BECA

Bilingual Education for Central America

About

BECA is a 501(c)3 organization that recruits, trains, and supports English-speaking volunteer teachers to staff a network of community-run bilingual schools in Honduras that serve low-income communities.

We exist to promote cultural exchange and affordable bilingual education. Our volunteer-driven bilingual school model creates an environment in which Central American students learn from dedicated volunteer teachers, and those volunteers learn from the community in which they are immersed.

Founded
2002
Headquarters

PO Box 7400
New York, NY 10150
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Pat
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I could talk about my time with BECA for ages. I taught third grade during the 2015-16 school year, and with a background in something other than education, I found teaching students, especially that young, to be challenging. But it resulted in so many new skills, abilities I didn't know I had, and incredible professional growth that helped me get the job I have today.

My year in Honduras contributed greatly to the person I am today. Although I took Spanish for 8 years in middle and high school (and even some college), I didn't consider myself a Spanish speaker until I went to Honduras and met my students' families. Now, I work in a totally unrelated field, but I used skills I learned or improved upon every day. Every one of your future employers will look at the time you completed volunteering with BECA as an extremely positive asset, regardless of whichever industry you end up in.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Just go with it! Be flexible. Teaching ELLs is challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. You'll be frustrated at times, especially if you don't have an education background (like me!) but when it comes down to it, these students (and the community) greatly appreciate you being there to teach them, they understand the sacrifice you're making, and just being there to speak English to them, every day, all week, contributes greatly to their growth as English speakers and increases their future opportunities.

Also, this may be one of very few chances you'll have to visit Central America, so make the most of it.
Default avatar
Jocelyn
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If you're considering volunteering with BECA, you should know you are signing up for an extremely rewarding challenge. My experience with BECA could easily be classified as a rewarding challenge. There are certain aspects of teaching in rural Honduras that will force you to be flexible and stretch yourself, your thinking and your creativity. There are numerous ways in which being a BECA teacher made me a better teacher. Being a BECA teacher forced me to take culturally responsive teaching into consideration at all moments (both in/out of the classroom). I learned the versatile art of "making it work" in terms of limited materials. I exercised my flexibility and problem-solving skills. The students enrolled at the BECA schools undoubtably made all of the challenges 110% worth it! In some ways, having limited resources urged me to be creative and really take a critical look at my own pedagogy. There is a strong emphasis on learning as the purpose of school and this emphasis is evident at every BECA school campus.

Though there are a number of challenges that come being being a BECA teacher the work was INCREDIBLY rewarding. When it was hot and sweaty, my students reminded me why I loved being their teacher. If you're used to teaching in a compressive US-based public/private school, a BECA school will be very different in a number of ways. That being said, that difference is not inherently bad. BECA has a substantial summer training session to prepare teachers to be successful in the classroom, so having that proper experience is not essential.

I like to say that I did more learning than teaching during my time as a BECA teacher. As a BECA teacher, I re-examined my own values as an educator especially related to equity in education and seeing the power of student efficacy and success. It was always clear to me that everything we, as teachers, did was for the benefit of the students and we were always pushing forward and rooting for our students. I was constantly pushing myself to be the best teacher I could be. If you are somebody who cares deeply about the potential for student growth and success, a BECA school is a place for you.

What would you improve about this program?
BECA has had some shifts in leadership and some procedural revision regarding response to crisis situations. That being said, these changes have vastly improved the volunteer experience for BECA. BECA is clearly trying to grow and consistently improve their volunteers' experience. The current leadership is incredibly receptive and reactive to feedback.
Default avatar
Rebecca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I taught with BECA for two years right after graduating from undergrad. Everyone I met from the support team in the US to the in-country staff and volunteers were incredible people. The best part of all was how close you become with the community members themselves. We’d hear the daily gossip from the licuado lady, stop for a coffee with families, play in the park with students, and enjoy all sorts of special holidays and events, which of course wouldn’t be complete without fireworks and lots of baleadas. During my two years in Honduras I not only learned a lot about la cultura catracha and teaching, but I learned a lot about myself. I know it sounds cliche, but my two years with BECA changed my life. Without a doubt I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t of committed to volunteering with BECA.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Honduras is a magical place and I experienced things I never would have imagined. Piling into “chicken buses” to go the beach, bouncing in pickup trucks up to the mountains, visiting ancient Mayan ruins, enjoying baleadas with families. The list goes on, but I think the most surprising moment was the outpouring of friendship, caring, and gratitude that came from my students and their families. They truly cherished every opportunity they had to support their children and the volunteers who were giving them a brighter future. I have never experienced such a community since.
Amelia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was placed at ADJ this year and have chosen to stay a 2nd year! BECA's bilingual immersion program has completely shifted my views on the value of education, opportunity, and access. I've loved working in the BECA program at the ADJ location and have enjoyed my times visiting the other two schools. My time here has been an cross-cultural experience, a time of personal and professional growth, and a blast getting to know the most fun, amazing kids! I've enjoyed it so much, and I can't wait to grow another year here.

