It has been very uplifting in the past few weeks to work on a regular column aiming to publicize and partner with worthy causes around the world. For the third article in the series, an educational non-profit operating in the communities of Cofradia and Vida Nueva, Honduras puts a unique partnership model into place.
BECA (Bilingual Education for Central America) partners with schools in Honduras to enhance the quality and availability of education offered (the Spanish word “beca” means scholarship”). What makes them unique is that rather than having a stake in the ownership of schools, the organization forms an equal-footing partnership with a Honduran partner. This allows the school to maintain Honduran leadership and to aim for self-sufficiency in the long run.
Guidelines for the partnership are clearly explained on the organization’s website. BECA sources English speaking volunteer teachers who work alongside Honduran faculty, and under a Honduran director. BECA provides training in classroom management, Spanish, and cultural immersion workshops to help the English teachers to be effective. In turn, the Honduran partner takes on the administrative responsibilities of the school, provides facilities for ideal class sizes and separation of grades and grants scholarships to at least 35% of its students. These scholarships are essential to extend educational opportunities to those who otherwise could not afford them. Teaching duties are shared based on subject; Spanish-speaking teachers teach social sciences, civics, and Spanish classes.
BECA describes the difficulties faced in Central America as “endemic poverty, income inequality, crumbling infrastructure, and a lack of quality educational and professional opportunities.” In fact, in many areas of Honduras the easiest path to some form of advancement is involvement with the drug trade. Many reports indicate that the advancement of narcotrafficking in the area was made worse by the military coup in 2009, coupled with the resulting suspension of U.S. aid.
In a country with limited opportunities, BECA recognizes that education gives students the chance to improve their quality of life, providing them with more options in the short run, and leading to economic development in time. With U.S. corporations such as Puma, Hanes, and Caterpillar in the area, a bilingual education can mean an upgrade from factory work to a management position. On a larger scale, the spread of the English language will increase international trade and partnership opportunities. And to promote social responsibility alongside the development, BECA aims to “mold students into persistent advocates for social change; vigilant stewards of the region’s valuable natural resources; and fierce opponents of corruption, violence, and environmental degradation. ”
In addition to improving educational opportunities, BECA provides a worthwhile experience for volunteers. The position itself is very competitive with a 10% acceptance rate. Throughout their one year commitment, teachers will enjoy a “challenging, transformative experience that gives an in-depth understanding of grassroots international development, underserved Central American communities, bilingual teaching strategies, and community capacity building techniques.” This personal development and new perspective will certainly carry over when the teacher returns home.
In some cases the volunteer only leaves temporarily before feeling a drive to return. Executive Director Mike Buttram points out “out of all the places you will see in your travels, there will be one or two that stay with you, that you will return to.” Mike started working with BECA as the Program Administrator in 2009. He describes the community as having a “family feel,” and returned with the feeling that it was still a part of him, something he couldn’t abandon. Accepting the executive director position in August of 2011, it appears that Mike will be a part of the cause for the long run.
Mike’s future goals for the organization include increasing the level of self-sufficiency among Honduran partners and steadily adding partner schools. There is no shortage of schools who would like to work with BECA, but Mike recognizes the importance of expanding within the organization’s means, and searching for the right fit when choosing to partner. Cheers to Mike and BECA!
To contact BECA, e-mail Mike at email@example.com.
Support BECA Schools:
- The organization’s website, BECASchools.org accepts donations through Google Checkout or PayPal.
- Volunteer! Visit BECA in Honduras. Teach for a year or participate in a short-term service project. Learn more at the volunteer blog.
- Visit BECA on Facebook. “Like” them and help to spread the word.
- When you subscribe to Giving Vicariously for $3.50 / month, a portion of your fee will go directly to BECA.