As a very eager, soon to be senior in college, I was desperate to make my summer of 2015 a defining one. I had an exciting internship lined up in Boston, but with an unexpected turn of events, I came across BECA and took a leap of faith to instead spend part of my summer teaching in Cofradia, Honduras.
Here we are, six months after my experience, and all I can say is that the summer program with BECA was one of the best decisions for my academic and personal growth. I’m consistently at a loss for words when I try to explain how fulfilling this experience was, but I’ll still attempt to show you:
The summer program is essentially a full school year of teaching packed into one fast paced month and comes complete with an orientation and training for the summer staff: we planned a coordinated curriculum, learned about best practices with students, and even had bonding time among the teachers and other staff. For example, we played a soccer game –which was pretty competitive--, had a fun night of making baleadas, and went on a short hiking trip. Along with our summer program coordinator, Krista, the orientation was led by the executive director and in country director of BECA, respectively Sean and Hannah; the combination of these three incredible people being so invested in our summer experience really made us feel like an invaluable part of the BECA team.
We were told that this summer camp would be the largest BECA had ever had because students from two of the three affiliated schools would be attending. In order to account for the expected influx of students, ten summer staff had been recruited, allowing for each classroom set of students to have two teachers. Having a teaching partner was great because I was able to collaborate with a brilliant individual and also comfortably control and discipline twenty rowdy, enthusiastic, energy filled, wonderful children.
As I mentioned, part of the training was to have each group of teachers prepare a summer curriculum: we were completely in charge of planning and executing all classroom actives, within the framework of the decided theme, which was the Olympics. Because my teaching partner and I had very little experience in a classroom, we were fairly intimidated by this task. However, with all the resources and support provided by BECA, we were able to successfully put together an educational, yet fun curriculum. We had access to a computer room, craft and supplies room, a large play ground area to supplement our lesson plans, and unlimited examples of classroom activities that our mentors themselves had done in their classrooms.
All in all, the training lasted about three days and then we hit the ground running. We all woke up that first Monday morning extra early so that we could finish any last minute planning before the kids arrived at 8am. But nothing could’ve prepared us for the overwhelming amount of love and curiosity that we were about to experience. It was as if these kids already felt comfortable with us and were therefore open to letting us touch their lives, while they touched ours. Four hours a day was not enough for any of us, and we couldn’t wait until the following day to see what kind of crazy, inventive, hilarious things our kids would do. Here's a funny one: first day of camp we told our kids that we needed to come up with a team name. We were expecting them to choose a super hero, soccer team, or something normal like that. But no... leave it up to these kids to decide that they wanted to be team Maxi Despensa (the supermarket in their town). Got to love them!
Because summer camp was only from 8am-noon, the summer teachers were encouraged to take on additional projects to make the BECA experience as fulfilling as possible. Some ideas thrown around by our coordinators were to either start a garden at one of the houses, or to contribute a piece of art to the school. My teaching partner and myself had artistic inclinations, so we decided to spearhead a mural. We wanted to leave behind a bright representation of what it was like to be a summer volunteer, so we sketched and sketched until we came up with the mural that stands today. We decided to paint two large sunflowers on either side of the mural, and wrote the following: “We love BECAuse…we plant knowledge, we nurture our minds, we harvest the future, we grow together.” The parallel between growing a plant and teaching was the best, simplest way of showing the importance of an organization like BECA, and the significant relationship between a teacher and student. By the end of the process every summer teacher had contributed to the creation of the mural, making it that much more special.
There are so many more memories I could share about my short, yet exceptional time with BECA, but I’ll leave some things to the imagination so that you can experience them for yourself! Looking back I can genuinely say that this has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I can only hope that as many people as possible are exposed to the love of the BECA family.