The Cycle of Service   Leave a comment

While I was in Peace Corps, I worked with the local schools in Consuelo to find the kids most in need of literacy help.  When I was evaluating kids’ knowledge of the vowels, the alphabet, and basic two syllable words, I met Bladimir.  He was 14 in fifth grade and couldn’t identify any of the vowels.  The first book in the 36 book Scholastic Literacy set, AEIOU, took him several weeks to master.  Together, in about a year, we pushed through all the books in the series. Now that he is reading, they skipped him a few grades.  Today, he is in his junior year and looking forward to graduating soon.  It is impressive, but there is something more inspiring.

Bladmir, like many in Consuelo, is hoping to be signed into one of the many Dominican academies of  Major League Baseball teams.  He spends his morning at the baseball field and his nights in night school at the local high school.  And now, his afternoons are faithfully spent at the CCI community center.  Bladmir is so grateful for his ability to read and for the literacy help he received that he is anxious to give back.

I have had Bladimir tell his story to teachers and politicians at CCI community meetings.  He gets nervous, but his story is powerful.  He recently participated in a CCI literacy volunteers’ training and is now helping kids who are in the same difficult situation he overcame.  This is what CCI’s Service for Aid hopes to replicate thousands of times over.

Bladimir plans to participate in English classes at CCI in exchange for his time helping in the literacy groups.  We are also working on his reading and ability to take notes after the literacy groups.  We hope that Sara, Angelo, Dariel, and all the other participants in CCI’s Literacy Intervention continue the same cycle of service.

Your donations make all of this possible!  Thank you!   To see more photos, visit us at www.cciinfo.org and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Community-Connection-International-Inc/120999701287225.

Posted February 10, 2011 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

The Lists are In   1 comment

The lists are in.  I asked the three local elementary schools in Consuelo to provide me with lists of twenty-four students in third or fourth grade who are not reading.  Third grade has proven to be the biggest problem for local school officials because national education regulations do not allow teachers to hold kids back until third grade.  What happens is kids who have not mastered literacy skills like identification of letters, are passed until they get to third grade.  The kids that are on-track are reading and those that are behind are not.  Class sizes reach fifty students.  All students only attend school half-day, morning or afternoon for three-and-a-half hours.  Teachers have very little opportunity to give these struggling students the extra attention they need to reach their reading potential.

CCI has committed to help.  To start, twenty-four students from each school will participate in literacy training at the CCI community center.  We are in the process of meeting with parents to explain why their child has been selected.  Parents’ most common question is, “How much do I have to pay?”  When I tell them the only thing CCI asks is that their child participates one time in a community service project, tears, smiles, and expressions of thanks rise.

I went to the schools to evaluate each child selected.  The group includes several thirteen year olds who have failed third grade five times, a sixteen year old fourth grader, and many who said, “No sé”, when I asked them if they could write their name.

One girl Sara, who is in third grade for the fifth time, was absent.  The school psychologist told me that Sara’s teacher asked if she could make a change.  She wanted to trade Sara for another student because she thinks Sara can’t learn and it would be better to give her spot to another student.  I let them know that Sara is exactly the student CCI wants to help.  Help us connect Sara to her potential.

This month, CCI has not received any donations.  The $200 rent is due tomorrow, and I’m struggling to buy basic necessities.  Any support you could give this month to help us launch the literacy courses would be greatly appreciated.  CCI and Sara send sincere thanks in advance. 

Posted January 23, 2011 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

MLK, Gabe Zimmerman, & Us   2 comments

On this day, remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., I also remember Gabe Zimmerman.  My dear friend was lost to irrational violence while participating in an event to connect the community.  I worked with Gabe at Arizona’s Children Association in Tucson and we were fast friends.  My memories keep of Gabe keep making me smile; his laughter, his goofiness, and his kindness.  Gabe always showed sincere care and unwavering ethics when dealing with the challenging youth of the center.  He recently made a donation to CCI and wrote me to say, “Now you just need 1,000 more people like me!”; today, sadly, I think just one would be enough.  In his political views, his work, and in his personal life, he was forever positive, active, and hopeful.  As Barack Obama said at the Tucson Memorial Service, because of this tragedy, “we recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.”  Gabe knew this truth before suffering this tragedy, and responded in service to its call.  Martin Luther King, Jr. also knew this truth and said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”  We can honor their memories by following their example of service.  May God comfort the family and friends of those who have past, and may we all commit to better the lives of others and to connect humanity to its potential.

