The grant obtained by the Rotary Club of Los Alamos to support the education of Haitian children living in the Dominican Republic represents numerous things.
It is a testament of what teamwork and persistence can accomplish; it is proof that friendships can be forged over countries’ borders; and it is evidence that positive change in people’s lives is possible. Rotarians learned about this project during a regular club meeting Tuesday at the Manhattan Project restaurant.
The matching grant from Rotary International went toward the Comunidad Infantil Luis Chaley school, in the Village of Cumajon, State Villa Hermosa. Through this grant students are learning not only reading and writing but also basic living skills. The Los Alamos Rotary Club was able to raise $13,000 for this matching grant but it required teamwork to make it happen.
The idea to pursue a Rotary International matching grant all started when Rotarian Steve Wilson traveled to the Dominican Republic.
“I loved it,” he told the club members.
He explained that around this time, the country had a new president who believed tourism would be the future for the Dominican Republic and began investing and creating the infrastructure for this particular industry. The work was done mostly by Haitian laborers.
Families from Haiti would come to the Dominican Republic for work but despite this, their children did not have paperwork and no official citizenship and therefore were unable to get any form of education. Wilson’s mother, Dee, encouraged her son to respond to this situation and “find a project for Los Alamos.”
Wilson found a Rotary Club, Club Rotario La Romana Rio Dulce to partner in the project to provide education to Haitian children living in the Dominican Republic. One member, Luis Chaly, worked closely with Los Alamos Rotarians. Los Alamos Rotarians Linda Hull and Alison Pannell also started to write a matching grant request to Rotary International.
The work on the grant started between 2006 and 2007 with Rotarian Linda Anderson organizing several garage sales to help raise funds to match the grant. In 2012, the grant initiatives were implemented and the project was completed by the end of 2013.
Pannell described the process of applying for the grant money as “quite an ordeal.” There were numerous details that needed to be addressed from unique bank accounts for the grant money to each club proving a commitment to the project.
It was not just the Los Alamos Rotary and Club Rotario La Romana Rio Dulce supporting this endeavor; Pannell said Rotary Clubs in Santa Fe and Taos also contributed money to the matching grant. The grant money purchased a huge assortment of supplies for the children, Hull said. Everything from computers to irons was bought.“All kinds of things they needed to supply this classroom,” she said.
Pannell explained even household items were bought because the parents worked all day, so it was up to the children to look after their young siblings.
“This is a full-service school,” she said, adding, “They are learning everything.”
The school currently helps about 80 students each day but could potentially help up to 300 children. This success story has added fuel to the local club’s desire to provide civic services to other communities.
“We did it once – we can do it again,” Pannell said.