Category Archives: HOPE International

Apply for Internships with HOPE International and Esperanza Internacional

Hi friends and family,

Many times throughout the past year people have asked me how they, or someone they know, can work directly with one of the organizations I’ve worked with. Each year, organizations like HOPE International and Esperanza Internacional offer internship and fellowship opportunities open to college aged and 20-somethings with a desire to volunteer, serve locally and/or internationally. Honestly, this is the best opportunity to get involved in this kind of work because they are listing exactly what they need during a specific timeline.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading about my volunteer experience with the mission work I’ve been doing in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and know of someone who’s a college student, recent graduate, or 20-something with a similar desire to volunteer and travel, here are some opportunities for them to apply.

Please apply! HOPE International and Esperanza Internacional There is still time!

Feel free to have your son or daughter, nephew or niece, neighbor or friend apply directly using the information below, and email me with any questions about work/life in the Dominican Republic with HOPE International or Esperanza.



2013 Summer Fellowship ProgramApplication submissions for the 2013 program will be accepted beginning on February 1, 2013 with a final application deadline of March 1, 2013. Incomplete applications and those received after the deadline will not be eligible for consideration.

The arrival date for summer 2013 internships is June 2, 2013 with Orientation beginning on June 3, 2013. The Fellowship is an 8-week program ending on August 1, 2013.

The 8 week Summer Fellowship is a concentrated version of the resident internships for those who cannot serve an entire semester. This program aims to inspire and equip future leaders to help in poverty alleviation.

Click here for more information on the Summer Fellowship Program

GROW Internship and Fellowship ProgramHOPE International’s internship and fellowship opportunities are designed for individuals seeking to develop spiritually and professionally, while gaining valuable experience. HOPE interns and fellows enjoy the benefits of a challenging and meaningful opportunity, while working in a spiritually nurturing environment. During this opportunity, you will experience spiritual formation, professional enrichment, and significant involvement.

Internship opportunities are semester long opportunities geared towards students. Fellowship opportunities are longer term assignments for professionals.


More than a Number (December Newsletter)



   Aaron Roth – HOPE International – December 2011

Kickstarter-560x420-LOGO-2-300x225Last week, I was working on a special project that brought me face to face with many of the people that we’ve served over the past year. Come to think of it, I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people in 2011. All very different from me. Teenagers with children, married, and working manual labor jobs. Single mothers supporting their family of four on a couple dollars a day who smile and ask me about my family, and where my children are (not if I have children, but actually, the location of them). Haitian church choirs of women who need to dance when they sing. (How else can you stay on beat?)

Grandfathers that lived through two dictators and chuckle about the problems of the current administration. Small children playing with broken two liter bottles as toys. Grandmothers that emigrated from Haiti 70 years ago. Men working 10-12 hours a day cutting sugar cane by hand six days a week and earn $2.50 for 2,000 pounds of sugar cane. Aggressive bus drivers weaving through busy city streets that come to a complete stop, turn and face their passengers to bid farewell with “Vayan con Dios” (Go with God) to which I think: “We’ve already being going with God, because I’ve been praying we’d make it here alive.”

And all of these people just knew a couple words of English.

I am grateful to God for this opportunity to serve with such inspirational people and for learning the Spanish language. I’ve realized that Spanish was the key that unlocked this opportunity to serve and to meet such amazing people over the past year. I am grateful that even “starting late” in life for attaining fluency, I am now able to tell my stories and jokes in Spanish (I’m still working on my delivery in both languages though). Most of all, I’m grateful for being able to participate in the work of HOPE International and especially for their local partner in the Dominican Republic (DR), Esperanza International. Here in the DR, we have been able to impact over 50,000 people this past year through our community banking services, medical, dental, and educational programs.

Dec-News-01So, as I was working on this project last week I was thinking about these people that we serve; and I was doing it rapidly. With the new launch of Esperanza’s web site: we have been uploading all the client photos so that they will be integrated into the online donation system. Since we have thousands of clients, we had to work quickly to format them to upload them to the site. I could do a photo in a little over a minute and I was flying through the folder shown here in the picture to the left.

What you’ll notice is that all of these women have a numbered title for their photo. The sequence is representative of the national ID number system called the “cedula” – it’s a lot like our Social Security system. What I saw in this group of photos was that the three letter prefix began with “999.” I remember early on working with some of our loan officers that we recorded the national ID number of the client, and if they don’t have a national ID number, we give them a number starting with “999.” I asked, “Why don’t they have a national ID number.”

