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.

Senior Project Final: Informe Adultos Mayores

Hey everyone! I hope you’re enjoying some nice, Spring weather, wherever you are! This week, it’s time to check in with our Senior students and find out about one of their senior projects! Over the weekend, I met with members of the team “Adultos Mayores,” Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.53.17 AMincluding:Joselyn C., Jordy L., Julio P. and Ariana S. Let’s find out what they did during their five week project!

The team members began by telling me that the goal of their project was to visit the elderly home, Damien House, over the course of five Fridays, to bring residents happiness and to show that they are valued. Before attending the home, the team members fundraised by selling jello! The students raised $9, to cover the cost of snacks that they would provide to the residents.

During their first visit on January 20th, they had breakfast with some of the residents. They helped some of them drink their oatmeal drink, as it wScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.54.40 AMas challenging for them. After breakfast, they went to the patio, explained their project to the residents and invited them to participate. The residents were very excited and decided to start off with an icebreaker, to get to know each other. Finally, when it was time to go, the students gave the residents bananas as a snack. Then, the residents told the students that they were very excited about their visit!

January 27th was the students next visit. As the students arrived, the residents were waiting on the patio with very excited expressions. The students handed out badgesScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.55.17 AM to the residents, they played another icebreaker and then they played dominoes. Since some of the students didn’t know how to play, the residents taught them. Finally, they caught up for the week and then gave the residents an oatmeal beverage as their snack.

The students visited the residents for a third time on February 3rd. They said, “this day, we were surprised with the excitement of the adults, which was greater with each visit!” For the visit, they passed out badges played an icebreaker named “cow tail” and then discussed the residents’ lives from when they were young. The residents gave the students advice and in return, the students gave them sandwiches as a snack!Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.56.29 AM

Their fourth visit to the home was very rainy and the residents were worried that the students weren’t going to show. So, when they arrived, the residents were still in the dining room eating their breakfast. After breakfast, they played another icebreaker, called “the spider web.” Then, the residents taught the students how to weave hammocks and told them that they make handicrafts and sell them to people who visit the home. Finally, the students gave orange juice as a snack and said goodbye.

February 17th was the final visit for the students. They said, “this day we felt a bit sad to think that it would be our last visit with our new friends. We wanted the end of the project to be unique, so we brought picture frames with pictures that we had taken with them.” The students also included a lot of balloons to decorate the home and make the residents happy. The morning was filled with emotions from both the students and the residents. The residents expressed their gratitude toward the students for their visits and let them know that they would miss them every Friday. For their final visit, the students gave the residents an oatmeal drink with bread as their snack.Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.57.09 AM

Looking back at their time with the residents, the students said, “We were able to understand the value of solidarity and love because each time we arrived at the Father Damien House, we were filled with happiness, feeling that our presence was important for them. We understand that each person that we encountered in the home needs us, so that they do not feel alone. The environment in the home makes them feel a deep sense of solitude.”

I am so proud of these students for their accomplishment. Not only did they complete their Senior project, but they formed new bonds that will last a lifetime. Great job Starfish Scholars!

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!

January:

  • 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!

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 10.56.53 AM

  • 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!

February:

  • 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.

March:

  • 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,
Henry

Starfish Scholars: Dreams for the Future

Hi everyone!

Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a wonderful New Year and had a chance to relax with family and friends. During my New Year celebrations, I traveled back to Ecuador to ask a few of the kids something that I’ve been itching to ask, “qué te motiva para sobresalir en tu educación?” or “what motivates you to excel in your education?” I was blessed with some wonderful answers and I’m excited to share them with you! So, let’s find out what motivates some of our students.

Itaty Morocho says that her family and future are what motivate her the most. 26010318620_267954ae85_z

“What motivates me to work hard at school is my family and my future, but first my future because it’s what I want to be, an excellent professional since my studies could help better the lives of my family. When I’m in the workforce I want to change the type of education that exists now, because in some institutions there’s not the education that the youth of today need.

