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  • Writer's pictureKayleanna Giesinger

The Esperanza Project

This project is a non-profit organization in Cabrera, Dominican Republic. They provide an after school English program for children in the community.

Morning elementary school class with all the students and teachers!

Teaching the students is done through fun games and projects to keep students engaged. To learn more go to the Esperanza Website. Projects I contributed to are;

  • planning and leading science, math and art classes

  • assisting instruction and guiding students in large English classes

  • coordinating and helping students with an after school photography club, fashion club, and hair club

  • filming and editing videos for the Esperanza Oscars, where students can show the english they learned. Check out their youtube page to see all the fun videos made on TheEsperanzaProject YouTube channel.

  • videos I helped create are ​"The Esperanza Project Presents: Channel Hopping"and "The Esperanza Project Presents: A Movie in a Couple Minutes"


Another team I worked with is the Puentes Early Learning institute. Which is a private Spanish-English school for students in preschool to grade one.

This school gathers donations abroad to fund students in receiving an enriched bilingual learning experience. The main responsibility with this team was to act as an education assistant by keeping children focused and helping guide student learning. Learn more at the Puentes Facebook page.


A look at my experience into the term:


Long-time no talk eh? It has been a crazy crazy month and a half and I figured I should update you guys on the shenanigans of life. Also, I should mention, you are very welcome to come visit me in the Dominican Republic. I am pretty much a local, I know where to find good donuts, actually the best donuts in the world! As for ordering them in Spanish… that is more of a struggle. My language learning skills are still not very good. However, just the other day I had a full out conversation with a local man in Spanish. This is a great milestone for me; I just won’t mention the part where I only said “si” or “no”, it still counts. Hopefully by the time I go home I will know a few more responses!

How is your life? Has the great storm of the winter hit your home? Or is it surprisingly warm where you are? Any noteworthy or exciting stories to share? I guarantee even the most boring story can be wrote over dramatically and I will be entertained. So no excuses like, “life here is pretty boring”, I want to hear all your little life details! Trust me, I will love it. This is because I miss you <3

So my first month and a half includes a waterfall, waterfall jumping, beaches, a capitol city and shopping, crazy guagua rides, riding on mottos through winding streets, mountains, the super bowl, pools, cold showers, hikes and WALES! So it has been busy, but fun, and amongst it all I have been working. Teaching to be exact, from the smallest children, 3 years old, to the oldest kids, 17 years old, my weeks are busy giving a diverse set of lessons. I teach lessons like washing hands and algebra, days of the week and chemistry. English is the main thing the kids are learning, because the Esperanza Project is an extracurricular school for learning English. Things never get boring, especially since when I say I am teaching, I really mean we just play games. We are in fact required to think of new and exciting games weekly, and to be enthusiastic about the ones the other teachers think of. We have played family feud, Jeopardy, Trivia Crack, The Voice, Washers, Over and Under, The Amazing Race, and etc. This list is endless really. This constant search for fun has helped us become more creative and energetic in everything we do. There is also clubs day once a week, where I have taught photography and am currently teaching the girls how to do hair.

The best part is, all of these kids are opened to all these fun learning opportunities that normally they never would have had. The Dominican Republic is very different than Canada when it comes to money. They don’t have absolutely everything you can think of at their fingertips. An average Dominican person makes about $150 Canadian dollars a month. Culture here is vastly different than life in Canada for partially this reason, and partially because Dominicans are CRAZY! It took me a few weeks to completely adjust to life here. Initially I was too terrified to leave the house alone. Now, I am capable of travelling on a guagua alone and taking a moto where I please; it is a good opportunity to practice Spanish.

Like I said, the Dominicans are a little crazy. There is a local waterfall nearby Cabrera, the town I am living in. We like to go visit it often. It is fairly tall and beautiful attraction, with fairly shallow waters bellow. So naturally there are always locals jumping from the top to the water below. I think a bit of the crazy has worn off on us so when we visit we take a very steep path to the base of the waterfall to go swimming. The catch here is; the path isn’t really a path at all. One could describe it as climbing down a vertical ladder of tree roots. The locals are really awesome though and the first time we went they guided us down the path and showed us where to put our feet. The funny part is, we found the whole experience crazy, but they saw it as nothing. They were spidermonkeying around and guiding our feet, holding our hands. Then, when it was all over they climbed up the front of the waterfall and jumped off again. We felt fairly invincible from then so we asked for a little help and climbed half way up the front of the waterfall and took our own leap.

You see, we really are becoming locals!

The people here are up late every night with music blasting from whatever speaker will play, and the up again early in the morning. Partying is their second nature. They are loud until around 2am every night with the acceptation of Sunday, the shut down time is 12am. To be noted, that rule is the only rule here that I have seen enforced. I have seen the police around but I have never seen them pull over a vehicle for speeding, drinking and driving, texting or calling and driving, or seatbelts. Which happens very very often. Even public intoxication or prostitution are ignored… or considered normal, no one cares when it happens, let alone the police.

Now I am sure that all of this information is quite alarming, but the people here along with their “carefree” attitude are extremely nice and friendly. They always seem to be happy and love any opportunity to help out. My family that I live with here is so cute and kind. They show enthusiasm for everything I do and they do. They are so awesome and willing to do so much for me. One of the first few weeks they offered to take the guagua with me for 45 minutes to the city nearby, just to make sure I made it to meeting safe. Salvador, the worker ended up coming to pick me up instead, but the offer was still really nice. They make awesome food, mostly rice, beans, and pork or chicken. However, I have had hot chocolate for supper a few times and smoothies, which I think is a good substitution for solid food!

Okay, I am sure you are wondering what is a guagua? Well, it is the Dominican Republic’s version of a bus. So it is either a small stretched out van or a truck. That, in their opinion, is never too full. They will squeeze in five people to a row and then start to stack other people on to stranger’s laps. In the trucks they let large amounts of people squeeze into the box and then hit the highway speeding. Let’s just say, people know how to hang on tight. The whole experience of a guagua is really fun and quite entertaining as we zoom through traffic at high speeds. Similarly, there are mottos. Which are the taxis of the towns, you hop on the back of their little dirt bike style machine and it is 25 pesos to go anywhere in town. That is also fun, literally zooming through traffic, and up and down winding streets.

The people who planned the streets in the cities here did not think it through very hard and navigation in big cities gets confusing. The four other volunteers and I went to Santo Domingo, the capital, for a weekend and were lost trying to find out hotel for an hour. Our taxi driver even got out of his car and helped us search.

Santo Domingo was really fun and beautiful. Still very Dominican in the sense that there were lots of vendors and bartering. The atmosphere is very chaotic and busy. However, in the colonial zone there are lots of old buildings and churches from when Christopher Columbus settled there. They do look a little worn and torn because of all the battles over the city that were fought. Still, the area has been at peace for over a decade and is a huge tourist attraction. We only did shopping while we were there but there is much more to discover like museums and the Malcom. So, I plan on returning soon.

Talk to you later


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