Dec-News-03“Well, it usually means they emigrated here from Haiti.”

If you don’t have a “cedula” (a national ID) number you cannot get a job and are therefore disqualified from any government services. What it means is that as far as the level of poverty is concerned, these “999” women are the poorest of the clients that we serve. They have no official documentation and when they become a client with Esperanza Internacional, it is the first official document with their name on it that they receive. It is a way of recognizing them as a unique individual, someone who is publicly recognized in the community where they live.

Our photo upload project requires us to look up their number. Let’s take for example the woman in the top left of the picture in the group of six above. You cannot see her face that well, because of the light streaming through the door in the background. The light interests me as I log onto the system and check out the details of this woman. Turns out she’s not just a number, she has a name, like you, and like me, and like every single person I’ve met this past year.

Dec-News-02Her name is Franchesca Ramirez and she is a member of the community banking group called Bendiciones de Dios (Blessings from God). She’s my age, married, and has two children. Her microloan was for $160 dollars over six months for her small business of selling clothing in her local community. Immediately, a story fills in the details of her life, much like that light in the background fills up the room where she sits.

This is the same manner in which I’ve met everyone over this past year: It first starts with a face, then a name, and then a story. The light moves from one detail to the next and gradually presents a story of a life, of a woman providing for her family, making them meals, sending children off to school, and singing them songs or telling stories to them before tucking them in at night. She’s one of the hundreds of people I’ve me this past year, one of the thousands that we’ve impacted in 2011. Her story reminds me of one of the truths I have learned over this past year:

Each one of us has a story to tell.

I think about that light behind Franchesca again. The light of the sun that rises and sets for us, those who speak English, those who live in America, those who have children, and those who work during the day to put food on the table and spend time with those they love before retiring for the evening. It’s the same light that shines for the millions of people throughout the world day in and day out. It is the light that shines for everyone and gives us each a story.

I am grateful for the light that shines behind each us helping to illuminate the details of our life. I am grateful for the Light that was given to us and that which we celebrate this Christmas season.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.(John 1:1-5)

Blessings to you and your family,
Skype: aprothwm05

*Update: I’ll be sending an email about coming back to the Dominican Republic in January in a few weeks.

Plantains for the Poor (November Newsletter)



   Aaron Roth – HOPE International – November 2011

Fifteen minutes prior, a downpour filled up the roads in the area, and it was still raining when we crossed through the final puddle to get to the school where we’ve made a loan to fund new classrooms and computer labs. The water came to halfway up the tire on the motorcycle taxi I was riding. I picked up my feet just to pretend I was being wise, knowing that my shoes were already wet. I walked in at 10 minutes after Nov-News-01two o’clock. The director greeted me. Two hundred students were missing from school that afternoon. “Maybe it’s the rain?” I asked. The director responded, “Maybe, but there’d at least be a few.” “Well maybe there’s an event going on that we don’t know about?” That was just a wild guess, I don’t know the local community news.

I arrived here to work on a project in our micro-lending program that helps improve the quality of education for schools in the rural area. As we were sitting down chatting, a young man walks in the door holding a huge sign about a march against violence and crime in the sector where we are currently located. He tells us that every student from just about every school is probably at the afternoon event which is to start in about 30 min. They won’t be coming in this afternoon.

“So the violence is pretty bad in this area huh?” I ask.

“Yeah, especially when the really poor people try to steal from other people. You know, it gets really bad when people don’t have much.”

Generally, it gets a lot more dangerous in this country around Christmas time. It may sound odd that a time when Christmas cheer should prevail throughout the land, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’ve heard of at least two reasons for the increased danger in the holiday season:

1)      By Dominican law, all employees public or private should receive a double salary in December. So, there’s generally more money moving around in the economy, and therefore more targets for theft and robbery.
2)      Everyone wants to provide gifts for their family and make purchases during holiday discounts, or at least to have something to give their children. (Christmas time here is the only time most people make non-essential purchases.) Lack of economic resources encourages some people to rob, steal, or prostitute themselves to get more income for Christmas.

Nov-News-03The director, Aleyda Torres, follows up with a comment that while the students are missing this afternoon that some students haven’t been coming to school for the past two months. “Why?” Their parents don’t have the money for tuition. They are waiting until they get paid double in December and the students will come back to school.”

