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BECAS was founded in January of 2009 by returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Ella Harris. Ella worked for two and half years in Quito as the youth program director at an after school program in Barrio Santa Maria. She saw first hand the need for education and worked with Ecuadorians and friends in the U.S. to create BECAS. We are dedicated to making education possible for the poorest of the poor in Ecuador.
The mission of BECAS is to raise standards of living in future generations in Quito, Ecuador. We provide financial resources for education to children and teenagers of Barrio Santa Maria. Through education, these young people can begin the process of breaking the cycle of poverty.
Lili de la Bastida Benavidas is BECAS’s star mentor, after-school teacher, and social worker. Lili has worked with BECAS since the idea was first born and has been vital to supporting its growth. Growing up in rural Ecuador, Lili saw education as the way out of poverty. She worked through high school and college, supporting herself and her family. Taking from her own experience, Lili works one on one with each scholar and their families. She is teacher a to the scholars and provides much needed support to the families. She is excited for BECAS to continue to grow. When asked about the program, Lili response was, “I find the work to be very interesting and effective…the scholars have found support and have realized that there are people of good feeling and this has been a reason for them to smile. I provide psychological support to them and their parents through workshops where we develope topics such as values, ways and means to prevent family violence, self-esteem, child abuse, etc. These table discussions have been very positive and that knowledge has emerged from each of the parents, who share their own experiences.” In her free time, Lili enjoys being outdoors with her husband and three children.
Board of Directors
Ella Harris founded BECAS International in 2009 during her time as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. While in Peace Corps, Ella worked with a local after school program that provided children with a safe place to grow and learn in a harsh neighborhood in Quito, Ecuador. She created and ran the youth program. Before joining the Peace Corps, Ella earned her Bachelor of Art in Dance at Loyola Marymount University. Ella enjoys working with other cultures and youth. She is excited for the growth and potential of BECAS.
Heather Cruciano is a founding member the BECAS Board and has worked in education for 30 years, from teaching at a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed teens in the San Bernardino Mountains, running the academic program at a school for foreigners in Arezzo, Italy, Special Ed work in public school in Santa Rosa, to manning the front desk of the local Waldorf school as nurse/mom and solver of any number of issues daily. She now is the Program Director for VIVA in Sebastopol offering a wide variety of classes focused on all things Italian – food, wine, language and film. Her husband Michael runs a SAI a study abroad company and they have two daughters who have studied and traveled abroad extensively Heather’s favorite past time is working in her garden for hours and hours and spending time with her family.
Kai Harris is a founding member of the BECAS board. He has worked in nonprofit management since 2003, after returning from a year volunteering in Southeast Mexico. Kai earned a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco in 2008. He is the Director of Operations at Synapse Group and serves on the Vestry (Board) of his church. Kai has a great personal and professional interest in Nonprofit efficiency and their use of technology. He loves the work of BECAS and is glad to be a part of such a great organization.
Terri Hobart graduated from Baylor University with a BBA in Accounting. She has over 20 years of professional experience in accounting, financial management, strategic planning, business development and information systems. Terri has also served on the Board of numerous non-profits in various capacities. She had the opportunity to work closely with the BECAS scholars and community during a three month visit to Ecuador in 2009. Terri believes the opportunities it scholars that BECAS provides not only makes a significant difference in their lives but will also enable them to help their families and communities break the cycle of poverty.
Linda Campbell is a founding member of the BECAS board. She has worked for the church for over twenty years, as a Christian Educator and Priest of the Episcopal church. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She is also on the Board for Episcopal Communities for Seniors. She has traveled to Ecuador and met several of the BECAS scholars. She is passionate about education, health and well-being for all children.
Allison Mangiaracino joined the BECAS board in January 2011. She previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Ecuador, where her projects included the creation of a youth leadership curriculum, a reproductive health program for at-risk girls, and summer camps for rural youth. Prior to the Peace Corps, Allison earned a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She works at the Division of Communicable Disease Control at the California Department of Public Health and spends her free time volunteering at PAWS in San Francisco and exploring new bike routes in the Bay Area. Allison is inspired by the ability of BECAS’ sponsors to strengthen an Ecuadorian community by providing educational and enrichment opportunities to its youngest citizens, and she looks forward to growing the organization here and enhancing its impact abroad.
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