leidy Rodriguez, who is currently studying early childhood education.

Yspaniola is very proud of all the hard work our teachers and staff put in to provide our students with the best possible learning environment as we continue to grow.

Homestay Mothers Visit Playa Ensenada
August is typically filled with lots of transitions here in Batey Libertad: wrapping up Summer Camp programming, saying good-bye to summer interns and volunteers, preparing for the opening of the Learning Center, a new semester for University Scholars, and orienting new staff.

Amidst so many transitions this month, we took the chance to say thank you to all of the amazing homestay mothers that work with us in our Community and Service-Learning Programs. To celebrate our relationship with these families and thank them for all of their hard work, Yspaniola’s Local Program Manager and Executive Director took homestay mothers to Playa Ensenada for a beach trip.

This past academic year alone, our 16-homestay families hosted over 196 students in their homes for a combination of homestays and shorter lunchtime visits, not to mention the staff, volunteers, and interns who have stayed with them throughout the year. For all of this and more, we say: thank you, gracias, and mesi anpil!

Reconoci.do Visits Batey Libertad
This month, community members and staff had the opportunity to discuss the importance of advocacy work with Ana Maria Belique, an internationally recognized human and civil rights advocate and founder of Reconoci.do, an organization that advocates for full citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian ancestry.

During her visit, Ana Maria shared the history of the Reconoci.do movement, highlighting the impact that testimony sharing has had on gaining momentum and creating national and international awareness. After listening to Ana Maria’s presentation, community members shared their own testimonies of how systematic prejudice and misinformation have hindered their ability to obtain identification documents and, as a result, have impeded achievements such as furthering their education.

We are grateful for the conversations that were started during Ana Maria’s visit and we look forward to continuing to work together to protect the rights of all of Batey Libertad’s community members.
Reading Tests Show Continued Improvement at the Learning Center
The academic year has come to a close, and Yspaniola is excited to share some of the accomplishments of our Learning Center's students! This year, all students worked hard, and the results showed in their work and their assessments. Class two, which caters to the Learning Center's youngest readers, designed cards for Mothers' Day. On the other end of the age spectrum, class six completed a series of original short stories, one of which was published online (click here to view). All students received a range of dynamic instruction, including phonics games, reading responses, short-story analysis, art projects, and critical thinking worksheets.

In addition, the results of the Learning Center's most recent round of A-Z testing reflect these efforts. In total, fifty-nine students were assessed using the internationally accredited Reading A-Z system, which evaluates phonetic proficiency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Forty-seven students (80%) showed improvement over the course of the last semester, and of that group, over half gained over two or more reading levels.
Yspaniola Celebrates the Mothers of Batey Libertad
On Saturday, May 28th, Yspaniola hosted our first official Mother’s Day celebration in Batey Libertad, Mothers were celebrated for their constant hard work and dedication to their children, their homes, their churches, their studies, their jobs and the many other roles these supermoms take on. The moms of Batey Libertad not only support their families, but Yspaniola’s programs as well, acting as host-mothers, community organizers, and supporting students both in the Learning Center and University Scholarship Programs.

After Saturday’s celebration, and with the support of Profesor Griselda Rodriguez’ fundraising efforts, mothers’ received first-aid kits, toiletries, and clothes. Yspaniola sends a big thank you to all the mothers of Batey Libertad who support our students, visitors, staff, and programs every single day.
Batey Libertad Census
Over the past few months, Yspaniola staff successfully drafted and implemented our first community-wide census in Batey Libertad

​First, Yspaniola staff workshopped the census foci, questions, and wording in two forums with community leaders. After finalizing the census with the support of community members, Yspaniola hand-picked eight residents (pictured below) of Batey Libertad to implement the census in the community. These community members underwent three trainings during which we discussed census questions, practiced managing difficult scenarios, offered implementation strategies, and more.

This past weekend, April 23rd and 24th, the census was successfully implemented, collecting important demographic data from over 200 households in Batey Libertad. This information will help Yspaniola to better tailor our programs to community needs, and will provide residents of Batey Libertad vital information about their community.