In some institutions they don’t have teacher or adequate classrooms to teach in among other things. Because of this I’d like to change the education system. I’d like to help the youth be less fearful and to be themselves.”

Joselyn Calle now knows that education is essential to her future.

25679369943_6b5f4c5b6a_z“When I was a little girl, education was never very important. But today I have realized that it is essential. Education allows you to reach your goals, a goal goes beyond your purposes, to what you want to be. I realized when I entered high school that studying is a challenge that you have to overcome each day. We have to get ahead, we have to create an objective. It does not matter how difficult this objective is, the most important thing is to achieve it and not stagnate.

Studying doesn’t matter if we don’t put in the effort, the desire, the enthusiasm, this small grain of sand that we need in life to triumph in our studies with SUCCESS.”25680490553_c8fc270e89_z

Milena Zambrano says that her parents are her number one reason for motivation.

“What motivates me is thinking of my parents, because they want the best for me. Now I’ve just started high school but with my strength and dedication to my studies I know I’m going to succeed, I’ll see myself graduating in 5 years.

YOU CAN ALWAYS SUCCEED WHEN YOU TRY! NEVER GIVE UP! KEEP GOING FORWARD!”

I am so proud of Itaty, Joselyn and Milena for their motivation in education! Regardless of the reason, education is very important and I am proud of our students for their hard work! So, readers, what motivates you?

Until next time,
xx Henry

The Season of Love and Joy (Part 1)

In December, without a doubt, the holidays are filled with happiness, love, and excitement. In Ecuador, most families will get together on December 24th (Christmas Eve) and make a traditional dinner of hot chocolate and the traditional “Pan de Pascua”bread.  Families will eat together and enjoy each other’s company until midnight, which is when everyone opens their presents!

In Ecuador, and around the world, the holiday season is a time filled with peace and blessings, but it is also often a time of travel because it is custom to have the entire family together to celebrate Christmas joyfully.

This week, I spoke with one of our staff members, Pamela about her family’s traditions:

In general, my family has a tradition of spending the holidays together because the holidays are usually celebrated mostly by adults. We get to share experiences, and we laugh together. My siblings, cousins and friends come at a specific time so we can drink the hot chocolate and eat Pan de Pascua, which is delicious and the younger kids play with sparklers.

Then, there’s the time when you leave everything you’re doing and gather at the table for dinner. Dinner consists mostly of traditional plates, at least in my house. We make chicken with a Coca Cola sauce, a lettuce salad and a hot chocolate. After eating together, with joy and happiness we exchange presents.

However, some traditions apply to everyone:

In every neighborhood you can see the Christmas lights and decorations and people singing Christmas carols with joy and faith. 

For Pamela, it’s also tradition to remember the reason for the holiday:

We have music and many more activities throughout the night; we celebrate Jesus in our homes.

I hope Pamela and her loved ones have a great December and a blessed Christmas. Next week, I’ll be back to share more holiday practices and traditions from our Starfish Family.

Until then,
Henry

We Asked; They Answered: Favorite School Subjects

Hi all,

Happy December! This week I floated on over to Ecuador to ask some of our scholars “¿Cuál es tu materia favorita y por que?” so they could let us know about their favorite subjects and why.

Joselyn is a huge fan of Language Arts. When I asked why, she said:

“I like it because it teaches us how to express ourselves and not be afraid in to speak in front of others. In my school my Language teacher always asks us to summarize what we understood from the lecture; we also act out legends or real life stories.

This subject is really important for us because we learn to express ourselves and be well spoken when it’s our turn to speak.

Joselyn also talked about the importance of speaking well to provide examples for others. “Nowadays there are many people who use language incorrectly, especially in certain neighborhoods.” When children hear this, they pick up bad habits and start speaking the same way. “So let’s be conscious of that and be part of the change!” she encourages.

Bryan is also partial to Language Arts. “I think it teaches us a lot of things, such as how to express ourselves, how to develop skills like spelling, speaking, and calligraphy.”

