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!

2017 So Far

Wow everyone, I can’t believe it’s already April! Now that we’re three months through 2017, I think it’s time to take a look back at what we’ve accomplished so far!

January:

  • In January, our volunteer Ellie continued with the English classes with both the students and educators. Also, the students were able to hold a party for Three King’s Day, on January 6th. The party involved playing and having a grab bag for each student. Next, there was a meeting held on January 15th, in which scholarship recipients completed activities related to the leadership school. The students had a great time and enjoyed it a lot!

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  • We have also continued our tutoring classes! This month the classes were focused on nouns, sentences, comma usage and other grammar points.
  • Finally, we held a Community Service Workshop. Overall, January was a great month for the Starfish Foundation!

February:

  • In February, our volunteer Ellie completed the English classes with the students and educators. Great job, Ellie!
  • Students presented their final projects at Starfish, where they were able to demonstrate the skills they learned at our new and improved classes these past 5 months. Their project was called “Around the World,” and each group was to pick a country they had never researched previously. Then, they were to research, make a PowerPoint and present to the class, while including a creative piece such as traditional dress, traditional food, etc.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 10.58.11 AM
  • The high school students also carried out three projects with the community in February, which they’ve planned throughout the year. Stay on the lookout for our upcoming blog posts to get an update on their projects!
  • This month, our tutoring classes were held in conjunctions, upper and lowercase letters and public communication.
  • Finally, the Leadership School held their second workshop this month, where the topic was how to be a good leader. Activities were created for students to find out their flaws, virtues, interests and values and then how these attributes make them a good leader.

March:

  • This month was the end of the school year for students!
  • In March, we received over 100 scholarship applications and are excited to welcome 54 full scholarship recipients and 16 conditional scholarship recipients!
  • We also held our year end ceremonies in March. In Guasmo, the ceremony was on March 12th and in Flor de Bastion, the ceremony was held on March 17th! For the students with the best grades, we went on a field trip to Bucay at the end of the month.
  • Coming up, we have a new summer reading initiative! Starfish students are expected to read daily, complete a reading log and attend weekly sessions for 1 month to discuss what they’re reading, with our educators.

These past three months were absolutely great and we can’t wait to see what the next three have in store!

Until next time,
Henry

“I Choose to Learn” and Other Initiatives

In addition to the work done with our scholars, The Starfish Foundation also works with adults and other members of the community through “The Parents School” and “I Choose to Learn”. I spent some time this week learning about these various initiatives so I could share the information with you.

The Parents School happens once a month (the last Sunday of the month). During this time, Psychology professionals conduct workshops and therapies. Although children are not required to participate in parents school, about 15 to 20 scholars are involved per month.

At the first meeting of The Parents School staff took the time to get to know the concerns of and ask suggestions from them to use for future meetings.choose-to-learn

These monthly meetings also allow them to make connections and converse with other parents, as well as for Starfish staff to meet with and have a better understanding of their lives. The open communication helps everyone see from each other’s point of views, and encourages everyone to be open-minded.

In October, the topic of the month was “Equity in Household Activities.” Given by psychologist Edwin Alvarado, its objective was to understand the difficulties that the parents have when designating household chores.

During this session, parents and children worked in groups to make posters “indicating the discomforts of families and possible suggestions when designating the tasks at home”. Through this, participants realized the importance of their functions within the home, and parents gained an appreciation of the importance of having patience, as well as good balance between showing love and the authority.

What an important lesson! Next I got to hear about the “I Choose to Learn program” offered.

I Choose to Learn was originally a program aimed at mothers, but is now open to both mothers as well as youth in the community (both scholars and non-scholars). The goal is to help these individuals create items or complete tasks that generate income. Some projects include making wallets, purses, holsters, change purses, hairbands, and foam crafts.

The methodology for maintaining income is that for each item made, the participants will sell it and then half of the profit is for them and the other half is to buy the materials.

I wish them the best of the luck as they become aspiring entrepreneurs!

Until next time,
Henry

Happy 5th Birthday Starfish!

Earlier this week, the Starfish Foundation celebrated it’s 5th birthday! That’s five years of providing scholarship, tutoring, and leadership development to youth living in extreme poverty in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Over that time frame, Starfish has grown and grown – and currently serves over 120 scholars in Guasmo and Flor de Bastion.

Jenn and beth.jpgThe idea for the Starfish Foundation developed after co-founders Beth and Jenn volunteered for a year in Ecuador, where they volunteered at a shelter for former street kids. A lot of these kids had no family or little support at home. Though many of them had the motivation to study, they lacked financial resources to be able to attend school once leaving the shelter.

