This article is part of a series of posts highlighting education systems around the world. With this article, we hope to raise awareness of both the needs of the students and the challenges of running an English language program online. We also hope to share heartwarming and inspiring success stories with our community of teachers around the world.
Outreach360 was conceived when CEO and founder Tom Eklund visited an orphanage in the Dominican Republic in 1994.
“What he saw at that orphanage were children full of potential, but they just didn’t have the same opportunities that he had had growing up," said Outreach360's President and Virtual Impact Program Director Coco Barrett. "He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to make an impact for these children."
When Tom got back to the United States, he recruited volunteers interested in going to the Dominican and working with children. These volunteers supported orphanages, ran after-school programs, and operated learning centers.
Eventually, Outreach360 expanded their volunteer efforts to Nicaragua where they shifted away from working in orphanages to solely focus on providing educational opportunities for children.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Outreach360 decided to transition to a fully virtual program permanently, allowing them to reach more people in more countries.
“What we do is we bring together volunteers from all around the world with our students who are all in Latin America,” said Academic Director Adie Jalfin.
Outreach360 Programs That Make a Difference Globally
Virtual English Academy
Their Virtual English Academy is a Monday to Friday after-school program.
Through donations, students from all over Latin America receive full scholarships to attend. The program consists of formal online English classes and participation in additional enrichment activities.
Older students in the program also have the opportunity to receive their TEFL (English as a Foreign Language) certification so they can teach younger students.
Upon completion of the program, students are able to speak English fluently, have gained teaching experience, and are certified to teach English. Graduates have also acquired valuable skills in technology, leadership, literacy, and critical thinking.
“All of our parents have communicated that the reason their children are in this [program] is that they know English is going to open up doors for them professionally moving forward," Adie said. "They’re going to have more opportunities."
Virtual Impact Program
Through the Virtual Impact Program, English teachers volunteer for three months at a time.
They receive training and support and are paired with another educator who teaches alongside them. Teachers follow a specific curriculum and are provided with pre-planned activities. If they want, they’re welcome to plan additional activities.
Expanding Students' Knowledge & Opportunities
The number of students Outreach360 is able to enroll in the program depends on the number of volunteers they have.
Presently, 60 students are enrolled in the academy and more than 100 are on a waiting list. Over the years, Outreach360 has provided educational opportunities to more than 12,000 students.
Younaly is a student currently enrolled in the Virtual English Academy. She’s nine years old and lives in Nicaragua. Her mother is incredibly grateful to Outreach360.
"This opportunity that you are giving my daughter means something very important since, currently, the English language is essential in the professional field,” said Younaly's mother.
“In her future, she will get more opportunities to get ahead. If she wants to travel to other countries, either for work, study, or fun, she’ll be able to communicate with other people. For these and many more reasons, I am immensely grateful to the academy for giving her this opportunity.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Kamila’s mother, whose 8-year-old daughter is also enrolled in Outreach360's Virtual English Academy.
“This opportunity means a lot,” Kamila’s mother said. “Seeing my daughter putting into practice what you teach her fills me with great satisfaction. As a mother, there is nothing left to say other than a thousand thank-yous.”
As a volunteer-run organization that receives no government funding, Outreach360 relies on donations from individuals, companies, and corporations to provide students like Younaly and Kamila with full scholarships.
Visit Outreach360's website to become a monthly student sponsor or to make a one-time donation.
Want to stay in the loop with the latest Outreach360 news? Subscribe to their newsletter or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also check out their volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn.