Leadership School

leadership school 2Last year at the Starfish Foundation we implemented a new project related to the Leadership program, called The Leader’s School, where students learned concepts of how to be a good leader through a set of practice activities.

In the first class participants were able to draw on leadership concepts and see how different types of leadership can be applied in the different facets of life. The conclusion? There is no ideal type of leader. Everyone has different leadership skills and abilities, and the type of leadership required, varies depending on the situation. By the end of the session, almost everyone was eager to share their opinions.

“The Leadership School was excellent, because each one of us participated and we could also share in the group our opinions about how to be a good leader.” – Lucy

In the second class, participants were shown that in order to be a leader they need to know their own interests, weaknesses, and strengths. There was also a discussion about how moral values play a part in determining leadership style and success. To demonstrate this, we held an “Auction of Values”, where students were forced to rank the values ​​in order of importance.

“In my opinion the Leadership School has helped me a lot, because everything I have learned can be used in my daily life, for example, how to be a good leader at school, how to distinguish different types of Leaders and how to lead a group.” – Joselyn del Valle

Cecelia, one of our Starfish educators added, “The Leadership School has been a very enriching experience for the students because they have learned the qualities of a leader and have put them into practice, in addition to learning how certain types of leaders develop. This has allowed them to be more participatory and entrepreneurial in the projects they have carried out.” leadership school 1

As the leadership school continues to meet, we continue to improve the structure of the project – always looking for the best way for students to learn, to have fun, and, above all, to help improve their performance, both now as a student and in the future as professionals.

To help us continue to offer influential programs like the leadership school, support the Starfish Foundation today.

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You Are In My Heart; Always: Notes from a Volunteer

Today’s blog is written by Anna Evich,who volunteered with us in Ecuador over the summer in our July group and then returned to help us develop new curriculum and train staff from September to December.

annaBefore leaving for Ecuador to be a summer volunteer at The Starfish Foundation this past July, I was struggling. I was suffering greatly because of the demands of my job as a teacher, and the excess pressure I put on myself to do everything I could for my students. It was too much and I was starting to break down. One late night in February, I was scrolling through Instagram, trying to avoid the work I had to do for school, when I came upon a post that was advertising the opportunity to work as a summer volunteer in Guayaquil, Ecuador. As soon as I saw it, I knew. I put my phone down, went to the website on my computer, and started working on the application.
I had never been so sure of anything in my life.

I had traveled to Ecuador while I was in college, and I never forgot the feeling it gave me; how truly happy I felt when I was there. I continued to pray for the people that I met there each week at church, and the desire to return always lingered in the back of my mind. The country and the people and the love that they shared with me and with one another was the most beautiful thing I had ever experienced. I felt like my most authentic self there, and I wanted and needed to be back in that place.

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When I arrived in July, everything fell into place. I could think more clearly, and was able to be present in each moment of everything that I did. I absorbed every sensation, every detail, and simply took it all in. I was tutoring students with their English homework, teaching English classes with another volunteer, and creating and presenting professional developments to the staff. Everything was perfect. Only I soon realized that a month in and out was not enough for me. That time made me realize how much more I could contribute to the growth and development of such an incredible organization. The gaps and dents that existed in the school system in Guayaquil were so apparent to me, and I knew I had the skills that were needed to adjust the curriculum. How could I just let that go?

So, I made the decision. I was going back for more. I vividly remember the night before I left. I was washing my hands in the bathroom, and I noticed some black dust of some sort on my chest. I leaned in closer to the mirror, about to wipe it off, and my mouth opened in disbelief. The black mark so clearly formed the word “love” on my chest. It was indisputable. I knew it was a sign. I don’t often look for signs, but when they appear so bluntly, I can’t help but think there is a reason. And there it was. I soon found that my heart was so full in Ecuador, and I know now that it always will be. It’s as if God knew that I was in great need of the love that would be given to me there.

anna8Upon my arrival, my host family immediately took me in as one of their own. I woke up the next morning in a home that felt warm, comfortable, and familiar, despite having just arrived. There’s just something about this culture that simply cannot be put into words. The kids and educators at the Foundation welcomed me back with open arms, and were genuinely happy to see me. I immediately felt the love. The more time I spent watching the educators with the kids, the more I could feel this crazy rush of ideas pouring out of me.

This time around, I was taking on a new role as Curriculum Development Coordinator, and amazingly, the director and educators were open to every idea (no matter how outlandish) that I proposed to them. I felt empowered, because for the first time ever in my career as an educator, I was granted the creative liberty to make the changes that I saw necessary for my students, without limitations.

I was able to contribute my talents, and actually see the results as they unfolded. I felt appreciated and valued every step of the way. My work was meaningful. I woke up every day excited to get to the Foundation, so that I could continue working on the projects I had started. Work didn’t feel like work. I was giddy to spend time with the educators and students. Somehow even with the barriers of language and culture, we had all kinds of inside jokes and jabs that we liked to throw out at each other for laughs. We could run around making sure all kinds of tasks were getting accomplished, while also keeping the environment light-hearted and enjoyable. I knew that I was truly happy, and I cherished every minute of it.

Finally, the dreaded departure date arrived. I didn’t want to leave. I knew that when I returned to the United States, almost everyone I talked to would say the same things: How incredible the work was that I did in Ecuador. How selfless of me to go and teach those students and teachers so many things, and to leave such an impact. But what most of those people don’t realize is how much I gained in return from my experience. They were not able to witness the beauty of the people that I got to know so intimately.

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I think it is safe to say that there was a mutual exchange of knowledge and impact, just in very different ways. My way taught the people I encountered in Flor de Bastión how to better prepare themselves to reach the opportunities that exist in this world, and their way taught me how to achieve life beyond mortality, and seek God in ways I never knew how. So the question is, who really benefited more here? I am forever changed and forever grateful.

A las personas de La Fundación de Estrellitas del Mar: Ustedes estarán en mi corazón por siempre. (To the People of the Starfish Foundation: You are always in my heart.)

Aprendiendo a Expresarnos: The first ever Starfish Debate!

We will be featuring a series of blog entries from our students, reflecting on the activities at Starfish during the February vacation period.  This year the vacation period started one month early due to heavy rain, so we took advantage of that by adding additional academic classes and extra-curricular clubs to our Starfish schedule! Today, some students share about their experience participating in our first ever debate.  4 groups divided to form teams for and against 2 topics: All students should have to wear uniforms to school and all schools should be mixed-genders.

Génesis Rivera: 
“What is important, in the debate that Starfish organized, is listening to others, and reciprocally, being listened to. We learned that it is important to debate topics that are truly interesting for us, and for the other side of the debate. My topic was: should all schools be mixed-gender? For us, it’s important that they do exist as mixed gender, for that helps us develop our social skills, and we learn how to better interact among different groups of people. With regards to debating, I think it’s very important to have debates about topics that are widely disputed between groups of people, but that it’s even more important to choose a debate topic that doesn’t have a clear solution; in that way, we debate and we hopefully find solutions, or at least justifications for our solutions. The art of debate helps us gain skills in interacting with our own team, and with those opposing our views, and through this, we learn how to dialogue successfully,  and respect each others’ opinions while simultaneously holding on to our own, and not giving up on a topic we believe in.” ~Génesis

“Lo importante es ser escuchado por medio de un debate de Estrellitas del Mar.  Aprendemos que es importante debatir en temas que son interesantes para ti y para los demás.  Mi tema era de que si debe existir las escuelas mixtas.  Para nosotros fue importante porque aprendemos a desarrollar nuestra capacidad de desenvolvimiento interactivo.  Es muy importante debatir sobre temas que tu crees que es muy debatido entre personas, pero que no hay solución.  Por eso es importante debatir para encontrar soluciones.  Te ayuda a interactuar con el equipo contrario y dialogar y aprender mucho más sobre el debate sin rendirse en un tema que tú crees que es necesario.” ~Génesis

Luiggi Plúas 
“In 2016, we, the Starfish Community, began an activity called “Debate.” This process includes defending a specific theme, and participating in groups. I the group that I participated in, we were discussing, why we should not wear uniforms in school.  We also had a group that opposed us, who defended why we should wear uniforms in school. My group prepared a Prezi slideshow. The debate went very well, and my group was chosen as the best. The process of debating will help us to further our talents, and enable us to better express ourselves.” ~Luiggi

“En este 2016 iniciamos un proceso llamado “Debate”.  Dicho proceso consiste en defender un tema específico.  El grupo en el que yo participaba, estábamos hablando sobre “¿Por qué no deberíamos usar uniformes escolares?”  Así que teníamos un equipo contrario, el cuál defendía sobre “¿Por qué sí deberíamos usar uniformes?”  Mi grupo preparó una presentación de diapositivos en “Prezi”.  El debate salió muy bien, además fuimos escogidos como los mejores.  Estar debatiendo nos ayudará a desenvolvernos mejor y a expresarnos.” ~ Luiggi

Alexander Lícoa
“To debate is to defend a topic given to us. In our debate, I learned to work in a group setting, to express myself clearly and efficiently, to listen, to formulate an opinion, and to respond to questions that the opposite side gives me. Moreover, I learned that, in order to achieve, you have to work as a team!” ~Alexander

“El debate es defender un tema que nos pongan.  En el debate aprendí a trabajar en equipo, a expresarme bien, escuchar, opinar y responder a las preguntas que me hacía el lado opuesto.  También aprendí muchas cosas especialmente sobre el tema que me tocó.  ¡Hay que trabajar en equipo para hacer las cosas bien!” ~ Alexander