WHAT WE DO
The mission of BECAS is to provide resources that will empower the children of Barrio Santa Maria in Quito to break the cycle of poverty. BECAS is a long-term program that consists of a scholarship to attend public schools, tutoring, health and vision care, cultural field trips, and community service. Families receive family support and parenting classes.
Our dream is that these children realize their hopes and dreams.
Scholars are selected through a competitive process based on their family background, financial situation, academic performance and potential for educational success. Once scholars are admitted to the program, their tuition costs are covered through their final year of high school. Scholars are required to maintain a minimum grade point average and regular attendance at school and BECAS activities. In 2016-2017, BECAS supported 12 students, ranging from first grade to college students.
BECAS provides extra tutoring to scholars, designed to give the scholars extra support in their academic work as well as other areas. BECAS social workers work with the elementary school scholars in groups to foster community and values, while high school scholars focus on creating life and career goals, and preparing for higher education. Activities include arts and crafts, games, field trips, and community building. High school scholars are proud of the work they do. In one word, they describe BECAS as “trust,” “friendship,” and “family”. In the safe community setting, the scholars build up their self confidence and push their boundaries.
Parents are enthusiastic about the opportunities they receive through the program, especially the parenting workshops. They attend monthly meetings to discuss topics such as nutrition, family dynamics, and positive disciplinary techniques. Parents say they are changing the way they raise their children, specifically the use of nonviolent methods of discipline. They report that the “BECAS parenting workshops have helped them develop healthier and stronger relationships with their children and feel more engaged in their children’s lives.”
BECAS social workers conduct home visits to each scholar once a month to talk more in depth with the scholar and their parents. This time is used to follow up on the parenting classes, the scholar’s school work, or any other concern there might be.
Removing health barriers to children’s academic success, such as tooth decay and other preventable health conditions, is critical to BECAS’ mission. Every year, the scholars are seen by a doctor, dentist, and optometrist. BECAS provides all primary care treatment and parents put in $5 in order to support health sustainability. In addition, scholars and parents participate in hygiene and dental courses.
Turning over soil and sketching out plans for the community garden on a weekday afternoon is not the first thing most kids would choose to do in their free time, and it certainly is not what scholars thought they would be doing before they joined the BECAS scholarship program. Community service is a corner stone to our program as it imparts the value of outreach and service to others. Scholars participation in the program has instilled a sense of solidarity and civic engagement that benefits both themselves and their neighbors. Starting with a community garden, BECAS scholars are creating positive change and shaping a brighter future for Barrio Santa Maria.
BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL
In 2015, Edith walked across the stage in a cap and gown to receive her diploma, becoming the very first high school graduate of the BECAS program as well as in her family. Her advancement to continuing education has opened up a new opportunity for BECAS to further the work of breaking the cycle of poverty by creating a BECAS college program. The scholarship includes college tuition and fees. Scholars create a small project in their field of interest to share with the younger scholars. Our goal is for the college scholars to one day have a career and return to Santa Maria to help others work their way out of poverty.
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.
Since then, BECAS has done amazing things. Here are a few examples.
In 5 years, we doubled the amount of scholars we serve.
Graduated two scholars - the first in their families to graduate from high school
Expanded our services to support scholars from kindergarden to university
Partnership with the community to find solutions for their needs
"My dream for the scholars are that they become professionals. I hope that they become important people and they become people that are able share with others in need. It is like a “domino effect”, that we help them then they help someone else. This would be very beautiful."
Liliana, BECAS Director and Social Worker