My apologies to Josh’s faithful readers for sneaking in this post. Well, as many of you know, the foundation has been busy organizing a reading club in Madre Vieja, the town where our summer camp takes place. This February vacation I flew down to the D.R. on my own. The morning after my arrival, my Mom presented me with a 5 day detailed agenda of what needed to be done in order to launch the Reading Club. We soon got to work. I contacted Maria Victoria, the teacher (Dominican poet), who will lead the group. The goal is for her to model and gradually release the responsibility to the students themselves so that they will eventually run their own reading club with the supervision of Carmen and my Mom.
Our next step was to visit schools to talk to 6-8th grade students. We visited two schools and a church youth program. We handed out over 100 applications expecting a 30 to 40% return. The idea of a reading club is quite a novelty in the DR, and more so in this rural/ low income community of Madre Vieja. The optimistic part of me expected the students to be super excited about this project and eager to be part of it. What I found was something a bit different. At the first school (the church group), there were a group of about 30 students cramped together in a small room. I should add here that this is the church my family belonged to and helped build from the ground up. A story for another day! The students here listened absent-mindly and only a few students took the application form home. The teacher chimed in, commenting at the lack of interest, and told the students how lucky they were and how she wished there was something like this when she was their age and just what a great opportunity this was. After her hopeful encouragements, a few other students took applications with them. I walked outside with tears in my eyes feeling discouraged. My Mom (the driving force of this organization!) hooked her arm in mine and said, “no te preocupes que hay mas” (don’t worry, there are more). In the afternoon, we went back to the church program to talk to that group of students. In the DR, students go to school for half the day; there is a morning session and an afternoon session. We got the same response as in the morning. My mom and I walked out of there. Once outside we looked at each other and said… you guess it! When I faced timed with Josh that night he commented how, these students are teenagers and that’s how teenagers respond in any language.
That afternoon we went over to visit La Escuela Doña Chucha, a former orphanage who’s principal is a good childhood friend of mine. There is a beautiful and powerful story behind the creation of this school and my Mom played a big role in it, but again, another story for another day! We walked through the gates of the school and the students were having recess. I was overtaken with joy at what I witnessed. Please click here for a taste of what I experienced! The principal Belquis Porte, gave me a tour of the school. I met with many students and teachers. I talked to several students and teachers about the reading club and encouraged some of the students to attend the meeting scheduled for that coming Saturday. My concern here was the location. The meetings are to take place at my parent’s house, which is a bit of a distance away from this school, but I thought that maybe the 8th graders could manage it.
The next day, we visited Escuela Madre Vieja Sur. This is the school we Montás kids attended as children and also the school where the Campamento Las Margaritas takes place. My mom had mentioned that there was a new principal and she made arrangements so that we could meet with her. The principal was very welcoming. She was already aware of our summer program and offered us her full support. She was also excited about the idea of the reading club. She mentioned how this was something that the students needed, but that the school could not offer due to the lack of resources. She directed us to the 8th grade classrooms where we proceeded to explain the logistics of the reading club. Soon after I started to speak, a student raised his hand and asked me if I was one of the teachers from El Campamento. It took me a few seconds to recognize him. It was EL Mello, one of our students from the 2010 camp! After my little spiel, several students raised their hands to ask questions about the reading club. We handed out the 30 applications we had brought with us!
Saturday quickly arrived. The opening event of the reading club was to take place at 5:00 P.M. We decorated the patio and prepared the sweet and savory snacks I brought down from the states. Cailyn and Frandy worked on organizing and labeling the books. At around 3:00 P.M. a crazy heavy rain began to fall. I grew weary because Maria Victoria had called me the night before to tell me that she has been fighting a terrible head cold, but that she was still planning to be there. Now, with all this rain, I feared that neither Maria Victoria nor the students were going to show. Well, at 4:45 Maria Victoria walks in soaking wet. And soon after that the students began to arrive. Some wearing their best Sunday clothes, other wearing mixed-match sandals, but all with an inquisitive smile and a sparkle of curiosity in their eyes. The Margaritas Reading Club has begun…