Madaline
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered with BECA for 3 summers, 2009-2011, and had the best experience! I enjoyed what I was able to do and learn so much that I returned as a year-long volunteer for the 2014-2015 school year. I was a first-grade teacher at Amigos de Jesus and have since been back to visit several times. BECA changed my life in so many ways. It gave me a lot of focus and helped me to find my calling. I was also really pushed to learn more about myself and the world. Since ending my time as a volunteer the organization has continued to support me. I have received recommendations from several members of the BECA community that I am convinced helped me to get into different graduate programs as well as job offers. This is an organization whose mission is worth supporting. It will be one of the hardest years of your life but it will be worth it in the end.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Nick Derda

Nick is currently a graduate student in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, focusing on Migration Studies. His experiences in Honduras have inspired him to be a life-long advocate for education and Central America.

Why did you choose this program?

I went through three rounds of interviews in which I was able to speak to several alumni of the program. The passion that the alumni had for BECA and the thoughtful and personalized answers they gave me to my questions made me know this was the right program for me. Unlike other NGOs, it was clear that BECA's primary concern was social justice and not the volunteers' experience.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

BECA provided housing, a food stipend, an amazing teacher training, and ongoing professional development opportunities. There were also opportunities for volunteers to be involved in other aspects of the organization – writing blog posts and managing social media, creating trainings, and writing policies and protocols. Volunteers were responsible for travel health insurance, their flights to and from Honduras, and any leisure travel they did in the region.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

You'll only get out of the experience what you put into it. Take risks and lean into the discomfort every chance that you get.

Make friends with Honduran folks and go explore the country and region. Not many people from the States have been to Central America. It will really set you apart in both your personal and professional life.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

  • 5:30 AM - Wake up
  • 6:30 AM - Take the Busito to school
  • 7:00 AM - Greet children and parents as they come to school
  • 8:00 AM - Push into classrooms, pull out students who need extra support, supervise recess, and talk to parents about scholarship programs
  • 5:00 PM - Team Dinner
  • 6:00 PM - Start prepping for the next day
  • 10:00 PM - Head to bed and get ready to start it all over again

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

There's a lot of hype about the violence in Central America. It is very real, but Honduras is so much more – a beautiful landscape, rich culture, and amazing people! I became more comfortable doing things on my own to the point that I felt comfortable jumping on a bus on the weekend and just heading to a random destination.

What was your favorite memory of your experience?

After my year with BECA ended, I backpacked with three other teachers from Honduras all the way to Mexico City. By the end of that trip, my Spanish skills were amazing, and I felt empowered to tackle any curve ball that life could throw at me. I still feel that way--even two years later.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Erin Rudegeair

Job Title
Director of Program Development
Erin Rudegeair

Born in New Orleans and raised in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Erin graduated from Penn State with a B.S. in Geography in 2010. After living in Honduras for 3 years, Erin returned to Pennsylvania to receive her Master of International Development from the University of Pittsburgh. When she's not visiting volunteers in Honduras, she can be found working out of her home office in Brooklyn.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Great first question. Living in Honduras for 3 years gave me the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the country and region (the latter mostly for visa-renewal purposes). I have been fortunate enough to visit all but 1 of Honduras’ 18 departments (some day I’ll get to you, Ocotepeque!) My favorite travel memory would have to be the epic Semana Santa (Holy Week) adventure during my time as a volunteer with Bilingual Education for Central America. Three fellow volunteers and I trekked all the way East to La Mosquitia, a gorgeous largely untouched part of the country. In fact, it hardly felt like being in Honduras at all.

