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.

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A Day in the Life of a Scholar

Guest Writer: Maddy Okkerse

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“Within five years, I see myself studying one of these careers because I want to be a professional in order to be able to help my parents, but above all to give myself the lesson that what one resolves to do may be accomplished when you work hard to achieve it. “ -Jordy Loor

One-Hundred-Forty Students. One-Hundred-Forty Dreams.

The Starfish Foundation inspires scholars like Jordy to go above and beyond their social norm and to reach for the stars. Giving these students a place to study is only one part of the day as a Starfish student.

On their first day, April 24th, students arrived at the foundation wearing the shoes and uniforms provided by the foundation and attended classes. But these are not just your average students;these students are here because they want to be here. Many children in Ecuador of the same age have become involved with tobacco, drugs, or alcohol, but the Starfish scholars have healthy habits and long term goals. These students also attended workshops during the day providing crucial lessons – such as learning about HIV from a Peace Corps volunteers, Bonnie.

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Along with workshops, getting to know the other scholars, and reviewing materials from last year, students also were able to attend some of the several clubs offered by the foundation, such as soccer, crafts, computer, dance, and music clubs.

“Here I have met many new friends. In the foundation we can mingle, create very good friendships and besides that also there we learn a lot with the workshops they give. All of this helps me to change and everyday I learn more.” – Maria Belen

Emulated by the staff, these students are also instilled with a love for service early on. From helping paint the classroom walls, to the SAC community service project, many students help to serve their community in someway. For this reason, many of the scholars are not only achieving academic success, but they also develop incredible character.

So a day in the life of a scholar is more than above average; from learning, to service, to dreaming, the success of a scholar never stops.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see what we’re up to on a daily basis.

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.

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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.

Scholar Spotlight: Oscar Vargas

Vargas_Oscar_uniforme_2017_previewMy name is Oscar Vargas and I am a scholar at the Starfish Foundation. I spend a lot of my time here and it is one of the things that I like to do the most. Nevertheless, I spend my free time listening to music or, if not, my friend Dervis invites me to play soccer with another group of friends from our community. But before this I always finish my homework, because if not, I can’t go out.

One of my hobbies is playing indoor soccer with my friends and I also really like drawing.

The most important thing that I have learned at the foundation is that it has helped me to develop myself more. That is to say that I am no longer so shy and I can talk with people without embarrassing myself. Another fundamental thing is that during my time at the Foundation, I have learned how to lead a group; we talk a lot about this at the Foundation.

Interested in meeting and working with students like Oscar?

Are you inspired to make a significant impact on the education of today’s youth? The Starfish Foundation now has a year-long volunteer program, “Constelacion de Eduacadores Activos” or CEA

Interested? Here’s the Basics:

Who: College graduates & young adults ages 21 and older

What: Volunteering to work with our staff and high school students in Guayaquil,
Ecuador at The Starfish Foundation. We have 3 positions available: Curriculum & Instruction Manager, ESL Teacher & Program Development Manager. Some tasks/duties will include:

  • Daily mentoring of staff members
  • Leading professional development
  • Teaching classes to students
  • Goal-setting and measuring
  • Community engagement
  • Contributing innovative ideas and techniques to curriculum and pedagogy

When: August 2018-August 2019

Where: Guayaquil, Ecuador – Starfish volunteers live with a host family in the neighborhood where we work, Flor de Bastión. Accommodations are basic, but comfortable.

Why: To enhance the education and lives of impoverished Ecuadorian families and students who lack access to a strong educational system (and are therefore stuck in the cycle of poverty), by mentoring staff, teaching students and improving the overall educational offerings at Starfish.

​We’re Looking For You:

The ideal candidate for teaching positions will hold a Bachelor’s degree in Education or in a mastery subject with a teaching certificate.

The ideal candidate for program development position will hold a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies, International Development, Nonprofit Management or a related field.

