Monthly Recap: clubs, service, mother’s day, and lessons in leadership

From camps to goal setting and from community service to soccer club, the Starfish scholars in Ecuador have been keeping busy. What exactly have they been doing?

  • A week long camp hosted by Peace Corp volunteer Bonnie where kids learned about HIV through hands-on games and soccer
  • Those scheduled to do community service this year met to share ideas about how they’d like to get involved and give back
  • The soccer club, a crowd favorite, started meeting again again
  • They held the first ever meeting of the new craft club
  • For Mother’s Day, students went to the homes of some of the mother’s to sing for them. It was a beautiful moment. The moms were completely surprised and very touched. “They could feel the affection that we all have for them”, reflected one participant.
  • The Leadership School is back! Students are back to partaking in a variety of learning opportunities that gives them the fundamentals they need to practice in their own lives and to prepare them for future professional careers.

It is an exciting time at Starfish, and we have even more activities planned for the future. Soon, we will formalize a computer club and dance club, and in August we’ll host our annual talent show.

If you are interested in donating items in-kind specifically for extracurricular success, you can support our teams and clubs, by purchasing an item off our Amazon Wish List.

2016: A Year in Review

Wow, another year gone past, and at Starfish it has been a busy and exciting one! We wanted to take a quick moment to go through our year in review:

This year we currently have about 125 students participating several times per week each! “The quantity of students enrolled in Starfish is a testament to our staff and programs that more people always want to enroll and are excited about education!” says co-founder Jenn.

From March Madness to the Baltimore Benefit Dinner our year was off to a great start! Our Sponsor a Scholar program really took off, and Starfish welcomed new friends and volunteers.

Summer was a busy time for us. June started with an awesome soccer tournament which helped raise funds for the organization. In June we also launched a 5th tutoring group out of our head quarters in Flor de Bastión.

In August we had our “Friends of Starfish” trip where volunteers went to Ecuador to  capture photos and stories, participate in tutoring sessions, and re-launch our Snapchat account. They also joined our scholars for a field trip to the Botanical Gardens. In August we also had our talent show – showcasing our talents and leadership skills – “that night was magical because we were together as a family and we all gave our whole hearts, because Starfish is our little home.” said one participant.

Throughout the summer we had fantastic volunteers in Ecuador who helped with workshops, taught English, helped coordinate soccer an taught sport classes, creating a mural, and even put together Professional Development Workshops for staff.

During the summer, our 11th and 12th grade students also started getting into teams to start working on their Senior Service Projects. The four scholars in Guasmo have teamed up to work with a local hospital and/or shelter to volunteer their time and energy and also the bring needed items like food and clothing. They also plan to organize activities to bring them joy. The other three projects are being carried out in Flor de Bastión. The first, focusing on communication and integration hopes to bring people of the community together to improve relations. The second group, who are still ironing out the specifics, hope to work with seniors to brighten their day. The third group is planning literacy classes for adults in the neighborhood who never learned to read or write.

In the Fall Scholars in Ecuador hosted their annual “Olympiadas” where they participated in various athletic activities. They also restarted their recycling initiative including an awareness campaign for the local community. In the US, we had a fundraiser at a Baltimore Orioles game – great fun!

The US and Ecuador came together for our first annual #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt – as teams of up to 6 individuals competed for 12 hours to capture fun photos and videos, complete random acts of kindness, and spread the word about Starfish.

And, perhaps, most important, we celebrated our 5th BIRTHDAY this year on November 9th, which was a great time for us to reflect on how thankful we are for “The help of all of our long-term volunteers from the U.S. and worldwide who have brought unique projects and skills to Starfish – their knowledge and skills they teach our students and staff really make a lasting difference!” This year we also saw our Social Media Interns program grow which was really amazing, and we super appreciate how they’ve helped our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages grow.

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.So what are we looking forward to in the new year?