​Stay tuned for future updates on census results and outcomes! ​
Mother's Day Resource Drive and Fundraiser
In January, Professor Griselda Rodriguez, pictured below with her husband Idris and son Talib, visited Batey Libertad with her class from City College of New York. After visiting Batey Libertad and seeing Yspaniola's programs, Griselda decided to organize a fundraiser to support Yspaniola's education programs and a resource drive to benefit the mothers of Batey Libertad. Griselda's original goal was to collect 70 first-aid kits for mothers in Batey Libertad, $1,500, and as many books and dictionaries as possible by Mother's Day. Yspaniola is extremely happy to announce that so far, Griselda's efforts have raised $1,714 and enough materials for almost 100 first-aid kits! Many thanks to all who have already donated and, if you'd like to learn more, please click here.
Chicas Brillantes in Batey Libertad
This month, we celebrate 15 young ladies from the batey who compose the inaugural graduating class of Batey Libertad’s Chicas Brillantes progam. Chicas Brillantes is a program established by Peace Corps, and thanks to Karolina Dos Santos, our very own Peace Corps Volunteer, girls from ages 13 to 17 in the batey were invited to be a part of the 12-week program.

Batey Libertad’s Chicas Brillantes has three goals: to create a safe space where young women can learn and grow together in a supportive environment, to empower young women to make healthy life decisions, and to provide young women with leadership training. Since November, the girls have discussed and debated topics ranging from family burdens, self-image, representation of women in the media, building strong relationships, and building character and confidence within oneself.

Congratulations, chicas brillantes!
Robotics Teams Team Up For Yspaniola
As this year’s hosts of the Mid-Atlantic Robotics Competition, The Metal Moose, Westtown School’s robotics team, started the “Good Robot Challenge” to collect legos, back-to-school packs, and money to support Yspaniola's programs in Batey Libertad. The "Good Robot Challenge" was a huge success, drawing in 38 participating schools, raising $2,612, and collecting 103 "back to school" backpacks filled with school supplies for students in the community. The money raised will support all of Yspaniola's programs in Batey Libertad, and the full packed backpacks will equip students from the community with necessary materials to take full advantage of their education in the 2016 - 2017 school year.

Yspaniola is incredibly grateful to all participating schools, donors, and to the Metal Moose Robotics Team, who organized such a successful drive and fundraiser.
Libertad Journal Launched This Month
We are excited to officially launch the Libertad Journal, a bilingual publication featuring narratives from the Yspaniola community, the Batey Libertad community and their many intersections. The Libertad Journal will create a space for essays, short stories, and interviews to be shared, providing a unique new platform to share reflections, personal stories, and more from the batey. Our hope is to provide a context for engaging with the personal stories behind education, development work, and cultural exchange.

This month’s publication features an interview by former Yspaniola Princeton in Latin America fellow, Chelsea Muir, a short story by University Scholarship Program graduate Julio Louis, and an essay by former Yspaniola intern, Alex Machetanz.

The Libertad Journal is always looking for submissions of essays, interviews, short stories and photography, among other formats. If you are interested in submitting to the Libertad Journal, please write us at journal@yspaniola.org

To access the journal, please visit www.larevistalibertad.com .
Yale & University of Delaware Service-Learning Trips in the Batey
We have had the pleasure of hosting two wonderful Service-Learning trips in the month of March. Students from Yale University and University of Delaware came to the country with boundless energy and open minds, along with necessary resources for our Learning Center classes, music curriculum, library, and University Scholarship Program.

Throughout their trips, students visited and toured important sites and met with nonprofits and human rights activists in Santiago, Dajabón and Santo Domingo. Once in Batey Libertad, students learned about the history of bateyes and discussed issues such as education, privilege, human rights, and more with the Yspaniola Youth Committee and local Yspaniola staff. Students also participated in journal and reflection activities, meetings with Batey Libertad’s Vodou priest, visits to a local rice mill and agricultural farm, dance lessons, and introductory Haitian Creole classes. Additionally, students helped create teaching materials for the Learning Center and revamp Yspaniola workspaces.

We are extremely thankful for that was accomplished during these trips and for all of the learning that took place, and we hope to see them back in Batey Libertad again soon!
Staff Support This Month
February is off to a great start with new opportunities for both local and international staff!

Yspaniola will now be holding monthly team meetings for our entire local program staff. Last week directors, teachers, administrators, and assistants all met to get to know each other and set the momentum for the rest of the semester. Although team members work in a different areas and programs, all have the common goal of supporting the Batey Libertad community and improving access to and quality of education in the Dominican Republic.

