Jessica Molloy
Jessica Molloy
Dominican Republic 2019 - 2020
I am traveling to La Vega, Dominican Republic and will be working with New Hope Girls! This is a safe house for girls ages 4-17 seeking refuge from dark and difficult places. I will be the certified teacher on site of the safe house! Read More About Jessica →

home

Well here we are again after a bit of a break. 

A restful, yet chaotic break back home. 

While at home, I was able to step outside what is actually going on in my day to day here. It was bizarre to step out of it and back into the American culture and not see my girls each day. I missed them so much, I talked about them each day and hoped they were practicing their numbers and letters to start right back when I got back. Facetime helped with that reminder when I would see their cute, little faces about every other day. 

A past intern here said once that she wasn’t able to process her time here until a few months or even a few years after she had left. That felt so real. Although I was stepping back for two weeks, I haven’t be able to touch the surface of processing everything that has happened in the past six months, the good, the beautiful and the raw. So, now that I am a little more than halfway with my DR journey, I thought I could dedicate a blog to the things that I have learned about myself, these girls, and the world since living in La Vega to get a little head start on the processing process :

( if you really know me, you’ll have fun reading these things that I’ve learned about myself, get excited) 

I love walking but also hate it 

I’m an extroverted introvert 

Going with the flow is stressful at times for me

Dreaming in Spanish is exhausting 

I want to be near family when before I wanted to live far away

Motorcycles are fun (don’t tell my Dad)

Empanadas are the real deal 

When I get to the end of my rope, God always shows up even when I haven’t asked Him to 

 I used to hate rain, now I see it as a new baptism and a fresh start, it’s beautiful 

Empanadas delivered to my door by moto is the best thing ever (only downfall with that is the delivery guy is in love with me and I had to tell him off) 

Self care is IMPORTANT 

Soda tastes better here

Chinola is actually passion fruit

I’m definitely a dark roast coffee gal 

I have a lot more patience than I thought I had 

I didn’t realize how much love I have for girls that aren’t related to me 

Now here are some awesome new updates about my second half here!!!

  • I HAVE A NEW HOUSE (my last house, I went 5 week without water there and that taught me a bunch of thing so I am happy to let it go but also sad because it definitely is where got wanted me to learn some patience and waiting) 
  • I HAVE A NEW CLASSROOM (this new classroom is INCREDIBLE, it has a separate entrance from the house part so the girls really feel like it is a school and not home)
  • Really not much else has changed but I am excited to dive even deeper with these girls as I finish my time here and remind that I will for sure be visiting because since leaving for Christmas, I have realized that I will miss them way to much to not visit

Some of my favorites moments the past two weeks back in Annapolis, Maryland: 

  • the Baltimore Ravens game with my family, my boyfriend and my best friend!
  • Lots of hugs 
  • Cousin and brother time!
  • More hugs
  • Running six miles in the rain with Nicholes, mi amor
  • Hugs from mom 
  • Cream of Crab Soup
  • Hugsssss
  • Charcuterie boards galore 
  • meeting my furry nephew, Cooper the Pooper
  • time with my best friend, Leah Lion
  • HUGS HUGS HUGS

I’ll let the pictures to tell you the rest!

Amor,

Jess

cooper the pooper

cousins and brother time

spent some time with this handsome one

mom & dad <3

stop and go

Took the bus to the capitol today. 

For those who have been in Santo Domingo know that the traffic is the absolute worst here. 

The bus is cold (not used to this air conditioning), I’m wearing the ear muffs that I bought for my Christmas trip back to the states. The seats are comfy and I’m falling asleep but the stop and go traffic keeps me awake. Stop, go, stop, go. To move an inch or two, the bus uses sudden jolts of energy. Taking an hour and 15 minutes to go about a mile truly frustrates me. I started thinking about the engine and how that must be just as frustrating for the engine (I tend to give inanimate objects personalities and emotions) but think of yourself as that engine, probably exhausted from the stop and go, the energy jolts thinking you are getting somewhere only to stop again, wait, feel stuck and blocked in. 