Here are our 7 New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:

  1. Finalize our registration as an Ecuadorian non-profit
  2.  Purchase land and begins plans to build new classrooms
  3. Continue to increase the quality of education we offer at Starfish so students can receive a quality education and skills necessary to be successful professionals despite the broken school system they are forced to attend
  4. Continue to improve other services offered at Starfish to help remove other barriers to education and create well-rounded young people ready to make a difference in their communities and the world
  5. Expand our partnerships in Ecuador in order to better serve our students and their families
  6. Get our college prep program up & running so our students have the tools they need to gain entrance and to be successful in college.
  7. Seeing the amount of people who learn about Starfish continue to increase!

92744-537112_10151522938759061_280721677_n

Speedy Championship

Hey there!

Your favorite fish here and I’m here to give you a special update on a soccer tournament that we recently pulled off at Flor de Bastión.

The soccer tournament was a new endeavor and as with any new endeavor, the students and staff were a little nervous when they first decided to hold the tournament.But in the end, they pulled of an incredible event – The Starfish students and staff helped organize everything from recruitment to photography, and from selling snacks to security.

Together, they were able to recruit nine teams of seven players from the community and from other parts of the city. How great is that? On June 5th, the players, students, and staff gathered for a day of 5 v 5 soccer, and, as you can see, the teams had so much fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first and second place teams took home small cash prizes (and the joy of winning), and any remaining money from registrations, as well as proceeds from the water and empanadas sold, went as a donation to Starfish – raising over $230.

The students report, “everyone went home content and satisfied… We went beyond our goals.” A huge thank you to the teachers, parents, students, and community members who made this possible!

The successful “Campeonato Relampago” as they called it, and all the money raised is going to renovating the Starfish office space to help more Starfish dreams come true.

So what dreams are our little starfish working on?

Our little Starfish have been busy with community service projects and high school senior projects. At the start of the year, many of them wondered “how can I get involved in my community?” Starfish staff worked with them to help them identify their skills and talents so they could share them with the local community. While continuously welcoming new members to the service group, these students have been visiting shelters, planning activities for Starfish, and doing communal work in the area. I, for one, couldn’t be more proud of them!

These kids are full of good ideas, good will, and a love for helping others. Their reward? Meeting challenges, the experiences they get from meeting new people, and the smiles they get for their efforts.

Let us be part of the change! How many smiles are you willing to draw?

More soon!

-Henry

Meet Alexander – First Year Scholar!

Meet Alexander – a first-year Starfish Scholar, also entering his first year of high school at the age of 16.  Alexander is not your typical student, and because of his age, he will have to study on the weekend “A Distancia,” something like getting your GED as an adult in the U.S. He will probably be the youngest in his class, but he is excited to have the opportunity to continue studying.

Alexander previously studied at another foundation here in Guayaquil that offers a formal education, as well as a soccer team, catechism – and a place to live for many of its students.  Alexander doesn’t remember how he ended up alone, because he was very little, but he does not know his biological family.  His first memories are being passed from foundation to foundation as they found the right fit for him.  His passion is soccer.  At the last foundation where he was he was able to join the team, and will continue to play with them during the week while he studies on the weekends.

Alexander (center) with his First Communion Sponsors.  (Starfish Scholar Lili on the right).

At the last foundation, apart from soccer, he also found a place in the youth group.  Alexander is a reserved teen – openly admitting that if he’s not out playing soccer with his friends, he’d much rather be in his room listening to music by himself.  However, while participating in Catechism and youth group, he met a great group of people – some of whom were already Starfish Scholars!  One of them, Lili, became his sponsor for First Communion this past December.  (In Ecuador you have Sponsors or Godparents for every important accomplishment in the Church and school, not just Baptism and Confirmation.)  Lili brought him to her home to share the holidays with her family, and after 2 weeks, he was already part of the family.  Lili’s mom went to the foundation to do the paperwork, and now Alexander is the latest addition to Lili’s family – and to our Starfish family.  We are excited to empower him to make his dreams come true.

Alexander at his surprise birthday party this past January!
Alexander with his adoptive mom, Elena, after participating in the Ecuadorian tradition of
 having your face smashed in your birthday cake!

