Introducing Stephanie Allen, Program Manager

As you may have seen in our last Ecua Update, we are lucky to welcome Stephanie Allen as the newest member of our staff. She started as our new Program Manager earlier this year.

Stephanie originally heard about Starfish through a year of Service with Rostro de Cristo,  a Catholic volunteer program that invites young adults practice a ministry of presence within marginalized communities in Ecuador.  While there, she met Beth, one of our co-directors and co-founders.

Looking back at that meeting, Stephanie says, “I was interested in working with Starfish because of their mission to empower Ecuadorian youth through education as I had seen first-hand during my time as a volunteer in Ecuador, the barriers that exist to pursuing higher education and breaking the cycle of poverty for young people in and around Guayaquil. I truly believe in Starfish’s mission and am grateful to have the opportunity to work with our team to serve our scholars!”

stephanie allen homeWith volunteer experience in Ecuador already under her belt, she already has great ideas for Starfish, and has enjoyed getting learn a lot about Starfish during her first two months in the position. “My hope is that in my position as Program Manager, I’m able to support our Ecuadorian staff to provide the best service we can to our scholars and their families. I also look forward to the opportunity to expand our programs to be able to serve even more students and pursue partnerships for Starfish here in Ecuador. Most of all, I hope to continue to learn and grow in this role!”

Before starting at Starfish, Stephanie spent 2+ years as the Director of Volunteer Programs and Medical Outreach at Make-A-Wish New Hampshire and had spent a few months working in intercultural exchange in Cuenca, Ecuador.

She also has extensive volunteer experience. “My previous volunteer experience includes volunteering with the elderly, a year of service in Ecuador working with youth, and currently, as a volunteer translator for Kiva. My volunteer experiences are what ultimately led me into a career in the nonprofit sector.”

Speed Round

Stephanie agreed to a speed round of “favorites” questions to help us get to know her better.

stephanie allen 2

Favorite quote?
“Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

I love this quote as a reminder that everything that we do, from the big to the small, can have a positive impact on those around us if we act intentionally and give freely of ourselves.

Favorite food?
Ice cream!

Favorite beverage?
Lime Polar seltzer

Favorite hobbies?
Reading, hiking, traveling to and exploring new places, and spending quality time with my family and friends.

Favorite place?
Driving around and exploring the beauty of New Hampshire with my mom, a hammock in Ecuador on a lazy Sunday, anywhere where I am surrounded by good company!

Favorite game?
Puzzles – number, word, jigsaw – I like them all!

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Spotlight on Volunteers and Educators

The Starfish Foundation relies on both volunteers and educators from Ecuador to run successfully. This week, we’re catching up with William (an educator) and Jhon (a volunteer), to learn a little more about them, their interests, and how Starfish has benefited their lives.

William- March 2Question: Please introduce yourself
William: My name is William Segura, and I am an educator in the Starfish Foundation.

Question: What is your average day like outside of Starfish?
William: After arriving home from work, I quickly get ready to go to the university. I eat and prepare my necessary materials. I really like my time occupied with things that are important to me; it makes me feel that my dreams are being accomplished.

Question: What do you like to do for fun?
William: My friends and I like to go out to places in my city, Guayaquil, and enjoy what it offers. Of course, it’s quite hot here. Occasionally, we get together to celebrate someone’s birthday or to practice sports.

Question: What have you learned from working at the Starfish Foundation?
William: In the foundation, I have honed skills that I didn’t know I had. Speaking in front of students and patiently explaining assignments to them are things that I didn’t think I could do. I’ve also learned that with sacrifice and hard work, you can accomplish unimaginable things.

Jhon B - volunteer.jpegQuestion: Please introduce yourself
Jhon: I’m Jhon. I was a Starfish Scholar throughout high school and I graduated from the foundation; now I am a new volunteer.

Question: When you’re not volunteering with Starfish, what do like to do?
Jhon: In my free time, I practice sports. I like to have fun with my friends by playing board games, such as chess and checkers. In this way, we see who is the smartest, and we laugh a good bit.

Question: What’s a random fact that you want people to know about you?
Jhon: My favorite animal is a crocodile. I like them because most of the time they are solitary, but they are also seen in groups, and they’re really strong.

Question: What have you learned from the Starfish Foundation?
Jhon: In the foundation, I’ve learned about values and how to practice them each day. Putting one’s values into action is the most important thing. I know that I must be a good example for the rest and always do good deeds.

We’re so thankful for both Jhon and William for everything they do!

Ecuador Happenings

Over the school break, the students participated in various clubs including dance, experiments, entrepreneurship, make-up, hair styling, pastry-making, painting, and crafts. There were a variety of activities and the students participating showed great interest in the learning experiences.

In April we hosted our annual Scholarship Ceremony. It was an exciting morning for the students as well as for the Starfish group. The students were very happy to receive all their uniforms and school materials to kick off the new school year. In addition to receiving their needed items, it’s a chance to celebrate their successes from the previous year and congratulate them for the effort they put into their school work.

During the teachers’ vacation week, the administrative team took charge of updating the classroom to welcome the students back to a better-organized space. The students came in on different days to participate in integration activities and get to know each other.

To kick off the school year, we hosted a Math Workshop and a Language Workshop. In the Math workshop, we reviewed basic operations. Scholars were able to play games while benefiting from both visual and auditory learning techniques.

For the Language Workshop we started with the topic of how to write a letter; this is very important because it gives the students the opportunity to learn to express themselves in written form. These workshops will continue throughout the year. Future topics will include subject and predicate, adjectives, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and homographs.

The End of a School Year

As we start the new school year in Ecuador, we want to take a few moments to recap some highlights from the end of last school year.

Every year, the Starfish Foundation offers a prize to scholars whose grades improve over the previous (year / semester). This March, a vast majority of students received the prize, so a trip was organized to Pisagua, a natural spring-fed water park. The students had a great time and enjoyed themselves.

Another “prize” trip was organized to Ayangue for parents who participated in meetings throughout the year. Ayangue is a small fishing village best known for it’s beautiful sheltered bays with calm waters. The parents had a lot of fun, took a lot of photos, and even went on a yacht. It’s a great opportunity for the parents from Flor and Guasmo to meet one another. Student members of the Therapeutic Group also joined them, enjoying the peaceful beach, burying themselves in the sand, and of course, the outing on the yacht.

Some Club Highlights:

  • Makeup Club: The students were very excited to learn to use different makeup products. It was incredible the changes they could bring about in the photography session.
  • Craft Club: Student members made foamy ice cream and string lanterns.
  • Science Club: Students carried out various experiments including making their own rockets, inflating balloons with vinegar and baking soda, making air fresheners. They also learned to create sound waves, and water that doesn’t spill.
  • Baking Club: Students made marzipan fruits, chocolate and coconut balls, and fruit pizza.
  • Painting Club: Students made landscapes on posters using colored pencils and charcoal; it was very interesting and the liked it a lot because they learned various techniques. In addition, they drew on shirts and painted glass containers with fabric paint.

Once the students left for their break, staff and volunteers worked very hard to prepare so that this school year is full of even more successful programs and opportunities for our students.

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.

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.

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.

DSC_0202
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.

An Opportunity to Give Thanks

In the United States, Thanksgiving is often used as a time to reflect on the people, things, and experiences we are most thankful for. This feeling of gratitude and appreciation for the small (and the big) things in life, is universal, and we asked some of our Ecuadorian students, volunteers, and teachers to share what they are thankful for this year:

Tyrone Tumbaco (Educator)
This year has been very intense but with good results like getting my degree registered with SENESCYT. In addition, I have lots of ideas for my future and a lot of positive energy. I hope I am able to meet my goals soon.

Cecilia Orben (Educator)
I am very grateful to all the people who trusted me in different ways.  I am also proud to have done many things that I thought I would not be able to do. In the workplace I am very grateful for self-correcting when I have made mistakes, and for being able to improve because of that.

Del Valle Joselyn (Student)
I am very grateful this year because I am in a new school, I have met new people, and I am making new friends. Also for the birth of my sister, for my personal achievements, and above all I am grateful to God because He has given me another year of life together with the people I love, my family.

Mirely Zacida (Student)
I am very grateful to Starfish because it helps me with my school supplies. I’m also thankful for the educators because when I do not understand some subjects at school, they teach me and that is very helpful.

Josue Plúas (Student)
I am grateful to Starfish since I learn a lot during tutoring, and also through the other activities that Starfish organizes.  The greatest activity so far was the #StarfishSearch. I’m also thankful for the great help with school supplies.

Leonardo Torres (Student)
I am grateful because Starfish has helped me a lot, especially the classes during tutoring that help us learn new things together that also help us in our daily lives. I am grateful to the educators who are very good teachers.

Jordy Loor (Student)
I am grateful to Starfish for helping me in every possible way, as I have gained a great deal of knowledge and have been able to put my knowledge into practice. Thank you so much!!

