In 1998, I decided I was finally going to learn to speak Spanish. I had tried and struggled as a kid and I was convinced that I just couldn't do it. I had a friend who studied in an immersion program in Guatemala so I decided to try that. I spent three months in an immersion program in Antigua, Guatemala and after about 6-weeks I realized that I was speaking Spanish. And, after about 3 months I was nearly fluent. I knew the only reason I had any success was due to 1-on-1 instruction with great Spanish teachers. My Spanish teacher would personalize each lesson by working on areas where I was weak, gently correcting me and continuously encouraging me to stick with it.
Learning Spanish in Guatemala was a wonderful experience but I also saw some of the worst poverty I had ever seen. It shook me when I realized that college educated, hard-working people, like my Spanish teachers, really struggled to earn a decent living. I began to realize that students were seasonal and when hurricanes hit (like Hurricane Mitch did during my visit) those students stayed away. The number of teachers often outstripped the demand for lessons, and there was nothing the teachers could do to change that. After I returned to the U.S., I thought often about what I could do to improve things for the people I’d met in Antigua.
In 2004, my wife, Cindy, and I formed an Oregon limited liability company and called it Speak Shop. We chose a for-profit model initially because it is very easy and expensive to register a buinsess and the whole idea of Speak Shop was a complete experiment at the time. After a few years we realized that Speak Shop was serving an important need and the online platform was successfully connecting individuals and tutors. In 2013, we finally decided it was time to create the non-profit organization, Buscavida, and on January 1, 2014, Speak Shop, LLC donated substantially all of its assets to Buscavida, which then took over the name and operation of the activity.
The teachers have now taught almost 40,000 lessons online and are charging $10-$12/hour. They've earned money that wouldn't have been possible before now. I hope you'll try Speak Shop and learn Spanish for good!
Clay Cooper, Executive Director
If you want to hear more of the story, here's a short video with Cindy and me describing Speak Shop.
Several of Speak Shop's teachers have been with us since 2004. They are a wonderful group of women that you will enjoy getting to know. To start to get to know them you can review their profiles.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS & STAFF
Clay Cooper is a director, President, Secretary and the Executive Director.
Cindy Cooper is a director and Vice President.
Alicia Tuck is a director.