I wanted to launch into a discussion about the economic realities faced by the inhabitants of this local area, but Aleyda interrupts me. She looks at my shoes. She sees that they’re wet. I told her it doesn’t bother me. It does, but given this current situation, it feels trite to mention it. She’s looking me over and something strikes her, she says, “Wait, have you eaten lunch?” I respond no. She asks one of the teachers to make me some food, ASAP. Her change of focus tells me that a woman like this, living in such a difficult area, focuses on the immediate practical responses she can take and less on moping about the rain or lack of students. How many of us would focus on whether one person had eaten when they are missing over 200 students?

Nov-News-04Aleyda begins to tell me about her great journey walking with the Lord and how he’s provided for her in the most difficult of times. To her, this downpour isn’t a big deal. In fact, her school has survived a hurricane in its history. The Lord brought tarps and teams of people to rebuild. She moves onto talking about what it’s like to be in charge of 440 students. She talks about wanting to exchange the tendencies to violence for more productive activities like music, sports, and studies. “Only the Lord can really change the heart of these students, you know?” She relies on the wisdom of the Lord and imparts this verse to her students frequently. “I like to keep Proverbs 3: 5-6 in mind when I talk to our students about making decisions:”

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Nov-News-05Aleyda has built her foundation on a solid rock in such a shaky place like this. With the violence and unrest in a poor neighborhood, the tremendous downpours, the lack of government assistance in the schools, and not to mention trying to keep order in a school of 440 kids, she’s got a lot on her mind. But somehow she is at peace. She’s more concerned with the immediate, she checks again to see where we are with the food.

The fried plantains and ham come out. It’s been six hours since I’ve eaten and this hot food warms me up. I realize my feet are still wet because of that “river” we rode through to get here. I make a practical decision. I’ll change into my sandals when I get to the bus. (Yes, I still wear sandals here in November.) I feel better mentally.

Aleyda gets up to help someone use the computer lab. Oh, I forgot to mention this, she used part of her loan to create a computer lab for her high school and when it’s not in use it becomes an internet center in the community. People can come use the computers here for about 50 cents an hour. The money she makes from the lab pays her monthly loan Nov-News-06amount. She is, by all sense of the words, an entrepreneur and a dynamo.

I finish the meal and we chat for a bit longer. The rain stops. It’s time for me to go.

“Vaya con Dios,” she tells me. “Go with God” is a common phrase to say goodbye in Spanish, but I believe that in her case, she speaks from experience; a personal history, a relationship with the Lord that has walked with her through 16 years and a daily journey with 440 students, hurricanes and rainy afternoons, in the second-poorest community in her city. He’s straightened even the most windy, rocky, muddy roads in her life and left her with enough peace and energy to make sure a tired, soaked, traveler gets a meal at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I hope you are enjoying the Christmas season and that your roads are getting easier to travel as we get closer to Christmas.

Blessings to you and your family,
Skype: aprothwm05


*Update: I have been writing “thank you” letters to you all from the Dominican Republic for this past year. I hope you get yours in time for Christmas.

I’ll be sending an email about coming back to the Dominican Republic in January in a few weeks. Do pray for the work of HOPE and if you feel led to support me financially, you can find that information here.

The Seat You Sit In (October Newsletter)



   Aaron Roth – HOPE International – October 2011

“Doctor, everything I eat makes me sick. What am I supposed to eat if I can’t eat rice and beans?” He wasn’t complaining. It was a sincere question. He hadn’t been able to eat well for days and he doesn’t have the financial ability to switch his diet. The look of earnest hope on his face makes me want to help him. So I turned to the real doctor, Doctor Scott VanLue from Florida, and said, “What can we do for him doc?” He responded, “Don’t worry; he just has a parasite, let me get the medicine.”

As part of the ministry of microfinance here in the Dominican Republic, we provide health and health education services for our clients. This particular situation was a 2-day clinic where I was brought on as a translator to work in the rural communities of El Seybo. Since I was the one speaking Spanish to the clients, they naturally thought I was the doctor. Doctor VanLue got a kick out of them calling me doctor, and told me, “Hey, it took me about seven years of schooling before they called me doctor; it only took you scooting your chair a bit closer to the patient. I say run with it.”

Oct-News-02This particular case with the man mentioned above was like many of the 115 patients we saw that day and the 110 the day prior. Most of the patients had significant pain in their stomach and were unable to eat well, or if at all. It was the hardest thing to look into the eyes of a child when he says to you “My tummy hurts.” And he rubs his stomach trying to make it better. Doctor VanLue’s reassurance was comforting, and we were able to give every family that walked through the door the medicine to kill the parasites, and spent time talking with them about proper food preparation and the importance of clean water.