In addition, Yspaniola is now offering Haitian Creole classes three times a week for international staff. Native Creole speaker and staff member Paul Eligene will provide lessons three times a week, allowing English speaking staff to more formally learn and practice the language. Taking steps to learn Haitian Creole will allow international staff to more effectively work in and connect with the Batey Libertad community.
More Class Time in the Learning Center
For the first time, the Learning Center’s doors will now be open to students five-days a week. Beginning in January 2016, all seven of the Learning Center’s classes are now taught Mondays through Thursdays, with guided reading hours and homework help available on Fridays. More instructional time has been proven to improve student achievement, and in the Learning Center this will mean greater strides in literacy. The Food Program will also be extended to accommodate these changes, so that students will continue to be provided with a nutritious snack before each class.

In preparation for this change in the Learning Center schedule, Learning Center staff held a Parents’ Night to answer questions and explain teachers' expectations for students during the spring semester. Over sixty parents and family members attended. After teachers and staff introduced themselves, parents gave feedback on their children’s work and the Learning Center’s system for behavior management. At the end of the meeting, shoes, clothes, and canned food donations from Brookside Community Health Center and the Community for Learning were raffled to participating families.
Yspaniola and the Brookside Community Health Center
On November 14th, Yspaniola Chair of the Board and founding member, Cynthia So-Armah, accompanied a group of 7 health professionals from the Brookside Community Health Center on a service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic. In an effort to better inform and treat the predominantly Dominican population of the Brookside Community Health Center in Boston, trip participants shadowed medical professionals, toured hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, and learned first-hand about the healthcare system in the country.

The group also visited Batey Libertad to learn about the history of bateys and the Dominican Republic, health and healthcare in marginalized communities, and Yspaniola’s educational programs. During their visit, the participants worked one-on-one with community health workers and interested community members in health and nutrition workshops.

This marks the first health-oriented Service-Learning trip for Yspaniola, and staff and community members are excited to continue expanding the types of community trips and service we support here in Batey Libertad.
Annual Report
We hope that you will take a few minutes to read Yspaniola's 2015 Annual Report, which you can find here. The document explains our work and what we hope to accomplish in Batey Libertad and the Dominican Republic over the next few years. It not only only details our programs and achievements over the past year, but also outlines our five-year plan to build an exceptional education model in Batey Libertad and our vision for including Dominicans of Haitian ancestry in Dominican society.

Wilson Gets His Cédula!
Yspaniola is excited to announce that Wilson Sentimo, a member of the Batey Libertad community and an Yspaniola employee, received his cédula (a Dominican national identity card)! We would like to congratulate Wilson on seven years of hard work, determination, and perseverance that made this possible.

In the Dominican Republic, lack of identity documents limits citizens’ access to formal work, pay, health care, and education. As such, Wilson has been unable to take national exams to graduate from high school, pursue a university education, or protect himself from potential human rights abuses.

Although it took Wilson seven years to get his cédula, this process is supposed to be free and take under a month to complete. After endless roadblocks in his attempts to prove his citizenship —caused by Dominican officials claiming the application couldn't be processed because of clerical errors, or by asking for unnecessary documents to prove his Dominican identity—and being illegally deported in February of this year, Wilson was beginning to lose hope of ever receiving a cédula. He reflects, “I was always saying almost, almost. I just need to do this or that.”

“I was so happy, but I could not believe that the moment was real because there had been so many problems in the past. I kept expecting someone to take it away from me,” recalls Wilson of the day he received his cédula. The years-long process culminated in government offices in Mao where, after a 30-minute visit to an office that had denied Wilson documentation for years, Wilson walked away with proof of his Dominican citizenship.

Now that he has legal documentation, Wilson hopes to begin university and study education. His dream is to teach Spanish language and literacy classes in his community in Batey Libertad.
New Executive Director
In 2015, Yspaniola received a three-year grant to hire an Executive Director to be based full-time in the Dominican Republic. After a lengthy search process, Yspaniola hired Ani Yanachkova to be the organization’s new Executive Director starting on October 1st.