Diego Barrezueta (Educator)
I am very grateful this year for being able to study gastronomy and for the great recognition that I received in my studies at a national level. Also because I am able to spend time with the people I love the most.

Diana Zambrano (Student)
I am grateful to be a part of Starfish because I have been able to overcome lot of my nervousness. Belonging to this family fills me with lots of joy.

Pamela Rodriguez (Educator)
I am very grateful to all the people who trusted me in different ways.  I am also proud to have done many things that I thought I would not be able to do. In the workplace, I am very grateful to my co-workers for correcting me when I make mistakes so that I can continue to improve.

Viviana Alcivar (Student)
I am thankful for another year with my family, and for being able to go to school so that I can be someone important in life.  I am also thankful for being a part of Starfish, participating in tutoring so that when I go to school I’m already prepared.  

Jessica Parraga (Educator)
I am grateful for the health of my parents and family in general, and for friendships. They are all fundamental pillars that help me to move forward every day. I am grateful for future plans and for the perseverance that God gave me.

D--a-de-accion-de-gracias-pavo

El Día de Acción de Gracias
“Es tu oportunidad de agradecer…”

Tyrone Tumbaco
“La verdad este año ha sido muy intenso pero con buenos resultados como; obtener mi titulo ya registrado en el SENESCYT. Además de muchas ideas de emprendimiento para el futuro propio y mucha proyección positiva. Espero que se cumplan pronto.”

Cecilia Orben
“Bueno, estoy muy agradecida con todas las personas que confiaron en mí en diferentes aspectos, también estoy orgullosa de hacer muchas cosas que pensé que no lograría. En el ámbito laboral estoy muy agradecida por autocorregirse en las cosas que fallo y así poder haber mejorado.”

Del Valle Joselyn
“Estoy muy agradecida este año porque estoy en un nuevo colegio, he conocido nuevas personas, haciendo nuevos amigos. También por el nacimiento de mi hermana, por los logros que he tenido personalmente y sobre todo estoy agradecida a Dios porque me ha dado un año más de vida y me tiene junto a las personas que quiero, mi familia.”

Mirely Zacida
Estoy muy agradecido con la fundación porque me ayuda con los materiales del colegio, además también con los educadores; porque al momento que no entiendo en el colegio algunos temas, ellos me enseñan y eso es muy bueno.

Josue Pluas
Yo estoy agradecido con la fundación ya que recibo muchos conocimientos como han sido los talleres, y también por otra parte las actividades que se han realizado y lo más genial hasta ahora fue la búsqueda de la estrella de mar StarfishSearch. También por la gran ayuda con los materiales de estudio.

Leonardo Torres
Bueno, estoy agradecido porque la fundación me ha ayudado mucho porque realizan talleres que nos sirven para lograr un aprendizaje mutuo que incluso nos sirve en nuestro diario vivir. Estoy agradecido con los educadores que son muy buenos maestros.

Jordy Loor
Estoy agradecido con la fundación por haberme ayudado de todas las formas posibles, ya que he obtenido un gran conocimiento y los he puesto en práctica. Muchas Gracias!!

Diego Barrezueta
Estoy muy agradecido este año por que estudio gastronomía y por el logro tan grande en mis estudios que fue a nivel nacional. Tambien por que puedo estar con las personas que mas quiero.

Diana Zambrano
Estoy agradecida por estar en la fundación porque he superado mis nervios en muy buena parte. Pertenecer a esta familia me llena mucho de alegria.

Pamela Rodriguez
Bueno estoy agradecida con todas las personas que confiaron en mi en diferentes aspectos, también estoy orgullosa de hacer muchas cosas que pensé que no lograría. En el ámbito laboral estoy muy agradecida con mis compañeros por corregirme en las cosas que fallo y así poder mejorar.

Viviana Alcivar
Por estar un año más con mi famila y por estudiar en un colegio ya que asi despues yo puedo ser alguien en la vida. Por estar aquí en la fundación recibiendo talleres para cuando esté en el colegio ya estar preparada.

Jessica Parraga
Estoy agradecida por la salud de mis Padres y familia en general , amistades, todos son parte de un pilar fundamental que me ayuda a seguir adelante cada dia. Estoy agradecida por los Planes a futuro y por la constancia que Dios me dio.

We thank everyone who shared their thoughts with us. We’d love if you’d leave us a comment telling us what you’re most thankful for. And if you’re in the mood for sharing your blessings this holiday season, consider joining us for one of our Giving Tuesday events.