Bryan also thinks this subject is important because he hopes to grow up to be like one of his idols, Eugenio Espejo. “Why like Eugenio Espejo? Because he was a great Literature writer, and he could always perform well in every field he practiced because he was a well educated and prominent person.” Bryan also hopes to make his mother proud by meeting each of the goals he sets for himself. Studying literature helps bring him closer to meeting his goals.

eugenioFun Fact: Eugenio Espejo was a writer, lawyer, and medical pioneer from Ecuador. He was Quito’s first journalist and hygienist.
You can read a full bio here in English
Or here in Spanish 

Geovanny’s favorite subject is English. He likes the subject because he finds it interesting and hopes to speak the language fluently some day. Sometimes reaching that goal is hard, and his advice for anyone who is struggling with a subject is “to continue studying, and find something that motivates you. My family motivates me because it is because of them that I am going to graduate, and be able to help them.”

As always, it’s a treat to check in with our scholars. I hope to see you all again next week!

Until then,
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

Starfish Scholar Spotlight: Elizabeth Delgado talks about Ecuador

Hola!

This week, I swam on down to Ecuador to have a conversation with Elizabeth Delgado about her country, what she loves about it, and how she hopes to see it improve in the future.

“Ecuador is a very beautiful country, it has a lot of great places to visit, and its people are very nice and welcoming, always celebrating the best of society.” says Elizabeth.

Ecuador is home to an incredible array of wonders – everything from colonial towns to the Amazon rain forest, and from the spectacular peaks of the Andes to the Galápagos Islands. Whether it’s nature, wildlife, culture, anthropology or language, this diverse country is sure to impress.

“Nevertheless, there are things that I’d like to change”, Elizabeth continues. One of those things is crime.

29259513292_7709b67a4e_z“Regrettably nowadays, in every corner of the country, there is a lot of delinquency, It’s normal to hear about or see assaults every day – in the street, in banks, in stores, or in houses. There are all kinds of crimes and the worst of it is that, pitifully, even the youngest children participate.This makes it so we live with uncertainty and the fear that something bad may happen.

“I wish to change this negative aspect of my country, not only so that society can live in peace without any kind of danger, but also so that those people who are risking losing their lives also have a positive change.”

How would this change be brought about? Well Elizabeth has an answer for that too: “To accomplish this it’s important that we help those people; maybe they’ve let their lives take this course because they don’t count on support, and that is really what they need… (Making a) change really depends on everyone, so that we are able to have a little stability when it comes to our safety.”

Well said, Elizabeth, well said.

 

Original interview:

Ecuador es un País muy hermoso, posee muchos lugares dignos de visitar, su gente es muy amable y hospitalaria, siempre brinda lo mejor de sí, a la sociedad. Sin embargo, existen cosas que me gustaría que cambien, por ejemplo, hay muchos factores negativos que manchan la sociedad en la cual vivimos, pero una de las cosas que me gustaría cambiar es la delincuencia.

Lamentablemente hoy en día, por todos los rincones de este país, hay mucha delincuencia, cada día es normal escuchar o ver asaltos en las calles, en bancos, en tiendas, en viviendas, en fin, existe todo tipo de delincuencia y lo peor de todo es que lastimosamente participan desde los más pequeños hasta los más grandes. Esto hace que vivamos con miedo e incertidumbre de que algo malo ocurra.

Deseo cambiar este aspecto negativo de mi País, no tan solo para que la sociedad viva en paz sin ningún tipo de peligro, sino también, para que estas personas que están echando a perder sus vidas tengan un cambio positivo, para esto es importante que se implementen o den más ayuda a estas personas, que quizás han permitido que sus vidas lleven ese rumbo porque no cuentan con un apoyo, y eso es lo que realmente necesitan.

Por eso creo que el cambio de esto depende de todos nosotros, para así poder tener un poco de estabilidad en cuanto a este aspecto.

More Than a Magic Night – a Talent Night!

