The School Year So Far

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The school year is now well underway, and our scholars, teachers, and volunteers are keeping busy. Here’s a sample of what they’ve been up to over the last 2 months:

  • Thanks to 2 new volunteers, Mia and Laura, Starfish now has two new clubs! Mia runs a science club where they do experiments, and Laura directs some theater and improvisation groups. Students are very excited about the experiments they are doing at the science club and with the acting club.
  • On June 25th, the teachers, along with the students, celebrated a tribute to the person who is most important in their lives. This was a very special day because the students could enjoy a lovely day with their parents where they played different games – games like inquisitive questions, blind baby food challenge, guess who’s your father, and indoor soccer. “It was a day filled with hugs, emotions and interactions between the students and their parents”, says one participant.
  • The Community Service group held a contest to see who could collect the most bottles to recycle. Not only did this have a huge positive impact on the environment, but also acted as a fundraiser for the group.
  • The therapy group held a “Day of Cinema” as a fundraiser. The proceeds will be used to buy shirts for the group.
  • Throughout the month of June the students were assigned a theme: “How to carry out an academic investigation.” The students worked in pairs to do research about the provinces and capitals, tourist sites, and myths and legends of Ecuador. The last week in June the students presented their research through expositions that each pair created.
  • In Arts and Crafts Club, they made a wallet and change purse out of foamy papers. “The students are continually learning different techniques that they can used and elaborate on with every project”, explains one volunteer.
  • The Leadership School covered the qualities of a good leader and various types of leadership. Through different activities, students identified their leadership style; everyone who participated had a lot of fun
  • Soccer Club continues to be a favorite. It has grown so that there are now 3 separate groups, each of which train twice a week.

Be a Shooting Star!

Our students may be on break, but we certainly aren’t!  During summer break we are busy working on grants, updating our social media and selecting a new group of scholars among many other tasks.  Want to get involved?  Why not volunteer for Starfish!

We have several virtual volunteer positions available in Grant Writing, Social Media, Website Design as well as positions in Ecuador for a Before & After School Program Coordinator, Music Teacher or other project suited to your interests and skills.  Past and current volunteers have worked on projects in fundraising, database management, grant writing and social media in the U.S. as well as photography, before & after school program help, nutrition & gardening and English in Ecuador.

Our volunteer positions are great for recent grads, summer interns and anyone looking to put in a few hours of volunteer work for a great cause.  If you’re passionate about making a difference in the education and lives of young people in Ecuador, this is for you!

Review our website http://www.thestarfishchange.org/volunteer.html and then contact Jenn & Beth at thestarfishchange@gmail.com if interested in getting involved!

Gracias a Mi Cometa!

During my visit to Ecuador, Jenn gave me a great little tour of Mi Cometa. Come join me on the tour!

Upon my arrival at Mi Cometa, Jenn ushered me into Gladys’ office. We talked at length with her and the woman in the red shirt, Eugenia, who told us that Mi Cometa used to work all over Guayaquil – in neighborhoods north and south! She was one of the founders of Mi Cometa, when it began 20 years ago in the neighborhood of Guasmo.

Later, I spent time with both Gladys (left) and Janet. Gladys is the president of Mi Cometa – we love that a female runs this great organization! Janet is in charge of Creciendo Nuestros Hijos (CNH), a program to provide early stimulation for children ages 0-5.

Look – we have a cabinet! Jenn is able to keep supplies in this cabinet, in a locked room at Mi Cometa. We are so appreciative of the space to keep track of our Scholars’ materials!

I peeked into the room where CNH operates, and I met one of our Scholars (Geovanny, middle) and one of our huge supporters from CNH! Many of the staff members at CNH recommended certain families for Jenn to visit – in total, she checked out almost 50 houses to elect the 28 Starfish Scholars!

THANKS … For keeping this space clean, “remember that cleanliness is part of good living.”

“We care for the environment.” Mi Cometa and Starfish share many values!

View from the roof of Mi Cometa. You can see for miles!

One location of many Guasmo Starfish meetings.

Another view from the roof of Mi Cometa. It was so peaceful up there – a great place to sit and think!
The bulletin board for Adopta Una Familia (AUF). The program works with families in the area to have “minga” – joint clean-up sessions – where everyone pitches in to build a house for one of the families. AUF works closely with a church in Connecticut to sponsor and support this effort.
Jenn and I with Marjorie, one of the AUF social workers and promoters. Marjorie has SO much energy – she made me feel right at home!

Thanks to Mi Cometa for a wonderful visit! I also learned a lot about the music school at night and their new efforts to care for street kids in 2013. I appreciate every one of you and all the work you are doing so much. God bless you all!

–Beth Awalt, Co-Founder
The Starfish Foundation, Inc.

Social Entrepreneurship at Villanova!

We’ve been so blessed to have such great support, particularly from Villanova University. As a Villanova alum, this past fall I was able to connect with Dr. Jim Klingler in the Villanova School of Business. Dr. Klingler has been an invaluable resource to Jenn and I, lending insight on multiple occasions from his experience with international non-profits. He reommended I read Forces for Good, by Leslie Crutchfield, to learn some of the most important findings from a study on impactful non-profit organizations. Crutchfield highlights themes such as forming partnerships, advocating for a cause, inspiring evangelists, adapting, sharing leadership and networking.

This past spring, Dr. K offered us the opportunity to propose a project to his Social Entrepreneurship class. Jenn and I first Skyped the class from Guayaquil in January, when I was visiting and Jenn had just arrived. We proposed for a group to design sustainable fund-raising ideas for  our organization. Two weeks later, I met with Martin, Erin, Jay, James, Ayyoub, and Ashia to discuss ideas.

The Starfish team at their final presentation!
Photo by Dr. Jim Klingler

The group spent a semester learning about impactful social entrepreneurship endeavors, culminating in a final presentation about ideas for sustainable funding for Starfish. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but let me say that the four ideas presented were great! One in particular was quite original, and it provides a great avenue for Starfish Scholars to collaborate in our program. Another included some stellar planning for our benefit dinner this fall – appropriately named “Dinner Under the Brightest Stars.” The third project detailed ideas for some website revamping, and the fourth project assists in grant research. A HUGE thanks to the Starfish Team for all of their hard work this semester!!

Martin, Peter, Ayyoub, Ashia, Jay, Beth, James and Erin at the final presentation!
Photo by Dr. Jim Klingler


–Beth Awalt, Co-Founder of The Starfish Foundation, Inc.