A friend recently asked me to send him a summary of the last six years of my life in order to use as a reference to write a nomination for me for the Grinnell CollegeYoung Innovator for Social Justice Prize. He nominated me last year as well and obviously I didn't get it. I've spruced it up with some pictures (wish I had more from different times/events), but here is what I sent to him:
Jan. 2005 - went on volunteer trip to Esperanza, DR with organization called Orphanage Outreach. Two other friends came with own funds raised and extra fundraising helped two more to come, totaling us 5.
Winter/Spring 2005 - planned to return June 2005, fundraised together, returned with a group of 10.
Oct. 2005 - Began VT student org. Project Esperanza to facilitate what we were doing and be able to do more.
Fall, Winter 2005, Spring 2006 - Built a team, kept in contact with and planned with Orphanage Outreach staff in DR who ended up leaving OO and moving to Puerto Plata which changed our plans. Led weekly student org. meetings and led several fundraisers.
Summer 2006 - Led 30 volunteers to Puerto Plata. We did the street census, collected information on 140 shoe shine or street vending boys, and learned of their situations. I collected info. from volunteers each day and together we made profiles on my laptop. We also worked with a public school constructing a new building and taught English. After one month we began a day program with boys from the street census with lunch, tutoring, andorganized activities. As the summer/trip ended, I signed the lease to the house on behalf of Project Esperanza. Returned to U.S. and maintained communication with many people in the DR.
Aug./Sept. 2006 - Began meeting with others to form a board of directors, to incorporate Project Esperanza, and to file for non-profit status.
Nov. 2006 - Returned to PP with mom and Kristin. Rebought everything we had lost/Dale and Marta had taken. Met with many people in the community, boys from the summer visited, ate, etc. We gave them each their own soccer ball. Met Pastor Millien and Wanbert who had started a Haitian school in Padre Granero where most boys lived. They pleaded for payment of teacher salaries at the least.
The other group used funds raised to help finish a room on the back of a church we had partnered with in hopes of using the room to serve food to people in need. A few members of the group spent some time visiting clinics.. specifically a clinic that specializes in HIV/AIDS patients. They hoped to volunteer but really just were able to shadow a bit.
So we left the house around.. 1am if I remember correctly. The man who the boys were running away from showed up at our house late that night before we left with another boy that lived with him, the older brother of one of the three, who was more on his side. He tried to take the man back and was very threatening and the boys were very adamant to not go back with him and so was I. He gave up and left but left threatening to harm them with witchcraft, etc.
March 2007 - I went to visit Puerto Plata and six other members of our group came. My brother and a friend came at the beginning for a short visit.. then they left.. then the rest came. I was able to go down a little e
arly as I had already graduated. We brought book bags and supplies for over 30 boys. We gave them to boys who had been going to school regularly and then registered 26 I believe while we were three.. some in public school at night if they were at higher level and the rest at the grassroots school in Padre Granero.. and we gave them a book bag with supplies and tennis shoes after they registered and attended three days of school. They started a soccer team and we had regular practices during that stay. When I left, one volunteer who was not a student stayed for a month.. although he had planned to stay for a year. Things were harder and different than he or we could've expected.
May to Sept. 1st ish 2009 - 29 volunteers came.. boys' home.. grassroots schools.. took on another grassroots school although I did my best to not.. this one in Muñoz.. the people starting it wrote to me often before I went down and then visited the house almost daily looking for support! I helped them talk to volunteers to see if they could help raise funds.. one girl's mom’s church raised funds to pay teachers for three months. After that we were stuck.. and didn't have any trouble financially for some years. The boys' home was a roller coaster.. so many boys... new staff.. started paying staff.. changed homes.. at the end we ended up renting a house with land in the country. Lots of negotiating needed to get it. Oh, June 2007 we got non-profit status.Then I stayed longer than expected to make sure that all started well. At the home in the country we had paid staff to stay, oversee chores, make food, and then teachers. It was really controlled and really great for everyone who was in the program. And at this point I had become best best friends with Jireste who I later married and now have two kids with.
Oct. 2007 - visited the DR and was so busy and spread thin during the trip. We also started Massie's Learning Center in Blacksburg. This stemmed from my relationship with my little sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters and her extended family and neighbors. Kristin and other PE people started joining me in outreach to them and we arranged with the owner of the trailer park to have a trailer free of rent in order to start a learning center. I wanted to leave something to serve the community as I would be leaving my little sister but their problems would remain. Kristin and her now husband Ken were very crucial in getting this going.
Nov. 2007 - visited the DR (Kristin went too) and was so busy and spread thin during the trip again.
