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Unlike many large, faceless, non-profit organizations, The Esperanza Project is a small program run by founders and directors, Anthony and Fiona Austin who created the organization in 2009, out of a perceived need to provide a much needed educational and extra-curricular program in the town, giving children and teens an opportunity to explore, create, and inspire, whilst empowering them to grow academically and socially, in a safe, supportive, hands-on learning environment.

The Esperanza Project is located in the quiet, picturesque town of Cabrera on the beautiful North coast of the Dominican Republic. Cabrera is a small, unique town with very little tourism infrastructure, despite having some of the most beautiful beaches in the country all within a 10 to 20 minute drive of the downtown area. Along with the exceptional beaches, Cabrera also boasts home to several fresh water pools, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Cabrera is a very special and unique little town which The Esperanza Project is incredibly proud to call ‘home’.

Meet the team…

Fiona Austin

Co-founder / director / teacher

Fiona, originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, is co-founder and co-director of The Esperanza Project, along side husband, Anthony. Fiona runs the administrative and directorial side of The Esperanza Project, and after taking some time out of the classroom surrounding the birth of their two young daughters, Fiona has recently stepped back into a teaching role at the program, where she feels right at home. Fiona received her certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in 2007 and has several years of both teaching and summer camp experience before beginning The Esperanza Project.

Anthony Austin

Co-founder / director / teacher

Anthony, originally from Petersfield, England, is the co-founder and co-director of The Esperanza Project, along side wife, Fiona. Anthony holds dual certification in regular and special education from William Paterson University in New Jersey, USA, where we was awarded ‘New Jersey Student Teacher of the Year’. He has almost 10 years of teaching experience as well as several years of summer camp experience, in both counsellor and directorial positions, before beginning The Esperanza Project.

Shanon Romano

Teacher

Shanon, originally from Ohio, USA,  joined The Esperanza Project in 2015 as a volunteer summer camp counsellor at Camp Esperanza. After falling in love with the program and the town of Cabrera as a whole, Shanon returned to the USA to complete her teaching certification in Early Childhood Education at the University of Findlay, only to return after graduation in 2016 as the lead teacher at our preschool/kindergarten program, Puentes, as well as a lead English teacher at The Esperanza Project, where we hope she will remain for many years to come.

Riley McBride

Teacher

Riley, also originally from Ohio, USA, discovered our program through fellow teacher, Shanon (above). After graduating university with her teacher certification in the USA, Riley joined us for the full 2018/19 school year as a volunteer. She did such an amazing job and was such an fantastic influence on the students she worked with that we asked her to stay onboard as full time lead teacher at The Esperanza Project for the 2019/20 school year (and hopefully more years to follow)! 

Ysabel Scania Calderon

Teacher

Ysabel, born and raised right here in Cabrera, Dominican Republic, is our lead Spanish teacher at our preschool/kindergarten program, Puentes. Ysabel has worked with us for the past 4 years, starting as an assistant to lead teacher at the time. In the time she has been with us, she has completed her teaching certification here in the Dominican Republic and moved into the position of lead teacher. 

Marialis Ulloa Santos

Teacher

Marialis is new to our team this school year. She is currently attending university for her a degree in psychology with education certification. She joined us this summer for our Puentes summer camp program and did such an incredible job that we had to have her onboard this school year! She will be assisting Miss Ysabel as a Puentes preschool/kindergarten/first grade Spanish teacher. 

Denzs Charles

Teacher

After graduating from our school two years ago, as well as several summers volunteering with our summer camp program, Camp Esperanza, we asked Denzs to join us onboard our team full time as one of our lead ESL teachers. Denzs is originally from Haiti with shares an island with the Dominican Republic, but moved here as a young teenager. Denzs speaks fluently in English, Spanish, French and Haitian Creole, so he is easily able to communicate with all of our students! 

Volunteers

Since The Esperanza Project was founded in 2009, the organization has hosted over 150 volunteers. Volunteers have become an integral part of the program, joining for anywhere from 1 week to an entire school year. Volunteers get involved in all areas of the program, whether it is assisting lead teachers in the classroom, leading their own classes, or running activities at the summer camp program. The Esperanza Project could not exist without the help of our wonderful volunteer team from around the world.

(Find out more about how you can become a volunteer.)