Dream Workshop Pilot - Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
February 28th, Daksha, Nilsa, and Melvin Cordova joined forces with Marti Grimminck and Hellem Pedroso of International Connector to conduct dream workshops at the community level. We traveled to Jaime C. Rodriguez Elementary School in Yabucoa to conduct the first dream workshop. Our partnership with Yabucoa started during our humanitarian trip in November to deliver their first generator, insulin, and cash to support a rebuild project.
Marayda, the director of the Yabucoa school, explained to us upon arrival that they had just received a large generator from FEMA that very morning that will support the entire power needs of the school. The FEMA workers were able to bring power back to the entire school during our workshop, bringing about a celebration. Having power restored to the school means the school can now stay open past the early afternoon, and the children can have full school days once again. Not only that, but the school will be more viable as a meeting place for the community when needed.
At 1 pm we began the dream workshop with parents, young students, police, and neighbors in attendance. After introducing our group and explaining our mission, Marti and Hellem posed the following questions to the group:
1. What is it that you love about living here?
a. Baseball, the beach, the local pizzeria, the love neighbors have for each other.
2. What happened here after the storm? What are the current challenges?
a. Lost homes, lost public buildings, a singular (limited) supermarket, the loss of power and water, limited communications, limited educational materials, and the need to drive to another town for basic medical needs and shopping.
3. What kind of people and talents are in the community?
a. Musicians, painters, police/security, baseball athletes, and a congresswoman.
4. Where can you go from here? In a week, month, three months, a year?
a. Rebuilding community buildings, offering food and aid to the bedridden and elderly, offer after-school programs, and establish a peer patrol program (crossing guards) among the children.
The adults and children were engaged and spent time answering the questions proposed. After the third question, it seemed to be smoother to have an open dialogue about the struggles and the personal stories from those in attendance. We captured stories of what people have gone through during and since the storm and how it has affected them.
Here are a few collected stories:
Angel Serrano: Angel is an elderly man, 80, that lives with his wife across the street from the school and he joined in the workshop. After speaking about his family and Yabucoa’s struggles, he ended up inviting some of us to his home. He told us about his life, how he and his wife still sleep on a moldy mattress that became wet from Hurricane Maria five months ago, how he can’t charge his electric wheelchair using the small generator his home has and must rely on wooden crutches, how his roof leaks water and drops paint on them. He was extremely humbled and appreciative of our presence and the help we are trying to provide the locals and will pray for us. He has since reached out to Hellem to send the following message to us:
School Mother: A lady in attendance shared with us not only the depression that adults feel having to make sure to keep a roof above their heads, but also about the children’s depression that affects them so deeply. To the present, no one has come to help. There are no resources to provide therapy and counseling in school or in the community to address this problem. When she asked her daughter what she wanted for Christmas, all she wanted was a home. Her family had lost everything in the storm.
Keiliana, 2nd Grader: One of the students in attendance, a bright and energetic kid, told me that she comes to the school every day even when she doesn’t have to, so that she can pray. As her mother is living in the states for work, she lives with her grandmother and prays every day for the one day that her mother will come home for good. It is easy to see that even so young, these children feel complex emotions and should have the resources to have someone to talk to.
Jennifer: Jennifer is the mother of three young children that attend the school. After Hurricane Maria, like many, she experienced depression at the bleakness of the situation. She did not previously know many of her neighbors, but as people started to draw their efforts together, she became inspired to contribute to her home and community. After our workshop ended, she took us to see a community center that has been abandoned since Hurricane Maria. The community has all of the assets to rebuild, rejuvenate, and utilize once again. Jennifer also drove us to see the beach that so many from Yabucoa are proud to show off.
At the end of the session, we offered the donated laptops, one for the school in Patillas and the other for the school in Yabucoa. The director and two staff members from the school in Patillas drove to Yabucoa to attend the workshop. They welcome our model of empowering the communities to give them the knowledge and the tools to face the challenges to achieve their goals.
When we left, we left them with a message of hope, and the vision of a more prosperous and brighter future.