Jan. 2008 - moved to the DR. Kristin had planned to come but as the date became closer decided she was more needed in the US and would maybe come later. She was very important in fundraising US side and in keeping Massie's Learning Center going.
winter/spring 2008 - I began teaching science and then some Spanish, reading, and writing in the boys' home school and taught English in an English school in the afternoons. I also did a lot of outreach to local businesses trying to find jobs/apprenticeships for boys and was able to place a few but the conditions were still difficult. I met with grassroots schools admin often, teachers sometimes, paid them, etc. In March I went home for an emergency fundraising trip which was super successful and raised enough funds to comfortably get us through the end of the summer.
summer 2008 - the boys soccer team continued although it wasn't active during the school year so it started back up and we split into two teams..younger and older. There was no school in the mornings but I still worked at the English school in the afternoons. We had a volunteer program but I was not so involved.. some days I interacted but not every day. Kristin was there during the whole summer pretty much. Moral got down a little at the boys home during the summer.. and it has been a pattern when there is the less structure during vacation. There were some heightened behavior problems and the full time staff member seemed to be burnt out. In August he decided to go back to Haiti and that left us with no one capable and available and trusted to take his spot. Right before he went back to Haiti, I went home for a visit. I tried fundraising but at this point couldn't get much going.
fall 2008 - We started the next school year with boys enrolling in public school and things got tough financially. It became impossible to pay rent on the big house in the country. Teacher payments remained stable but we rented a smaller place closer to town and just put older boys as there was no staff. I moved into an apartment with Jireste and we had two younger boys (young in comparison to others – 12 and 14ish) stay with us - Babi and Chinaider. Two other younger boys ran away into the streets before we moved out and when they wanted to be taken back in.. we had no way to do that. I ended up sending them to Haiti upon their request when they saw they could not be taken back in. We had one same and one different teacher at the new home. Things went well there. Things also went well with us with Babi and Chinaider. Things were tough.. but they went to school and behaved well, etc. My dad visited and Jireste and I talked to him about us getting married. He was overwhelmed for many reasons but still liked Jireste although it was hard for them to connect with language and cultural barriers. He asked us to wait. As the boys went to public school in the mornings, I took a job at a bilingual school here teaching math and art. I became quite overwhelmed after about 1.5 mos. and quit as I couldn't juggle the job and PE. I began teaching English and Spanish to a Russian student at that school 3 times a week.
fall 2009 - a VT volunteer group came and I led them in doing geography lessons and activities in the Muñoz school.
may 2010 - began writing on La Vida Idealist.
march 2011 - VT study abroad group volunteered with grassroots schools for 5 days. I led them, organized, translated, etc. I led the Dartmouth group that stayed in Saman around to see PE sites one day. I continued to work at the boys' home school every night. I believe it was this month that we started the movie theater in Muñoz, which I have had to be very present for when I thought I would not have to be and it would be an easy start up.
may 2011 - VT PE student org group did a week of activities. Kristin came and helped and stayed with the group but I was still spending a lot of my days with them too. Then some consultants from a group called Resortful Arts came and helped out with the art shop. Jireste and I were also their personal chauffeur.
june 2011 - visitors from Peaceworks and a university in Atlanta came and did a site visit.. I took them around for a day. Long term volunteer came to help out with the English camp. I spent a lot of time planning for that and working with her to rent a houseand get it set up, purchasing materials and moving beds, etc. And at the same time Alicia came to work in the art shop. When these two women came I was extremely busy as they came to work in two different areas and were both new and needing orientation. Whew! And I forgot to mention that my vehicle got taken away because I took a loan out of it when finances got really tough and ended up losing it not being able to pay it back. I mean.. the car was the.. in order to get the loan they had the title so when I couldn't pay it back.. they got the car. Sad but true.This was a car my dad had sent money for me to purchase after selling my vehicle, which he had also purchased for me, in the U.S., after Ilayas was born in 2009. So I began running around all over the place with a very large stomach and Ilayas in public transportation, which was tough, but we got through it. Ilayas I love him to pieces and would never leave him and go do something without him. The only time I ever really
have is I would leave him at the English camp to run errands nearby around town and left him with Jireste a little to have more uninterrupted time having long talks with volunteers summer 2011. And then when Maraya was born he stayed at home with Jireste two nights when I was in the hospital.. no boys allowed to stay. But he was there during the labor and waited outside with Jireste, Alicia, and Alicia's boyfriend during the c-section. Forgot to mention, I got a new little cheap crappy car after losing the first one but it broke down and I had no more funds to invest in it so it's been sitting here ever since.
Sept. 10th - present - family time, home time.. I've had to go do some stuff but have mainly been at home and people have been coming to me (sigh). During the first few days at home my heart broke as my relationship with
Ilayas changed but we got used to it and my heart broke as I realized how much we had been separated from Jireste in the past few months. When we had the car we did everything together but after the car was taken away I just went with Ilayas and did not see Jireste for many times the whole day.. and when we got home at night we were so tired. Sometimes we barely talked. We often came home and he had made food or cleaned and organized. Now that I was still I realized this and was so overwhelmed with sadness. I've been trying to do what I can from here.. phone calls, e-mails, and internet outreach to get the art shop and hostel going stronger. And I've started doing lessons again
as of Oct. 4th. But from the house. I'll start doing them from the hostel building in Nov. but will do as much as possible from the house.
This covers the main events, not to mention the constant answering of e-mails, recording finances, writing updates, and meeting with teachers and leaders in the organization, etc.