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.

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#StarfishSearch Winners (and other highlights)

This past weekend, 9 teams competed in the 2nd Annual #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt. The 35 participants represented 3 countries and 7 states.

Participants had 72 hours to complete 53 tasks – some focused on community service, some on creativity, some on exploring Ecuadorian culture, some on raising awareness for Starfish, and some that were just silly.

Although these pictures / videos didn’t win, here are some of our favorite moments from the search:

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When asked what their favorite item was was, participants said:

  • “The one we had the most fun with was riding on the handle bars of the bike singing the bicycle song!!” – Julia G
  • ” I can’t choose one! I had so much fun!” – Jenn Z.
  • “I loved making colada morada” – Anna J

The Winners:

The information you’ve all been waiting for – who won the search?

First Place: Mischief Management

– Kim Pulsford (Captain)
– Jenn Z
– Joe G
– Julia G
– Pete L
Mischief Management had team members in Ecuador and the United States and they completed all but 7 of the 53 tasks. They ended the hunt with 1,654 points. They continually impressed us with their submissions and creativity. The unanimous favorite item from their submissions was their nature art of Juan José Flores, also known as The First President of the Republic.

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2nd place: Los Que Come Cuando Hay

– Josue P (Captain)
– Arelisa R
– Diego B
– Genesis R
– Geovanna Sandy G

Los Que Come Cuando Hay was a team based entirely in Ecuador. They finished the scavenger hunt with 1,441 points. They were the only team to get the Starfish Foundation mentioned on the radio, the only team to write in chalk on a pack animal, and one of only two teams to draw a starfish on a bald human head. We were most impressed by them getting on the radio, and the judges favorite item was their handstand at the border.

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Favorite Photo: CONSTELACIÓN ALFA Y OMEGA

Another team comprised entirely of Ecuadorians, Constelacion alfa y omega also ended the search with over 1,000 points. They really impressed us with their submission for item #15 – Create an image of a famous Ecuadorian from history using only objects found in nature. Caption the photo (when uploaded) with the person’s name and why you chose them. We choose this as our favorite photo because of the attention to detail and the realism in the face.

Best Photo - Constelation #15
Eugenio Espejo, Fue un prominente investigador, científico, médico, historiador, escritor, abogado, periodista, pensador, quiteño ideólogo, político y prócer de la independencia de Ecuador. [Eugenio Mirror, was a prominent researcher, scientist, physician, historian, writer, lawyer, journalist, thinker, ideologist, politician, and a hero of Ecuador’s independence.]

Favorite Video: Seas the Day

Seas the Day was our only two person team, and impressed us by earning over 1,000 points despite having the fewest number of participants. They had one member from the United States, and one from England (our first European participant!). They had a lot of wonderful submissions, but we were most impressed by their stop motion video for #22 (Tell the Starfish story in a stop motion video). It was clear that a lot of time and effort went into creating this item, and it deserves recognition.

best video - seas the day #22.png

Thanks for Making us Laugh: Goin’ Starfishin’

Goin’ Starfishin’ was a three person team from Maryland. This team had a lot of fun throughout the hunt and it clearly showed. As judges, we went through the submissions many times, and every time we went past this item we stopped to admire it – not only was it visually appealing in terms of composition and lighting, but it also always brought a smile to our faces. They captured the expressions of the arm-wrestling competitors perfectly, and we thank them for making us laugh with their submission for item #31.

Made us Laugh - Goin Starfishin #31

Thank you to everyone who participated! You were all amazing, and we loved all your submissions!

We hope you’ll join us again next year. If you missed this year’s hunt, but want to make sure you’re on a team next year, email amanda.benton@thestarfishchange.org and we’ll make sure you get a personal invitation to join next year’s search.

 

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

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

An Evening for the Stars…CT style!

Beth & Jenn with former Starfish volunteer and photographer for the night, Maria!
A few weeks ago, we held another successful, “Evening for the Stars,” this time in Windsor Locks, CT.  For the third time now, friends of Starfish gathered together for a night of good food, great company and a chance to learn a little bit more about our programs.  
Delicious buffet dinner
The night started off with some social time to browse the silent auction items and participate in a 50-50 raffle.  This year’s auction not only featured several items from Ecuador, but also many local products.  In total there were over 35 items up for auction!
Auction Items from Ecuador!
Once all of our guests had arrived, we sat down for a delicious meal of rice, beans, enchiladas, chicken & more.  We shared with our guests about the need for Starfish and shared some of videos of our students. 
Guests Nadia, Joe, Matt, Rachel, Liz, Alyssa, Jenn & Jeff
As dinner was winding down, we had one last call for the silent auction before our keynote speaker, Don Awalt, gave a heartwarming and thought-provoking reflection on his recent trip to visit Starfish in Guayaquil.
Don during his reflection

All in all, it was a great night to share with friends, and a very successful fundraiser.  Between ticket sales, auction, raffle and general donations including those received from friends who could not attend, we raised 10% of our total budget for the entire year in just one night!

Guests Gabi, Julie, Shane, Nicole & Marcus

See our newsletter for official numbers, and if you don’t already receive it, don’t forget to sign up!

This night would not have been possible without the dedicated help and organization of many volunteers like those pictured below.  Thank you, gracias, from the bottom of our hearts!