Hispanic and Latina Women Who Change(d) the World

We’re halfway through Women’s History Month, so it’s the perfect time to shine a bright spotlight on the inspiring, go-getting Hispanic and Latina women who are raising their voices, sharing their stories, overcoming barriers, and changing the world.

alvarezJulia Alvarez, an Domican-American poet, essayist and novelist, gained national acclaim after her 1991 novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, illuminated what it’s like to be a Latina immigrant in the U.S. Her second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, detailed the death of the Mirabal sisters during the Trujillo dictatorship in the DR. Her contribution to Latin American literature brought on future Dominican-American writers like Angie Cruz and Junot Diaz.

BeutlerRecently appointed to serve as vice chairwoman of the Financial Services and Government Oversight Appropriations Subcommittee, Herrera Beutler, 36, is one of the youngest and most visible women serving in Congress. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee earlier this year approved her legislative directive instructing Veterans Affairs to address why the agency is experiencing such a high rate of medical providers who leave the system. She is the first Hispanic in history to represent Washington State in the U.S. House of Representatives. TIME Magazine placed her on its 40 Under 40 list of top national leaders.



Claribel Alegria: With over 25 published works, this Nigerian novelist is a powerful voice in contemporary literature in Central America. She has published volumes of poetry, novels, and children’s books. The George Washington University graduate focused on the people’s movement, which helped overthrow dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. She was awarded the 2006 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Rita Morena is a legend. Known as a singer, dancer and actress, she has had an amazing career. She won acclaim for her role as Anita in the film adaptation of West Side Story, had a successful Broadway career and even performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She was only the second Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award and is still the only Latino who has earned the prestigious EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). Most recently she presented an award at the 2018 Oscars… in the same dress she wore when she accepted her Oscar for Best Actress 50 years ago.

Moreno 2


And of course, as the Starfish Foundation is in Ecuador, we will end our list of amazing women with Noralma Vera Arrata. As Former Ecuadorian Prima Ballerina, choreographer, and Director of the National Dance Institute (Instituto Nacional de Danza) she danced in London, Paris, Ecuador, and Cuba – excelling in both Ballet and Modern. In 1978, Vera founded her own ballet company and academy in her home city. After retiring from active dancing, Vera worked as a diplomat in Mexico and Cuba.


We hope these outstanding women will inspire all of you (yes! All of you! Not just the ladies) to put forth your best. It takes kindness, teamwork, communication, and hard work to make the world a better place – and today’s a great day to get started.


Reflections on Service – Kiara, Naghelly, and Mierly

Guest Bloggers, Kiara, Naghelly, and Mirely focused on the mistreatment of women for their year-end service project. Here they share their reflection on the experience…

As we completed this project, we personally acquired more knowledge about the mistreatment of women. When we met with adults from the community, and allowed them to express their opinion and talk openly about the subject, they were able to grow in their knowledge as well. Each person we connected with expressed their indignation and disapproval of hitting a woman because women must be respected, valued, cared for, and, above all, loved.service project.png

Currently, we find many women in the world who have been through this type of situation and they have to go to professionals to cope with these problems. The situation is very worrying and that is why many people give talks to prevent it, however, this is a problem that will always exist.

Naturally, these behaviors do not always come to light but remain in the depths of the family. The explosions of aggressiveness also reach children, producing equally serious psychopathological disturbances that dangerously interfere with the balanced development of their personality.

Our project was a little complicated because we had to give talks in shifts and we got nervous about talking to the adults. However, each time, we lost a little bit of our fear, and the adults supported us and gave us ideas we could use to continually improve our presentations.

service project 2

We were able to be successful because we researched the subject thoroughly so we could skillfully manage the workshops.

If we were to repeat the project we would recommend that there would be more group work, and that the presentations would include fun activities so that they can get the attention of the adults taking the class.

We’d like to give thanks to the Starfish Foundation for helping us. We enjoyed talking with the community and it was nice to spend that time educating others.

Friends From Another Continent

I was lucky enough to visit Ecuador twice, once before starfish was founded and once a couple summers ago.


I met Pamela and Arelisa the first time I visited. They were so sweet. They had prepared kind words to welcome our family and performed a fun dance. I loved that there was a mixture of music more familiar in South America and some songs from North American artists. It was great to find out we like some of the same musical artists!

Once starfish started, I was able to have Pamela as my pen pal. I was excited to hear about how she was pursuing her dreams through an internship at a hotel. I also loved hearing about her siblings and stories of their cat.

This year, when doing the starfish scavenger hunt, I was excited Arelisa was participating because one of the tasks was to send a package of something they couldn’t get. I sent a snowman ornament and some sour patch kids! I love that candy and I was excited to learn that Arelisa loves it too! She had only ever tried original so I put some of those in along with the best type, watermelon! I can’t wait to hear how she likes them.

kim's second trip 1

I remember them both as such bubbly and kind spirited scholars who became my friends. We have since become Facebook friends and I enjoy keeping up to date on their lives!

It’s meant a lot to me to be able to connect with friends from another continent. I have learned so much about their culture, celebrations, hobbies, food, etc and it has helped me in my own classroom. When we get international students, I feel like I can connect with them better thanks for my friendships with Pamela and Arelisa!

This post was guest written by Starfish Supporter Kim. If you would like to learn more about having a Starfish pen pal, check out our 4 tiers of Sponsoring a Scholar or visit our website to see how you can exchange letters and cards with one of our Ecuadorian students.

Life Lessons from Juliana: A Starfish Scholar

Juliana, one of our scholars, agreed to sit down and tell us a little about her self and some of the most important life lessons she’s learned.

Juliana LeonCan you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 16 years old, I’m in Starfish, and I live in flor de bastion.

What do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not in school I spend most of my time at the foundation, many people say they have two homes, but instead I have three including the foundation which is my third home.

What are some of your hobbies?
My number one hobby is listening to music; I love music! I like to read and chat with friends. I also sleep a lot.n
With my friends I like to laugh a lot, it’s what we do the most when we are together. Sometimes we have scheduled get-togethers, to meet up because we are not in the same school.

What are the most important life lessons?
I’ve learned a few:

  1. No matter how difficult it is to try to accomplish something, you have to try. It is not about whether or not you succeed, but you have to try.
  2. Nothing is impossible and everything can be achieved in this life if you work hard and aren’t afraid to try
  3. Keep going despite every circumstance
  4. In the course of our life we ​​will meet wonderful people; some will leave and new ones will come
  5. In every error, there is a lesson.

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.

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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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!