It is with heavy hearts that we announce the closing of La Escuelita de Esperanza. Two of our volunteers were recently targeted in a violent attack in Proyecto Cristal, and one of their friends, who is a resident of the community, was shot in the leg as he tried to protect our volunteers.
Proyecto Cristal is a community in which we have a seven-year history and have always enjoyed a certain amount of protection, simply because the community wants the Escuelita and the volunteers there. The shooter has neither been jailed nor deported, even after committing another separate violent attack on a taxi driver just two days later. Even after police reports were filed, the shooter was released back into the community, where he and his family continue a campaign of threats and intimidation. The Fuerza Pública, which is the Costa Rican police force, has failed to do their job to provide for the safety of the boy who was shot, our volunteers, the Escuelita, and Proyecto Cristal. Unfortunately, the Escuelita simply cannot continue to function without a basic level of safety and security, and so we will have to shut down operations. Since we cannot in good conscience continue to solicit donations while closed, and since we must pay rent every month for our building and do not have unlimited funds to do so, this series of events, coupled with a total lack of support from the Fuerza Pública, will unfortunately mean the end of the Escuelita.
We will donate the Escuelita’s supplies to the local school so that the Escuelita’s children can still have access to the many books and games that were once in their communal safe space. Our remaining funds will be used to facilitate transportation of in-kind donations to the school, to pay any outstanding rent and utility obligations, as well as to function as severance pay for our program director and her assistant. Given that they are both residents of the community, the loss of their jobs and income will present a massive challenge for both of them. We feel this is the best use of the remaining donated money, as it will provide each of them with approximately two months’ pay while they search for alternative employment in a tough economy.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the last seven years. Many people have made significant financial gifts to this project, as well as given many hours to help it thrive. These gifts have certainly made a huge difference in the lives of the children in this community, even if the Escuelita could not be a permanent fixture. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events, and look forward to the day when the people of Proyecto Cristal can truly know esperanza.