“Summer” Vacation

29719927493_f784eb306d_bOn March 12th, We held our year end ceremonies in Guasmo; on April 24th, the new school year started. For the 43 days in-between Starfish staff and volunteers kept busy. Here’s some of what they were up to:

Staff in Ecuador started off the month of April purchasing all of the supplies for the new school year, as well as uniforms, shoes, backpacks, etc for our Starfish Scholars! We were also able to buy some fun new things for our classroom, like a giant whiteboard!

Once all the supplies were accounted for, they took to setting up and re-organizing our classrooms. Students and staff came together to put a new coat of paint on the walls to brighten the rooms up. The goal was a a better classroom environment and increased organization.

During school break, staff also participated in 3 professional development days. Topics included Teaching Strategies, Observational Skills & Growth Mindset.

Supplies bought? Check!
Classrooms organized? Check!
Walls painted? Check!
Professional development? Check!

So what’s next?

Staff also used April to get ahead on plans for this school year. Apart from our main programs – scholarship, tutoring & leadership development – we are also continuing with the therapeutic group run by our psychologist twice a month, our monthly school for parents, a soccer club, a new & improved community service club, as well as some new ideas for weekend clubs such as computer skills, chess, crafts, dance and more! Whew! We’re going to have a great school year!

We have 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 this year. We look forward to sharing updates for the new school year!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for day to day updates, stories, and photos from our students, staff, and volunteers in Ecuador and around the world.

Throw Back Thursday: Lessons from Ecuador

This week, we’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to see what various scholars, educators, and volunteers have learned through their experiences with Starfish:

“There is a universal language spoken through hugs, smiles, and laughter.” – Martin, volunteer

527e6-dscn2461“It’s important to give kids more ways to shine than just the classroom or the soccer field” – Danny, volunteer

“My wonderful opportunity to serve as an intern at the Starfish Foundation provides me with a greater insight of issues and circumstances worldwide, and has truly made me more grateful for the everyday things I have access to instantaneously. I have been handed so much in my life and I am thankful for the opportunity Starfish has given me to give back.” – Katrina, volunteer

“I have become more responsible, my skills have grown which makes me proud because I feel that I am a very capable person.” – Joselyn, scholar

“Without the people of the Starfish Foundation, I wouldn’t have learned more Spanish and how to work with their students. Additionally, without the students of Flor, I wouldn’t have learned how to work with English language learners and develop more skills as an educator.” – Katie, volunteerIntegration Day...in the eyes of a volunteer.

“I’ve learned to express myself and am comfortable speaking in front of the other people on various subjects.” – Julio, scholar

“Community can’t be taught, it must be built with time, trust, and consistency.” – Martin, volunteer

“Through reading, I learn more about myself and the world around me, and it has helped me to become who I am today.” – Sara W., scholar

“We are all Children”: El dia del niño

“They say that all people, whether adults or seniors, carry a child inside them, and this is true,” say administrator Jasmin and educator William. I met up with them this week to talk about El dia del niño – an internationally celebrated day honoring the importance of children. Here’s what we found out:

No one can deny that the most notorious characteristic in children is happiness, often considered within the family as “the joy of home.” Children enjoy a truly pure personality, without malice, without bad thoughts, without problems, etc. This is reflected in their actions and it’s very likely you’ve even witnessed it, we have all seen a child sharing his or her food, delighting others with their tenderness, trying to make someone who’s sad laugh, among many others actions, which people over time lose without even realizing it.


Today is El dia del niño (The Day of the Child). El dia del niño is a date where we are reminded of the important role children have in society, to improve children’s rights around the world, and to encourage education. Although this day is celebrated on different dates throughout the world, the symbolism of this day has the same message: The importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Primary goals of el dia include:

  • honoring children and childhood;

  • promoting literacy and the importance of linking all children to books, languages, and cultures;

  • honoring home languages and cultures, and thus promoting bilingual and multilingual literacy

  • involving parents in the lives and education of their children

It is a celebration where parents, educational institutions, and other organizations all work together. Here in Ecuador, this celebration is held as a tribute children on the first day of June. Organizations gather to do activities for and with the children by giving them gifts. Meanwhile, in schools, they put on historical reviews of children that are remembered throughout history.

While not the only day in which we celebrate and remember the value of children, it is an important day to remind all children how important they are for us, both today and for our futures. The children of today will mold our families, our communities, and all of humanity. 


Dia de la Madre – Celebrando a Mamá

Today we’re going to catch up on Mother’s Day in Ecuador. One of our educators, William, has provided us with a a great synopsis of how the day went. Let’s see what he has to say!

8208“No matter what your nationality is, where you live on the planet, or what your religion is, there are many different words to say it. But, the meaning will always be the same… Mom! Mom means so much. In thinking about this word, many other words or emotions come to mind: love, friendship, tenderness, happiness, understanding and more. Isn’t it incredible?

A mother is: a friend who you can trust, a person that will always be there for you despite your errors, and someone that fights to give the best to her children regardless of the effort. In summary, a mom is the most wonderful being that can exist. It is for this reason that a day exists every year in which people from many parts of the world join together in order to celebrate Mother’s Day. In Ecuador, this day is celebrated the second Sunday of May and many people celebrate this day by serenading their mothers, bringing them flowers, making cakes, preparing a wonderful dinner, etc.
The Starfish Foundation holds activities annually to entertain the mothers of its community and this year was no exception. The students put on an activity in which they visited some mother’s houses, sang to them and also brought them cards, in which they expressed their infinite love. Together with the students, the foundation was able to show the affection and gratitude that we have toward the mothers. Our gratitude is not only for the help they give their children, but also for the help that they provide the foundation, as a fundamental pillar for mutual growth.”

Thanks William!




Original Text:

No importa cual sea tu nacionalidad, en qué lugar del planeta vivas o cual sea tu religión, para decirlo las palabras serán muchas pero el significado será siempre el mismo. Mama! Pero mamá significa mucho, al pensar en esta simple palabra se nos vienen a la mente muchísimas otras palabras o sentimientos como; amor, amistad, ternura, alegría, comprensión… y mas. ¿Increíble verdad?


Una madre es una amiga en la que puedes confiar, es una persona que a pesar de tu errores siempre estara para ti, es aquella persona que lucha por darle lo mejor a sus hijos sin importar el esfuerzo en resumen es el ser mas maravillosos que puede existir, es por este motivo que cada año existe un día en que las personas de muchas partes del mundo se reúnen para celebrar el  dia de las Madres. En Ecuador este día se conmemora el segundo domingo del mes de Mayo y muchas personas celebran este día llevandoles serenata a sus mamitas tambien llevandoles flores, haciendo tortas, haciendoles una rica cena, etc.
La Fundación “Estrellitas de Mar” realiza anualmente actividades para agasajar a las madres de su comunidad, y este año no fue la excepción. Los estudiantes realizaron una actividad en la cual visitaron la casa de algunas mamitas, les cantaron y les llevaron una tarjetita en la cual expresaron su infinito amor. De esta manera, en conjunto con los jóvenes, la fundación  pudo demostrar el cariño y lo agradecidos que estamos no solamente por la ayuda que le brindan a sus hijos sino también la ayuda que brindan a la fundación como pilar fundamental para un crecimiento mutuo.

Julio Ponce: 2017 Graduate

26190743582_3eedcd05ef_bGraduation is always a time for celebration, reflections, and looking ahead. This week, I had a conversation with Julio Ponce about his education thus far, what might be next, and the people who inspire him to dream big.

Are you going to attend college? And, if you are going to attend, what do you want to study?
Julio: I plan to go to university to study architecture or nursing.

What are some of the most important moments you remember from school – your favorite memories?
Julio: The most important times were spending time with my friends. The most unforgettable date was when I took part in the flag ceremony.

What are some goals that you have for your experience and studies at university?
Julio: My goal is to get a degree in architecture and to create a building that is well known.

