From Volunteering to Pen Pals to to Friendship

I met David Tomala my first summer at Starfish, summer of 2016. I was serving as a month-long volunteer and taught English, led professional development for the educators of Starfish, and learned a bit about the school system in Ecuador. David was one of my English students! He always came to class prepared, and eager to speak English. He’d say, “Hi, how are you,” even when we weren’t in English class!

IMG_3147After my month in Ecuador I wanted to sponsor a scholar, and David was one of the students who was without a sponsor. I chose David because of his work ethic, how pleasant and friendly his demeanor is, and his desire to learn. I got to witness David playing soccer and hanging out with his friends at the Foundation multiple times a week, as students would often hang around after class, listening to music, dancing, and playing sports together. The other volunteers and I, too, would hang out at Starfish until after the sun had set each night, running around, playing games, doing more homework help if kids needed it, and chatting, I truly appreciate the togetherness that Starfish brings to families, the Flor de Bastion community, and the togetherness it brought among Starfish scholars and volunteers alike.

David and I communicate via our pen pal letters, and we are also Facebook friends! This past summer of 2017 I went back to Starfish for one week. The timing of my trip aligned closely with the timing that sponsors were sending gifts to their scholars, so I took David’s glow in the dark soccer ball, took the air out of it, and brought it along with me to Guayaquil! I pumped it back up and hand-delivered his “regalo,” for which David was grateful, and the ball was being used within 5 minutes of presenting it to him!!

img_3081.jpgAbout an hour later, I was chatting with Mikki, the summer volunteer coordinator, and we were wondering if he knew that it was a gift for him to keep or not. My Spanish isn’t perfect, and at this point another girl was using the ball while David chatted with his friends. So Mikki went over to confirm that he knew that the ball was his. David’s response was that he knew that it was his gift and that his friend wanted to borrow it, so he was letting her use it. I remember being so humbled and impressed by his response; everything, even a brand new gift received that day, is for community. His attitude was so selfless. David wanted to share, so he did! I learned from David that day and carry that moment with me each day still.

I’m blessed to be David’s sponsor and to have known him for the past year and a half!

If you would like to sponsor a scholar and gain a Pen Pal you can! We have 4 different tiers of sponsorship, find out more at http://www.thestarfishchange.org/sponsor-a-scholar

This post was written by a guest blogger, Kaitlyn.

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Life Lessons from Juliana: A Starfish Scholar

Juliana, one of our scholars, agreed to sit down and tell us a little about her self and some of the most important life lessons she’s learned.

Juliana LeonCan you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 16 years old, I’m in Starfish, and I live in flor de bastion.

What do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not in school I spend most of my time at the foundation, many people say they have two homes, but instead I have three including the foundation which is my third home.

What are some of your hobbies?
My number one hobby is listening to music; I love music! I like to read and chat with friends. I also sleep a lot.n
With my friends I like to laugh a lot, it’s what we do the most when we are together. Sometimes we have scheduled get-togethers, to meet up because we are not in the same school.

What are the most important life lessons?
I’ve learned a few:

  1. No matter how difficult it is to try to accomplish something, you have to try. It is not about whether or not you succeed, but you have to try.
  2. Nothing is impossible and everything can be achieved in this life if you work hard and aren’t afraid to try
  3. Keep going despite every circumstance
  4. In the course of our life we ​​will meet wonderful people; some will leave and new ones will come
  5. In every error, there is a lesson.

Alexis and Itaty’s Service Project

Guest Bloggers Alexis and Itaty share the success of their year-end Starfish service project.

Our project was to repair a part of the playing field at the Foundation in order to benefit the Foundation members. Scholars, staff, and volunteers benefit from the use of the benches that will be available for any event at the Foundation.

To be involved in a team project is not easy at all, and there have been many inconveniences with the distribution of duties, but this project helps us learn to work together and problem solve – valuable skills for the future! It also helped us gain practical skills and and that we can use our ideas to make the Foundation even better in the future.