Henry here, and have I got news for you! Our little starfish recently hosted their second annual talent show at the main Starfish site in Flor, Guayaquil. Over 100 students participated in the show as well as 11 staff members and 8 international volunteers. You can watch the show yourself here, and be amazed by their performances.

stage

“The objective of this event is to showcase the talents of each and every one of our members, this way they can secure the interpersonal relationships, own the stage, and increase self-confidence”, explain Jessica Párraga and Maria Salazar, Starfish teachers, when I ask them why the Talent Show is important to The Starfish Foundation.

“Many values learned in the talent show night were responsibility, closeness, and fellowship among the kids in the foundation. These helped them be more open, have self-confidence, and to make decision that will help them become active leaders in their families and communities. They also learned the true meaning of teamwork,” adds one of their teachers, Pamela Rodriguez.

The show was open to students, teachers, volunteers, and international visitors – each showcasing their skill and sharing a piece of themselves and their culture. Family and friends of students and volunteers, as well as host families to our international volunteers, came out to enjoy the day.

The students practiced for over a month, improving the details of their performances: choreography, acting, painting, singing, and so much more.

I checked in with Luiggi Pluas, one of the student performers to find out about his participation in the show:

“For talent show night I had 3 songs. The first one I sang with my friend Ronny, “Me Voy Enamorando,” (I’m falling in love). The second one I did solo.

When it was show time I was very nervous, but when the music started I tried to do my best; it seems I did a great job because I waited a long time for the cheering to end. I had so much fun! In my last performance I danced to traditional music of Guayaquil with a few other dancing partners. We put so much effort into it, and we did a great job.

The end of the event was nice because everyone started telling their experiences getting there. We all took pictures with the North American volunteers. We made unique memories that will be hard to forget.”outside

WOW. What an unforgettable experience. I also talked to Joselyn del Valle, who acted as the emcee for the night, about her thoughts on the Talent Show:

“In the talent show night I was cheering and introducing every single one of my classmates according to the talent they were going to perform. It was an incredible night!

I also danced to the song “Guayaquileño” with my dance team. For this dance we practiced 4 or 5 times so everything would be perfect and we could all learn our choreography.

My favorite part was the performance by the teachers. They went on stage, dressed in white, the lights were off and the cellphone lights were on. They sang the song “Yo Nací Aqui,” (I was born here). It was a beautiful and moving performance.”

With all this enthusiasm and talent, I know these scholars will continue to do amazing things inside and outside the classroom.

group

xxx Henry

Starfish Scholar Spotlight: Ysis Matias

Hello, Henry here! I recently checked in with Ysis Matias, one of the Starfish Scholars, to get a feel for what an average day is like. We talked about her goals, her role models, and life in Ecuador. I can’t thank her enough for taking the time to share her thoughts with us, so without further ado, I’m passing this over to Ysis.
-Henry

Hello, my name is Ysis. I imagine myself being in another country within 7 years. My favorite subject is English because I think it’s very important to learn since it’s universal and it will help me a lot in life. I’d like to be an orthodontist because that profession really calls my attention, or I’d like to keep learning languages because I really like learning other languages.

The person that’s helped me realize my academic strengths is my mom. She always supports me in all my big ideas for what I’d like to do.

At 7am I get to school, I hang out for 20 minutes with my friends and classmates and then leave school at 1:45 to eat lunch. After I go to Starfish and do my homework and then head home. I have to think about what I value more when I get home, when I see my parents working hard to give me everything they really motivate me. I’m proud of them and of my country and its great president who’s made our country known to a lot of the world.

The thing I’d like to change would be how society thinks, to get everyone talk and see the realities of society and what really is happening, then we can find a solution if we only look together.

Wow, what an amazing young lady! I’ll share stories from more students throughout the Fall, so stay tuned to get an inside look at what our Starfish Scholars are thinking, dreaming about, and getting excited about. I can’t wait to share their stories with you.

Until next time!
Henry