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!!
Henry

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2016: A Year in Review

Wow, another year gone past, and at Starfish it has been a busy and exciting one! We wanted to take a quick moment to go through our year in review:

This year we currently have about 125 students participating several times per week each! “The quantity of students enrolled in Starfish is a testament to our staff and programs that more people always want to enroll and are excited about education!” says co-founder Jenn.

From March Madness to the Baltimore Benefit Dinner our year was off to a great start! Our Sponsor a Scholar program really took off, and Starfish welcomed new friends and volunteers.

Summer was a busy time for us. June started with an awesome soccer tournament which helped raise funds for the organization. In June we also launched a 5th tutoring group out of our head quarters in Flor de Bastión.

In August we had our “Friends of Starfish” trip where volunteers went to Ecuador to  capture photos and stories, participate in tutoring sessions, and re-launch our Snapchat account. They also joined our scholars for a field trip to the Botanical Gardens. In August we also had our talent show – showcasing our talents and leadership skills – “that night was magical because we were together as a family and we all gave our whole hearts, because Starfish is our little home.” said one participant.

Throughout the summer we had fantastic volunteers in Ecuador who helped with workshops, taught English, helped coordinate soccer an taught sport classes, creating a mural, and even put together Professional Development Workshops for staff.

During the summer, our 11th and 12th grade students also started getting into teams to start working on their Senior Service Projects. The four scholars in Guasmo have teamed up to work with a local hospital and/or shelter to volunteer their time and energy and also the bring needed items like food and clothing. They also plan to organize activities to bring them joy. The other three projects are being carried out in Flor de Bastión. The first, focusing on communication and integration hopes to bring people of the community together to improve relations. The second group, who are still ironing out the specifics, hope to work with seniors to brighten their day. The third group is planning literacy classes for adults in the neighborhood who never learned to read or write.

In the Fall Scholars in Ecuador hosted their annual “Olympiadas” where they participated in various athletic activities. They also restarted their recycling initiative including an awareness campaign for the local community. In the US, we had a fundraiser at a Baltimore Orioles game – great fun!

The US and Ecuador came together for our first annual #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt – as teams of up to 6 individuals competed for 12 hours to capture fun photos and videos, complete random acts of kindness, and spread the word about Starfish.

And, perhaps, most important, we celebrated our 5th BIRTHDAY this year on November 9th, which was a great time for us to reflect on how thankful we are for “The help of all of our long-term volunteers from the U.S. and worldwide who have brought unique projects and skills to Starfish – their knowledge and skills they teach our students and staff really make a lasting difference!” This year we also saw our Social Media Interns program grow which was really amazing, and we super appreciate how they’ve helped our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages grow.

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.So what are we looking forward to in the new year?

Here are our 7 New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:

  1. Finalize our registration as an Ecuadorian non-profit
  2.  Purchase land and begins plans to build new classrooms
  3. Continue to increase the quality of education we offer at Starfish so students can receive a quality education and skills necessary to be successful professionals despite the broken school system they are forced to attend
  4. Continue to improve other services offered at Starfish to help remove other barriers to education and create well-rounded young people ready to make a difference in their communities and the world
  5. Expand our partnerships in Ecuador in order to better serve our students and their families
  6. Get our college prep program up & running so our students have the tools they need to gain entrance and to be successful in college.
  7. Seeing the amount of people who learn about Starfish continue to increase!

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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

#StarfishSearch Recap

Starfish held its first ever #StarfishSearch scavenger hunt in early October, and boy was it fun! Teams of up to six people joined together to spread awareness, share why they loved Starfish, and take lots of pictures and videos around their perspective cities.

From Maryland to California, and New York to Ecuador, teams showed off their creativity as they wrote theme songs for Starfish, made clothing out of found items, and retold the Starfish story. A great time was had by all.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the event:

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As you can image, it was incredibly hard to pick a winner. However, after deliberation, prizes were awarded in multiple categories.

Overall category winners were:

1st Place: El Clan (CONGRATULATIONS!)
2nd Place: ChocoDynamite
3rd Place: All My Single Starfish
Most Items Completed: Survivors
Most Creative: All My Single Starfish

We also recognized those teams who got the most “likes” from their social media accounts – so much love was shared for Starfish!

Most Instagram Likes: BaltiMostAllStars Reunited
Most Facebook Likes Overall: ChocoDynamite
Most Facebook Likes on a Single Picture: Survivors
Most Twitter Likes: El Clan

Congratulations to our 2016 #StarfishSearch winners!

We know everyone had a great time – Just had to take one look at everyone’s smiling faces, and fun excursions (one team found a pirate ship!) to know this day was a great success. Thank you to everyone who participated in and  brought awareness of Starfish to their communities (and police officers, and hospital personnel, and firefighters, and athletes)!

We can’t wait to do this again next year!
Henry

2016 #StarfishSearch Task List / Lista de Tareas

Welcome to the 2016 #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt! Below you will find a list of tasks that you will complete to earn points toward fabulous Starfish prizes (t-shirts, jewelry, drinkware, totes, and MUCH MORE!). Each item below will tell you what you need to do, how and where to document it, and how many points you will receive for successful completion. HINT: Be sure to check the Starfish social media accounts throughout the day for surprise tasks and ways to earn extra points!

IMPORTANT: Before you get started, make sure that we have the up-to-date list of all team members (up to 6 people), your full team payment ($100/team), and a digitally signed Rules and Regulations form from each team member.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • All submissions will be shared through social media. You can choose one team member to do the posts from his or her account or alternate. Only one post needs to be made per team (this post can then be shared by other team members for extra incentives).
  • Whoever does post should be sure that his or her Instagram and Twitter accounts are not protected (i.e. we will be able to see your posts!). Also be sure that your Facebook posts are made available to the public (you should see a globe icon once posted). If you have any questions about this, please contact us!
  • Be sure to use the #StarfishSearch hashtag AND your team hashtag so that we can see your posts and reward you with the appropriate amount of points.
  • Complete as many tasks as possible within the 12-hour scavenger hunt period (8am to 8pm EST). The only required task is the first one listed here. This must be completed in order to qualify for prizes.
  • Encourage your friends to like and share your posts.
  • Prizes will be awarded in the following categories: (1) Team with the most points; (2) Most creative overall team (to be judged by Starfish staff); (3) Facebook post with the most likes/shares; (4) Tweet with the most likes/retweets; and (5) Instagram post with the most likes. There may be other prizes given out to outstanding teams and individuals as well!

For questions and/or support on the day of the event, please contact Amanda Benton at amanda@thestarfishchange.org or send a message through our Facebook Page (facebook.com/thestarfishchange).

 

Task How to Document Where to Document Points
REQUIRED: Take a team photo using the flag that was provided to you in the #StarfishSearch materials. Post it with the following caption: “Today (names of teammates-you may want to tag them) and I will be taking place in the #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt to raise awareness for The Starfish Foundation (tag). Follow along throughout the day to learn more about the Starfish mission to provide scholarship and mentoring to youth living in extreme poverty in Guayaquil, Ecuador.” Photo & Post Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 5 points for each social media platform
Create a 15 to 30 second video with your team captain explaining why he or she supports the Starfish Foundation. Video Facebook 10 points
Create a 15 to 30 second video of any team member explaining why he or she supports the Starfish Foundation in Spanish. Video Facebook 10 points
Tell a stranger about the mission of the Starfish Foundation. Video Facebook 15 points
Create an interpretive dance that represents the Starfish Foundation with at least 2 team members. Video Facebook 15 points
Create an outfit for a team member using anything but clothes! You can use construction paper, newspapers, bottles, trash bags, toilet paper, etc. Pose in the outfit outside of  local landmark holding your Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 15 points for each social media platform
Have a team member stand in front of “famous” building in your hometown with a sign that says “Starfish makes me feel _________.” (Fill in the blank!) Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 5 points for each social media platform
Write a theme song for Starfish and have at least 1 team member perform it. Video Facebook 15 points
Find a REAL Starfish. Extra point if it is alive! Photos Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform (+5 if it is alive!)
Create a video of one or more team member performing a dramatic reenactment of the Starfish Story (hint: you can find it on our website!). Video Facebook 15 points
Perform a random act of kindness (help a stranger carry their groceries, pay for someone else’s coffee in line behind you, etc. Be creative!) Tell us about it in a post! Facebook 10 points
Take a photo with a city official holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a professional sports player holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a TV, newspaper, or radio reporter holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a firefighter holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a police officer holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a mascot holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Take a photo with a school principal holding the Starfish flag. Photo Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 points for each social media platform
Have at least 3 team members dance the Macarena together in a public place. Video Facebook 15 points

 

Lista de Tareas de la #BúsquedaStarfish (#StarfishSearch) 2016

¡Bienvenidos a la Búsqueda del Tesoro #StarfishSearch 2016! A continuación encontrarán una lista de tareas que deben ser completadas para ganar puntos canjeables por fabulosos premios Starfish (camisetas, alhajas, recipientes para bebidas, bolsas, ¡y MUCHO MÁS!). Cada artículo incluido abajo te dirá lo que necesitas saber, cómo y dónde documentarlo y cuántos puntos recibirán al finalizar  exitosamente. PISTA: ¡Asegúrense de revisar las redes sociales de Starfish a lo largo del día para conocer tareas sorpresa y otras formas de ganar puntos extra!

IMPORTANTE: Antes de empezar, asegurarse de que hemos recibido la lista actualizada de todos los miembros del equipo (hasta 6 personas), el pago de todo su equipo ($ 100 / equipo), y el formulario de Normas y Reglamentos firmado digitalmente por cada uno de los miembros  del equipo.

Estas son algunas cosas a tener en cuenta:

  • Todas las publicaciones serán compartidas a través de las redes sociales. Se puede elegir a un miembro del equipo para publicar los mensajes desde su cuenta o ir alternando. Sólo se necesita hacer una publicación por equipo (Esta publicación puede ser compartida por otros miembros del equipo para obtener incentivos adicionales).
  • Cualquiera que haga la publicación debe asegurarse que su cuenta de Instagram y Twitter no estén protegidas (es decir, ¡podremos ver sus mensajes!). También asegurarse de que las publicaciones de Facebook estén disponibles al público (deberían ver un icono del planeta una vez publicada). ¡En caso de dudas o preguntas sobre esto, por favor contactarnos!
  • Asegúrense de utilizar el hashtag #StarfishSearch para que podamos ver sus publicaciones y recompensarles con la cantidad correspondiente de puntos.
  • Completen tantas tareas como sea posible dentro del período de búsqueda del tesoro de 12 horas (08 a.m.-8 p.m. EST – Hora estándar del este). La única tarea obligatoria es la primera de la lista adjunta aquí. Esta deberá completarse a fin de calificar para los premios.
  • Animen a sus amigos a dar “me gusta” y compartir sus publicaciones.
  • Se entregarán premios en las siguientes categorías: (1) El equipo con más puntos; (2) El equipo más creativo en general (a ser definido por el personal de Starfish); (3) Publicaciones de Facebook con más “me gusta/compartir”; (4) Tuit con más “me gusta/retuitear”; y (5) Publicaciones de Instagram con más “me gusta”. ¡Puede haber también otros premios otorgados a equipos o personas destacadas!

 

 

Tarea Cómo Documentar lo Dónde Documentarlo Puntos
OBLIGATORIO: Tomar una foto del equipo con la bandera que les fue entregada junto con los materiales de #StarfishSearch. Publicarla con la siguiente leyenda: “Hoy (nombres de los miembros del equipo-es posible que quieras etiquetarlos)  y yo participaremos de la Búsqueda del Tesoro #StarfishSearch para generar conciencia sobre la Fundación Starfish –The Starfish Foundation– (etiquetar). Síguenos a lo largo de este día para conocer más sobre la misión de Starfish de otorgar becas y asesoramiento (mentoring) a jóvenes que viven en la pobreza extrema en Guayaquil, Ecuador.” Foto & Publicación Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 5 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Crear un video de 15 a 30 segundos con el capitán de su equipo explicando por qué él o ella apoyan a la Fundación Starfish. Video Facebook 10 puntos
Crear un video en español de 15 a 30 segundos con cualquiera  de los miembros del equipo explicando por qué él o ella apoyan a la Fundación Starfish. Video Facebook 10 puntos
Contarle a un extraño sobre la misión de la Fundación Starfish. Video Facebook 15 puntos
Crear una danza interpretativa que represente a la Fundación Starfish con al menos dos miembros. Video Facebook 15 puntos
¡Crear una vestimenta para uno de los miembros del equipo utilizando cualquier cosa excepto ropa! Se puede usar papel de construcción, periódicos, botellas, bolsas de basura, papel higiénico, etc. Posar con la vestimenta en un sitio local destacado  sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 15 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Hacer que un miembro del equipo se pare frente a un edificio “famoso” en su ciudad natal con un cartel que diga “Starfish me hace sentir_________.” (¡Completar el espacio en blanco!) Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 5 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Escribir una canción para Starfish y que por los menos un miembro del equipo la interprete. Video Facebook 15 puntos
Encontrar una VERDADERA Estrella de Mar (Starfish). ¡Puntos extra si está viva! Fotos Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social (+5 ¡si está viva!)
Crear un video de uno o más miembros del equipo realizando una dramatización sobre la Historia de Starfish (pista: ¡puedes encontrarla en nuestro sitio web!). Video Facebook 15 puntos
Realizar un acto de bondad al azar (ayudar a un extraño a llevar las compras, pagar por el café de alguien en la fila detrás suyo, etc. ¡Sea creativo!) ¡Cuéntanos en una publicación! Facebook 10 puntos
Tomar una foto con un funcionario público sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con un deportista profesional sosteniendo la bandera de  Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con un periodista de la televisión, el periódico, o la radio sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con un bombero sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con un oficial de policía sosteniendo la bandera de  Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con una mascota sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Tomar una foto con un director o una directora de escuela sosteniendo la bandera de Starfish. Foto Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram 10 puntos por cada plataforma de la red social
Hacer que al menos tres miembros del equipo bailen juntos la Macarena en un lugar público. Video Facebook 15 puntos

 

More Than a Magic Night – a Talent Night!

Henry here, and have I got news for you! Our little starfish recently hosted their second annual talent show at the main Starfish site in Flor, Guayaquil. Over 100 students participated in the show as well as 11 staff members and 8 international volunteers. You can watch the show yourself here, and be amazed by their performances.

stage

“The objective of this event is to showcase the talents of each and every one of our members, this way they can secure the interpersonal relationships, own the stage, and increase self-confidence”, explain Jessica Párraga and Maria Salazar, Starfish teachers, when I ask them why the Talent Show is important to The Starfish Foundation.

“Many values learned in the talent show night were responsibility, closeness, and fellowship among the kids in the foundation. These helped them be more open, have self-confidence, and to make decision that will help them become active leaders in their families and communities. They also learned the true meaning of teamwork,” adds one of their teachers, Pamela Rodriguez.

The show was open to students, teachers, volunteers, and international visitors – each showcasing their skill and sharing a piece of themselves and their culture. Family and friends of students and volunteers, as well as host families to our international volunteers, came out to enjoy the day.

The students practiced for over a month, improving the details of their performances: choreography, acting, painting, singing, and so much more.

I checked in with Luiggi Pluas, one of the student performers to find out about his participation in the show:

“For talent show night I had 3 songs. The first one I sang with my friend Ronny, “Me Voy Enamorando,” (I’m falling in love). The second one I did solo.

When it was show time I was very nervous, but when the music started I tried to do my best; it seems I did a great job because I waited a long time for the cheering to end. I had so much fun! In my last performance I danced to traditional music of Guayaquil with a few other dancing partners. We put so much effort into it, and we did a great job.

The end of the event was nice because everyone started telling their experiences getting there. We all took pictures with the North American volunteers. We made unique memories that will be hard to forget.”outside

WOW. What an unforgettable experience. I also talked to Joselyn del Valle, who acted as the emcee for the night, about her thoughts on the Talent Show:

“In the talent show night I was cheering and introducing every single one of my classmates according to the talent they were going to perform. It was an incredible night!

I also danced to the song “Guayaquileño” with my dance team. For this dance we practiced 4 or 5 times so everything would be perfect and we could all learn our choreography.

My favorite part was the performance by the teachers. They went on stage, dressed in white, the lights were off and the cellphone lights were on. They sang the song “Yo Nací Aqui,” (I was born here). It was a beautiful and moving performance.”

With all this enthusiasm and talent, I know these scholars will continue to do amazing things inside and outside the classroom.

group

xxx Henry

Vacacionales and First Ever Starfish Open House!

Hola again from Guayaquil, Ecuador.  We’ve had a few really exciting weeks here.  Last week we shared about the graduations of our 6 seniors, but that’s not all we’ve been up to!

For the last 3 weeks we’ve held vacacionales, sort of like day camp, for our students with a wide range of activities planned mainly by our educadores.

Some of our female students were able to participate in community service at a local shelter and school for young girls who either don’t have families or have suffered some sort of abuse and have been removed from their homes.  Our students were able to share some activities and friendship with them several days during vacation.  We hope this partnership can continue so that our students can continue to give back to their community!

Other activities included spiritual retreats, teamwork activities, a treasure hunt, and more.  On the last day we also thought about our dreams for Starfish and created this poster (above, right) so that we may keep our dreams in mind always.

  

In Flor, the main activity was learning how to make various things from recycled materials (above).  Spearheaded by educadora María, the students learned how to make many items using just plastic bottles, newspaper, empty toilet paper rolls, and other materials found around the home.  On the last day we held an open house where parents and other family members came to learn about the projects the students had been working so hard on over the past few weeks.  We concluded the open house with the first ever “Miss & Mr. Starfish” where students modeled various outfits – including their very own dresses & suits made from recycled material. Congrats to Oscar & Itaty for winning this year due to their hard work on their recycled outfits as well as their confidence in expressing themselves!

Towards the end of our camp, we also held our closing ceremony for the 2014-15 school year, recognizing our students, employees, and parents for their efforts during the year.  We started off with some inspiring words from Milena’s mom, Mariana & Scholars Geovanny & Mirka.  Then we recognized all of our employees with some awesome Starfish hats and awards.  Educadores Tyrone from Flor and Cynthia from Guasmo were recognized by their co-workers as “Educador del Año” or Employee of the Year.  Jordy’s mom Norma was recognized as “Parent of the Year” for always going above and beyond what is asked of her.  Yesenia from Guasmo and Jordy were recognized for earning the most stars on our star chart that tracks grades, attendance, behavior, community service and more.  Our 6 graduates also received framed graduation pictures as our special gift to them!

Scholars who have been with us since the first year!
Mariana, Milena’s mom

Flor Scholars with their families!
All of our students acting a little loco to celebrate their hard work!

Volunteer Reflections: 3 lessons (of many) from my time with Starfish

Today’s post comes from Martin, our very first volunteer in Ecuador!

Lesson 1: There is a universal language spoken through hugs, smiles, and laughter.
My favorite day with the Starfish Scholars was on our trip to the park. That day was great, except for one small thing. Up to that point I had always worn a polo or a t-shirt. That day was the first time I wore a cut-off shirt since we were suppose to be playing soccer. For some reason, the girls were laughing at me. At first I thought they were giggling because they were happy to see me. I asked why they were laughing and Ana responds by lifting my arm. Maria pointed to my armpit hair and broke out laughing. I immediately pulled down my arm. I felt embarrassed for a moment and they didn’t care. They laughed and laughed and all I could do is laugh with them.
Lesson 2: The people you serve are always going to do more for you than you can do for them.
I can’t believe how much the families cared about me. I was served food, asked if I needed anything, served more food, and even was taken on a family trip to the river. They threw me a party with tons of food and got me my favorite cake. I always felt that people were doing things for me, giving things to me, and wishing the best for me. It was always hard to go since they made me feel so at home. The hospitality and friendliness of the Starfish families are unparalleled, aside from my own family–and they kind of have to love and feed me. 
Lesson 3: Community can’t be taught, it must be built with time, trust, and consistency.
If there is one thing I learned is that trust is something given to those you love. They loved me from the beginning and are so trusting that it was a little unsettling at first. Now I think about how beautiful that was. The reason they trusted me was because the people before me, Beth and Jenn, had already put in the time to develop, maintain, and improve upon their relationships with not just the families of the scholars, but the families in the communities where they lived as well. Beth and Jenn started something beautiful, a program for the kids that was both good and the right thing to do. They didn’t make it easy, though. It had a status and becoming a scholar is something you earn through good grades and attendance at Starfish meetings, tutoring, and events. The scholars host events and activities, too. They even have leadership positions. All things they can take pride in and should as they deserve the opportunities the Starfish Foundation provides. They are the future of their communities and I am hopeful for the future.

Día de San Valentín

Happy Valentine’s Day from everyone at Starfish! Today we’d like to share with you the Valentine’s traditions in Ecuador, where the holiday is also known as Día del Amor y Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship). We asked our students for their thoughts on how the day is celebrated.

Kiara tells us: Valentine’s Day is celebrated with friends and gifts are exchanged between friends, boyfriends & girlfriends, and family.

(Original Spanish: Se celebra con sus amigos y se intercambian regalos con amigos, novios, y entre familia.)

From Ariana: Here in Ecuador we celebrate friendship more than love because we feel better with our friends!

(Original Spanish: Aquí en Ecuador se celebra más la amistad que el amor porque nos sentimos mejor como amigos.)

They also shared some artwork and examples of cards exchanged on Valentine’s Day.

I love you a lot because I need you and I don’t know what to do.
Your love makes me well, when our love is sincere.
I will love you forever.

Valentine’s Day, Day of Love and Friendship
Friends Forever


 
Amor (Love)
Mansedumbre (Gentleness)
Inteligencia (Intelligence)
Sabiduria (Wisdom)
Ternura (Endearment)
Amistard (Friendship)
Dignidad (Dignity)

The honesty of your love makes me happy.
Valentine’s Day means giving to the person who needs a hug or
beautiful smile.
Your friendship is beautiful. You’re the best friend
that I’ve had and the best sister that I’ve earned.

The love of my life is sincere. The love of my
life isn’t afraid. Every time my love hugs me
I feel like I’m in the clouds. When my love hugs
me, I feel loved.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. On this day we give gifts of roses or other special things to those people who are special to you. This is a symbol of love to that person that you wish to make them happy.

So far in 2015…

2015 is already off to a great start.  As we begin the new calendar year, we are also gearing up for the end of this school year here in Guayaquil.  That hasn’t stopped us from adding a few new things to our schedule though!

In January, we started off the year re-energizing a partnership with DIGS, a group based in Guasmo Sur that helps young people with develop creativity and teamwork skills.  This year we’re taking our partnership one step further.  Starfish has three teams that will compete in the March tournament hosted by DIGS in Mi Cometa.  Teams practice once or twice a week with their leaders.  Stay tuned for more info about their final projects in March!

In other exciting news, after receiving the grades from the first semester of studies, we selected our top Scholars to join us on a fun field trip to Bucay! Bucay is a town on the edge of the mountains.  We were able to escape the Guayaquil heat for the day and enjoy a water park complete with multiple water slides, fields to play on and a delicious meal!  We can’t wait for the year end grades and we hope to celebrate with even more students who have worked hard to raise their grades!

Lastly, January also marks the despedida or goodbye to our longest volunteer to date.  Nancy has been volunteering with Starfish since July and will now continue her good work in Colombia before heading back to the U.S. to see her family and begin college.  Our students and educadores will certainly miss Nancy.  Thank you for all that you have done!!