Aren’t we all the engine? Moving forward through life holding onto each jolt forward and waiting for the next one until it’s smooth sailing? 

We are all in this process. Our girls are in this process. All at different moments, all at different jolts, extending that hope for herself and those around her each time. A girl’s jolt forward even pushes me forward. When I see a victory, I hold onto that victory, I ride that victory for that day or that week. There are so many victories in each day, but there is also a lot of traffic with a lot of waiting for those victories. 

 

Each jolt of the bus, no matter how slow we were moving, I felt progress being made and at least told myself that we are moving forward and that’s all that matters right now. At the beginning of this year, I would not be telling myself that in reference to my everyday, I would be frustrated that there weren’t more victories or academic successes. This taught me to just hold on, stay awhile, learn each girl and watch the small victories happen before my eyes. The energy jolts of a girl apologizing to another or a walk home from school with good behavior. These are the jolts that keep her going and what keep us all going, truly. 

Hold tight. We are moving, even in the traffic. 

Short & sweet post for you on this Tuesday. 

Amor, 

Jess 

brought thanksgiving to the DR

green bean casserole was difficult to explain

thanksgiving for 28!

Christmas has arrived in the DR

 

went to Las Terrenas with some incredible friends from Mercy Workshop in San Pedro to hike to a waterfall!

Salto de Limon

the girls have started to get Christmas presents, their favorite has been this notebook from the wonderful Birmingham artist, Tricia Robinson

 

past intern and new best friend, Becca came to visit with the girls and be the photographer for the week

 

 

Becca captured this wonderful photo, the title of this portrait is ‘Tired Teacher’

Sofia caught taking a nap

we figured out Group FaceTime!

just some fresh avocado and cilantro to end the blog today

 

 

heart bandaids

When I was little, bandaids were my favorite. They magically healed every boo-boo and they even had my favorite cartoons on them. Bandaids had a way of making everything feel better in the moment. 

She placed the cartoon bandaid on her sister’s heart. It seemed like everyone had a heart wound that day. Each time another bandaid placed on another heart. A couple bandaids placed on foreheads and arms but it was the heart that took the win for the most wounds that day. 

We sat in a circle after needing to leave class a little early. The girls, myself, Ada (director), and Ana (caretaker) in the middle of the floor in the midst of a tough day. Not sure why it was so obvious that it was tough but that day got to each of us. We each had to step back and remember that each of us are humans and each of us have hurts. So there we were in the circle with the girls (primarily the ones that are in intake which means that they have recently arrived to the house). One by one the girls talked about their specific hurt that day and where they needed the bandaid to be placed. Like I said, lots of heart wounds so plenty of heart bandaids. 

That circle helped me to step back and sit with the girls and be reminded that each girl has a story, has a past, and has received her rescue. Each difficult moment, I want to be reminded that it is ok and we can get through it because she has received her rescue and she is worth it. To see each girl as an individual with her own individual hurt and her own way of expressing it each day is essential in this work. Each student, a separate case to be taken in its own form.

For me, it has been a learning curve as I have become aware of mannerisms that make a specific girl grin and another one cry, a certain word that could affect one girl in one way and another in a different. It’s all about getting to know them on a deeper level to even start to reach them academically. I found that I had to gain each girls’ trust before I could teach them a single thing. This was a process. Day in day out. Lots of Peppa Pig episodes, walks to the park, snuggles on the couch, jumps on the trampoline, singing Soy Luna songs together, climbing up the guayaba trees. This was and still is a process of gaining trust. To me, gaining one’s trust is the highest compliment. It allows you to enter into relationship with that person and share life with them. Life is the sweetest gift and something to be shared. 

Learning to gain each one’s trust is the toughest but most beautiful ride. It is still a process and probably will be but showing up each day is the first step and I have to remind myself that. It is a process. Life is a process. 