Is there a person who inspires you?
Julio: The person who inspires me is my mom since she has always worked hard for me. Now it is my turn to work hard for her.

Have you changed during your time at school?
Julio: Yes, I change my habits at school; now I’m more responsible. I’ve also learned to express myself and am comfortable speaking in front of the other people on various subjects.

How did you discover and develop your talents and skills during school?
Julio: I already had the talent but the more time I spent at school, the more those talents developed. I found I was also able to teach certain skills to my classmates and teachers.

What do you expect to achieve over the next five years?
Julio: Get a university degree and share it with my family so I can help others.

If you could change one thing about your educational experience so far, what would it be?
Julio: I would not change anything because what I’ve learned in school will help me in my life.

Wow! Now that’s a smart and highly motivated Starfish! With this kind of thinking, motivation, and desire to succeed, we know Julio will achieve great things.

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Senior Project Final – Proyecto de Alfabetización

Hey everyone and welcome to the month of May! We’re going to check back in with some of our Senior students and find out more about senior projects! This time, I met with members of the “Literacy Project,” which included John B., Julexi C. and Joselyn C.

To begin, I asked the students for a brief description about their project and how they got it started. They told me that their goal was to help a student with literacy and they said, “In an effort to obtain student materials for our project, we looked for donors. We were able to collect a pencil, a pencil sharpener, a notebook, an eraser, and a support book.”

They went on to say, “During our preparation for this project, we also did a little planning of what we would teach the student. We received help from the educator Pamela Rodríguez, who was very aware of the details of our project. She taught us how to prepare and helped with the courses given throughout this project.”

Then the Seniors gave me an idea of how each day went with their student. Here’s a look at their diary:

January 29
We started by passing out of all the materials (pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener, “Nacho” textbook) to the mother who attended our class. Next, we carried out a dynamic integration activity so that the class would be very fun and nice for her. Then, we started our class with vowels, reviewing, writing, coloring, etc.Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 10.36.16 AM
February 5th
In the second week, we reviewed what we did the previous week. For that, we looked for a interactive game (make a vowel notebook). We started with a lesson about consonants
and reviewing her full name.
February 8
We started again with a small review of her name and vowels. The same day, we learned to identify uppercase and lowercase letters and we started to learn some easy phonemes (letters or a letter combination that distinguish the sounds of words). Then it was time for the culmination activity. We prepared some small snacks to share, to celebrate the participation and collaboration of our student.

Finally, I asked the seniors to give me their final thoughts on the projects. Here’s what they had to say, “Having completed this project, we realized that the classes were very short and should be a little more extensive. The classes should also be held during summer vacation, because other parents did not attend since the majority have children who study, which made it a little difficult to attend. Also, in the future we should offer an option for the literacy students to receive classes in their homes. That way, if the student cannot attend classes at our foundation or another problem arises, they can still receive class.”

Benefit Dinner: Celebrating 5 Years of Starfish!

The Starfish Benefit Dinner was a phenomenal success! Everyone here at Starfish thanks everyone who was involved – whether you attended the dinner, bid on an auction item, sponsored a scholar, donated an auction item, or helped us out behind the scenes, we most definitely couldn’t have done this without all our amazing supporters. We hope everyone had as much fun celebrating the fifth birthday of The Starfish Foundation as we did.

benefit dinner 2

The Benefit Dinner took place at St. Joseph’s Church in Cockeysville, Maryland on Saturday April 29th. All our “star” guests enjoyed live music, a delicious Ecuadorian dinner, and a chance to celebrate five years of Starfish with other friends, volunteers, supporters, and staff. When not dancing or bidding on the silent auction items, guests also got to hear from a few of our current Starfish Scholars about their dreams for the future and from experienced volunteers who shared their Starfish experience.

benefit dinnerBesides being loads of fun, Saturday evening was a huge success!
• Over $10,500 was raised on Saturday evening
• $67,500 total was raised from the dinner and silent auction.
• We had 146 attendees, plus the presence of one “star fish,” (that’s me!)
• Almost 150 auction items were sold!

If you missed the festivities, you can watch one of our scholar videos here

Thank you again!
See you next year!!

Interview with a Graduate: Joselyn Calle

29333905716_08584a97de_zSwam on down to Ecuador this week to connect with one of our 2017 graduates – Joselyn Calle. We chatted about memories from the past and dreams for the future. 

Are you going to attend college? And, if you are going to attend, what do you want to study?

Joselyn: If I go to college I would like to pursue law degree.

What are some of the most important moments you remember from school – your favorite memories?

Joselyn: Getting together with my classmates. To have shared many experiences and anecdotes that in the future will tell my children about.  

What are your expectations for your university experiences?

Joselyn: I think my goals and experiences at university will be nice and satisfying.

Is there a person who inspires you? If so, why?

Joselyn: The people who inspire me are very special in my life. They have given me support and trust, which inspires me.

Have you changed during your time at school?

Joselyn: Yes, I have noticed some changes in myself. I have become more responsible, my skills have grown which makes me proud because I feel that I am a very capable person.  

Calle Joseline-2017What talents and skills did you discover or develop at school?

Joselyn: My skills and talents are unique, I believe I’m a woman who is very capable of doing different things. I do not have a specific talent but I feel that I am able to fulfill my dreams and goals.

What do you hope to achieve over the next five years?

Joselyn: To have accomplished my goals and continue with my professional career.


If you could change one thing about your educational experience would it be?

Joselyn: My educational experience was very pleasant, so I would not change anything. They are anecdotes in my life which give me many examples, so I would not change anything.

Thanks Joselyn! And congratulations of your graduation. We know your future is bright and full of wonderful experiences. 



¿Vas a asistir a la universidad? Y, si vas a asistir, ¿qué quieres estudiar?

Si voy asistir y me gustaría seguir la carrera leyes

¿Qué son unos momentos más importantes que recuerdas del colegio- tus memorias favoritas?

Si voy a las reuniones con mis compañeros. Haber compartido muchas experiencias y anécdotas que en algún futuro serán contadas a mis hijos

¿Qué son unas metas que tienes para tu experiencia y estudias en la universidad?

Mis metas y mis experiencias para la universidad pensar que voy hacer sean agradables y satisfactoria

¿Hay una persona que te inspira? Si hay ¿Por qué?

La persona que me inspira es muy especial en mi vida la cual me ha brindado su apoyo y confianza por esa razón es una inspiración para mí

¿Has cambiado durante tu tiempo en el colegio?

Sí, he notado algunos cambios en mi me he vuelto más responsable mis capacidades han aumentado lo cual me enorgullece porque siento que soy una persona muy capas

¿Cómo descubriste tu talento y tus habilidades en el colegio?

Mis habilidades y talentos son únicos yo me creo una mujer súper que capaz de realizar diversas cosas no tengo un talento en específico pero si recomiendo que soy capaz de cumplir mis sueños y metas propuestas

¿Qué esperas lograr durante los próximos cincos años?

Haber culminado a seguir con mi carrera profesional

¿Si pudieras cambiar una cosa sobre tu experiencia educativa que sería?

Mi experiencia educativa fue muy agradable por lo cual no cambiaría nada ya que son anécdotas en mi vida la cual me dan muchos ejemplo por  lo cual yo no cambiaría nada

Senior Project Final: Informe Adultos Mayores

Hey everyone! I hope you’re enjoying some nice, Spring weather, wherever you are! This week, it’s time to check in with our Senior students and find out about one of their senior projects! Over the weekend, I met with members of the team “Adultos Mayores,” Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.53.17 AMincluding:Joselyn C., Jordy L., Julio P. and Ariana S. Let’s find out what they did during their five week project!

The team members began by telling me that the goal of their project was to visit the elderly home, Damien House, over the course of five Fridays, to bring residents happiness and to show that they are valued. Before attending the home, the team members fundraised by selling jello! The students raised $9, to cover the cost of snacks that they would provide to the residents.

