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

Book Recommendations from Starfish Staff, Scholars, and Volunteers

Did you know? March is not only Women’s History month, but also Literacy Month. In honor of this special occasion, I decided to take a swim around and find out what some of people’s favorite books are. Here are some of the book reviews I gathered:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Atrapado sin salida) by Ken Kesey
“I love this book because it tells the story of a misinterpreted group of people. bajo la misma estrella.inddAlso, it is written uniquely through a unprecedented perspective.” – Michelle

Bajo la Misma Estrella (The Fault in our Stars) by John Green
“It’s a romance book about 2 young people who have cancer. They fall in love and live many happy moments together in spite of knowing that they had. They were very happy together.” – Diego

Watership Down (La colina de Watership) by Richard Adams
“It’s a family tradition to read this novel about an incredible journey of fellowship, loss, struggle, and triumph. Every time I read it, I learn more about myself and the world around me, and it has helped me to become who I am today.” – Sara W.left to tell

Left to Tell (Sobrevivir para Contarlo) by Immaculee Illibagiza or Tattoos on the Heart (Tatuajes en el corazón) by Greg Boyle
“The first is a powerful story of forgiveness after the Rwandan genocide through the author’s Catholic faith, and the second is A personal account about his work with mostly-Latino gang youth in LA. I’ve had the blessing to hear them both speak, and it is UNREAL to learn about their real-life experiences and their powerful character! What beautiful people.” – Beth

“Lágrimas de Ángeles” (Tears of Angels) by Edna Iturralde
“I like this book because it helps me realize the kind of life many kids without homes live. They are exploited and forced to work by unscrupulous people. It tells the story of Jaime, who lives with his dad, but runs away and gets lost in a new city. He decides to walk and he finds a girl the same age as him. She lives on the street and works at the stoplights with a lot of other kids. Jaime stays to live with them in the street and that’s when he beings to experience how life is.” – Lili

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
“I love those books because they transported me to a world that I would love to be a part of, even only while reading. I think it also helps that there are 7 of them, so they were with me for the entire second half of my childhood.” – Veronica
“My favorite book when I was younger was the Prisoner of Azkaban – the third part of the Harry Potter series. It’s very exciting to read. It’s about another adventure of Harry, Hermione and Ron, this time a dangerous assassin escapes from Azkaban and is going after Harry.” – William

harry potter

El Prínicipe Feliz (The Happy Prince) by Oscar Wilde
“It’s about a place high up in a city where there was a statue of a prince, and everyone who looked at it was impressed by the beauty and happiness of the statue. For them the statue represented the existence of happy people in the world.”

The Kite Runner (Cometas en el cielo) by Khaled Hosseini
“This is one of those books that I just couldn’t put down; I read the whole thing in a day, and thought about the story for months afterwards. Following the story of two young boys from Kabul, it is a powerful story of mistakes, guilt, betrayal, relationships, forgiveness of others and yourself, and the struggle for redemption.” – Amanda

Beloved by Toni Morrison
“Although I hated Beloved upon my first reading, revisiting it for a college course completely changed my opinion of it. While I still struggle with some aspects of it, it made me question the way that I judge other people and their decisions, and gave me even more motivation to be an open-minded reader and individual overall.” – Sara W.IJ00335601_sobrecub_canterville.indd

El fantasma de Canterville (The Canterville Ghost) by Oscar Wilde
“I had a mix of many emotions when I was reading this short story about a rich family from the United States who buys a castle where a ghost was living. The ghost had scared away many families who had tried to live in the castle previously, but, this family didn’t pay attention to the actions of the ghost.” – William

Mil gracias – Many Thanks to our friends at COMIL!

For the second year in a row we have been blessed with donations and support from the wonderfully compassionate and generous STUDENTS at the Militar High School “Combatientes de Tapi N.6” in Riobamba, Ecuador.  That’s right, other high school students have taken it upon themselves to donate new and gently used books, notebooks, and other items to their new friends at Starfish here in Guayaquil as part of their Values class.  This year in particular, they helped us double the size of our Starfish library, which was created last year with their generous donations!  This was all made possible through a great initiative we call “Kids Supporting Kids”, started by our friend Monica.  Check out her blog to hear more about some of her other initiatives!

Some of the “ayudantes” helping to sort through and categorize books for our growing library!

We’re really excited to receive donations from another part of Ecuador.  While we are forever grateful for all of the support we have received from the U.S. and around the world, receiving donations from another city here in Ecuador has been an eye-opening experience for our Scholars.  They are able to learn first-hand the important lesson of how inter-connected we all are – and the great responsibility we all have to each other as global citizens.

Some of the students and teachers from COMIL plan to visit us at Starfish during the school year and we hope to keep in touch through a pen pal program so that we can continue to exchange ideas, inspiration and friendship with these inspiring youth!

May updates – Tests, Volunteers, Books & More!

May sure has been a busy month at Starfish!  We started the month off with some “exámenes de nivelación” or some grade-level tests to see what our students remembered after their long break from classes.  A lot of the students found the material very challenging so we will be using these tests and other resources throughout the year to reinforce basic concepts and assure that our students are not just passing their classes, but also learning the material!

Students in Guasmo finishing up their tests.

Our 6 part-time employees are adapting well to their new roles and forming friendships with each other and the kids.  Our first volunteer of the year has assumed the role of “Profesor de Ingles” or English teacher and our newest volunteer Maria just got in yesterday.

Jasmin, Maricruz, Tyrone and Jenn in Flor de Bastión

May has also meant a crazy month of running back and forth to the center of the city looking for books for the students.  Technically it is illegal for schools to require that students buy textbooks, especially since they are so expensive, but that doesn’t stop about 50% of schools from doing it anyway.  Though we encourage our students and families to stand up for their rights, we don’t want the students’ grades to suffer in the meantime.  In accordance with our mission to not give the families money but rather the supplies they need to be successful, Starfish buys the books.  However, this is not as simple as going to the bookstore with the list of books you need.  It means going from store to store around the city and maybe finding 1 or 2 of the 30 or 40 books at each store.  Thankfully book season is ending soon so we won’t have to buy any more books – until next May!

A sample of some of the books bought this past weekend!