I even got a voice message from my good friend and New Hope Director, Ada tonight teaching me that everything is a process. Even not having water at my house for two weeks is a process. Nothing can be solved all at once in one moment, those that want a careful job to be done and done right, take the time and go through each step in the process. I was frustrated about the water, but I truly believe it is trying to teach me something. Have patience and they will open up, have patience and they will start to read, have patience and they will learn their numbers, have patience and they will trust you, and even… have patience and your water will come back on. 

Happy Tuesday 

Amor, 

Jess

Sofia in attire for one of the girl’s birthdays

Mom visited and my heart was very happy!!!

Dominican mama and American mama

<3

crushed a 5k with the girls in Santiago

Joy and Jess take on a 5k early Sunday morning

 

 

quick FaceTime with Dad to tell him I miss him (just was in the midst of leaf blowing...made me miss Fall weather)

 

last but not least...had lice 2 weeks ago, embracing it loving it killing it

 

stop and sit awhile

The other day I was headed out for my run in the morning at the stadium near my house. I love running. I used to hate it, I actually used to despise it, running used to control me. Now in my life, running is my therapy, it helps me put my thoughts into place when they are just swirling around. It helps me calm down, get in a rhythm, and allows me to know my body’s limits and abilities. 

That morning, I wanted to run. It was a typical day, nothing new. I wanted to run so badly, I wanted to push myself, I wanted to organize my thoughts. Lap after lap alone at the track, I felt this energy falling off me. I no longer was able to organize my thoughts. I wanted to keep going but something was telling me to stop and sit awhile…so naturally I ignored that and kept going…even looked at the stadium stairs and did some stadiums to keep myself moving. But still, there was something telling me to stop and sit awhile. 

At the top of one of my stadiums, I plopped myself down in a shady spot overlooking the red, dusty track. I listened to my breathing and allowed myself to just be for a moment. Just be. Here now. And in that moment, it sort of hit me wondering how the heck I got here. How I got to the Dominican Republic, how I found New Hope, how I became passionate about this work, but also how difficult this work is, how frustrating this work is, how angry I am with the world’s brutality sometimes, how important this work is, but how much it is affecting me and hitting me hard. For that moment, I was able to be above it all, at the top of the stadium looking down. My boss, Joy, has her high above spot, too. She goes there to dream but also to be physically above things that are challenging. I didn’t realize that the stadium was that for me until writing this. Just to physically feel taller and higher, I felt like I could breath for a moment, felt like I was above the water. 

This work is tough. It is not sugar-coated, nicely wrapped, with a bow. It is real, raw, and beautiful in its own way. Within the beautiful moments, there are moments of grief, vulnerability, moments of triggers and moments of pure sadness but I would argue that these moments are just as beautiful as the typical ‘beautiful’ smiley moments. Without darkness, we don’t know light. Without the tough, feeling like giving up moments, we don’t see the joyous and wondrous times. 

I am thankful for my emotions, I wouldn’t be the person I am without them. I am thankful for tears and thankful for sadness allowing for a flow of emotion to show among my face. To walk with these girls for the past four months is probably one of the highest honors I’ve had. To cry with them, to laugh with them, to hug them and hold their hand affects me in ways that I would have never realized but each emotion that I have, I try to match with patience with myself. Sometimes that patience with my emotions is small and I get frustrated that I am not stronger but the thing that I’m learning is that there is a lot of strength in emotion. There is strength in tears. There is strength in breaking down. I would be lying to you if I said this year is easy. This year, I am growing and these growing pains hurt. 

As I looked down at the track, allowing for my thoughts to file themselves back, I was glad that something told me to sit and to be. That something was the Lord just pulling me back to listen to His whisper. To sit in my emotion, to feel it and own it and allow it to keep me going. To keep holding their hand, to keep having the hard conversations, to keep hugging them after a long day. Recognizing my own emotion in all this has allowed me to become closer with each girl as they see more of the real Jess coming through. 

Here’s to the real, raw, emotional you.

