"working towards a healthy development for youth in especially difficult circumstances"
|A group of concerned citizens headed by Doña Ana Leroux founded Integración Juvenil (Youth Integration) in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in October of 1978 in order to create a place away from the street culture for children in especially difficult circumstances. Though Doña Ana is no longer with us, her dream is being carried on. Her hope was to foster a non-traditional environment of learning and personal growth for the multitudes of urban youth in particularly difficult circumstances. Today, nearly 25 years later, Integración Juvenil strives to offer such an environment for the increasingly difficult times that produce a lack of adequate educational and recreational facilities for the youth of Puerto Plata.||
|Integración Juvenil kids generally range from 7 – 16, though sometimes exceptions are made for slightly younger or older participants.|
|The institution has two locales; its administrative office in downtown Puerto Plata, and the educational center in the neighboring village of Muñoz, five minutes outside of the city. At the center in Muñoz, there are three buildings with classrooms and vocational and educational workshops, including wood-working, art and handicraft workshops, a sewing room, and a beauty salon classroom – all of which have been the center of the vocational and practical studies at Integración Juvenil since its inception. A staff of six to ten teachers (varying each year) oversees these workshops as well as intensive classes on literacy and other basic concepts of formal education, designed to re-insert youth into the educational system.|
|All classes are given at Integración Juvenil in the afternoons only, to allow for kids to continue their formal educations in the mornings. The school year is free for all of Integración Juvenil’s students, which includes transportation to and from Muñoz and educational materials like notebooks and pens. A walk-in clinic, maintained by CEPROSH of Puerto Plata, shares the compound with Integración Juvenil and offers free consultations for Integración Juvenil’s youth, including on site dental and medical exams.||
|Integración Juvenil is a registered non-profit organization within the Dominican Republic, and has subsisted over the years through government funds and international assistance. It is managed by a volunteer joint directive, and survives with the help of its dedicated staff, volunteers and international friends of the program.|
|Puerto Plata is the largest town on the north coast, with an estimated and growing population of 80,000 people. The north coast of the DR, while considered one of the most economical and popular international vacationing spots on the island, is also home to a swelling population of the urban poor, who live in marginalized barrios and squatter settlements on the outskirts of the city. The families of these neighborhoods face considerable economic and social difficulties.|
|The children of these families are more often than not induced to work small and odd jobs, shine-shoes, sell knick-knacks or seek hand-outs in the tourist districts, or become involved in the corrupt sex industry. As a result, the majority of such at-risk youth have left school or are severely behind. Illiteracy rates are considerable among such populations. Some have neither birth certificate nor any official documentation, which can prevent them from participating in the public school system. Some come from abusive families and harsh environments, while others have long since become removed from their nuclear families.|
|Some turn to crime and delinquency, while others sequester themselves in a world of low self-esteem and severely limited social and personal growth. Many young women become pregnant in their early and mid-teens, and the HIV/AIDS rate in Puerto Plata has soared in the past 10 years to become one of the highest on the island. Most all of them have little hope of overcoming the cycle of poverty and social / educational stagnation that characterizes barrio life Puerto Plata.|
|While the outlook seems bleak, Integración Juvenil has been attempting to provide an alternative for the youth of Puerto Plata since 1978. The purpose of Integración Juvenil is to create a sensitive, social and educational environment for its participants, providing them with an alternative to stagnation. For those who have dropped out of school or are consistently faltering in their formal education, Integración Juvenil teachers aim to catch these students up by adequately preparing them, as well as motivating them and providing the needed moral support in order to re-initiate their formal education.|
|For those children that are not returning to school, Integración Juvenil offers a refuge where healthy social interaction and values are fostered through a caring, dedicated and experienced staff. In Integración Juvenil, children find a home away from home where they can learn to be creative, talk, learn and play with their peers, and glimpse alternatives to the lifestyle which they have always and only known – abject poverty.||
|At the Integración Juvenil center in Muñoz, children learn to be themselves – that is, the person they had never given the chance to be.|
The best and most convincing advocates of Integración Juvenil are our successful alumni, many of whom have not only found the peace of mind self-esteem that their difficult childhood’s prevented, but have gone on to higher education and economic self-betterment, Integración Juvenil’s two-fold professional goal for all its participants. But all of these grown-ups share one thing in common – their appreciation for another chance at life through the help of Integración Juvenil.