Overall, we managed to have good teamwork and we achieved our project objectives, which can be summarized as: “Fix up the Foundation playing field and the area around the playing field”.

Together we were able to build wooden benches at the ends of the Starfish Foundation playing field. In order to raise funds, we organized movie nights. Even though we could not raise all the funds necessary for our project, the Starfish Foundation helped us financially to buy wooden boards, sticks, nails, etc.

We also had the help of some friends and fellow students, who were instrumental in making our project goals a reality:

  • Jhon
  • Josue
  • Luiggi
  • Elkin
  • David
  • Jordy
  • Diego
  • Dervis

We also had help from the therapeutic group, director and administration of the Starfish Foundation, and we are very grateful for their support and collaboration.

If we were able to do this project over, we would plan additional fundraising activities, in order to meet all the expectations of the project. We would have liked to improve the nets of the playing field so that the balls won’t roll into the neighbor’s property or house. That was one of the goals that could not be met, but we hope that future projects will continue to be innovative and support the interests of Starfish.

A Year in Review Part 2

Today in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the weather forecast has a high 82 degrees. So, while those of us in the North East United States are facing below freezing temperatures, and even colder wind, we can cozy up, and think of Ecuador – and all the wonderful, amazing things, the Starfish Foundation has been up to over the second half of the last year.

In last week’s post, we shared our successes, accomplishments, and highlights from January 2017 – June 2017, so this week, we’ll pick up where we left off.

July:

  • We hosted a workshop, to help the students discover potential careers. Students wrote down possible professions they would like to have in the future, and we had professionals from those professions come in and give a presentation and explain their experiences. They also answered any questions and eased doubts that the students had about the profession.
  • We brought the parents from Flor and Guasmo together to discuss the dynamic between parents and children and their behaviors. They did this through performing a play and the winning group was asked to perform at our annual Talent Show.

August:

  • Everyone’s favorite talent show! The students and parents demonstrated their talents in each of the following areas: dance, singing, theater, drawing, magic, and more. It was a night full of emotions in which everyone shined on stage. All the winners of the Talent Show were awarded with a movie night and ice cream!
    – We began a dance club. For their inaugural class, the students met with great enthusiasm to learn break dance techniques.starfish1
  • This month’s tutoring theme was “universal history”, where we touched on different eras from world history. At the end of the month, students formed small groups to present on an era that was interesting to them. Many students also dressed up and made their own props for their presentation. We really have a creative group of students!

September:

  • During September, the school for parents was led by psychologist Edwin. This month’s topic was the influence of music on the behavior of children.
  • As you know by now, students in their second to last year of high school (U.S. equivalent of 11th grade) participate in a community service project at Starfish. One of our first groups of this school year chose to educate their peers and the surrounding community about the mistreatment of women as their project. They began this month with weekend workshops.
  • This month as our tutoring thing we reviewed how to use the different centers that reinforce skills and expand on other topics that we have covered. Our centers include – reading, writing, technology, strategic games, and a rotating center based on the current month’s theme.
    -Students and staff enjoyed one week of vacation between semesters. During that week, only a few staff members worked, while also supervising a “minga” or work day to clean up our facilities!

October:

  • Giving back to others and the community is at the heart of everything we do at Starfish. Scholars, educators, and volunteers from our community service club worked together to collect funds to help out, the garbage collectors of the Puerto Limpio corporation, some of the hardest working individuals in the city. We went through the streets of Mapasingue and the Las Monjas avenue to hand out snacks that we prepared with much affection for them.
  • Students took an educational field trip to the Municipal Museum to learn more about the history of our ancestors and about Ecuadorian culture.
  • mischief 5We held our annual Olimpiadas which ends with an exciting soccer tournament!
  • The weekend before Halloween, we hosted the 2nd Annual Starfish Search Scavenger hunt, where participants from 3 countries competed to complete fun, wacky tasks and raise awareness for Starfish.
  • This month, ICD Jenn took some time to teach one of the tutoring groups one of her favorite subjects – reading! The “Tarde 1” group got to read James & The Giant Peach, and participate in fun strategic and book club type activities throughout the month. The educators continued to reinforce basic math skills in the other groups, while observing the reading group to learn new strategies to implement in the future!