Amor, 

Jess

 

 

Now for some fun photos that ya gotta see  

was just happy with my proper noun vs. noun lesson, I had to take a pic.

went to Moca, DR & had a ball of plantains with a lot of cheese (aka monfongo)

made myself a pb and honey sandwich cause that’s what my mom makes and I miss her a lot

no pumpkins? no problem

me carrying 13 pineapples back to my house for a lesson I planned for later that day...that was my exercise that day

 

Hola Papa Dios

“Hola Papa Dios” – “Hey Papa God”

Words from our four year old to start off a prayer. It was just like any other night, we were all gathered in the living room upstairs and it was time for our prayer before sleep. I asked the girls who would like to pray and the four year old said “me!” Everyone laughed immediately. I understood the laughter but wanted to use this moment as a lesson to the girls. I told them that God wants us to be like children again, God wants our prayers to be raw and honest. I told them that some of the most profound prayers come from little ones. So I turned to our sweet four year old and said, “siga” – ‘continue’. 

As I expected, her prayer was one of the most profound. She thanked God in her own little way for her story and how she arrived to the house. She thanked Him for what happened then thanked Him for being in this big house now. 

I often get so caught up in the day to day life of teaching the girls in the morning then working with homework and tutoring in the afternoon. But this day, I felt like I just needed to listen and be present. Be present with the girls no matter if they are yelling at me, crying with me, laughing with me, stressed with me, fighting with me, loving me or hating me. Just be present. Show them that I am showing up. Showing up is the most important part. Each caretaker, psychologist, teacher, cook, director….showing up for them. Showing them that they are important. We can use all the words we want to describe how important they are but they’ve had empty words in their life…our job is to fill the words that we say to them. Fill those words with matched actions. Actions that the girls deserve. Actions of sitting with them after a long day of school, walking to the track with them to get some energy out, crying with them as we both miss our families, singing at the top of our lungs, just being with them. Intentional presence. 

Entering my fourth month here, I am learning presence. This is something that I never want to lose…intentional presence with someone. Presence with someone that is important to us and  presence even with someone we barely know. Presence allows us to learn about one another, get to know their story, see where they come from. Presence brings value to us as human beings. We crave presence because we want to feel known and feel seen. Here with the girls, we recognize that that craving does not fall short in the house. With the time that I’ve had here, little by little I have been able to understand how each girl receives the intentional presence to feel known and loved. As I learn, I get to spend time doing things that they love to do, hearing stories that they love to tell. My favorite thing so far in this job is the ability to see how each one is their own self.  To see how each one wants to share their time with someone that is there to listen closely. Discovering how they learn best in the classroom, but more so discovering what makes their eyes light up with joy. To each one their own in every way. 

Sit down. Listen closely. Be present. 

Con Amor,

Jess

ALSO I GOT MY FIRST VISITOR & it was a super special visitor, too 🙂 Thank you, Nick for exploring DR with me! 

New Hope Girls launched our new program called “Brand Advocate” where you can share our bags with your community! Check out our website for details!

step by step

She is raw and restless but she has received her rescue. She is safe and that is what matters most. This is what we hold onto each week, each day, each hour. She has received her rescue and she is safe. 

As I ended my last blog, I spoke about how it is not a sprint but a marathon and I will stand by that comment even more so looking back at these last two weeks. I am realizing that this takes time. These girls have a lot on their mind, more than I can even imagine. Sometimes in class, we just have to pause and take a moment to recognize where we are, where we are sitting, who is in the room, and why we are here. “We are here to keep you safe, we are here to take care of you, we are here to love you”. I say these words most days, even today in class when it was clear she was working through something. 

No training could ever have prepared me 100% for this, but I am learning along the way. The stories that my students hold are ones that can manifest themselves in different behaviors and emotions. I am having grace for my girls. I am having grace for myself. The classroom that I have created here for the girls in transitional care has become a small family. We play, we fight, we sing, we dance, and we are all learning each day step by step. 

some dog therapy in class today with Sofia

Here are some fun little updates: 

– Wondering maybe what my day to day looks like? 