Though public schools in Ecuador are free, families often still struggle to provide all the necessary materials (uniforms, books, school supplies, etc) while living on minimum wage and trying to feed a whole family. For many, the easiest solution was to not go to school. The Starfish Foundation works to fill a need that focuses on the importance of education as a catalyst for future success of each student and their communities, and provides scholarships and mentoring to students in financial need who have the motivation to continue their studies despite challenging circumstances.

But the success comes not just from funding scholars, but also seeing bright, caring, thoughtful individuals find the means to achieve their goals. It’s about seeing faces light up with smiles. It’s about promoting confidence through talent shows and interviews. It’s about creating a sense of community through outreach. It’s about improving our environment by encouraging sustainable living and recycling. It’s about service and instilling the values of hard work and giving back to the community in our scholars. It’s about big dreams, and big plans, and big ideas.

It’s about giving every scholar the boost they need to be the best version of themselves.

Over the last 5 years, there have been a lot of incredible moments for Starfish. Some highlights for Beth include:

  • On the trip last year, there was a moment when we got together all the “original” Starfish Scholars. It was kind of like the end of A League of Their Own – very nostalgic to remember back those early days, but impressive to see how these young adults (now) have grown up and are now giving back to Starfish as employees or volunteers!
  • Bringing my parents and best friend (basically my sister, in Spanish they call her my ñaña) to see Starfish. They are SO supportive and it was so special to have them meet our Scholars and their families!
  • The experience of growing our Board this fall. It was really the first time we had done anything quite like this – but the interviews with so many WONDERFUL people were delightful. I have loved getting to know our new members and seeing their positive energy. They have already started to give back in so many extraordinary ways!
  • Our 5th birthday! It was a tiring week, and a challenging time to see our country divided in the election, but in the midst of stress and discord, it was something to celebrate. The amount of people who wished me a happy birthday that day — I wondered if I should double-check my birth certificate 😉

As we look back, we’re so thankful to everyone who has been a part of this journey – we’re thankful for the support, friendship, prayers, and donations. As we look back, we know it is also important to look ahead, and look forward to continuing to grow and serve in the coming years. Some of our goals include:

  • Putting together a robust U.S. Operations team. We’re well on our way to doing so – an amazing set of Managers / Advisers for Development, Communications, and Volunteer Management, efficient Admin team of our Sr. Admin Assistant, Accountant, and Tech Guru, and an amazing team of Social Media interns. We have work to do, though, in creating the best structure to maximize capacity and efficiency – and I’d love to see us get to a great point with that.
  • Officially registering in Ecuador, buying land, and building our dream “house.” It’s the longest, most complicated process EVER, but we are nearing the end, and that’s pretty incredible.
  • Supremely increasing the attendance at our Giving Tuesday and An Evening for the Stars (Baltimore Benefit Dinner) events. We have some SNAZZY new tricks up our sleeve (this year, for example, just your presence at any Giving Tuesday results in a $10 donation to Starfish – thanks to a generous match!)
  • Seeing the amount of people who learn about Starfish continue to increase!

I hope you can agree it’s been an incredible Journey, and yet an even more amazing one awaits us. I also hope you’ll join me in wishing Starfish a very warm and loving HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

starfish-birthday

Speedy Championship

Hey there!

Your favorite fish here and I’m here to give you a special update on a soccer tournament that we recently pulled off at Flor de Bastión.

The soccer tournament was a new endeavor and as with any new endeavor, the students and staff were a little nervous when they first decided to hold the tournament.But in the end, they pulled of an incredible event – The Starfish students and staff helped organize everything from recruitment to photography, and from selling snacks to security.

Together, they were able to recruit nine teams of seven players from the community and from other parts of the city. How great is that? On June 5th, the players, students, and staff gathered for a day of 5 v 5 soccer, and, as you can see, the teams had so much fun!

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The first and second place teams took home small cash prizes (and the joy of winning), and any remaining money from registrations, as well as proceeds from the water and empanadas sold, went as a donation to Starfish – raising over $230.

The students report, “everyone went home content and satisfied… We went beyond our goals.” A huge thank you to the teachers, parents, students, and community members who made this possible!

The successful “Campeonato Relampago” as they called it, and all the money raised is going to renovating the Starfish office space to help more Starfish dreams come true.

So what dreams are our little starfish working on?

Our little Starfish have been busy with community service projects and high school senior projects. At the start of the year, many of them wondered “how can I get involved in my community?” Starfish staff worked with them to help them identify their skills and talents so they could share them with the local community. While continuously welcoming new members to the service group, these students have been visiting shelters, planning activities for Starfish, and doing communal work in the area. I, for one, couldn’t be more proud of them!

