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Long Island educator helps bring computers to Dominican Republic
A learning and technology center being built in the Dominican Republic will soon bear the name of the Long Island administrator who was influential in getting dozens of computers and other supplies there.
Over Christmas, Lucille Martir, assistant principal at Patchogue-Medford High School, along with her husband, Bobby Hoffman, executive director of Manhattan Youth Baseball, delivered 32 computers and a printer to the Centro Educativo Barrio Blanca school in San Pedro, Dominican Republic.
The center is currently being built on the grounds of the school, which serves about 600 students in grades kindergarten through 8, and is slated to open at the end of the month as the Martir-Hoffman-Ramirez Learning Center.
It is also being named for Esperanza Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic who works with Hoffman and also runs her own nonprofit, Fields of Hope, which supports athletic programs for impoverished children in the United States and abroad.
Hoffman, 58, of Manhattan, has been visiting San Pedro for the last four years to ensure that baseball equipment donated by Manhattan Youth Baseball was reaching the students.
Two years ago, Martir, 49, started traveling with him and helped Hoffman turn the focus to education. The first year, they brought school supplies Martir had collected in her own building.
“Lucy was crucial,” said Hoffman, adding that because his wife is Puerto Rican, she helped close the language barrier while in San Pedro. “She was able to make the connection with the community and community leaders and such, and we found out that whenever you scratch the surface, you start seeing how much more needs to be done.”
So they promised to return with a computer, but knowing that one wouldn’t be enough, the couple started looking for as many donations as possible. Luckily, they hit the jackpot at their son’s Manhattan private school, The New School, which was in the process of replacing the computers in their lab and donated all of their old computers.
When Ramirez found out they were bringing back not one computer, but more than 30, she went to work convincing local officials to make the most of the situation. She got the mayor of San Pedro to approve the new building and help expedite the process, and convinced the local telephone company to donate free wireless Internet.
“Sometimes politicians in my country don’t deliver,” said Ramirez, 37, of Manhattan. “When I was there on vacation with my kids in September, I tried to get something written down that this was actually going to happen. The mayor said, ‘No problem, if you can bring it, we’ll do this and that.’”
Martir said the first time she went to San Pedro, she was “completely overwhelmed” by the poverty. Their school building does not have plumbing, the students go to school in sessions, and math classes are often taught outside so the children can etch their work in the mud.
“I was very humbled by this,” she said. “It’s not just about having technology or notebooks, it’s about having a complete building, desks. There’s a lot of work that Bobby and I have to do with this school.”
“It’s always, ‘What are we going to do next year?’” she added. “There were two young girls in particular that I connected with. I said, ‘Next year, we’ll think about higher education. We’ll think about a plan, maybe some sort of exchange program.’”
Ramirez said having a school that bears their names puts an added responsibility on the group to keep an eye on it.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” she said. “We feel like with that school, we could make an example, we could change the whole town.”