Now that we aren’t in Summer vacations anymore, my daily routine has shifted. Instead of teaching English classes to all the girls, I am now focused on all academics for those in transitional care. This is our small family that call themselves the Lionesses 🙂 My lionesses consist of an 11 year old, a 9 year old, and two 6 year olds. With these girls, some may have received education before arriving at New Hope and some have not. I just evaluate their levels on topics and do most of my class in a ‘centers’ style based on their level. So it is a range of letter and number recognition to multiplication and chapter books. Also, we moved the classroom to a new location and gave the girls uniforms so they feel like the older girls leaving the property for school! It’s exciting!      

lionesses walk to school

      

My schedule looks like: Lionesses 8-11:30 each day, English for the caretakers, the psychologist, and director different days of the week after the Lionesses, then helping the girls with their homework when they get back from school! I basically work an 8-4 day with some lesson planning in between. On Sundays, I continue with English classes for the other girls that are in schools outside the safe house during the week. 

with their super cute uniforms

  • I have moved to the guest house where ~ gracias a Dios ~ there is water now! The true water of life! I live with Sofia, the sweet New Hope puppy! She and I hang out a lot. We like to go on walks and eat peanut butter together. 

new walk to work from my house 🙂

  • Most afternoons, I take the older girls to the track with me! I love to run each day and they do, too!
  • I met some friends at the track, so on the weekends I love to hang out with them! Whether that looks like going to dinner at a fun food truck place here in La Vega or going for a run by one of the many rivers.

My friend from the track, Yadi!

  • I ran in my first Dominican track meet the other day in the 800 meters, felt like I was in high school on my track team again! 

  • Some friends and relatives have been buying the New Hope bags that our workshop makes and that makes me so happy! The workshop is where the women in the community are welcomed into our New Hope family and given jobs in the workshop. While making these bags, they are receiving a salary, discipleship, and are supporting the girls in the safe house. So go check out our website to get your shopping on!
  • On the weekends, I also like to explore around La Vega (the city where I live) and the capitol which is an hour and a half bus trip away. 
  • Each afternoon spent with the girls helping with homework, I am able to get to know each one more and more! ….and oh do they love Ed Sheeran, limoncillos (a cross between a grape and a gobstopper), dancing, trying on my earrings, and climbing the avocado tree…sometimes a little too high (it’s avocado season, yay!!!)
  • When I arrived at the end of June, there were 14 girls and now there are 17 girls. I always find it fun to find out what makes each girl so distinct and beautiful in their own way. Each of these girls are full of love, energy, and a lot of laughter. 
  • I take the older girls on Thursday nights to the YoungLife club here in La Vega. This is an opportunity to show them something that I was involved in as well since I was a YoungLife leader back in Nashville for four years. They seem to love it a lot!
  • And my last update…my new favorite food = empanadas.

Con Amor, 

Jess 

one day I looked like a blueberry in class

     

was able to catch my belmont pals in one place !!

    

my friend’s fresh new baby boy!!!

some days

Some days we run.

Some days we walk.

Some days we crawl.

Some days we sing.

Some days we cry.

Some days we do a mix of all these things.

“Well, Jess, that just sounds like a roller coaster of emotions”, you might say.

Why, yes, yes it is. Some say that roller coaster is bad. I call that roller coaster, living.

To wake up each day in the palm of God’s hand, we say yes to the emotions and to feel them deeply as He shows them to us. I feel just about all these emotions for a least a little bit each day here.

I do not feel qualified to do this job here. I feel frustrated. I feel angry. But each day, I get up, I go to my classroom, sit on the floor, count squares, sing songs, teach math in a language other than my own, and share a new experience together with girls that have lived to see more things in their six years than I ever have in my twenty two years of life. I do this because the emotion of love is greater than that of frustration or anger.

