Alexis and Itaty’s Service Project

Guest Bloggers Alexis and Itaty share the success of their year-end Starfish service project.

Our project was to repair a part of the playing field at the Foundation in order to benefit the Foundation members. Scholars, staff, and volunteers benefit from the use of the benches that will be available for any event at the Foundation.

To be involved in a team project is not easy at all, and there have been many inconveniences with the distribution of duties, but this project helps us learn to work together and problem solve – valuable skills for the future! It also helped us gain practical skills and and that we can use our ideas to make the Foundation even better in the future.

Overall, we managed to have good teamwork and we achieved our project objectives, which can be summarized as: “Fix up the Foundation playing field and the area around the playing field”.

Together we were able to build wooden benches at the ends of the Starfish Foundation playing field. In order to raise funds, we organized movie nights. Even though we could not raise all the funds necessary for our project, the Starfish Foundation helped us financially to buy wooden boards, sticks, nails, etc.

We also had the help of some friends and fellow students, who were instrumental in making our project goals a reality:

  • Jhon
  • Josue
  • Luiggi
  • Elkin
  • David
  • Jordy
  • Diego
  • Dervis

We also had help from the therapeutic group, director and administration of the Starfish Foundation, and we are very grateful for their support and collaboration.

If we were able to do this project over, we would plan additional fundraising activities, in order to meet all the expectations of the project. We would have liked to improve the nets of the playing field so that the balls won’t roll into the neighbor’s property or house. That was one of the goals that could not be met, but we hope that future projects will continue to be innovative and support the interests of Starfish.

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Building Future Leaders

The 2017-2018 school year saw the continuation of our Leadership School. Staff and volunteers prepare activities to share with the students who are able to learn and grown and apply the skills and ideas to their own lives – both now as students and in their future professional careers.

In April their theme was humanitarian action, as they took a look back on the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016, and the world’s humanitarian response to that tragedy.

In June, the students brainstormed the qualities and attributes of a good leader. They wrote their ideas on the chalkboard and talked about which were character traits and which were learned skills. They then reflected on their own leadership styles and discussed where they stood out and where they could each personally improve.

leaders 2Growing from the activity in June, in July they each focused on their own positive attributes. The theme of the month was “self-esteem” and how it is important in the area of leadership. In addition to self reflection and identifying their own positive qualities and skill sets, they were asked to pick one other person for whom they were grateful and tell them why they chose them.

During another workshop in July the students wrote down what professions they would like to have in the future. Then there was a presentation by professionals in those areas and each of them explained their experience. They also answered any questions the students had about the profession that they would like to study.

In August, our students presented their future dreams in the form of a skit. They were very enthusiastic and showed lots of effort and imagination while putting on their skits which turned out excellent! The goal was to give each student a better appreciation of their vision for the future.IMG_4010

In October the theme was “The Importance of Effective Communication in a Leader”. To prove the importance of communication, they started with an ice-breaker where students had to write a sentence using markers tried to various strings, and had to work as a group to move the string which in turn would make the marker move. They then watched a presentation and had a discussion on communication best practices. They finished by working in teams to make a cartoon highlighting the main points of good communication.

In November and December they continued with the theme of building partnerships – working in alliances and come to an agreement with other people. Compounding on everything they’d learned earlier in the year, they talked about the importance of delegating of tasks, negotiation, compromise, teamwork, and communication.

Each month the scholars impress us with their continued growth and development into the leaders of tomorrow.

Starfish Clubs Inspire Learning, Teamwork, Creativity, and Service

At the beginning of this school year, our Starfish staff and volunteers committed to both improving our existing clubs and adding additional recreational, learning, and growing opportunities for our scholars. With less than 2 months left in this school year, we take a look back at how our clubs have grown and improved.

Clubs focused on computer skills, chess, crafts, theater, and dance joined our well-loved soccer club and a new & improved community service club.

soccer

In early May, the soccer club and the Arts and Crafts clubs took off with a great start. The Community Service clubs also met to discuss ideas for the upcoming school year. Throughout the first part of the year, they focused on money earning activities to fund their projects – primarily by holding raffles and selling candy or food items. They have worked on projects such as office cleanup, and the “Paws up in the Air” project where they partnered with a local animal rescue to volunteer with fund raising activities.

The soccer club, has always been a favorite, but this year it’s been taken to a new level with improved training and scheduling. There are now 3 groups that each train two times a week. In the Arts and Crafts Club, the students are continually learning different techniques and experimenting with new skills and materials. For example, they once made wallets and change purses out of foam paper.

In June, volunteers helped coordinate a science club where we do hands-on experiments, as well as a theater club that focuses on improvisation – adding two more clubs to the mix. In August, the dance club began – for their first meeting they learned break dancing techniques! The students are always excited to try new things.dance

In December, the music club rehearsed Christmas music for a presentation at the Christmas party. The techniques that where learned were vocalization and music notes. In addition, participants also created a music video and uploaded it to social networks.The music workshop ended with a reflection activity.

All our clubs look forward to continuing to meet throughout the remainder of this school year, and continuing to grow and improve in 2018.

The Importance of Education

Guest Blogger: Margaret Mary Telling

Education is a crucial piece of our development as humans. By providing important life skills and knowledge, an education can open a plethora of doorways for a young person! The most pertinent skills are retained at a younger age- ranging from social skills to mathematics. Social skills retained in school can allow individuals to shape and build relationships. While more concrete skills such as mathematics and rhetoric can be applied to the professional world.

Where would people be without an education? Tasks as mundane as purchasing groceries require one. From adding up your total cost to reading nutritional labels- an education is required to make the ‘smart’ choice!

An education can make a lasting impact on a child’s life. When it comes down to it, one can learn to count at home, from a family member. However, the leadership skills and relationships cultivated in a school setting are unmatched! Leadership skills practiced and learned in school often provide students with an advantage over others professionally. According to the Global Partnership for Education, one extra year of schooling can boost an individual’s earnings by 10 percent! Facts aside, the relationships formed in school can last a lifetime!

The benefits of a proper education are truly un-ending. Every man, woman and child deserves the benefit of being provided one. Organizations like the Starfish Foundation strive to provide a safe learning environment for those who seek an education. Many youths who are ‘at-risk’ are provided with a life changing post secondary education. This very education can allow them to create businesses, work hard or even be a leader in their community!

Check out our Annual Report, to see how the Starfish Foundation is bringing a chance of education to youth in Ecuador.

Christmas at the Starfish Foundation

Throughout December and early January, many people around the world celebrate important holidays – days filled with family and friends, long-standing traditions, music, food, and the joy of sharing time and gifts with others. The large majority of Ecuadorians celebrate Christmas, and at the Starfish foundation, we host a Christmas festival in mid-December to give our staff and students a chance to do something nice for the younger members of their families.

I caught up with a few of the participants to see how they enjoyed the Starfish foundation’s Christmas festival:

Diana Z: It was very beautiful, with music, lots of games, and gifts. The game I liked the most was a game with a little ball in the water. The first stand we visited with my sister was the one with face painting; the children painted a beautiful butterfly on her face. A lot of people came and they had a good time. I had a lot of fun.navidad 3

Josue L: The Christmas party at the Foundation was very beautiful because I was able to take my sister to play at the stands and to have her face painted. After that, I took her to get her gift, and they gave her little doctor toys. She’s very happy and every day she plays with her toys.

Dennis L: The party at the Foundation was very beautiful. There were a lot of raffles, where I took my sister. She had her face painted, made a princess drawing, and lastly, she got as a gift a little toy piano, and she’s very happy. In all, the party was a lot of fun because I was with my classmates.

Additionally, we talked to some students about their family traditions for Christmas. Here is what they shared:

Astrid V: Christmas for me is sharing with the family, and aside from the material things, I share times with my friends and cousins. We have a very nice time, because on Christmas Eve we wear beautiful clothes and a lot of times we eat a delicious turkey for dinner in the company of people dear to me.

navidad 2

Josue L: I spend Christmas at my grandparents’ or my house, and we have a very nice time. We talk about what’s been happening, then we eat, and sometimes we play games. We also give gifts to each other, and that’s how we have a good time at Christmas.

Dennis L: I spend Christmas at my grandparent’s house. We talk and we always eat baked chicken. We get candy, soda, and we watch movies. We have a lot of fun. I get gifts that I’m thankful for, and I have an awesome time with the family.

Viviana A: I spend Christmas having fun with my sisters and family that come from different parts of the city. They tell us how their year has been. After that, I go with my friends to play with fireworks… with my dad’s help of course. Then, we walk around the neighborhood, or we visit more friends to invite them to have a conversation. At 11 o’clock, we go back to our house to start our Christmas dinner with the entire family. After we finish dinner, we give out the presents and continue playing. The next day we all feel happy for having been in each other’s company.

We hope everyone had a blessed holiday, and has a wonderful 2018!

A Year in Review Part 2

Today in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the weather forecast has a high 82 degrees. So, while those of us in the North East United States are facing below freezing temperatures, and even colder wind, we can cozy up, and think of Ecuador – and all the wonderful, amazing things, the Starfish Foundation has been up to over the second half of the last year.

In last week’s post, we shared our successes, accomplishments, and highlights from January 2017 – June 2017, so this week, we’ll pick up where we left off.

July:

  • We hosted a workshop, to help the students discover potential careers. Students wrote down possible professions they would like to have in the future, and we had professionals from those professions come in and give a presentation and explain their experiences. They also answered any questions and eased doubts that the students had about the profession.
  • We brought the parents from Flor and Guasmo together to discuss the dynamic between parents and children and their behaviors. They did this through performing a play and the winning group was asked to perform at our annual Talent Show.

August:

  • Everyone’s favorite talent show! The students and parents demonstrated their talents in each of the following areas: dance, singing, theater, drawing, magic, and more. It was a night full of emotions in which everyone shined on stage. All the winners of the Talent Show were awarded with a movie night and ice cream!
    – We began a dance club. For their inaugural class, the students met with great enthusiasm to learn break dance techniques.starfish1
  • This month’s tutoring theme was “universal history”, where we touched on different eras from world history. At the end of the month, students formed small groups to present on an era that was interesting to them. Many students also dressed up and made their own props for their presentation. We really have a creative group of students!

September:

  • During September, the school for parents was led by psychologist Edwin. This month’s topic was the influence of music on the behavior of children.
  • As you know by now, students in their second to last year of high school (U.S. equivalent of 11th grade) participate in a community service project at Starfish. One of our first groups of this school year chose to educate their peers and the surrounding community about the mistreatment of women as their project. They began this month with weekend workshops.
  • This month as our tutoring thing we reviewed how to use the different centers that reinforce skills and expand on other topics that we have covered. Our centers include – reading, writing, technology, strategic games, and a rotating center based on the current month’s theme.
    -Students and staff enjoyed one week of vacation between semesters. During that week, only a few staff members worked, while also supervising a “minga” or work day to clean up our facilities!

October:

  • Giving back to others and the community is at the heart of everything we do at Starfish. Scholars, educators, and volunteers from our community service club worked together to collect funds to help out, the garbage collectors of the Puerto Limpio corporation, some of the hardest working individuals in the city. We went through the streets of Mapasingue and the Las Monjas avenue to hand out snacks that we prepared with much affection for them.
  • Students took an educational field trip to the Municipal Museum to learn more about the history of our ancestors and about Ecuadorian culture.
  • mischief 5We held our annual Olimpiadas which ends with an exciting soccer tournament!
  • The weekend before Halloween, we hosted the 2nd Annual Starfish Search Scavenger hunt, where participants from 3 countries competed to complete fun, wacky tasks and raise awareness for Starfish.
  • This month, ICD Jenn took some time to teach one of the tutoring groups one of her favorite subjects – reading! The “Tarde 1” group got to read James & The Giant Peach, and participate in fun strategic and book club type activities throughout the month. The educators continued to reinforce basic math skills in the other groups, while observing the reading group to learn new strategies to implement in the future!

November:

  • We went on our annual field trip for students who received good grades in school during the first semester to reward their academic efforts. Our field trip was to the Ayangue beach, a very beautiful and quiet place that students were able to enjoy.
  • A month of service: MINI SAC completed its project “Paws up in the Air” for a local animal rescue organization. They volunteered at a fundraising event by helping to decorate and distribute food to the guests. Additionally, the Double R Group planned a Christmas party for the children with low resources that live in Mount Sinai.
  • Two more tutoring groups got to enjoy James & the Giant Peach during tutoring this month, while the other groups are working on improving writing skills. Students are responding well to the new strategies that our educators are implementing!

December

  • A month of celebrations and friendships! First our staff and students hosted a Christmas party for their younger siblings. It was set up like a fair with a bunch of different stands that had different activities for everyone to try (games, dance, a photo book, face painting, etc.). At the end of the day, each child went home with a toy donated by local university students!
  • Our Therapeutic Group worked with the theme “values and strengthening o friendship” – bringing the Starfish Foundation members together with students from the Immaculate Conception and  Sisters of Providence youth groups, as well as alumni from the Juan Martin Moye School. The completed in friendly games and sports matches, and ended with a lunch of  arroz con pollo al horno (baked chicken and rice) and salad. It was prepared by a volunteer group of mothers.
  • On December 22nd, our staff had a special dinner out together at a nice local restaurant. They really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together in a more formal setting, and share in the joy of the Christmas season.

Thanks for looking back on a great year with us. We can’t wait to see what the new year brings. We hope everyone has a safe, happy, healthy, and blessed 2018!

A Year in Review

Ah, year end. That time where we all stop and reflect on the year behind us. At the Starfish Foundation it’s been amazing year – one full of achievements, laughter, learning moments, and growing relationships.

Join us as we take a quick look back at where we’ve been this year…

January 2017:

  • We improved our strategies for our monthly leadership school for scholarship students!Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.56.29 AM
  • Our volunteers and educators helped guide our 2do bachillerato students (U.S. equivalent – high school juniors) in finishing their community service projects. One group worked with parents to improve communication in the neighborhood, while another visited Damien House, a facility for patients of Hansen’s disease.

February 2017:

  • Another group of students finished up their community service project. After planning them throughout the year, the hard work finally paid off as they put their projects in motion. This group organized a literacy project where students delivered books and other educational materials so their parents could begin learning.
  • We began our scholarship selection process for the next school year, beginning with an informational meeting for all.

March 2017:

  • March is the end of our school year. Students presented final projects at Starfish where they were able to demonstrate the skills they learned at our new & improved classes over the past 5 months. The project was called “Around the World” and each group had to research, make a PowerPoint, and present to the class about a country they had never researched previously – and include a creative piece as well such as traditional dress, sharing a traditional food, etc.
  • We went on a field trip to Bucay at the end of March for students with the best grades this past school year. Bucay was a lot of fun since it is at the edge of the mountains and is a much cooler climate than we are used to in hot & humid Guayaquil!
  • We also made some great progress with formalizing our organization in Ecuador. We received the equivalent of our EIN, and hired an accountant, Jazmin, to help with the required reporting to the Ecuadorian IRS (SRI).

April 2017: 

  • We implemented a new summer reading initiative! Starfish students were asked to read daily, complete a reading log, and attend weekly sessions to talk about what they were reading with our educators. The students who attended had a great time and we are excited to see their love for reading grow!IJ00335601_sobrecub_canterville.indd
  • While the scholars were on break, our educators were busy collecting supplies and organizing / decorating their classrooms. They also used this time for planning – especially in relation to all our new clubs (soccer, community service, computer skills, chess, crafts, dance, and more!)
  • School started on April 24th! We had 50 new students joining us in tutoring this year, with 140 students overall. We spent the first week getting to know each other, establishing classroom expectations for the year, reviewing material from last year, and setting goals for the year!