Year-End Family Olympics

Last month when school ended here in Guayaquil, we held a day long event that brought both Starfish neighborhoods together for a fun-filled day of fun!
This was a great event as it was the first time parents from both neighborhoods had the chance to meet each other as well!

This year’s Olympics started with a sack race, an egg on a spoon race, and an obstacle course based on a popular show in Ecuador, “Calle 7”. 

Next, we had our adult soccer tournament followed by the students’ tournament.  This year we had 8 teams – made up of both students and their families.  
The black team and the light blue team met in the championship game, where the light blue team, “Los Sky Blue” won in penalties.

At the end of the tournament, we also had a chance to celebrate all of our scholars and tutoring students.  We recognized all of their hard work with a certificate noting excellence in one or all of the four categories measured by our Battle Star Chart – Grades, Behavior, Community Service and Attendance.  


We also selected two overall winners in each neighborhood.  These girls had the highest overall total of stars on the chart, plus excellence in all 4 categories.  Congratulations to two of our youngest scholars, 12 year old Briggitte from Guasmo and 13 year old Arelisa from Flor de Bastión.  (Fun fact: Arelisa is a repeat winner in Flor and last year Briggitte’s older brother Steve won in Guasmo!)  


¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

In Ecuador, it is tradition to celebrate the New Year by burning an “Año Viejo” to get rid of all the bad from last year and move into the new year with positivity.  An año viejo can take many forms – often times it is a representation of something (good or bad) that was important in the last year.  In Guasmo, our students made Spongebob Squarepants.

In Flor, they made a star to represent Starfish.

In addition, we had an año viejo representation Kung Fu Panda and Sully from Monsters, Inc. made by some of the families…

…and Cristhian “Chucho” Benitez made by the “professionals” in the center of the city.  Chucho, a professional soccer player for the Ecuadorian national team passed away this past summer unexpectedly.  He was a fan favorite and missed by all.  Here are students pay tribute to him with these awesome pictures!

May your year also be filled with positivity, and many blessings.
Happy New Year!

Las Olimpiadas – Starfish Olympics, by Genesis

The winning team with their medals!

A few months ago, one of our Starfish scholars, Genesis, approached me with the idea of doing “Starfish Olympics”.  You see, here in Ecuador all schools hold Olympics each year where students participate in many field day-like activities, almost always ending in a soccer tournament between all the classes.  Genesis thought it might be a good idea to have Starfish Olympics as one of our Integration activities between our 2 neighborhoods, Guasmo and Flor de Bastión.  And she sure was right, the first ever Starfish Olympics was blast!  Here’s Genesis’ version below:

Genesis and the rest of the yellow team!

“Olimpiadas was great because there was integration and fellowship amongst the kids from Guasmo and Flor de Bastión.  For me, the best was that we got to play and that the teams were made up of students from each sector of the Foundation.  The best was that there were boys and girls that I know on my team.  That was good.  Also I got stepped on while playing and then I couldn’t play anymore.  Even though my team lost, it was awesome and fun.  It was great to spend the day with everyone from The Starfish Foundation.  I hope to see all my friends from Flor de Bastión soon.  I liked watching my friends play, and screaming for them to win!”

Sack Race!

Cheering on the rest of the teams!

Wheelbarrow race!
Break from the races to play some games 🙂

And let the soccer begin!

The Championship game (that ended in a Penalty shoot-out, so much suspense!)

Bueno, las Olimpiadas fue excelente porque hubo integración y compañerismo entre los chicos del Guasmo y los de la Flor de Bastión.  Para mí lo mejor fue que jugamos y que los equipos estaban compuestos de ambos grupos de integrantes de la fundación.  Lo mejor fue que me equipo tocaron chicos y chicas que conozco.  Eso es lo bueno.  Pues también porque al jugar me pisaron pero bueno no jugué más.  Aunque mi equipo perdió fue vacan y divertido.  Fue vacan al pasar un día con todos los chicos de la Funación Estrellitas del Mar.  Espero ver de nuevo a mis amigos de la Flor de Bastión.  Me gustó ver jugar a mis compañeros y gritar para que ganen!

Oh and…check out our new snazzy sign!