As a first year teacher, there are several things that happen in your classroom that you may not have learned at the university level. There are only things that you can learn while you have your first class. My first class and my first experience being a primary teacher is a little different than what I thought it would be. I had always dreamed of being a teacher, for some reason that’s just what I thought I was going to do and didn’t think twice about it. Some call it a calling, and maybe that’s what I call it too but I am just not sure if I was called to do anything but teaching in my life.

I can’t do it.

I can’t do it.

I can’t do it.

I called my mom, crying these words.

Everything feels so heavy. I’m messing everything up.

“Do you think that I really was supposed to be a teacher?” — I texted my mom last week.

Later that day, I was reading A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor while sipping some chinola juice in the peace of a small café:

“I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask you with resignation — that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind — realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.”

I want to love. I want to show love. I want to teach love. I want to love. These girls deserve that. These girls deserve to see what true love looks like and I am more than willing to show them.

I can do this. 

I can do this.

I can do this.

I realized this after a hard day with one of my six year olds. A kicking and screaming, girl ready to fight came to me to cry in my arms. She is a feisty girl, never really knowing what will come out of her mouth. I had never seen her cry like this before. The only words she could get out were about her abuser. “Te amo” — “I love you” — I said to her over and over again. First is love. 

These girls are raw. 

These girls are real. 

These girls have stories. 

These stories are tough. 

Sometimes I get so caught up in the teaching of it and making sure they know everything they need to know. But tend to forget the roots that are within each one. The stories that hold onto them. I want the change to happen so fast, I want them to see how much education can build for them. But this is a marathon not a sprint. Step by step. Lesson by lesson. Hug by hug. We can do this together. 

Amor,

Jess

or shall I say,  Miss Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

in a different light

Super real post, get ready. 

I was honestly just waiting for the tearful, beautiful, difficult, frustrating, joyful, laughable week to arrive and here we are. 

It is 11:16pm and I am standing under my fan waiting for my scabies cream to dry. Just so you know what’s going on, there’s that visual. 

When I said yes to this journey, I knew what I was saying yes to but didn’t realize how much it could impact me. This week, two new girls arrived to the safe house with stories that have allowed me to see the world in a different light. I get frustrated with that different light sometimes but I am grateful to have it but most times I am angry with it. Many want to ignore that light, ignore the part of life that can break our hearts, but there is something that happens within us when we look straight into that light. Looking straight into this light can hurt our eyes but more so, it can hurt our hearts. When we look straight at it, we can’t ignore it, it stays in our eyes and creates those little white stars when we look away. 

These stories shine bright in our direction at New Hope and we don’t walk away, we won’t walk away. We walk toward this hurtful, frustrating, burning light. Looking at the world in this “different light” can hurt so much but it can be so wonderful once you touch the light and care for the light. 

I prayed a few years ago for the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His. I really do wonder why the heck I prayed that prayer. I guess I was just young and with no idea just how much God would show me. I found myself experiencing the answer to this prayer when the girl arrived to the safe house this week. I had been told her story a few moments before she arrived and I knew she was coming so I was preparing some clothes for her and found myself crying over a bin of socks. Her story is one of the toughest that we have heard but she is safe now. She is that light, shining bright for us to see. 

Now here I am waiting for my scabies cream to dry, reflecting. 

Each day is a new day here at New Hope. Each day is new light. My boss and friend, Joy, told me that she has this weird thing that happens when she tries to remember someone. She said that she doesn’t see their face, she can’t picture them. But she remembers the way they made her feel or the words that she remembers them saying. I feel like she sees the light in them, she sees the inner being within. This is the light, the light that burns and hurts but is wonderful. 