These kids are full of good ideas, good will, and a love for helping others. Their reward? Meeting challenges, the experiences they get from meeting new people, and the smiles they get for their efforts.

Let us be part of the change! How many smiles are you willing to draw?

More soon!

-Henry

Redefining Happiness Part 2: A Thank You

Hello again! Remember my good friend Katie Malone from last week who shared her volunteer experience in Ecuador? This week, she has some thank-yous to share and some final reflections on the infectiousness of happiness. Thanks for reading!

-Henry

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It is so difficult to put in to words what kind of an impact these wonderful people have made in my life, but I will do my best:

I thank my host family for allowing me in to their home, taking care of me when I was sick (homemade chicken noodle soup cures upset stomachs and hearts), giving me oil to rub on itchy bug bites, showing me how to flush their toilet, washing my clothes, feeding me until I couldn’t eat another bite, and simply being my Ecuadorian family.

Thank you for allowing me to witness your kindness, happiness, laughter, and joy of being together as a family. It made the pessimistic things that mattered in my life back in Ohio seem so, so small. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on the world and showing me what is most important in life.

Also, thank you to the patient, fun, kind, and compassionate workers at Starfish! You were so understanding while trying to comprehend my pre-kindergarten level Spanish and when giving me anything I needed for the English classes I taught. You included me in your daily routine and made sure students who had English homework felt comfortable enough to ask me (or get one of you to ask me) for help.

Lastly, thank you to all of the students who completed my English classes and worked diligently to complete homework assignments, practice the ABC’s, and participate in my review games as if they were fútbol games in the Copa América. You have inspired me to become a better teacher through your dedication and motivation as students and as members of your community and families. Most of you have already gone through more difficult situations and have endured more hardships than I could even imagine. In a way, you are all role models because you continue to learn and thrive, in spite of the negativity in your lives. I thank you so much for pushing me to be a better educator for my future students.

Happiness pulses through each one of you. It is more infectious than any mosquito, spider, cockroach, or other bug we Americans are afraid of.

I thank you for making me a more adventurous, confident, and loving person.

Most importantly, I thank you for being happy.

Updates from Guasmo and Flor

We’ve been busy here at Starfish over the past few months, including celebrations for Navidad, vacacionales, community service projects (Melanie P’s project was featured on our blog a few weeks ago!), and now our high school seniors are preparing for their graduation, which is only a month away!

Vacacionales – Due to schools altering their schedules because of the weather brought by El Niño, we have altered our format and structure of vacacionales. On Monday and Wednesday of our vacacionales, we implemented academic reinforcement (tutoring, study sessions) and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we introduced clubs! Our choices for clubs include: Manualiadades (Crafts), Dance, Community Service, Sports & Theater.


Our scholars enjoy their new Sports club on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s (we all know how much they love to play with la pelota, so our Sports club has gained quite the popularity).

As part of our Community Service club, our scholars brainstormed and together, created this definition for community service:

  • helping others 
  • uniting as one so we can achieve something greater 
  • collaborating with one another 
  • working as a team 
  • everyone striving for one common goal, or objective 

After creating our definition of community service, our scholars chose projects based on the needs in the community.  Throughout the month, they are completing their projects, with results to be presented at our open house during the last week of February!


Our scholars discuss with each other their plans for their community service project. 


Community Service club participant Juliana delivers her “Random Act of Kindness” to Starfish volunteer Cristhian.


Our students prepare for their debate, working on skills such as logic, problem solving, and communication, as part of their after school activities!

In addition to our new extracurricular options, long-term Starfish volunteer and Program Advisor Sanchia along with a co-worker are offering high-quality English classes at Starfish- one class to our Educadores and one class to our top 10 scholarship students – equivalent to what they would get at the prestigious school where Sanchia teaches. Classes are being offered at Starfish for free!

And for some exciting news: Felicidades – Congratulations – to Starfish Scholar Angie! As part of the city’s “Jóvenes Ejemplares” program, the top students at each high school are rewarded. The third level of prizes is a bus pass, while Angie reached the second level – a brand new laptop! Congratulations on your success and we are extremely proud of all your hard work, Angie.


Angie with her new laptop!

Student blog post- Melanie’s Community Service Project

The blog post for today comes from Melanie Paz, one of our high school seniors who recently completed a community service project at Starfish. Melanie is an ambitious, dedicated student with a bright future, and we are so proud of her and all she has accomplished!

Melanie’s reflection:
For my community service project, I organized a Christmas party for the little brothers, sisters, and other young family members of the Starfish scholarship students in Guasmo.

