Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2018, 11:18 am EST

Reading about the caravan of immigrants, primarily from Honduras, escaping their country because of poverty, violence, and lack of economic opportunity is painful. The answer, of course, is not to build costly walls (estimated cost: $10 billion) or send 7,000 US troops to the border (estimated cost $100 – $200 million). The answer is an investment in impoverished Central America so thousands don’t feel forced to leave. This is a compelling vignette of a small, effective non-profit with an annual budget of $250,000 that is changing the lives of more than 600 Honduran students and their families annually.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras fifty years ago (1966-68). In January 2018, I had the opportunity to return to my site – Cofradia, Cortes., about 20 miles from San Pedro Sula. I went to see first-hand the work of BECA, (Bilingual Education in Central America), a 501(c)3 organization that recruits, trains, and supports native English-speaking volunteer teachers to staff a network of community-run bilingual schools in Honduras. San Jeronimo Bilingual School (SJBS) in Cofradia is BECA’s first community partner school. The vision for BECA was born in the homes of several Honduran families. Its mission is to provide quality, affordable bilingual education to the educationally disenfranchised while fostering meaningful cultural exchange. It is a community driven, solutions-oriented response to multiple issues impacting children and families - a lack of educational opportunity, stagnating economic development, insufficient jobs, a growing drug trade, and surging violence.

One quick story. I visited a third grade classroom and was invited to introduce myself, which I did in halting Spanish. One of the children politely raised his hand and said “you can speak in English, Senora. We will understand what you want to tell us.” In third grade, these children are totally fluent in English!

Currently BECA works with Honduran partners in three bilingual schools -- located at the epicenter of a crisis that is causing tens of thousands of children to leave for the United States. Yet in spite of its location, a grand total of zero BECA graduates have come to the United States illegally!

At a BECA school, students are taught much more than just English. Students graduate as champions of learning and literacy, as challengers of the status quo, and as leaders who embody a service-minded attitude to become persistent advocates for social change. While in Cofradia, I stayed with a family with two graduates of San Jeronimo. Their son recently graduated from university and is now an agronomy engineer. Their daughter is studying business management and is working part time as a bilingual interpreter for a major corporation.

And so, as I read about the young and old migrants leaving Honduras in desperation and fear, I want to share this compelling story. What I’ve written is just a glimpse of all that BECA is achieving. I ask you to consider a generous donation to BECA. It is a proactive response to our deeply flawed immigration policy and a rewarding investment in the future of Honduras.