After my tough week, Joy wrote some poems for me. I thought I’d share them here: 

A GIRL

She is 11 with the stature of 7

I wonder why she is so tiny

I wonder how anyone could look at her

and see anything but a tiny

GIRL

There are 1,000 stories that bring our girls to us

and 1 thing they all have in common

someone, sometime  – sometimes many, many times

looked at her and didn’t see

a GIRL

a prize, a piece, a possession

an opportunity, an object

But NOT

a GIRL

Today as we held up new clothes to her waif of a body

We choked back tears

Because all we could see was a GIRL

a tiny

vulnerable

GIRL

And Today she begins the journey

to see herself as she truly is

A GIRL

Full of wonder

and promise

and Hope

Created for a purpose

A Holy purpose

A GIRL

_____________

New Hope Days

She wasn’t prepared for what

She’d see or experience

even though we told her..

She had no idea how the dark stories

would literally break her heart

She had no idea how deep

she would love and laugh

How hard she would fall

So Fast

Tonight she stands beneath a fan

trying to process her day

between tears and belly laughs

as her scabie cream dries. –LOL

and she prepares her mind for sleep

REST deep

because tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow truly is another day. Another day to fight, another day to laugh, another day to shine bright. The school year is upon us here in La Vega. Uniforms are ready. Vera Bradley backpacks are filled with supplies. And the light of New Hope is excited to enter school.

Goodbye summer, hello number 2 pencils, fresh markers, & eager learners!

Amor, 

Jess

my twin, Ada & bff, Patricia

super excited about being a 7 on the enneagram!

my new dog, Chiquito....lol jk

pretty much matches the title of this post

my new Vera Bradley lunch box, shoulda seen my face when I got it

watering the jardín 🙂

mural city in Santiago :))

Vera Bradley backpack day!!!!

oh I ran a race! with my new running club that I met at the track!

some running gal pals

the faces of ppl who woke up at 4am

getting ready for their first day of school! gave them their New Hope uniforms today and they wanted to have a photo shoot with their teacher 🙂 yay! my first students!

Lionesses

I HAVE A ROUTINE NOW! ...it will probably change knowing Dominican culture and just the ins and outs of working in a non-profit, but as of right now...I have a routine! That said routine looks like:

7:30am – waking up to the sounds of music and girls screaming “MA” as they are waiting for breakfast

Breakfast for me & journaling

9:30am – my first class of the day! This class is two of the younger girls that are eager to learn but get frustrated when I only speak in English. “Miss Jessica! Por favor habla en espanol primero y luego en ingles” But I have learned that conversation and acting out of sentences when speaking is the fastest way these girls are going to learn English.

10:30am – my second class of the day! This class is with the super young girls, the six year olds to be specific. This class looks like a lot of Simon Says and sitting criss crossed applesauce together.

11:00am – my third class of the day! These are the older girls so naturally the class is called “The Big Girls”. Today I broke the news to them that I was only going to be speaking in English when the class began. They were mad at me but by the end, they knew that that was going to be the best way to learn. This is the class that knows how many more opportunities there are when you are bilingual, so they push themselves to get to that level. They get frustrated for about 80% of the class but we work through it each time.

BREAK

3:00pm – my fourth class of the day! This class is one on one with the psychologist, Ada! She is amazing. She understands most English but there is a need for her to be a translator in the future and for her to go to the states and promote New Hope Girls while speaking in English so this class is opening doors for her. She and I just sit and talk about anything. I know that she and I will get close with this hour together each day.

4:00pm – my fifth class of the day! This class is made up of the advanced English speakers in the house. There are three girls in this class that have been passionate about English for a while now and are able to understand me. I sit with them on a couch and make the class very casual. We talk about life, our stories, our highs and lows of each day all in English. I truly believe that they will be fluent by the end of this year.

5:00pm – (Mondays and Wednesdays) my sixth and final class of the day! In this class, there are the caretakers! These women work two days at a time watching over the 15 girls in the house. This hour on Mondays and Wednesdays is solely for them. I use this class as a very conversational class as well and am hopeful that this will open more doors for them in the future in their work and speaking to the American visitors.

These are my summer class hours, but during the year I will be teaching the girls that are not quite ready to go to a school in the neighborhood yet. School starts on August 19 here so that is when my English classes are pushed to Saturdays and I just teach all academics during the day. I will mainly be working with the new six year old! She is a cutie and loves to count to ten!