At a certain point, the roads end and you have to drive on the beach until that’s no longer an option. From there on, it’s just rivers that take you where you need to go. On the way back, we visited the family of some of our students in Iriona, where we ate like kings and learned some Garifuna. We even finished off the trip with a couple nights in the party town of Trujillo. All in all, we did a little bit of everything and got the chance to visit places I’ll likely never see again.

There were so many first on that trip: first time I drove on the beach, first time I heard Pech and Miskito (two indigenous languages spoken in the region); first time I slept under a mosquito net; first time I traveled in a handmade pipante (or canoe); first time I made cassava (well, attempted to make cassava); and, while it wasn’t the first time I stayed up for 24 hours, those are always really epic days and this one was no different.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I think it’d almost be easier to talk about what ways I haven’t changed to be honest. I remember before my very first trip to Honduras, someone told me “this trip is going to be life-changing” and I remember laughing that off as something so cliché. But dang it, she was right. Everything has changed. I am who I am now because of my decision to volunteer abroad.

I used to want to “do good” and suffered from a “save the world” complex and that has certainly changed. I want more than just to “do good”. I want to be of benefit and I want to live a life of service because I was born with a whole heck of a lot of privilege and I want to leverage that to benefit those who were born with fewer opportunities than I was. I learned that through volunteering and living away from all the comforts and familiarities of home.

When I was volunteering abroad, I thought in some ways I was running away from the real world. I thought I would have an ah-ha moment where everything would click and I would know exactly what I to do with my life. But now I know that uncertainty is part of the path. I am a life-long learner and, as long as I’m learning and growing, I’m on the right path. After all if you’re not growing, you’re dying, right?

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

We had an alumna who returned to Honduras after 2 ½ years to work with us again for 5 months. She was such a wonderful addition to our volunteer team mid-way through the school year not only from her previous experience with BECA but also the different skills and experiences she brings to the table a couple years later.

When she landed in country, we immediately got caught in a bad traffic jam due to an accident up ahead, so we got to talking. I asked her what she was most looking forward to during her time back with BECA and she said “spending time with the mothers”. She could have said she was looking forward to traveling to Guatemala or Copen, going to one of the Bay Islands, adventuring behind the massive waterfall at Pulhapanzak, or any number of things. But her answer, “spending time with the mothers (of our students)”, was so beautiful and so powerful. She reminded me in her simple response the whole reason why we do what we do.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would be most interested in becoming a Program Administrator, but as a 2nd year volunteer with BECA. We didn’t really have Admins back when I volunteered since we were only 1 school back then. But now that we’ve grown into a network of 3 locally owned schools, we have Program Administrators (one at each school), Program Manager, and In-country Director positions. While I learned so much through my year as a Volunteer Teacher with BECA, I knew at the end of it that I did not want to pursue a career as a classroom teacher, which is why the Admin position would have been very appealing to me.

I suggest volunteering as a classroom teacher with BECA first because, in our experience, our strongest Administrators have been those who already knew our program and our communities. BECA is all about relationships and those things take time so having a year under your belt better prepares volunteers to take on the Administrator role.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

BECA is unique because we are one of the few secular, grassroots organizations offering long-term volunteer placements in Honduras. Our funding is not tied to any one church or donor, so we have the freedom to invest in what’s important to our partners. Our partnerships are another important factor in what makes us unique. Our model is built on partnerships with local, Honduran NGOs that believe in our mission. We don’t partner with local organizations to check a box on some grant application. We partner with local organizations because we believe it is the only way for us to effectively and sustainably operate our programs.

One of the things that continue to fill my heart with pride is the expansion of our volunteer program to include Honduran volunteers. Since 2017, we’ve had 13 Honduran volunteers – many of whom graduated from our founding school, San Jeronimo Bilingual School, work with us as volunteer teachers. Each of them brings such amazing benefits to the whole volunteer teaching team serving as ambassadors for our schools and the communities where we work. We have found such strength in diversifying our team for our volunteers and our students alike. We now have more and more teachers who look like their students. I remember fondly hearing about student at Santa Monica who saw Miss Rosa – who is from Tocoa, Honduras – teaching and asked “Does this mean I can be a teacher here one day?” YES! Yes, that is exactly what that means!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Relationships. Real, genuine relationships based on mutual interests (such as sharing a common mission and vision for the future), trust, respect, integrity, and understanding. The work we do is difficult and where we work presents a number of challenges, but the relationships – with community members, parents, students, and fellow teachers – are what make it all worthwhile, even on the hottest, stickiest, sweatiest, draining days.

More Interviews