November:

  • We went on our annual field trip for students who received good grades in school during the first semester to reward their academic efforts. Our field trip was to the Ayangue beach, a very beautiful and quiet place that students were able to enjoy.
  • A month of service: MINI SAC completed its project “Paws up in the Air” for a local animal rescue organization. They volunteered at a fundraising event by helping to decorate and distribute food to the guests. Additionally, the Double R Group planned a Christmas party for the children with low resources that live in Mount Sinai.
  • Two more tutoring groups got to enjoy James & the Giant Peach during tutoring this month, while the other groups are working on improving writing skills. Students are responding well to the new strategies that our educators are implementing!

December

  • A month of celebrations and friendships! First our staff and students hosted a Christmas party for their younger siblings. It was set up like a fair with a bunch of different stands that had different activities for everyone to try (games, dance, a photo book, face painting, etc.). At the end of the day, each child went home with a toy donated by local university students!
  • Our Therapeutic Group worked with the theme “values and strengthening o friendship” – bringing the Starfish Foundation members together with students from the Immaculate Conception and  Sisters of Providence youth groups, as well as alumni from the Juan Martin Moye School. The completed in friendly games and sports matches, and ended with a lunch of  arroz con pollo al horno (baked chicken and rice) and salad. It was prepared by a volunteer group of mothers.
  • On December 22nd, our staff had a special dinner out together at a nice local restaurant. They really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together in a more formal setting, and share in the joy of the Christmas season.

Thanks for looking back on a great year with us. We can’t wait to see what the new year brings. We hope everyone has a safe, happy, healthy, and blessed 2018!

A Day in the Life of a Scholar

Guest Writer: Maddy Okkerse

jordy loor.jpeg

“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.

A_Day_in_the_Life.png

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.

Now is Your Time to Be the Change

If the Starfish Foundation were a child, we would already be in elementary school. These past few years have been a wonderful whirlwind of development, growth, and change, and we are (of course) always looking towards the future.

But it is also worthwhile to reflect on the past in this moment, and recall the story that inspired the name of our foundation. Out of a beach covered with thousands of starfish, when it seems hopeless to save them all from death, a young child chooses to throw them back into the sea. Instead of give up hope after the expanse of the problem, the child continues to save starfish one by one. Her reasoning? It will make a difference for each individual starfish she touches.

Ecuador flag

When you participate in the Sponsor-A-Scholar program with Starfish, you are directly helping a child successfully complete a year of school, but you are indirectly becoming part of a chain reaction that propels entire communities for the better. The Starfish Foundation’s motto of “one student, one star, one by one” reflects this. By a simple sponsorship, you are certainly changing the life of that one child. But even moreseo, many individual efforts like yours come together to make real change. This is why sponsors are essential to Starfish’s operations.

As a sponsor, you also have a chance to be a pen pal with the student that you sponsor. This provides not only a fun way to keep in touch with someone from another culture, but also a chance to learn and grow across countries’ borders. You can hear firsthand about Ecuadorian food and games, a student’s dream to succeed in school, and the work Starfish is doing to empower the students, all in a single correspondence! Being a pen pal is not a required part of being a sponsor, but it is an amazing opportunity that many sponsors take advantage of.

If this resonates with you, we encourage you to reach out to our team and maybe even become a sponsor yourself. There are currently still a few amazing Starfish Scholars who do not have a sponsor for the 2017-2018 school year, including:

  • Lady C – Favorite subject = Science; loves to read and play soccer
  • Alexander L – Favorite subject = Language Arts; loves to play soccer
  • Josue L – Favorite subject = Science; loves to play soccer
  • Joselin L – Favorite subject = Math and Science; loves to listen to music and read
  • Genesis R – Favorite subject = Social Studies; loves to swim and play soccer
  • Melissa R – Favorite subject = Phys. Ed; loves to play soccer

To find out more about how you can sponsor a scholar for the current school year, please visit our website.

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.

 

 

 

 

Two New Scholars Share Their Story

This past year, the Starfish Foundation served 150 students from 110 families offering supplemental learning sessions, tutoring, leadership development, and professional development, while encouraging healthy choices and community service.

Here is some insight from two of our newer scholars:

Cristhian Vega
Cristhian Vega

Starfish: Hey guys how are you? Can you introduce yourselves to the blog?
Emerson: Hello, my name is Emerson Ponce. This is my first year with the Starfish Foundation
Cristhian: My name is Cristhian Vega. I live in Flor de Bastión in Guayaquil. I’ve been attending Starfish since the beginning of the year.

Starfish: Welcome to both of you. How did you hear about Starfish and decide to apply?
Cristhian: Some of my friends around my house talked to me about this and that it helps a lot with school work.

Starfish: That’s great. What sort of things do you work on and learn at the Foundation?
Cristhian: We do workshops and they help us to complete tasks. I like the Foundation because we also do really cool activities.
Emerson: As Cristhian said, the educators give us workshops that help us to learn more. The most interesting thing that I learned, I learned one day at the Foundation when the educations held a workshop on natural sciences. They talked a lot about animals and I liked that a lot.

Ponce_Emerson_carnet_2017
Emerson Ponce

Starfish: And Cristhian, and what’s the most important or most interesting thing you learned this year?
Cristhian: Something very important that I learned this year is math. I think it will help me in the future.

Starfish: Absolutely. What do you guys enjoy doing when you’re not in school or at Starfish?
Cristhian: In my free times, I love to ride my bike with my friends. We really like to race each other. And now that they fixed the streets a bit, we can ride a bit better. I also play on my dad’s cell phone.
Emerson: I spend a lot of time studying; I like to learn things that I don’t already know and I also have to study for school exams. When I have free like to play soccer on the court near my house – that’s the best way to have fun in my community.

Starfish: Sounds like you guys are smart cookies, and keeping yourselves busy! Thank you for meeting with us to answer a few questions!

Starfish Scholar Spotlight: Jack Neira

This week, we sat down with Jack to talk to him about his education, Starfish, and his hobbies in his free time.

Neira_Jack_2017_preview.jpegHi Jack! Where do you go to school?
Jack: I study at the school known as the Philanthropic, whose full name is the Benemérita Philanthropic Society of Guayas. Yes, it is a rather long name.

What makes your school interesting?
Jack: This school, which is located in Guayaquil, is a technical school. I learn different subjects than students who choose to get a general baccalaureate.

Awesome! And you’re also a Starfish scholar?
Jack: Yes, I belong to the afternoon session at the Starfish Foundation.

 

What have you learned from your time with the Starfish Foundation?
Jack: At the Starfish Foundation, I have learned many good things. During these last months, the most interesting thing that I learned was: periods of history, in the classes given by the educators. Also, I have learned how to use Microsoft Word, which has been very important because it has helped me to complete my research.

Sounds like you’ve gained a lot from this. When you’re not busy with school and Starfish, what do you enjoy doing?
Jack: In my free time, I really like to read books and other documents. I also like music also and one of my hobbies is playing the guitar. I know that I am not a professional, but I practice a lot in order to play well. In terms of sports, I practice basketball with my friends, but this activity is done just for fun.

We can’t thank Jack enough for spending time sharing his story with us.

Want to support scholars like Jack? $30 provides a month of programming for a Starfish Scholar! Or, you can join our StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt to help raise funds and awareness for the organization.

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.