Friday, July 20, 2012

Who We Are


About Us:

The Genesis of Ecuador Program (GEP) is a private non-profit organization, unassociated with any political or religious activities, committed to advancing education in Manabí, Ecuador.  Vladir Villagran and Sandra Cox founded GEP, based out of Bahía de Caráquez on May 5, 1997. 


Bahía de Caráquez, Manabí, Ecuador

Bahía de Caráquez, Manabí, Ecuador
 
Our Mission:

In our community, many public schools are grossly underfunded, lacking adequate facilities, books and teachers for students.  In some cases, children walk for hours to get to school, and all grades learn together from one untrained teacher in a single room.

Throughout the country, only 60% of children go to school at all, and of that 60% only 20% graduate from high school. 

Every day, the Genesis Foundation works to change these numbers and these realities for the Manabí community.

Through the support of local schools and the administration of our own top-notch private school in Bahía de Caráquez, we make high quality education a reality for hundreds of disenfranchised children.

The students who benefit most from the GEP come from low-income families with parents who might sell candy or shine shoes for a living.  Without help, these children go to overcrowded public schools or simply forsake their education to help their parents earn money.

At the GEP, we believe that education is the key to improving the infrastructure, economy and sustainability of the Manabí region in the long term, and through our efforts we build a brighter future for our community and its children.

Our Schools

Primero de Octubre


Over stretches of hilly farmland, children walk for up to two hours every day to attend school at Primero de Octubre, in the open countryside of Manabí.  Before the GEP, all six grades learned together in one open-air classroom from one teacher.  The toilet was a hole in the ground.

For many Ecuadorian students, this is the reality.

Thanks to invaluable support from the Children of Ecuador Program in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada, Primero de Octubre students now learn from three teachers in a three-room school with working toilets, books and computers.

In addition to financing the construction, teacher salaries and supplies for the school, the GEP provides volunteer English teachers to Primero de Octubre, and the oldest students have the opportunity to take a computer literacy course at the Genesis Internet Cafe.  At the end of the course, students receive a Certificate of Computer Literacy recognized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education.

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Primero de Octubre celebrates Family Day.  The school consists
of two classrooms (left) and a bathroom (right).


Escuela Modelo Bahía de Caráquez

Escuela Modelo Bahía de Caráquez is a public school just a few blocks from our office.  The GEP provides internet access and volunteer English teachers, who are the students’ only source of contact with the English language.


Escuela Rotaria

Escuela Rotaria is a public school started by the local chapter of the Rotary Club.  The GEP has supported Escuela Rotaria with a new playground, volunteer English teachers and English books and materials.  Beginning next year, we plan to provide internet access as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Become a Donor


There are two ways to become part of the Genesis of Ecuador Program’s mission: become a donor, or become a volunteer.   

Here you will find all of the information you need to donate now, and make a real difference in the lives of Manabí's children.

Why Donate?
           
Too many Ecuadorian children lack access to regular, high quality education.  Without this opportunity, they do not have the options in life that we in developed countries often take for granted. 

By donating through the GEP, you invest in Ecuador’s children.  Your support allows us to shape the future leaders of Manabí and to break the cycle of poverty for these children and their families.

To remain focused on empowering local schools and communities with cultural understanding, the GEP does not seek funding from religious, corporate or government agencies.  We rely entirely on support from independent donors who believe in our values and support our goals. 

Help us help the communities of Manabí to build a better future through education.

How to Donate:

1. Sponsor a Student

Make a personal connection with a bright, deserving child in need by sponsoring a student’s tuition at La Primero de Octubre school.  

We give students the advantages of  qualified teachers, a safe and comfortable learning environment plus classes in English and computing . 

Our donors make this opportunity a reality for students who would otherwise study in underfunded public schools.

As a sponsor, you will receive a photograph of your scholarship student(s) and quarterly updates about their academic progress and achievements.  We also encourage and facilitate written communication between donors and students. 

No amount of support is too large or small to help these children, but below we have listed some recommended amounts based on the annual cost of a child’s education:




Full Scholarship                                 US$500                
(need-based)
Tuition, books
 
2. Sponsor a Project

By sponsoring a project, you help us reach specific goals that advance education for the children of Manabí.  

You help us set our priorities by allocating your donation to a specific project.  Below are descriptions of our current projects with their total costs. 

Every donation at every amount brings us closer to achieving these goals.


Project : Increase Teacher Salaries at Primero de Octubre
Why: The three teachers at Primero de Octubre, in the midst of Manabí’s vast, hilly countryside, each earn 2,000 USD per year.  They each teach two different age groups at the same time with very limited resources and curricular support.  The GEP takes responsibility for one third of teacher salaries, or 2,500 USD per year, but we would like to increase that contribution to 5,000 USD.    These teachers need and deserve higher salaries.
Cost: 5,000 USD/year

Become a Volunteer

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CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM

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View of Bahía de Caráquez from the surrounding beach

By volunteering with the Genesis Foundation, you can have a direct impact on the lives of Manabí’s children, as well as experience Ecuadorian culture in the safe, small-town environment of Bahía de Caráquez. 

