Donor Spotlight – Ben Coffey

As we attempt to build new infrastructure at the Mission School through our Classrooms for Change Campaign, we want to highlight a longtime donor to emphasize the importance of their partnership and support. We asked Ben to share his experience with giving to Mission Santa Maria.

Ben with his wife, Allison. Ben and Allison live in Charleston, South Carolina, with their dog, Annie.

Ben Shares:
“My older brother Will was best friends with Pete Bremberg and Jim Campbell growing up in New Jersey. Although my family moved down to South Carolina in 1999, we maintained close relationships with some of the incredible people we had known during our time in New Jersey and Jim and Pete were two of them. I believe the first time I donated to Mission Santa Maria, Pete was doing a triathlon in 2013 to raise money for the organization. I think I had heard about Mission Santa Maria in the months or so prior and was truly amazed at what Jim and Pete and the rest of the team was doing to help out those less fortunate – and in a very big, directly impactful way. At the time I was just a couple years out of college and donated the small amount that I could and didn’t think about it too much.
I moved to London for work for a couple years, after which I  started my own business here in Charleston, South Carolina, with some old colleagues. I remember hearing over those years how the mission was growing and the incredible work that Jim and his team were doing down in Ecuador. At some point I learned that Jim had stopped his career in the finance world, which I am also in, to work at the mission full-time. I was truly inspired and amazed. The more I heard the stories of the mission and the impact on many kids’ lives the more I wanted to give. And the more fortunate and blessed that I have been with the success of my business, the more I want to help. I can honestly say that Mission Santa Maria is the most impactful organization where I feel and see the most direct use of donations to impact lives and help others.
I plan to get down there one day and I will continue to give to such an incredible organization that is helping change lives.”
Thank you, Ben, for your commitment and generosity! And thank you to all our donors that choose to give!
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Join us in Lafayette, Thursday 5/19


Please join us for cocktails and appetizers in your honor! Allow us to thank you for your support and update you on the work happening in Ecuador.

Thursday, May 19th, from 5:30-7:30PM in Lafayette, California

Learn more and RSVP here.


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Classrooms for Change Campaign – Mother’s Day Special

As our Classrooms for Change Campaign continues, we are taking time this week to honor all the moms and those that fill the role of mom. Donate on behalf of a mother figure in your life, and we will send them a personal message, including the video below, on Mother’s Day. What could be better than the gift of education? Donate here.

Some of the children in our programs share a message about their mothers and mother figures in the video below.

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Classrooms for Change Campaign – Kiara Gets a University Scholarship

Our Classrooms for Change Campaign continues! This week we want to introduce you to Kiara, the newest scholarship recipient in our university program. Kiara graduated as the valedictorian from the Mission School in March. She shares her story and a short message with you in the video below.

Donate to our Classrooms for Change Campaign to help us build more avenues out of poverty for students like Kiara! Learn more about our campaign by clicking here. Donate here.


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The Classrooms for Change Campaign has Launched!

Today we are launching the Classrooms for Change Campaign. The campaign aims to raise $75,000 over the next 6 weeks to build new classrooms at the Mission School. Watch the introductory video, learn why these classrooms are needed, and find out how you can get involved by following our campaign here. 

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Graduation at the Mission School

Last Friday, the Mission School hosted the graduation ceremony for students. It was the first time they have been able to host an in-person celebration in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony celebrated 107 graduates, 20 of whom received full scholarships to attend school thanks to your generosity. 

The Mission School graduation ceremony, Friday, March 18, 2022.

In Ecuador, it is common that students elect a ‘padrino’ or godparent for graduation from high school. The godparent is someone influential in their life that has helped them reach the milestone of graduation, and someone they see as a positive influence into the future. Usually, the godparent is a close family friend or extended relative. Students are accompanied to the graduation ceremony by their godparents, the students sit with their godparents, and at the appropriate time, godparents help the students move their tassels from one side of their cap to another, signifying that they are graduates. It is a sweet tradition and an example of how strong community life is here.