May 2017:

  • The first week of May a small camp was held within the foundation where kids were taught about HIV in a fun way through ice-breakers, soccer and other games with the help from a visiting Peace Corps volunteer, Bonnie.
  • Clubs started meeting: soccer, crafts, and community service!
  • On May 12th, in celebration of Mother’s day, the students decided to share their love for their moms by going around and singing for them. “It was a very exciting moment for the moms, because they did not expect it and this way they could feel the affection that we all have for them,” said one participant.
  • This month, our theme for our tutoring sessions was ecosystems. Our educators implemented new methodologies to help engage our students and motivate them to connect learning to real life. At the end of the month we even started our own garden at Starfish, that is still going strong today!

June 2017

  • In order to help in professional growth, we held a workshop with the psychologist entitled “Human Intelligence Development”, which was used to detect students’ abilities in the process of their development.leadership school 1
  • This month’s tutoring them was, “how to carry out an academic investigation.” The students worked in pairs to do research about the provinces and capitals, tourist sites, and myths and legends of Ecuador. The last week in June the students presented their research through expositions that each pair created.
  • On June 25th we celebrated fathers and father figures with a tribute to those who our students deemed “most important in their life.” This special celebration included games, questions, a blind baby food challenge, and a game of indoor soccer. It was a day filled with hugs, emotions and interactions between the students and their dads.
  • This month also marked the arrival of our summer volunteers who led exciting new clubs including science and theater!

Whew, what a busy year! And that’s only half of it! Tune in next week to see what else we got up to this year, as we reflect on July through December 2017 before turning over a new leaf and a new year.

A Day in the Life of a Scholar

Guest Writer: Maddy Okkerse

jordy loor.jpeg

“Within five years, I see myself studying one of these careers because I want to be a professional in order to be able to help my parents, but above all to give myself the lesson that what one resolves to do may be accomplished when you work hard to achieve it. “ -Jordy Loor

One-Hundred-Forty Students. One-Hundred-Forty Dreams.

The Starfish Foundation inspires scholars like Jordy to go above and beyond their social norm and to reach for the stars. Giving these students a place to study is only one part of the day as a Starfish student.

On their first day, April 24th, students arrived at the foundation wearing the shoes and uniforms provided by the foundation and attended classes. But these are not just your average students;these students are here because they want to be here. Many children in Ecuador of the same age have become involved with tobacco, drugs, or alcohol, but the Starfish scholars have healthy habits and long term goals. These students also attended workshops during the day providing crucial lessons – such as learning about HIV from a Peace Corps volunteers, Bonnie.

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Along with workshops, getting to know the other scholars, and reviewing materials from last year, students also were able to attend some of the several clubs offered by the foundation, such as soccer, crafts, computer, dance, and music clubs.

“Here I have met many new friends. In the foundation we can mingle, create very good friendships and besides that also there we learn a lot with the workshops they give. All of this helps me to change and everyday I learn more.” – Maria Belen

Emulated by the staff, these students are also instilled with a love for service early on. From helping paint the classroom walls, to the SAC community service project, many students help to serve their community in someway. For this reason, many of the scholars are not only achieving academic success, but they also develop incredible character.

So a day in the life of a scholar is more than above average; from learning, to service, to dreaming, the success of a scholar never stops.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see what we’re up to on a daily basis.

Starfish Spotlight: Jeison and Cecilia on hobbies, family, soccer, responsibility, and continually growing.

Whether your a student or a teacher at Starfish, we know every individual has the potential for growth, and we embrace the interests, strengths, and individuality of every one of our Starfish Family.

This week we connected with Jeison, a scholar, and Cecilia, an educator, to get to know them a little better.