Surrounded by jutting mountains with beaches, restaurants and nature reserves within walking distance or a short drive away, Bahía de Caráquez is the perfect place to become a part of a new community, and the perfect starting point from which to explore Ecuador.

The schools of Manabí welcome caring, committed volunteers of all interests, in groups or individually, and for flexible time periods.  Interested applicants under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.


 
--> Bahía de Caráquez
 
GECEP Outline

GECEP Includes:
     - Housing and home-cooked meals
     - One-on-one Spanish lessons (5 hours/week)
     - Tours of local points of interest  (i.e. La Cruz, Isla Corazón, San Clemente)
     - Community Involvement Project (at least 15 hours/week)

Community Involvement Tracks

The Community Involvement Project, through which volunteers work with children or members of the community at one of the Genesis Foundation’s schools, is the most important aspect of the GECEP experience. 

We choose each participant’s Community Involvement Track based on his or her interest, experience and skills, as well as the schools’ areas of greatest need.

1. Teacher’s Apprenticeship Track

Work alongside one of our teachers at La Primero and La Modelo Schools in the center in Bahía de Caráquez.  

Learn effective teaching strategies, lesson planning and classroom management skills for teaching English as a foreign language in a real-world classroom setting. 

Participants in this track can take on different levels responsibility depending on their individual comfort levels, with roles ranging from active classroom observation and assistance to tutoring small groups to teaching a whole class throughout the course of the program.

2. English Teaching Track

More experienced teachers may choose to complete their Community Involvement Projects at one of our partner schools.  These participants work with the Program Coordinator to design and teach English classes to low-income children at schools that cannot afford full-time English teachers.

3. After-School Workshop Track

Some participants choose to focus their Community Involvement Projects on a specific skill or area of expertise by designing and teaching workshops for the community. 

Volunteers can create after-school workshops for children, teens, and/or adults, covering almost any topic.  Past programs have included: sports and fitness, visual/performing/martial arts, web design, first aid, environmental preservation, urban gardening and quilting/embroidery. 

We look forward to implementing new workshop ideas, provided you have sufficient knowledge of your proposed field and we are able to generate interest in the community. 

Please note that because the focus of this track is not English, we require at least a basic communicative proficiency in Spanish for workshop teachers.

4. Facilities Improvement Project Track

Facilities Improvement is an ideal track for groups of participants who are interested making a physical contribution to the community. 

Depending on our current needs and available resources, this track could involve building or improving classrooms, basketball/soccer courts, playgrounds, lunch facilities or educational gardens. 

Participants in this track create a lasting contribution to the landscape of local schools and the community as a whole.

5. Propose Your Own Track

Do you have a great idea for a Community Involvement Project that we haven’t mentioned?  We’d love to hear about it. 

Please give us a detailed outline of your idea in your application, and we’ll see if we can make it work.  Just in case, please also provide your second choice.

Housing

Our volunteer house, centrally located in Bahía de Caráquez, is walking distance from our office, the beach and virtually all areas of town.  We can accommodate up to seven participants in the house at a time, and we can make other arrangements if the house is full.

 
--> The GEP´s volunteer house
 
   
-->Kitchen
 
   
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View of the estuary from the volunteer house

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Program Fee:

The GECEP program costs 1140 USD for a month* of participation, allocated as follows:
           
            Administrative costs                                                           $500
            Housing, meals (2/weekday)
            Scholarship Contribution                                                    $500
            Spanish Classes (15 hrs)                                                  $160
            Tours and Excursions                                                         $40    

*To stay longer than one month, the cost is 200 USD per extra week.

We expect payment upon arrival in Bahía de Caráquez.  Unfortunately, the banks in Bahía de Caráquez do not cash traveler’s checks, but there are ATMs that accept Visa and Mastercard.   You can pay in cash upon arrival, but if you prefer to pay with a credit card a $70 Paypal and banking fee applies.

Apply Now:

If you would like to become a volunteer for the Genesis of Ecuador Program, please fill out an application and send it to vladirv@hotmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Testimonies:

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“I started the Genesis Volunteer Program in 1999, when I saw that there were backpackers coming to Bahía de Caráquez looking for volunteer work to do. We have received wonderful, caring volunteers from all over the world, including New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Canada and the United States. The following are some of their comments on the experience.”
                                           -Vladir Villagran, Founder of the GEP