Now that I have somewhat of a routine, I feel more settled here and am starting to call this place my home. Although I miss my friends and family very much, I know this is where I am supposed to be this year. There are moments when it is harder than normal but I have my co-workers to lean on. These women that work for New Hope Girls are some of the most incredible ladies I have ever met in my life. It was just the other night that I reflected while in devotion with the girls and the two caretakers. I looked around the small room filled with eighteen women and girls and felt a peace, a peace for these girls. These girls are learning that they are now in a safe place, a place of refuge. Each day, the caretakers are reminding them that this is a safe place and we will take care of them. Many times, girls ask “Who will take care of me?” because they are so accustomed to worrying each day of their basic needs. But now that they are here at the safe house, we always reassure them that they are safe and they are being taken care of and that their needs are being met. When I looked around the room, I felt like the caretakers were lionesses protecting their sweet cubs. These women are warriors for these girls and each night I love to remember that. This house wouldn’t be here without them, these girls would not feel loved like they do without them. This is a house of light and hope and the caretakers are a huge part of that.

These women are strong, fierce, and so beautiful. Today, give that strong woman in your life a huge hug, she will love it. 

Amor, 

Jess 

 

beautiful view from our summer camp (beach trip)

rough life as a teacher in the DR

desayuno of my dreams

walking the bridge of Samana with my faves

a surprise quince for our sweet caretakers!!!

ana and ada !!

paintings from camp!! the girls learning that they too are crowned

that’s my Moto...Lol jk

some aesthetic bananas

our garden!!! I will for sure be using this area for plenty of my lessons

our girls with their princess paintings

the BEST staff ever!!!

Dominican Wal-Mart, I love you

Well, almost two weeks down. I think I have each of the girls’ names memorized, all my pictures up in my room, wifi figured out, transportation is still in the works sometimes, and I’ve found my favorite store (La Sirena! Basically a Dominican Wal-Mart). I arrived to La Vega, DR last Sunday, July 1st after a mini vacay in Puerto Plata with my parents. We, of course, met at my new favorite store, La Sirena with my boss and were brought to the original site of the first safe house/school. She brought us to the barrio, up a steep, muddy hill to a small house that was used to house girls for many years. After this, we drove to a different neighborhood to our most recent safe house. It truly is amazing how much God has done in New Hope Girls since the beginning. The safe house where the girls are is also where I am living. This gives me the space to know each of the girls intentionally and walk together through life for a year.

My first day of work looked like meeting with the psychologist, Ada and figuring out my schedule. During the summer until school starts, I will be teaching English to each of the girls, the women in the workshop, the psychologist, and the care-takers. During the year, I will be working with the girls in transitional care, the ones that are not able to go to school yet, working on all academics together. This will allow the girls to not regress in their learning while they are not able to go to a school in the neighborhood. Also, during the year, I will continue with English with each girl, caretaker, and woman. With learning English, all girls and women of New Hope will be able to communicate with their visitors, future workers, and those of collaborations in the workshop like Vera Bradley.

These first couple days here have been amazing, overwhelming, difficult, joyful, tearful, and truly wonderful. Lots of emotions, right? I thought so, too. Getting to know the stories that each of these girls have has been one of the highest honors I have held in my life and I know that I will continue to feel that way throughout the year. But as for now, I’m holding on, I’m exploring, I’m teaching, I’m learning, I’m challenging myself, I’m discovering, and I’m loving it all....even the hard stuff.

Welcome to my journey, a crazy, messy, imperfect, still figuring it all out journey. Walk with me, pray with me, chat with me.

Amor,

Jess

The girls made a sweet sign in my room with cards to welcome me!

New Hope’s doggie, Sofia

Nail night!

My first classroom filled with these beautiful students

My bedroom!

Miss Jessica and her giant white board

Looking out the window at the beach on our first outing!

La Sirena always supplying the necessities.