La Escuelita de Esperanza was started in June of 2005 by Elizabeth Bakalyar Friedman, and initial funding was made possible by an Envision from Rice University, a grant from the Sigurd I. and Jarmila H. Rislov Foundation in Ann Arbor, and individual donations. Over the next 14 months, the program grew to be an important fixture in the community. The Escuelita became a safe space for the children to play, read, get help on their homework, and do art projects. The Escuelita grew to serve approximately 120 children per week between the ages of 2 and 15.
After Elizabeth left in August of 2006 to return to the US for graduate school, she was succeeded by two more volunteer directors from the U.S. In April, 2008, the Esculita became a community-led program. Marci, a resident of Proyecto Cristal, began to serve as the program assistant in 2007. She then became the program director in 2008. Elizabeth continued to interview and coordinate international volunteers via the internet.
The Escuelita closed in October, 2012, because of an escalation of violence directed toward our volunteers and staff and a lack of action on the part of the police. Click here for more information.