First, I had to figure out how to finance my project. After thinking about it, I realized that often times, when people have outgrown their clothes, they either throw them away, sell them, or regift them. Therefore, I decided to ask for used clothes from neighbors and others close to me, so that I could sell the clothes and use the money to fund the party. Thankfully, people generously donated their old clothes, and I was able to put on a party for the kids to enjoy. Everyone had a great time, and it was a memorable day for all of us 🙂

With God’s help, and with the assistance of those who helped me by donating their old clothes, everything went well, and the children had a great time! Watching the kids enjoy themselves brought me a lot of joy, and their parents and families came and thanked me, as did Jenn and a few others, and this made me feel proud to have completed my project.

Therefore, with a little effort, through my project, I demonstrated to the directors and members of Starfish that I remain thankful for all of the help that they have offered me throughout the years. Their support enables me to continue growing socially, academically, and spiritually.

Without a doubt, it was a beautiful and unforgettable experience, from which I learned a lot.

~Melanie Paz~

en español:
Realice un fiesta de navidad para los hermanos y sobrinos de los becados y no becados menores de 10 años de la fundación Estrellita del Mar, sede Guasmo.

Para poder financiar mi proyecto, me di cuenta que las personas de hoy en día no utilizan la ropa muy a menudo, la botan, la venden o la regalan, entonces opté por probar con esa idea y pedí ropa usada a personas muy cercanas a mi para así venderlas y sacar fondos para poder realizar la fiesta. Hice que los niños se sientan felices en estas fechas tan significantes para ellos.

Gracias a Dios, y a las personas que me ayudaron salio todo bien, los niños se divirtieron muchísimo, fui tan feliz al ver que ellos disfrutaban tanto de la fiesta. Recibí tantas felicitaciones de los padres de familia, Jenn y demás personas, que me sentí tan orgullosa de haber logrado mi proyecto.

Por lo tanto, Con ese granito de arena, muestro a las directoras y miembros de la fundación que quedo muy agradecida por todo el apoyo que me han brindado para así seguir creciendo en mi vida social, escolar y espiritual.

Sin duda alguna, fue una experiencia muy hermosa e inolvidable. De la cual aprendí mucho.

~Melanie Paz~

It’s Christmas Time in the City…of Guayaquil!

The holiday season is in full swing here in Ecuador.  The city center is decorated and Christmas music is playing at all of the malls.  Concerts, parades and other presentations to celebrate the holidays take place on a daily basis.

At Starfish, our celebrations have started as well.  Our classrooms are decorated and Christmas traditions have commenced.  Last Sunday in Guasmo and this coming Saturday in Flor mark the dates for our now annual Christmas party for the younger siblings of Starfish.  Christmas is a season of giving, and as part of our Scholars’ commitment to their scholarship, they plan and host a party each year for their younger siblings as a community service project.  There is music, dancing, presentations, snacks, face painting and more.  This year the Guasmo crew even chipped in to buy a piñata!  The Scholars’ siblings all leave with a special toy and gift bag of candy as a treat to celebrate Christmas!

Starfish Scholars and tutoring students will also celebrate Christmas this coming week with music, dancing, Secret Santa, and a raffle for some donated clothes.  Follow us on facebook & twitter for more Christmas updates from our students during the 12 days of Christmas!

Vacation Fun @ Starfish

The first two weeks of October are always an exciting time for our Scholars – school vacation! Last year the government standardized the school year schedule so that all schools have vacation at the same time.  This was especially exciting for us at Starfish because it meant that we could plan some special activities for all of our Scholars and tutoring students.

This year we had a fun mix of activities including: Crafts with recycled materials, Talks on Self-Esteem and Values, Debating, Music, Games, Community Service, Sports and more!  All of our Educadores were able to share their special talents and knowledge with all Scholars and tutoring participants.  We all got to learn a lot – exercising both our minds and our bodies during school break!

To end the week our students from Guasmo traveled to Flor to inaugurate the new space and end vacation with a fun-filled day of ice-breakers, games, soccer and more.  We even decorated the place a bit – each person leaving their mark with their handprints on the wall.

The theme of the day was “5K”.  Why you might ask?  To support our friends over at VISEDAL in Nicaragua.  Their Baltimore based non-profit sponsored a virtual 5K for their scholars.  This meant that you could run 5 kilometers – or do 5 of any activity – from anywhere in the world!  Our students participated by playing 5 games of soccer, building 5 towers, jumping with 5 friends, cooking (& eating!) 50 pounds of rice and much more!  Check out the VISEDAL page to hear more about this awesome event! Starfish even won a special prize as the largest group to participate in the 5K.  ¡Felicidades chicos!