In May, 30 members of the Class of 2017 participated in the “Chiapas for Change” program through Chiapas International, a non-profit group that works to help children and their families overcome poverty. This year, the group traveled to the Dominican Republic to learn how the microfinance non-profit Esperanza International helps fund different projects and programs in poverty-stricken areas.
The students and their four chaperones attended a “bank” meeting led by an Esperanza bank officer in a tin roof building with a dirt floor. Though the meeting was conducted in Spanish, the students were still able grasp the general concepts being discussed and better understand how microfinance works and benefits the population. After the meeting, several local business owners took the students on a tour of the businesses they have established thanks in large part of the $250 loans they received last year.
During their stay, the students also volunteered at Mis Primeras Palabaras, a local school that was funded by a loan from Esperanza International. The boys worked together to paint the exterior walls, build a fence, and put gravel on the playground, while the girls painted several brightly-colored murals.
Students who participated in the program were: Grace Bellman, Josephine Bellman, Chase Bullard, Sam Carrell, Travis Carter, Annabel Clark, Caroline Cooper, Taylor Crosby, Byars Crowe, Holmes Davis, Carter Daulton, Caroline Durante, Cal Etcheverry, Natalie Groves, Tommy Hessel, Maria Hieber, Rahim Hussain, Ellis Miller, Meredith Moderi, Kate Monger, Madhav Nair, Mindy Osler, Mark Reppe, Ryan Schmitt, Virginia Tiernan, Christian Viracola, William Watson, Alden Vose, Katie Witte, and Chase Woods.
Upon their return to the United States, Virginia Tiernan, a member of ESD’s microfinance club, met with Christi Morrow, ESD’s director of community service. They discussed the potential for a guest speaker to give a presentation this fall to the Upper School students about the effect microfinance has on third-world countries. The group hopes that she can use her experience to educate her peers about how they can improve the lives of families and children overseas.