During their first visit on January 20th, they had breakfast with some of the residents. They helped some of them drink their oatmeal drink, as it wScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.54.40 AMas challenging for them. After breakfast, they went to the patio, explained their project to the residents and invited them to participate. The residents were very excited and decided to start off with an icebreaker, to get to know each other. Finally, when it was time to go, the students gave the residents bananas as a snack. Then, the residents told the students that they were very excited about their visit!

January 27th was the students next visit. As the students arrived, the residents were waiting on the patio with very excited expressions. The students handed out badgesScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.55.17 AM to the residents, they played another icebreaker and then they played dominoes. Since some of the students didn’t know how to play, the residents taught them. Finally, they caught up for the week and then gave the residents an oatmeal beverage as their snack.

The students visited the residents for a third time on February 3rd. They said, “this day, we were surprised with the excitement of the adults, which was greater with each visit!” For the visit, they passed out badges played an icebreaker named “cow tail” and then discussed the residents’ lives from when they were young. The residents gave the students advice and in return, the students gave them sandwiches as a snack!Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.56.29 AM

Their fourth visit to the home was very rainy and the residents were worried that the students weren’t going to show. So, when they arrived, the residents were still in the dining room eating their breakfast. After breakfast, they played another icebreaker, called “the spider web.” Then, the residents taught the students how to weave hammocks and told them that they make handicrafts and sell them to people who visit the home. Finally, the students gave orange juice as a snack and said goodbye.

February 17th was the final visit for the students. They said, “this day we felt a bit sad to think that it would be our last visit with our new friends. We wanted the end of the project to be unique, so we brought picture frames with pictures that we had taken with them.” The students also included a lot of balloons to decorate the home and make the residents happy. The morning was filled with emotions from both the students and the residents. The residents expressed their gratitude toward the students for their visits and let them know that they would miss them every Friday. For their final visit, the students gave the residents an oatmeal drink with bread as their snack.Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.57.09 AM

Looking back at their time with the residents, the students said, “We were able to understand the value of solidarity and love because each time we arrived at the Father Damien House, we were filled with happiness, feeling that our presence was important for them. We understand that each person that we encountered in the home needs us, so that they do not feel alone. The environment in the home makes them feel a deep sense of solitude.”

I am so proud of these students for their accomplishment. Not only did they complete their Senior project, but they formed new bonds that will last a lifetime. Great job Starfish Scholars!

Starfish March Madness!

marchMarch may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but March Madness is a high paced adventure from start to finish. With unbelievable upsets at every round and underdogs proving themselves time and time again, everyone was scrambling to recalculate their brackets, and a lot of people spent the evenings yelling at their TVs (both in despair and in jubilation).

This year, 58 people came out for the Starfish March Madness bracket – about 15 more than the total number in 2016. Total donations made in the name of March Madness exceeded $2,000! Thank you!

The final game was a match up between North Carolina and Gonzaga – and N. Carolina took home the trophy 71-65, in a game that was far too close for viewer comfort. Our amazing winners for 2017 – all of whom picked N. Carolina to win it all – were as follows:
• 1st Place – Christina Natalello ($100 Amazon Gift Card)
• 2nd Place – Jessica Cochol (Cotopaxi Backpack)
• 3rd Place – Christina MacNair ($25 iTunes Gift Card)

Honorable mention must go to John Todd who lead the way after Round 1, Round 2, the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8. Congrats John!

Round 2, was referred to by Danny as “whoa, a wild weekend” with South Carolina defeating #2 seed Duke, and Wisconsin taking out #1 seed Villanova. As Beth nicely put it,”there were a lot of upsets and upset people” … but some were in fact elated over these underdog victories. Christina V, Andy F, and Lisa C all predicted the Wisconsin win, and Becky M and Jasmin T (representing a group of our educators in Ecuador), both called the S. Carolina upset over Duke. Betting on the underdog definitely paid of!

We thank everyone who participated, and look forward to hosting March Madness again in 2018 – may the best team win!