A few of the graduates preparing to enter the graduation ceremony accompanied by their godparents.

You may recognize some of the graduates this year. Michelle is one of our scholarship recipients that was featured in a video last year with her mom. You can view the video here. The past year has been extremely hard for Michelle and her family, as they were forced to move from their already inadequate home. Her mom continues to work in informal farm labor. Michelle had to stay home to watch her siblings for a while, even when classes returned to in-person learning since her siblings’ classes remained virtual. But despite these circumstances, Michelle was able to complete her studies with excellent grades. And there was no one with a bigger smile on Friday than her mom. Her pride in her daughter’s accomplishment was palpable. Michelle will take the university entrance exam this week and continues to hope to study medicine. Congratulations to Michelle, and all the other Mission School graduates! And thank you to all of you, who helped support so many students in reaching this accomplishment! 

Michelle holding her diploma with her mom, Tania.

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New Desks at the Mission School

Thanks to your generosity, we are in the process of replacing and adding 500 new school desks at the mission school. This is a project that the mission school administration, teachers, and students have been requesting for some time now, and we are excited to help it become a reality. 

For years, the mission school students have been learning on right-handed only plastic desks. The desks are prone to breaking, creating a shortage in recent years. Due to mandated virtual learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the desk shortage did not become obviously problematic until recently when the students returned to the classroom. We have made it a priority to ensure that there is good quality, appropriate seating available for all students for the 2022 school year. 

One of our students, Marcela, shares her experience during these past few weeks of the school year. She is one of many students having to carry a plastic desk from classroom to classroom due to the desk shortage. She laughs as she carries her plastic desk across the mission school campus, able to stay so positive out of pure enthusiasm for being back to in-person learning at the school. But we know that this is not a positive or long-term solution. 

Marcela carries her desk from one class to the next. We will eliminate this desk shortage by the start of the 2022 school year so that students do not have to constantly move around desks!

After conducting research on classroom design and optimal learning environment, as well as receiving input from a few education experts, we have ordered a combination of individual student desks (both right and left handed), as well as tables and chairs to optimize group learning. A local Ecuadorian carpenter will be building the desks, tables, and chairs for us, thereby allowing us to support the local economy as well as complete a necessary project for the mission school. With the school year coming to an end next week, the new desks, tables and chairs will be ready for the beginning of the 2022 school year in May. Thank you for your generosity and helping create an effective learning environment for our students!

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2021 Annual Report

We are excited to share our 2021 annual report with you! Please click here to view the complete report.

As you will see, our annual report includes an overview of all we were able to accomplish last year, direct quotes from our beneficiaries, and a closer look at our finances. Your generosity and support made our work possible. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Please consider sharing this report with anyone you know that might be interested in learning more about Mission Santa Maria. We are so grateful to partner with you in this work.

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An Update as We Begin the New Year

The beginning of the calendar year coincides with the end of the school year here in Ecuador. Unfortunately, due to rising coronavirus concerns with the omicron variant, the mission school returned to complete virtual learning right before Christmas. Almost everyone we know has been sick in the past few weeks, but gratefully symptoms have been mild and hospitalizations rare. It is extremely discouraging for the students to be back online. The school year ends in February and it is unlikely students will return to the classroom before then. But we are extremely hopeful that the mission school will start the 2022 school year with in-person learning. 

The children at the mission home continue to be fortunate through these years of virtual learning. They have maintained a relatively ‘normal’ routine, attending classes led by tutors every morning, and completing homework followed by group games and activities in the afternoon. The past month brought a few new faces to the mission home, including one-year old twins. We doubt that we have begun to see the long term economic and social effects of the pandemic, but it is obvious that child suffering continues to be rampant by the number of new children at the home each month. We are grateful for the missionary women that welcome and care for them with such love.

Regan trying to play with Diego and his twin sister, Nelly. The twins arrived at the home last month.

In our university program, most of the students are studying virtually. We have enrolled another group of high-school seniors into our university preparation course. They will take the entrance exam to university in March. We look forward to sharing some of their personal stories with you in the coming weeks.

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