This is a side of microfinance I’m not used to seeing. I spend most of my time working in the communities working with optimistic clients or up and coming entrepreneurs talking with them about their plans for the future, their families, and the Biblical lesson we do during the day. With medical clinics like this, I get to learn more about the families of the people we serve. In another visit, I had to interrupt the woman to say,

“Ma’am I’m going to have to pause you for a second, I need to make sure I remember what you told me to tell the doctor.”

“Oh honey, don’t worry. All seven of them are my children, and I know what’s wrong with them, I’m their mother. If you don’t remember, I will.”She smiles in response to my concern.

Oct-News-03She’s been a microfinance client for six years. She and her husband run a successful business selling fruit to the local community. He’s currently working the double-shift so she can take children to the clinic that we brought into the mountains. I guess I’m taken aback at this situation. Normally, if I would have seen this woman during a microfinance meeting it’s all business, smiles, and a few prayer requests, much like a weekly small group Bible Study meeting. But its different now, she’s let me in to her life because I’m the doctor for the day. She tells me that two of her daughters may have Sickle Cell Anemia, a red blood cell deficiency that can be deadly later on in life. Doctor VanLue tells me that this is difficult to treat in the States, hopefully they just have Anemia, which is a much less dangerous illness caused by poor nutrition.

My assistant, (the real Doctor VanLue,) is up fetching medicine from our pharmacy. Our driver walks up to me and says that the roads are so muddy here in the mountains that if the rain continues for another 15 minutes we are going to have to leave or we’ll be stuck here. I look at him, then at this woman with seven children, and then the 40 people in our waiting room, a small school converted into a clinic. I want the rain to stop. I want to make sure we can see everyone.

Oct-News-04The mom of seven looks at me and knows that my countenance has changed, she asks me what’s wrong. I tell her that it’s raining and I want it to stop so that we can see everyone who came here. I don’t want our team to be in danger trying to leave the mountains. She reassures me, “Doctor, it’s the Lord that brought the clinic to us today, and it’s the Lord that’ll take you back home.”

Doctor VanLue returns with the medicine for the seven children, the mom and the dad. I carefully go over the instructions for the nine prescriptions, reaffirm health instructions for preventing parasites, and how to use the shampoo for lice. I ask her if I need to repeat it. She responds, “I’m the mother, remember?” I laugh and we pray a small prayer for the family. The real Doctor VanLue thanks her for her visit.

Oct-News-05It all strikes me at the same time. The two daughters with Anemia. The pounding rain on the roof. The women with their children waiting to see us. The muddy roads getting muddier. The smiles on the Doctor’s face and the rest of the family we just visited. The real doctor is thanking the patient for her visit. Wow. I’m amazed and inspired. It’s people like Doctor Scott VanLue, and women like the one we just visited that renew my  vision for what this world can be, a world where the living God still moves and works where we think it’s hopeless.

The rain begins to calm down. I’m smile when I think about what she told me.

The Doctor is right. Sometimes it’s just the seat you sit in that brings you closer to the work of God. Your location can help you become a doctor, a microfinance practitioner, or just a messenger bringing the good news of God’s work abroad.

I pray for the seat you sit in, and that God would scoot you a bit closer to His work where you are right now.

Blessings to you and your family,
Skype: aprothwm05

As a Doctor for Two Days – Part 1

On Friday, we drove an hour away from a very rural “city” to a sugar cane batey community. Within our micro-lending program we provide our associates the ability to receive medical treatment free of charge. Unfortunately, these services are few and far between, as they largely depend on the willingness and the resources of doctors or dentists from various organizations and churches.

We had the pleasure of working with two doctors and two nurses from Grace Community Church in Orlando, Florida. I was the translator for Scott, a doctor with an extensive career in primary care, ER, and sports medicine. In addition to various assignments, he was the Orlando Magic doctor for quite some time. He and his wife Cissy, have a heart to serve, and for the past couple years have been doing more Christian mission work. They’ve got two grown kids, and three adopted kids. One child is from China and the other two are adopted locally in Orlando.

After a long day, we were in the late afternoon still seeing patients when Cissy came up to me with a few tears in her eyes, and said,

“Just to let you know, they next family has a son that is Autistic. They are probably unfamiliar with what that means, because the grandmother said that ‘the boy is missing half of his brain.’ When they sit down, let me know, because we’d like to talk with them a little more. One of our adopted daughters has Asperbergs syndrome.”