Posted January 17, 2011 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

CCI’s Service for Aid in Motion   Leave a comment

Service for Aid is CCI’s unique way of implementing long-lasting change through the delivery of humanitarian aid.  CCI uses your donations to provide meaningful incentives for people who participate in CCI programming.  Our first incentive was given to a local baseball team in the form of partial support for its entrance fee into a local baseball tournament.  In order to earn their incentive, the players participate in a community service project and CCI’s Youth Literacy Intervention Project.  The team members helped to carry donated desks from a local school to the CCI community center (about a half-mile walk).  The boys are also enthusiastic about reading the biography of Albert Pujols in their CCI reading group.  By offering struggling community citizens short-term rewards for their service and capacity building, CCI awaits the long-term sustained impacts which will arise from individuals and the community reaching their potential.

CCI is working with local schools to identify candidates for literacy groups, and is working with the local city government to coordinate essential community service projects.  CCI is looking to you for support as we launch these change provoking projects.  Happy Holidays!

 

Posted December 21, 2010 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

Heavy Suitcases & Empty Pocket   1 comment

Thirteen, I counted thirteen stamps from the Dominican Republic in my passport, and as I write I realize that I had a government issued Peace Corps passport from 2004 to 2006; so from 2007 to 2010, I’ve arrived thirteen times to Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo.  That also means that I have stuffed at least thirty-nine pieces of luggage to the weight limit with donated items and prayed thirteen times that I wouldn’t have to pay the excess weight fee for my bags.

When I arrived to the American Airlines counter at Denver International Airport on December 7th, I knew I had two HEAVY suitcases.  I had learned two nights before that there was an embargo on extra baggage to Latin America during Christmas; only two bags.  My dad helped me lug my luggage to the counter and we waited with interest to see the final weigh-in.  Fifty-two and seventy-four!  We rearranged a few items and added some more weight to my super-carry-on, making it about a forty-five pounder.

Why such heavy bags you ask?  This time, I was transporting in my suitcases 222 donated books, two donated laptops, and hundreds of donated clothing items.  Why?  When people donate items, I can see them in the hands, or on the bodies of people in Consuelo.  Knowing the needs of individuals makes it hard to resist stuffing an extra t-shirt or book into a piece of luggage.

Knowing the needs of individuals and the community is also what keeps me traveling with empty pockets.  When I explain to friends in the US that there is intermittent electricity and water in my apartment, or that I take bucket-baths with cold water, many can’t understand why I wouldn’t stay in the comfortable United States and earn a dignified salary.  I guess I realize that the people of the population I intend to help have empty pockets too, and while mine may be void of money, theirs, currently, are void of opportunity.  This is what I hope Community Connection International can change.

This Christmas, CCI asks you in the spirit of giving, to consider the contents of your pockets to see if you can help connect humanity to its potential. CCI is trying to launch literacy courses, community service projects, and job preparation courses in January.  Your donations transfer into opportunity in the pockets and lives of the less fortunate.  Please donate today at http://www.cciinfo.org.

Posted December 12, 2010 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

Plugging Along   Leave a comment

Last night torrential rains from the latest storm, Tomas, kept me awake.  Rains and high-speed winds filled the night.  I could only think of how devastating these rains would be in a few hours for relief efforts in Haiti.  We will keep those affected by this storm in all countries in our prayers and continue to work to be an organization that can impact the development as well as pre and post preparedness for disasters like this in communities worldwide.

We ask you to continue supporting CCI or to give for your first time to help start connecting humanity to its potential.

Posted November 5, 2010 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized

BACK in CONSUELO, DR   2 comments

It is interesting to see others reactions.  My parents are visiting Consuelo.  They are both enthusiastic about seeing CCI make an impact in Consuelo.  Although they have visited twice before, they still react with amazement at the sheer need and poverty that exists.  I know change and support are needed here, but I may have become accustomed to the very small amount of money, food, and resources on which many Consuelenses subsist.  CCI is hoping to launch courses at the beginning of 2011.  Please consider giving a donation, small or large, even if you’ve given before to help the citizens of the first CCI community connect to their potential.  You too will be leaving your mark as we try to push ourselves, humanity, towards our collective potential.   CCI appreciates your support.

Posted October 28, 2010 by anglynnbennett in Uncategorized