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Cecelia

Interviewer: Can you each introduce yourselves and tell me a little about you?
Jeison: I am 15 years old and I live in Flor de Bastión. I play a lot of sports.
Cecilia: I am an educator with the Starfish Foundation and my hobbies are definitely eating and sleeping.

Interviewer: With the quality of food and sports coming out of Ecuador, I feel like those are both very important hobbies to have. Can you tell us a little about how you like to spend your spare time?
Cecilia: I dedicate my free time to spending time with my daughter, partaking in many activities, like playing, dancing, singing etc. I also take advantage of it by sharing nice moments with my family (mom and dad), but above all I like to spend time with my husband and daughter, which are the sweetest moments of my life.
Jeison: Like you all know, here we play quite a lot of soccer and that is also my favorite sport. Near my house is a court where I play most days. Also, sometimes I practice at the Foundation where, with my classmates, we play big matches. Besides this, in my free time, I do my homework, and when it’s my time to go to the Foundation I am very happy.

Interviewer: The Foundation sounds like it has had a positive impact on your life. Can you tell me something you’ve learned from your time with Starfish?
Jeison: The most important things that I have learned at the Foundation are to respect others above everything else and to be responsible with my duties.
Interviewer: Very important life skills indeed; you sound wise for your age. Cecilia, I know you’re a teacher, but what have learned from your time with Starfish?
Cecilia: At the Foundation, I have learned different planning methods that allow me to get to know each student on an individual level. Also, I have learned to share experiences and strategies with my other coworkers in order to learn how to best teach the students.

Thanks a ton to Cecilia and Jeison for taking the time to share some of their thoughts and hobbies with us. It’s always a pleasure to get a glimpse into the daily life in Ecuador, and get to know our fellow Starfish friends a little better.

Now is Your Time to Be the Change

If the Starfish Foundation were a child, we would already be in elementary school. These past few years have been a wonderful whirlwind of development, growth, and change, and we are (of course) always looking towards the future.

But it is also worthwhile to reflect on the past in this moment, and recall the story that inspired the name of our foundation. Out of a beach covered with thousands of starfish, when it seems hopeless to save them all from death, a young child chooses to throw them back into the sea. Instead of give up hope after the expanse of the problem, the child continues to save starfish one by one. Her reasoning? It will make a difference for each individual starfish she touches.

Ecuador flag

When you participate in the Sponsor-A-Scholar program with Starfish, you are directly helping a child successfully complete a year of school, but you are indirectly becoming part of a chain reaction that propels entire communities for the better. The Starfish Foundation’s motto of “one student, one star, one by one” reflects this. By a simple sponsorship, you are certainly changing the life of that one child. But even moreseo, many individual efforts like yours come together to make real change. This is why sponsors are essential to Starfish’s operations.

As a sponsor, you also have a chance to be a pen pal with the student that you sponsor. This provides not only a fun way to keep in touch with someone from another culture, but also a chance to learn and grow across countries’ borders. You can hear firsthand about Ecuadorian food and games, a student’s dream to succeed in school, and the work Starfish is doing to empower the students, all in a single correspondence! Being a pen pal is not a required part of being a sponsor, but it is an amazing opportunity that many sponsors take advantage of.

If this resonates with you, we encourage you to reach out to our team and maybe even become a sponsor yourself. There are currently still a few amazing Starfish Scholars who do not have a sponsor for the 2017-2018 school year, including:

  • Lady C – Favorite subject = Science; loves to read and play soccer
  • Alexander L – Favorite subject = Language Arts; loves to play soccer
  • Josue L – Favorite subject = Science; loves to play soccer
  • Joselin L – Favorite subject = Math and Science; loves to listen to music and read
  • Genesis R – Favorite subject = Social Studies; loves to swim and play soccer
  • Melissa R – Favorite subject = Phys. Ed; loves to play soccer

To find out more about how you can sponsor a scholar for the current school year, please visit our website.