A tired and frustrated grandmother sits down with the 5 year old in her lap. The mother of the boy is resting at home. The grandmother says to me, “He’s missing ‘half of his brain’ and he doesn’t want to eat, walk, talk, or learn. What can you do?” We’d been rushing through the patients all day trying to see the 115 listed on the schedule as kindly and efficiently as we could manage. Here though, the change in environment was immediate. Scott and Cissy both sat down and leaned in toward the family. Scott took off his stethoscope and said to me, “Aaron, I’m not really sure we are going to be able to prescribe anything for the young man, but what we need to do is to teach them how to love and live with a son with special needs. We went through this process six years ago with our girl.”

For the next 20 minutes, Scott worked with the young boy to see what mental faculties were present. To our surprise, the boy could walk, talk, dance, play, and was intrigued by Scott snapping his fingers and mimicked the action with his own hand. We tried to talk with the family that the boy needs a lot of dynamic involvement in his life. He needs to be played with, he needs to be sung to, he needs to be danced with, and most importantly, he needs to be loved. It was difficult; very, very difficult. The grandmother spoke mostly Creole, so her friend spoke Spanish to me, I translated to Scott, and Scott spoke English to me, back to Spanish, and then to Creole.

It wasn’t really a language barrier. It was more a barrier of education in a community that lacked any sort of medical resources, let alone the ability to know and how to work with special needs. In a community of 800 people of sugar cane workers, I’m not sure how many people had any formal education or medical knowledge. Scott says sometimes people can think that children are “just being difficult” or worse, “possessed.” The family was still frustrated, but I believe that their countenance changed when I told them that Scott and Cissy had a child with similar issues, and six years later, the child was much more active and involved in family life.

They always say that you have “God moments” on trips like these. This was certainly one of them. And if I could point specifically to the most touching moment it would be when Cissy picked up the child in her arms and sang “Jesus loves me.” You can see from the picture here that he is completed enraptured in her eyes, and during the song he lifted up his arm to softly touch her face. I’m not sure if you can tell, but Cissy is weeping while she is singing.

By the end of our meeting with the family, the boy eased up and the family began to smile. Scott wanted one last hug with the child, and unlike the first time that he had the boy in his arms where the child was smacking his face, now, he was softly touching the side of his cheek. Scott too, was in tears. Both he and Cissy wanted to pray with the family. So I translated their prayer:

“God we know that you love each person as you created them. We know that you never make a mistake. We pray that you help us love him and nurture him. Give us the strength, the knowledge, and the patience to help him grow into what you have created him to be. May he know the love of his family, may he feel it deeply through song, through play, and through dance. And Lord, when we arrive in Heaven, we know that we will all be complete, and that we will all be able to celebrate and sing and dance and laugh as you intended us to be.”

We hugged the family, we smiled, we said our blessings, and they walked out of our clinic without any medications. We sat there kind of stunned. Cissy was still crying. Someone asked her what was wrong. She said, “Nothing’s wrong, I just want him to know that he is loved. I want him to know that he’s not sick, nor that he’s missing half of his brain. But that simply, his Heavenly father loves him and his family does too. Sometimes, we can get so frustrated and sidetracked by the condition that we forget to just love him. That’s all he needs.”

You can imagine what it must have felt like to be on holy ground there at our makeshift clinic. It was amazing how a little boy can reach out and touch us all.

Economic Development & The PovertyCure

An associate of mine at HOPE International forwarded me this video from PovertyCure. It is incredibly informative and well-made and I think it will help you better understand the multifaceted problem of poverty and the best ways to respond to a world in need.

“Poverty Cure is an international network of organizations and individuals seeking to ground our common battle against global poverty in a proper understanding of the human person and society, and to encourage solutions that foster opportunity and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that already fills the developing world.

We know there is no single solution to poverty, and good people will disagree about methods, but we have joined together to rethink poverty, to move beyond top-down plans, and to promote entrepreneurial solutions to poverty informed by sound economics, local knowledge, the lessons of history and, most important, the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Christ calls us to solidarity with the poor, but this means more than assistance. It means seeing the poor not as objects or experiments, but as partners and brothers and sisters, as fellow creatures made in the image of God with the capacity to solve problems and create new wealth for themselves and their families. At a practical level, it means integrating them into our networks of exchange and productivity.

We encourage you to take a look at our website, sign our statement of principles, get involved, and spread the word.”

PovertyCure web site