Ani brings to our team over ten years of experience in education, including four years at the DREAM Project, an education non-profit on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, where she was the Academic Director and lead programs similar to ours in Batey Libertad. She has extensive experience and is skilled in curriculum development, teacher training and support, monitoring and evaluation, behavior management, parent and community involvement, and program management, all within a Dominican cultural context. Ani is also kind, collaborative, and driven, and she will set the highest expectations for our teachers, staff, and students.

This is an incredibly important step for the organization because Ani will be able to support our staff full-time in the Dominican Republic, allowing us to provide more classes and better instruction to students in Batey Libertad. It will also allow us to pursue an ambitious growth plan to continue building our educational model from pre-school through university in the community.
Amnesty International in Batey Libertad
On June 20th, 2015 a team from Amnesty International came to Batey Libertad! Amnesty International has been touring the Dominican Republic to research the situation of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the country generally, and more specifically to prepare a campaign strategy to prevent increased deportations.

The Amnesty team came to Batey Libertad to collect stories from people from Group B (Dominicans of Haitian descent) who have experienced harassment from the military and who have attempted to register in the Naturalization process. Their team spoke with 10 community members from Batey Libertad, including Wilson Sentimo, a Yspaniola employee in the Batey Libertad Learning Center. Wilson was deported from the Dominican Republic despite having a Dominican birth certificate and never having been to Haiti. To learn more, read Wilson's story here.

Pilot Food Program
On May 18th, 2015 Yspaniola launched a three-week pilot Food Program in the Batey Libertad Learning Center to provide our students with a hearty, healthy snack before each class. The pilot program allowed us to test logistics and costs for the food program, which will be permanently implemented at the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.

To start the program, Yspaniola staff planned logistics, made budgets, hired part-time staff from Batey Libertad, purchased start-up items, and informed parents and children about the new program. Over the course of nine class days, we provided 844 healthy snacks to 115 students, averaging 94 children a day, and students ate food such as bananas, hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches, muffins, and crackers. If time and funding permit, we may decide to provide more snacks or bigger meals in the future. With improved nutrition, we hope that students will be able to better focus on their work inside and outside of the Learning Center, maintain good attendance, and make even greater strides in their learning.

Thank you to Valley Presbyterian Church of Portola Valley, CA, for providing the seed money to start the food program, and thank you to Professor Nancy Gear and Bronx Community College for holding a raffle to support the project as well. Last but not least, we are very appreciative of the Yspaniola staff and community members that have made this exciting addition to our Learning Center possible.

Class 3 students happily eat sandwiches in the Food Program office.

Learning Center Open House
On April 28, 2015 the Learning Center opened its doors to both students and their families for Yspaniola's first Open House. In the week prior, students were busy preparing musical numbers and art projects to exhibit to their parents. In all, there were over 150 people in attendance, including older and younger siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Festivities included songs by classes 1, 2, and 3, snacks, book raffles, and unique prizes for each class--including notebooks, backpacks, and other school supplies. The open house also provided a unique opportunity for parents to meet their children's teachers, ask questions, and gain a better understanding of the Learning Center's mission and curricula.

Class 2 students sing "Arroz con leche" for their parents.

Dominican Advisory Committee
Over the past half year, Yspaniola has been creating a Dominican Advisory Committee to help guide our work in the Dominican Republic. On April 8th, 2015 the committee met for the first time in Santo Domingo, bringing together prominent members of Dominican society—academics, business leaders, activists, and a journalist—to discuss Yspaniola programs and strategy. The committee will meet twice a year to advise on long term strategy and to help the Yspaniola team craft and execute an outreach and development strategy in the Dominican Republic. Stay tuned for profiles and updates about individual committee members, and in the meantime, thank you to all of our new Yspaniola supporters!

Dominican Advisory Committee's first meeting in Santo Domingo.

Spring 2015 Service Learning Trips
During the spring of 2015, students from Yale University and the University of Delaware Honors Program participated in Yspaniola service learning trips. On these trips, university students have the opportunity to learn through immersion in diverse and varied sites across the Dominican Republic. Students visited Santiago and Santo Domingo, as well as the international market at Dajabón, and participated in home stays in Batey Libertad. This year, students had the opportunity to learn about the politics and the culture of the Dominican Republic through organized conversations with Yspaniola staff, community leaders from Batey Libertad, a vodou priest, as well as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, James Brewster. University of Delaware students organized their stories into a collaborative blog that can be accessed here.

Yale students with the U.S. Ambassador to the DR.

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