In English, the phrase Becas con Bendiciones means “Scholarships with Blessings”. This heading is given to a program in Honduras that was initially implemented for the 2006 school year and has gained tremendous momentum. The impetus for this program is based on the fact that many children in the country of Honduras do not attend school. Honduras has one of the lowest literacy rates in Central America.
Public schools in Honduras are “free”, but in reality they are not. Children are required to wear uniforms to school as well as specific sports clothing for P.E. classes that can only be purchased in the individual schools. In addition, matriculation fees, and maintenance fees are also collected during the school year. These fees plus basic school supplies place formal education out of the reach of many children.
This program is designed to provide 100% of the school related needs of a child chosen for the program. Applications are provided before the beginning of each school year for local Honduran pastors to provide to families in their communities. These applications request among other things for the number of children in the household and ages, past schooling information, income of the parents/guardian and total number of inhabitants in the family home. The local pastors and a committee chosen from the congregation plus a National Coordinator prioritize the children to be considered for the program. Based on the funds available to the individual churches/communities, the appropriate number of children are informed of their acceptance for the next school year. Applicants are not required to be attending church.
Currently we are asking that sponsors contribute $120 for each child they wish to support. In addition we receive donations to help with extraordinary expenses associated with their schooling such as transportation costs for students without neighborhood schools and graduation expenses for 6th graders that include diplomas and pictures. These funds also help pay for vitamins and tutoring for the children. This program is unique in that 100% of the funds given are solely used in direct support of the students. Administrative expenses and other indirect expenditures are donated by a Foundation that was created for this purpose.
In addition to having 100% of their school requirements met, students receive substantial encouragement from sponsors, pastors, coordinators and the local churches through prayers and involvement in their lives. Each student receives a Bible at the beginning of school, attends a celebration at the end of the school year and regular communications with an assigned coordinator from the local church. This includes a monthly “gathering” that includes Bible Study, prayer needs shared and support with school work. In the future we are hopeful for supplemental contributions that will allow us to provide additional medical care including dental and glasses for many children.
All purchases for the program are done in “bulk” at the beginning of the school year in Honduras allowing the administrators to maximize the donated funds. Because of the number of children in the program, uniforms, school supplies and shoes are purchased directly from manufacturers or wholesalers in Honduras at significant discounts. Some parts of the uniforms are made by sewing groups in several churches thereby providing a source of income for families as well as competitive pricing for the program. Becas funds are not given directly to students or their families.
Individuals and groups sponsoring children receive a picture of the child or children they are sponsoring and a newsletter produced at various times during the school year. Students are encouraged to write to their sponsors during the year and these letters are forwarded to the sponsors by the U.S. coordinators. U.S. mailing addresses of sponsors are not provided. For the school year that began in February of 2006, 134 children were sponsored. Each year that number has continued to increase. For the school year that began the first of February of 2018, the number of students in the Becas program has grown to 865. We are excited that God is blessing the program, and we are very grateful for those who are our partners in this work.