So don't take out word for it. Here are the real, personal stories of some of Integración Juvenil alumni:
Integración Juvenil Success Stories
Programs & Events:
|Currently, Integración Juvenil is undergoing a program of institutional restructuring, supported by the help of GRACIAS, World Emergency Relief, and the US Peace Corps, as well aid from the private sector.|
|Integración Juvenil is soliciting funds to open a computer and multi-media lab, an important addition that we feel will add a crucial educational supplement to the program. As well, plans are underway to build are now small collection of books in Spanish to complete our library / resource room, and a sports / recreational area is currently being evaluated.|
|The vast terrain of the center in Muñoz offers many possibilities to construct volleyball, basketball, and even baseball playing areas, each of which can add an important element of healthy physical development, which in turn complements our goals and objectives for the children in the program. By the end of 2002, Integración Juvenil is also hoping to secure the funds to complete a renovation of the buildings at the center in Muñoz.|
|With the help of GRACIAS and World Emergency Relief, whose directors have visited several times and recognized the need for investment in the health and education of the at-risk youth of Puerto Plata, we are hoping to open new workshops and strengthen the administrative team through the financing of a Program Director and two Social Workers. The new direction begins working in May of 2002, and a renovated work-plan and recruitment program will be set into motion at the onset of the school year in September 2002.||
How Can I Help?
Integración Juvenil depends on charitable donations, volunteer activity, and financial contributions in order to sustain its programs and projects year to year. Integración Juvenil has a lengthy wishlist for the children and the program, and helpful material support can be in the form of the following: computers; school supplies – notebooks, pens and pencils, markers, crayons, chalk, etc.; sewing supplies – cloth, needles, sewing kits / machines; educational tools – maps, children’s books (in Spanish), board games, educational videos (in Spanish); VCR and television; other - clothing, toys for the holidays, posters, beauty salon supplies, medical supplies for the clinic.
Friends of Integración Juvenil:
Integración Juvenil has had lots of help and support in the DR and from all around the world since 1978. The following is a partial list of the institutions that have helped us grow in one way or another. Here, we would like to thank the people and organizations that have invested their funds, time, and their love into Integración Juvenil; first, to Rita Gautschi of GRACIAS, to whom we owe many thanks for being a long-time supporter and for her consistent financial support and cariño for the program. GRACIAS is a registered non-profit institution in Canada, and has served as Integración Juvenil’s Canadian and International representative since 1994. Thanks also go to Matthew Morano for donating the Internet space through his web page www.PuertoPlataGuide.com, a site dedicated to supporting sustainable local tourism in Puerto Plata. We encourage you to visit the site before making your trip to Puerto Plata. Lastly, we send a special thank you to the international team of World Emergency Relief that has given us such wonderful support and that has helped and sustained us to continue to become a better institution for the children.
Secretary of Education (Dominican Republic)
World Emergency Relief (International)
ChildHope Foundation (Canada)
Peace Corps (USA)
www.PuertoPlataGuide.com (Dominican Republic)
CEPROSH of Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic)
W.K. Kellogg Foundation (USA)
Inter-American Foundation (USA)
www.DR1.com (Dominican Republic)
Have you got a question, comment, or suggestion to share with Integración Juvenil? Contact us!
Telephone: 809 - 586 - 2020
Fax: 809 - 486 - 2638
Street Address: Calle Duarte, No. 61, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Mailing Address: Integración Juvenil, Apartado Postal 182, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic