Christmas at the Starfish Foundation

Throughout December and early January, many people around the world celebrate important holidays – days filled with family and friends, long-standing traditions, music, food, and the joy of sharing time and gifts with others. The large majority of Ecuadorians celebrate Christmas, and at the Starfish foundation, we host a Christmas festival in mid-December to give our staff and students a chance to do something nice for the younger members of their families.

I caught up with a few of the participants to see how they enjoyed the Starfish foundation’s Christmas festival:

Diana Z: It was very beautiful, with music, lots of games, and gifts. The game I liked the most was a game with a little ball in the water. The first stand we visited with my sister was the one with face painting; the children painted a beautiful butterfly on her face. A lot of people came and they had a good time. I had a lot of fun.navidad 3

Josue L: The Christmas party at the Foundation was very beautiful because I was able to take my sister to play at the stands and to have her face painted. After that, I took her to get her gift, and they gave her little doctor toys. She’s very happy and every day she plays with her toys.

Dennis L: The party at the Foundation was very beautiful. There were a lot of raffles, where I took my sister. She had her face painted, made a princess drawing, and lastly, she got as a gift a little toy piano, and she’s very happy. In all, the party was a lot of fun because I was with my classmates.

Additionally, we talked to some students about their family traditions for Christmas. Here is what they shared:

Astrid V: Christmas for me is sharing with the family, and aside from the material things, I share times with my friends and cousins. We have a very nice time, because on Christmas Eve we wear beautiful clothes and a lot of times we eat a delicious turkey for dinner in the company of people dear to me.

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Josue L: I spend Christmas at my grandparents’ or my house, and we have a very nice time. We talk about what’s been happening, then we eat, and sometimes we play games. We also give gifts to each other, and that’s how we have a good time at Christmas.

Dennis L: I spend Christmas at my grandparent’s house. We talk and we always eat baked chicken. We get candy, soda, and we watch movies. We have a lot of fun. I get gifts that I’m thankful for, and I have an awesome time with the family.

Viviana A: I spend Christmas having fun with my sisters and family that come from different parts of the city. They tell us how their year has been. After that, I go with my friends to play with fireworks… with my dad’s help of course. Then, we walk around the neighborhood, or we visit more friends to invite them to have a conversation. At 11 o’clock, we go back to our house to start our Christmas dinner with the entire family. After we finish dinner, we give out the presents and continue playing. The next day we all feel happy for having been in each other’s company.

We hope everyone had a blessed holiday, and has a wonderful 2018!


Starfish Spotlight: Josué and Dennis

There’s no better way to learn about Starfish than to sit down with a few of our scholars and ask them about their lives. This week, we caught up with Josué and Dennis.

We asked them about their goals, plans for the future, and role models. For both, going to college is high on the list of priorities. The question of whether or not they plan to continue their education is met with “of COURSE I’m going to go to university!”

To obtain this goal, both students realize the importance of hard work now, “One of my first goals is to finish high school while being an excellent student and getting good grades. This would help me to have a good foundation for when I take the university acceptance exam,” explains Josué. He hopes to get a career in technology – something like systems or computer engineering or programming. “It’s something I’m passionate about”, he says. Then adds, “and it is a career that you can get a lot of work in many countries.”

Dennis hopes to one day provide support for his parents, and although he doesn’t mention his exact plans for the future, he echoes Josué’s enjoyment of computer programming .

As for role models, both reference their parents. “They have helped me so much,” explains Josué simply. “My parents are my inspiration,” says Dennis,
“I admire my mom and my dad greatly because they sacrifice a lot so that I can have many things, such as food, an education, and a place to live.” He thanks both his parents for the help they give him with school and homework, as well as working very hard “so that the whole family can be happy.”

Although the future is never predictable, one thing is clear: both these young men have bright futures ahead of them, and we know they’ll make their families very proud.

2017 So Far

Wow everyone, I can’t believe it’s already April! Now that we’re three months through 2017, I think it’s time to take a look back at what we’ve accomplished so far!


  • In January, our volunteer Ellie continued with the English classes with both the students and educators. Also, the students were able to hold a party for Three King’s Day, on January 6th. The party involved playing and having a grab bag for each student. Next, there was a meeting held on January 15th, in which scholarship recipients completed activities related to the leadership school. The students had a great time and enjoyed it a lot!

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  • We have also continued our tutoring classes! This month the classes were focused on nouns, sentences, comma usage and other grammar points.
  • Finally, we held a Community Service Workshop. Overall, January was a great month for the Starfish Foundation!


  • In February, our volunteer Ellie completed the English classes with the students and educators. Great job, Ellie!
  • Students presented their final projects at Starfish, where they were able to demonstrate the skills they learned at our new and improved classes these past 5 months. Their project was called “Around the World,” and each group was to pick a country they had never researched previously. Then, they were to research, make a PowerPoint and present to the class, while including a creative piece such as traditional dress, traditional food, etc.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 10.58.11 AM
  • The high school students also carried out three projects with the community in February, which they’ve planned throughout the year. Stay on the lookout for our upcoming blog posts to get an update on their projects!
  • This month, our tutoring classes were held in conjunctions, upper and lowercase letters and public communication.
  • Finally, the Leadership School held their second workshop this month, where the topic was how to be a good leader. Activities were created for students to find out their flaws, virtues, interests and values and then how these attributes make them a good leader.


  • This month was the end of the school year for students!
  • In March, we received over 100 scholarship applications and are excited to welcome 54 full scholarship recipients and 16 conditional scholarship recipients!
  • We also held our year end ceremonies in March. In Guasmo, the ceremony was on March 12th and in Flor de Bastion, the ceremony was held on March 17th! For the students with the best grades, we went on a field trip to Bucay at the end of the month.
  • Coming up, we have a new summer reading initiative! Starfish students are expected to read daily, complete a reading log and attend weekly sessions for 1 month to discuss what they’re reading, with our educators.

These past three months were absolutely great and we can’t wait to see what the next three have in store!

Until next time,

“I Choose to Learn” and Other Initiatives

In addition to the work done with our scholars, The Starfish Foundation also works with adults and other members of the community through “The Parents School” and “I Choose to Learn”. I spent some time this week learning about these various initiatives so I could share the information with you.

The Parents School happens once a month (the last Sunday of the month). During this time, Psychology professionals conduct workshops and therapies. Although children are not required to participate in parents school, about 15 to 20 scholars are involved per month.

At the first meeting of The Parents School staff took the time to get to know the concerns of and ask suggestions from them to use for future meetings.choose-to-learn

These monthly meetings also allow them to make connections and converse with other parents, as well as for Starfish staff to meet with and have a better understanding of their lives. The open communication helps everyone see from each other’s point of views, and encourages everyone to be open-minded.

In October, the topic of the month was “Equity in Household Activities.” Given by psychologist Edwin Alvarado, its objective was to understand the difficulties that the parents have when designating household chores.

During this session, parents and children worked in groups to make posters “indicating the discomforts of families and possible suggestions when designating the tasks at home”. Through this, participants realized the importance of their functions within the home, and parents gained an appreciation of the importance of having patience, as well as good balance between showing love and the authority.

What an important lesson! Next I got to hear about the “I Choose to Learn program” offered.

I Choose to Learn was originally a program aimed at mothers, but is now open to both mothers as well as youth in the community (both scholars and non-scholars). The goal is to help these individuals create items or complete tasks that generate income. Some projects include making wallets, purses, holsters, change purses, hairbands, and foam crafts.

The methodology for maintaining income is that for each item made, the participants will sell it and then half of the profit is for them and the other half is to buy the materials.

I wish them the best of the luck as they become aspiring entrepreneurs!

Until next time,

Ready for the Rain – Flor Renovation Updates

Two weeks ago we were able to make some great progress on the space lent to us in Flor de Bastión.  You might remember in July when we had a similar “minga” or work day to begin work on the space.  Since then we’ve using the space you see below, but we noticed a few necessary additions made more urgent when rainy season kicked into full gear these past few weeks.  
The “Maestro” hard at work!

Mixing the first batch of cement!

Luckily, we have a great group of dedicated scholars and parents who spent their Sunday doing their part to make sure we have a great place to continue our programs throughout the next 5 months of rainy season!

Who says this is man’s work?  Not Betsy & Karina!!
David, one of our youngest and most enthusiastic participants!

On Sunday we had 3 main goals –
1) Finish the back wall of our classroom

Starfish dad, Aníbal, with Starfish Employee, Marcos.

2) Cement a trench/drain so that water that seeks in the through the sugar cane walls will filter out instead of into our classroom

Step 1 of the drain! 
Finished drain!

3) Clean up the area around outside of the classroom.

Students and parents alike helped clean up in the neighborhood surrounding Starfish.
Thanks to Starfish mom Juana for the great motivation!

We are proud to say that on Sunday we completed all 3 of these important tasks and that our space is now ready for the rain!

Learning to Lead at our October Meeting

This month at our October monthly meeting we focused on leadership.  We learned about teamwork, communication, setting goals and working towards those goals in a group setting by completing various activities and reflecting on our experiences.  It was a blast!  See all of these fun activities and more, below!
Setting up for our first icebreaker in Guasmo!
“Dinámica” or IceBreaker where we we had to work together creatively to get everyone’s feet
 on a sheet of paper when the music stopped…each time with less sheets of paper!

It was easy when there were a lot of papers on the ground still,
here our students try to figure out what to do now with less paper.
Group work solving some riddles.  Our students had quite the creative responses!

Lili presenting to the parents what we did during our meeting.

After the becado (scholarship student) meeting, we also had a parent meeting and the parents did some icebreakers as well.  It was great to see the parents uniting and forming new friendships as well.  This year has been a great year of growth for Starfish and we’re excited for the possibilities when students and parents alike unite for the success of their families and Starfish!  While the parents met, our students prepared a delicious, healthy snack and then served it to their parents for an great end to a fantastic day.

Starfish moms Maria and Adelaida participating in our parent activity.

Preparing snack with new Starfish Employee, Karina (pink shirt).

Geovanny helping out with snack in Guasmo.
Flor de Bastión students united after preparing a wonderful snack for the Starfish group!

The perfect end to a perfect day – lots of smiles!

Meet "los padres" – the parents! And much more…

Last week our parents joined us for the first parents meeting of the 2013 school year.  We talked about the progress of their kids, as well as planned for some exciting, upcoming events.

Parents in Flor de Bastión contributing their ideas for the upcoming Integration Day.

Our May monthly meeting with the scholarship students was also exciting.  We had a lot of fun playing  some great ice breakers…

and learning about healthy eating habits!

Special thanks to Michaela S. from Villanova University for her nutrition analysis of the Starfish scholars, as well as SueAnne L. and Cigna for their generous donation of toothbrushes for the scholars!

For our Spanish speaking friends we have an exciting new addition to our updates this year – a monthly parent newsletter.  Starfish Co-Director Jenn designed the first one as an example to the students and parents, but from here on out a group of 2-3 students will help design the newsletter each month.  We hope this gives the students a great way to reflect on their work, while also helping to keep their parents more informed of what they do while they are at Starfish.  Each newsletter will include updates on what we’ve done and will also feature work done by some of our students.  Check out the first issue given out last week at the parent meeting!

June Parent Newsletter