Chelsea  M. Williams, Usa, 2013 
"My experiences that I had this summer in Bahia de Caraquez were life changing.  
 I learned so much about  myself that I would not have learned if I did not embark on this journey.  I went into this trip thinking I was  going to be teaching English and physical activity to students in Ecuador, but they taught me so  much more. 
The students at Corazon taught me patience with only being able to communicate to one another by a few words, as well as appreciating everything that I have back home in the United States. 
 Each and every activity that we had planned was phenomenal.  The activities were educational  plus  breath taking.  I am so happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone and studied abroad for the summer. 
 If I could  do it again, I would in a heartbeat.  Studying abroad helped me to realize the bigger picture in life: that there is so much more out there in the world, and people do not know about it  unless they travel and experience it.     
Thank you Vladir for welcoming us into your home and family, I enjoyed every minute of it and hope to see you guys in the future sometime"


Tracey, Canada, 2010
“I certainly would recommend any involvement in this program to anyone who is considering donating to the school or sponsoring a child.   The looks on the children's faces when they received a Christmas gift were precious and it is a day that I will remember forever.”

Megan, USA, 2011
“Volunteering through the Genesis volunteer program was a joyous experience all around. Working with the kids was incredibly rewarding. The program is run flawlessly and I feel so fortunate to have found the organization. It is easy to see why Vladir receives repeat volunteers year after year. Truly, it is the perfect opportunity to embrace a different culture, learn Spanish and teach English. Nothing will ever compare to my experience volunteering in Bahía de Caráquez.

All aspects of the program surpassed my expectations.  Living with my host family, teaching the children, acquainting myself with the city, meeting new friends and learning Spanish, I did not want my time there to come to an end. The city is beautiful, safe, clean and charming, and the people could not be more welcoming and friendly.  I feel lucky to have fallen upon such a pleasant place in the world inhabited with extraordinary people.  The schools and children, who are delightful and eager to learn, will inspire you.  I highly recommend volunteering through Genesis.”

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Kevin Bloss, London, England.
“I spent five memorable weeks as a Genesis volunteer in the wonderful Ecuadorian 'city' of Bahía de Caráquez.  I hadn't had any previous teaching experience but had done a weekend 'TEFL' course in London, which I found very rewarding and extremely useful for this programme.  The Genesis school has a very happy and friendly atmosphere, and I was made to feel welcome and part of it from day one.  I stayed with Leo, Gulnara and Paul; Vladirs' parents and brother, in their spacious house right next to the school.  There is a strong community spirit that is very apparent, not only at the Genesis School but in Bahía as a whole, and I felt very privileged to be part of that.”

Shawn McDonough, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA
“The Genesis volunteer program was a very rewarding experience. I spoke a little Spanish when I arrived in Bahía and have learned a good deal more from being thrown into the culture. I am not a teacher, but I was able to accomplish my goal of helping the kids learn English. There are many genuine and good people in this area, and the city of Bahia de Caraquez is very safe. This was a vacation for me. I guarantee, if you give this program a shot, you will come away with lifelong memories and a feeling that you have accomplished something good.”

Matthew N, Canada
“I will never forget the 6 weeks I spent volunteering with GECEP. I could try and sum up my experience with words like inspiring, humbling and liberating. But, it is impossible to explain the emotions and feelings that manifest themselves when helping a community that is so appreciative of your work. The relationships I formed with the students, the Villagran family and the other volunteers will be a part of me forever. Living with the host family was awesome. Paul taught me a thing or two about Spanish and FIFA soccer. Leo is great to speak with about South America and Gulnara cooks some great food - her empanadas are out of control. I will never forget my experience in Bahía nor all the realizations and ideas resulting from living in a such a different culture.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Success Stories

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Here are a few of the fantastic students who are thriving at Génesis thanks to the generous support of our sponsors.  The bios are taken from teachers’ notes in the 2011-2012 school year.

CRISTINA
AGE 9
GRADE6
Cristina is a bright, sweet and very responsible child.  She always does her work on time at home and in class and behaves well in the classroom.  Her behavior is very respectful and she gets along very well with her classmates and teachers. She missed a bit of school this year due to frequent colds but it never seemed to set her back academically; she consistently received the highest grades in her class.




DANIEL
AGE 11
GRADE8
Daniel is a truly outstanding student.  He received the highest possible grades this year, making him the top student in the 6th grade class.  He loves English class and won first place in the 2011 spelling bee.  He also excels at public speaking in Spanish.  He gave a speech on the establishment of the province of Manabí and competed at the regional level in the Tax Accountability and Awareness Competition put on by the S.R.I. (Ecuador’s internal revenue agency).  He performed wonderfully with his classmates in the Family Day dance performance, Open House presentations, Christmas choir and  the School Olympics.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Links


There are many ways to stay connected with the Genesis of Ecuador Program.   Here are some useful links:

For more photos, videos and updates from the Genesis of Ecuador Program, check us out on facebook.

Children of Ecuador is our partner foundation in Alberta, Canada, started by a former Genesis Foundation volunteer.  Thanks to constant support from him and the foundation, we have been able to accomplish many of our goals, including the construction of an additional classroom and bathroom at Primero de Octubre school in the countryside of Manabí.