The ideal candidate for any position will:

  • Know at least conversational Spanish, with a preference given to those who are proficient/fluent in Spanish.
  • Have a passion for working in a cross-cultural setting.
  • Be committed to educating both adults and children.
  • Take initiative and demonstrate leadership qualities.
  • Exhibit creativity and bring a positive energy and enthusiasm to the Foundation

To learn more about how to apply, the financial commitment, and the ideal candidate, visit www.thestarfishchange.org/volunteerintern.

Ready to go? Apply today!

 

Una entrevista con Oscar

Yo me llamo Oscar Vargas, y soy un becado de la fundación, paso mucho de mi tempo aquí y es de las cosas que más me gusta hacer. Sim embargo, en mi tiempo libre la paso escuchando música o si no mi amigo Dervis me invita a jugar pelota con otro grupo de amigos de mi comunidad. Pero antes de esto siempre termino mis deberes porque si no, no puedo salir.

Uno de mis hobbies es Jugar “indor” con mis amigos y también me gusta mucho dibujar.

La cosa más importante que he aprendido en la fundación poder ser que me ha ayudado a desenvolverme más, es decir, a ya no ser tan timido y a hablar con las personas sin que me de vergüenza… otra cosa fundamental es que durante mi proceso en la fundación he aprendido a como liderar un grupo, de eso se habla mucho en la fundación.

 

 

 

 

Things I’ve Learned (Part 2)

When you talk to the students at the Starfish Foundation about what they’ve learned this year, you’ll hear everything from math to geography, the importance of plants to the finer points of accounting. They are dedicated to their work, and excited to continually learn new things through both school and the Starfish Foundation.

But in addition to the reading, writing, and arithmetic that everyone is expected to learn, the Starfish Scholars are all learning another important lesson: the importance of relationships.

“The most interesting thing that I have learned this year is the value of friendship with my classmates at the Foundation. I have also learned about many very good subjects that help me in school, such as history and language”
– Emerson, a 12 year old scholar.

Time and time again, this lesson is echoed by the students who are reflecting on their experiences with Starfish – in addition to safe place to learn and grow academically, the Starfish Foundation is fostering team building, healthy relationships, and a sense of community – something essential to emotional and mental well-being.30389139440_e827dfeb47_z

“The most important thing that I have learned this year is to be respectful with my classmates and my seniors, because it is with these people that I coexist. With respect, you can live in a good environment anywhere you go. Another very important thing that I learned is about companionship. Along with respect, fellowship is one of the values that are important to everyone and we should all try to improve.”
– Josselyn

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Milena adds, “This year, I have met many new people that have become my friends. I have had a lot of fun with these new friends doing activities that take  place at the Foundation,” showcasing how the Starfish Foundation not only brings bright young minds together, but encourages them to thrive in social spaces.

It has been proven, over and over again, that friendships are vital to learning, self-confidence, life skills, priority setting, emotional health, and empowering people of all ages to make societal changes. That our scholars are able to develop relationships, and recognize their importance, through their participation in the Starfish Foundation, is vital to their current and future happiness and success.

We close today with a Maori proverb:

“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people”. ( He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata).

Education: A Catalyst for Change

Guest Blogger: Jane Lorenzi is a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, studying International Affairs and Spanish. She has been part of the Starfish family since 2014 and has volunteered both in Ecuador and the United States. She has also spent time in Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic and is fiercely passionate about justice issues in Latin America.

Jane photo - credit Anna Jordan
Photo Credit: Anna Jordan

I’ve come to realize that material things rarely, truly empower people. Rather, it is the intangible things, such as education, that garner the most transformation. Education does not create dependencies; it sustains and empowers, allowing women in particular to be independent.

In a society where theft is a constant fear, education is a beacon of hope. What you learn in and outside of the classroom cannot be taken from you. Education is the catalyst for change, for development, for dreams that become realities, for peace.

Education allows individuals to empower themselves. With knowledge, they can make informed choices — about their health, about their relationships, about their futures. And it is perhaps the greatest hope that this knowledge will translate to understanding and tolerance, which in turn will work to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate world. A world in which every human being is given the opportunity to grow and evolve and improve and empower himself/herself and others, where every person is treated with dignity, respect, and love.

That’s what makes Starfish so cool.

It empowers its students to become leaders in their communities by supporting their academic needs. Focusing on education is a grass-roots approach, which puts power in the hands of locals who more fully understand the complex nature of the injustices that exist in their own communities.

That is not to say simply going to school will fix all the problems. The education system in Ecuador is broken in countless ways (I’ve yet to hear a positive anecdote about the Ministry of Education). Poorly trained teachers, ill-equipped classrooms, and relatively ineffective curriculum based mainly on rote memorization can deter children from being passionate about learning and/or interested in going to school. It’s often hard to explain to the students how important education is when their school day is more or less miserable and boring.

There are rays of hope though — that despite broken systems, going to school is definitely not all for naught. That education really does ignite change.

Like when Mikey beams about how much he loves English class and practicing his English with us volunteers.
Or when Cristhian talks about his passion for the sciences, biology especially, and how he doesn’t need help with science homework because he understands it.
Or when Maria Belén, one of Starfish’s first students to graduate high school, attends university to study medicine, pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a pediatrician.

These remarkable students represent the beginnings of a new generation: a generation of passionate, inspired leaders and doers and shakers.
That sounds like a pretty beautiful future to me.

A future that Starfish is shaping, poco a poco.

What We’ve Learned: Thoughts from Our Scholars

We caught up with 3 Starfish Scholars – Uberlinda, Leonardo, and Juleysi – to chat about their school year, and see what they’ve been learning at school and with Starfish. We asked them what the most important lesson this year was.

Uberlinda, a 14 year old student went first. “Plants are important!” she exclaimed right off the bat. With a few more seconds to think on the subject, she added, “I realize I have learned a lot this year. There are two places that I go to where I learn a lot every day. These places are my school and the Starfish Foundation. In my school, I have learned about basic subjects like social studies, mathematics, and natural sciences, with the latter being a subject that I really like and that I want to learn more about.

The other place where I have learned many interesting things is the (Starfish) Foundation that I have attended ever since the beginning of this school year. Here we learn a lot and I really liked last month because of how much we talked about nature. We even made a small orchard and we planted many kinds of plants. While this was happening, the educators explained to us the benefits that plants give to us and their great importance for the environment, medicine, and food. This was great to learn because plants help us, even when we’re at home.”

We couldn’t agree more! Plants are super important. To see some ways plants help us everyday – providing food, water, medicine, and even clothes – you can check out this educational video.

29288735681_1a98bb1312_zNext we caught up with Leonardo. He’s a 10th grade student specializing in accounting, so it’s no surprise what he thinks the most important lesson of the year is. “So far this year, I have learned a lot about accounting processes and accounting in general. At the beginning of this year, they asked for some materials, which without the help and finances from the foundation, I would not have been able to acquire. This really incentivized me to be a good student, which I am very pleased with.”

We’re so pleased to have been able to help Leonadro obtain the materials he needed, and couldn’t be prouder of his work in school. The last scholar we chatted with on this topic is 12 year old Juleysi.

When asked what she learned this year, she said, “I have learned about math and language. The most interesting thing during this period was how to use padlet, an interactive board online! I really liked this because you can put notes on there that we all can see and there’s so much more to it!”

29080076240_a05404ecb3_zFor those that don’t know, Padlet is an online bulletin board that can be shared between students, teachers, and other collaborators – it allows each person to add images, links, videos, and more.

Well, that’s all for now! Be sure to check back next week, so you can hear all about our annual Starfish Talent Show – we can’t wait to show off our skills!

Spring Cleaning, Summer Reading

April was a busy month in Ecuador!

 

While students were on summer break, they embraced a new summer reading initiative! Throughout March and April, Starfish students read daily, completed a reading log, and attended weekly sessions to talk about what they’re reading with our educators! How fun is that?

During summer break, recent Starfish grad, Julio, joined our staff as a work-study volunteer! He’s a quick learner and has been a great addition to the team – we’re so lucky to have him!

April also included some fun for our staff! At the beginning of April they went on their annual staff field trip to nearby pool and outdoor complex to spend a Sunday of relaxation with their work friends. Later in the month, we began a new monthly tradition of staff incentives – or what many of us might have heard called “mandatory fun” at college. This month staff first enjoyed a breakfast prepared by ICD Jenn, and then participated in a lip sync contest, inspired by Jimmy Fallon’s lip sync contests on his late night show. Everyone had a blast and looks forward to future staff bonding opportunities.

The new school year started on April 24th. Two days prior, on April 22nd, we held a meeting and invited all the scholars to come and receive their backpacks, uniforms, shoes, and school supplies. Scholars then participated in the School for Leadership. This month’s theme was humanitarian action, as we took a look back on the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016, and the world’s humanitarian response to that tragedy.

The next day (April 23rd), we held our first Bingo of the year!Games of BINGO are a popular way to raise money in Ecuador. This year we raised about $275 at the event.

The first week of school was spent getting to know each other. New and returning scholars worked together to set expectations and goals for the new year and to review material from the previous semester. The last few weeks have been a lot of fun – we’re keeping everyone busy with clubs, projects, and many small workshops. Tune in next week for more details!

Book Recommendations from Starfish Staff, Scholars, and Volunteers

Did you know? March is not only Women’s History month, but also Literacy Month. In honor of this special occasion, I decided to take a swim around and find out what some of people’s favorite books are. Here are some of the book reviews I gathered:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Atrapado sin salida) by Ken Kesey
“I love this book because it tells the story of a misinterpreted group of people. bajo la misma estrella.inddAlso, it is written uniquely through a unprecedented perspective.” – Michelle

Bajo la Misma Estrella (The Fault in our Stars) by John Green
“It’s a romance book about 2 young people who have cancer. They fall in love and live many happy moments together in spite of knowing that they had. They were very happy together.” – Diego

Watership Down (La colina de Watership) by Richard Adams
“It’s a family tradition to read this novel about an incredible journey of fellowship, loss, struggle, and triumph. Every time I read it, I learn more about myself and the world around me, and it has helped me to become who I am today.” – Sara W.left to tell

Left to Tell (Sobrevivir para Contarlo) by Immaculee Illibagiza or Tattoos on the Heart (Tatuajes en el corazón) by Greg Boyle
“The first is a powerful story of forgiveness after the Rwandan genocide through the author’s Catholic faith, and the second is A personal account about his work with mostly-Latino gang youth in LA. I’ve had the blessing to hear them both speak, and it is UNREAL to learn about their real-life experiences and their powerful character! What beautiful people.” – Beth

“Lágrimas de Ángeles” (Tears of Angels) by Edna Iturralde
“I like this book because it helps me realize the kind of life many kids without homes live. They are exploited and forced to work by unscrupulous people. It tells the story of Jaime, who lives with his dad, but runs away and gets lost in a new city. He decides to walk and he finds a girl the same age as him. She lives on the street and works at the stoplights with a lot of other kids. Jaime stays to live with them in the street and that’s when he beings to experience how life is.” – Lili

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
“I love those books because they transported me to a world that I would love to be a part of, even only while reading. I think it also helps that there are 7 of them, so they were with me for the entire second half of my childhood.” – Veronica
“My favorite book when I was younger was the Prisoner of Azkaban – the third part of the Harry Potter series. It’s very exciting to read. It’s about another adventure of Harry, Hermione and Ron, this time a dangerous assassin escapes from Azkaban and is going after Harry.” – William

harry potter

El Prínicipe Feliz (The Happy Prince) by Oscar Wilde
“It’s about a place high up in a city where there was a statue of a prince, and everyone who looked at it was impressed by the beauty and happiness of the statue. For them the statue represented the existence of happy people in the world.”

The Kite Runner (Cometas en el cielo) by Khaled Hosseini
“This is one of those books that I just couldn’t put down; I read the whole thing in a day, and thought about the story for months afterwards. Following the story of two young boys from Kabul, it is a powerful story of mistakes, guilt, betrayal, relationships, forgiveness of others and yourself, and the struggle for redemption.” – Amanda

Beloved by Toni Morrison
“Although I hated Beloved upon my first reading, revisiting it for a college course completely changed my opinion of it. While I still struggle with some aspects of it, it made me question the way that I judge other people and their decisions, and gave me even more motivation to be an open-minded reader and individual overall.” – Sara W.IJ00335601_sobrecub_canterville.indd

El fantasma de Canterville (The Canterville Ghost) by Oscar Wilde
“I had a mix of many emotions when I was reading this short story about a rich family from the United States who buys a castle where a ghost was living. The ghost had scared away many families who had tried to live in the castle previously, but, this family didn’t pay attention to the actions of the ghost.” – William

Interview with Lucy Vargas, Starfish Student

Hello again and welcome to the month of March! This week, my travels to Ecuador led me to an interview with Lucy Vargas, one of our very own Starfish Foundation students. I love discussing a wide range of topics with our students, but this week I decided to discuss the future with Lucy.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-9-26-38-pmI asked Lucy to tell me what she wants to be when she grows up. Being a very dedicated and determined student, Lucy replied, “My dream is to be a Commercial Engineer when I grow up. However, there are also other careers that I am interested in, like being a veterinarian or a pediatrician. I know that these are three careers that demand effort and dedication. Nevertheless, I will try very hard in order to achieve my goals.” I was instantly impressed with Lucy’s answer and had to know more!

Lucy told me that she has different reasons she is drawn to each of these careers, but that, “behind each of these careers is something that inspires me.” When it comes to commercial engineering she said, “Commercial Engineering fascinates me a lot because my dad worked in a company alongside other engineers. Their goal was to design homes that would later be built, in which several people would be able to live.” I loved Lucy’s enthusiasm to not only design buildings and homes, but to help the people who would live in those homes.

Lucy’s passion for helping didn’t stop there. Her reasons behind becoming a veterinarian or a pediatrician are both based on her desire to help living creatures. “I like the idea of being a veterinarian, because I love animals, especially dogs. In fact, I have a dog named Tobby, who is brown and white and handsome. Finally, being a pediatrician appeals to me because children are my inspiration. They are like little angels. I have two little siblings, who I consider to be little angels sent by God to brighten up my family.”

Thank you again for the great chat, Lucy! Everyone at Starfish is so proud of you and we can’t wait to see what your future holds, either as a commercial engineer, as a veterinarian, as a pediatrician or even something else!

xx
Henry

Original Interview:

“Yo de grande quiero ser una profesional de Ingeniería Comercial. Sin embargo, también me gustaría estudiar otras carreras como veterinaria y pediatría. Se que son tres carreras que exigen esfuerzo y dedicación. No obstante, me esforzaré mucho por conseguir mis metas.

Detrás de cada una de las carreras que pienso seguir, hay algo que me inspira. Por ejemplo, de Ingeniería Comercial me fascina mucho porque mi papá trabajó en una compañía junto con otros ingenieros que se trazaron como meta construir viviendas para que puedan vivir algunas personas.

Veterinaria me gusta también porque me encantan los animales y en especial a los perros. De hecho yo tengo uno que es hermoso de color café y blanco y se llama Tobby.

Finalmente, Pediatría porque los niños son mi inspiración. Ellos son como unos angelitos. Yo tengo 2 hermanitos. Considero que son unos angelitos enviados de Dios para alegrar a mi familia.”