Benefit Dinner: Celebrating 5 Years of Starfish!

The Starfish Benefit Dinner was a phenomenal success! Everyone here at Starfish thanks everyone who was involved – whether you attended the dinner, bid on an auction item, sponsored a scholar, donated an auction item, or helped us out behind the scenes, we most definitely couldn’t have done this without all our amazing supporters. We hope everyone had as much fun celebrating the fifth birthday of The Starfish Foundation as we did.

benefit dinner 2

The Benefit Dinner took place at St. Joseph’s Church in Cockeysville, Maryland on Saturday April 29th. All our “star” guests enjoyed live music, a delicious Ecuadorian dinner, and a chance to celebrate five years of Starfish with other friends, volunteers, supporters, and staff. When not dancing or bidding on the silent auction items, guests also got to hear from a few of our current Starfish Scholars about their dreams for the future and from experienced volunteers who shared their Starfish experience.

benefit dinnerBesides being loads of fun, Saturday evening was a huge success!
• Over $10,500 was raised on Saturday evening
• $67,500 total was raised from the dinner and silent auction.
• We had 146 attendees, plus the presence of one “star fish,” (that’s me!)
• Almost 150 auction items were sold!

If you missed the festivities, you can watch one of our scholar videos here

Thank you again!
See you next year!!
Henry

Happy Holidays / Felices Fiestas

To all our Starfish friends and supporters:

As our year comes to a close, we are thankful we get to celebrate some of our favorite holidays! As you may have read in our previous posts, December is a big month in Ecuador. Some families spend the entire month decorating with lights, drinking hot chocolate and baking Pan de Pascua, playing with sparklers and enjoying the company of their loved ones.

As the holidays approach, we hope you take the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy yourself a little more than usual! Relax, unwind and take a little break. Make sure your holidays are filled with peace, good health, happiness and love!

15590376_1815390675405234_3360454205041160829_nWe know this winter is off to a chilly start, so may we recommend a steaming cup of Ecuador’s traditional “chocolate caliente”? Everyone makes it differently, so here is one of our favorites.

You’ll need:

• 1 liter whole milk
• 5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3 oz. dark chocolate, grated
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 cup strong coffee (may be omitted)
• Sugar, to taste

  1. Place whole milk in a heavy saucepan with a stick of cinnamon, and bring to just below the boiling point.
  2. Whisk in the five tablespoons of cocoa, the grated dark chocolate, and the coffee. Combine well and whisk until frothy.
  3. Serve in warm mugs with sugar on the side, one teaspoon or more to taste.

(Recipe courtesy of Lala)

Keep warm!!

And as 2017 dawns, may the magic and the wonder of the holiday season stay with you throughout the coming year.

From the Starfish family to yours, thank you for your support and loyalty this year. We hope you have happy and safe holidays and a peaceful, blessed New Year!

All my best,
Henry

24916-6-tarjeta-de-felices-fiestas-y-paz

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

Redefining Happiness Part 2: A Thank You

Hello again! Remember my good friend Katie Malone from last week who shared her volunteer experience in Ecuador? This week, she has some thank-yous to share and some final reflections on the infectiousness of happiness. Thanks for reading!

-Henry

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It is so difficult to put in to words what kind of an impact these wonderful people have made in my life, but I will do my best:

I thank my host family for allowing me in to their home, taking care of me when I was sick (homemade chicken noodle soup cures upset stomachs and hearts), giving me oil to rub on itchy bug bites, showing me how to flush their toilet, washing my clothes, feeding me until I couldn’t eat another bite, and simply being my Ecuadorian family.

Thank you for allowing me to witness your kindness, happiness, laughter, and joy of being together as a family. It made the pessimistic things that mattered in my life back in Ohio seem so, so small. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on the world and showing me what is most important in life.

Also, thank you to the patient, fun, kind, and compassionate workers at Starfish! You were so understanding while trying to comprehend my pre-kindergarten level Spanish and when giving me anything I needed for the English classes I taught. You included me in your daily routine and made sure students who had English homework felt comfortable enough to ask me (or get one of you to ask me) for help.

Lastly, thank you to all of the students who completed my English classes and worked diligently to complete homework assignments, practice the ABC’s, and participate in my review games as if they were fútbol games in the Copa América. You have inspired me to become a better teacher through your dedication and motivation as students and as members of your community and families. Most of you have already gone through more difficult situations and have endured more hardships than I could even imagine. In a way, you are all role models because you continue to learn and thrive, in spite of the negativity in your lives. I thank you so much for pushing me to be a better educator for my future students.

Happiness pulses through each one of you. It is more infectious than any mosquito, spider, cockroach, or other bug we Americans are afraid of.

I thank you for making me a more adventurous, confident, and loving person.

Most importantly, I thank you for being happy.

Thank you for a successful #GivingTuesday 2014!

We owe a huge THANK YOU to all of you for your support this past #GivingTuesday!

For those who are wondering, Giving Tuesday is the non-profit world’s answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (this year December 2nd) – charities, families, business, community centers, and students across the world came together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give!

According to the United Nations Foundation (one of the co-founders of the Giving Tuesday movement) more than 26,000 partners participated this year with civic initiatives, fundraising campaigns and volunteer work.

Starfish has participated for the past 3 years, since the start of this initiative.  This year we participated by hosting happy hours and dinner events across the U.S.!  16 Starfish volunteers & supporters in MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD and NE combined to host a total of 10 events.  Friend of Starfish organized happy hours, dinner events and more while promoting Starfish to their friends, co-workers, neighborhoods and community in hopes of spreading awareness and raising funds for Starfish – and they sure were successful!

We are excited to announce that so far a total of $4,072.15 has been raised from these events and other supporters on Giving Tuesday.  In the coming weeks we will have a final tally to share with you.

If you still want to join in on the fun, you have one last chance – tomorrow – Friday, December 12 from 7-10pm at the Gin Mill on 81st & Amsterdam in Manhattan!

Thank you!!!

 

An Evening for the Stars…CT style!

Beth & Jenn with former Starfish volunteer and photographer for the night, Maria!
A few weeks ago, we held another successful, “Evening for the Stars,” this time in Windsor Locks, CT.  For the third time now, friends of Starfish gathered together for a night of good food, great company and a chance to learn a little bit more about our programs.  
Delicious buffet dinner
The night started off with some social time to browse the silent auction items and participate in a 50-50 raffle.  This year’s auction not only featured several items from Ecuador, but also many local products.  In total there were over 35 items up for auction!
Auction Items from Ecuador!
Once all of our guests had arrived, we sat down for a delicious meal of rice, beans, enchiladas, chicken & more.  We shared with our guests about the need for Starfish and shared some of videos of our students. 
Guests Nadia, Joe, Matt, Rachel, Liz, Alyssa, Jenn & Jeff
As dinner was winding down, we had one last call for the silent auction before our keynote speaker, Don Awalt, gave a heartwarming and thought-provoking reflection on his recent trip to visit Starfish in Guayaquil.
Don during his reflection

All in all, it was a great night to share with friends, and a very successful fundraiser.  Between ticket sales, auction, raffle and general donations including those received from friends who could not attend, we raised 10% of our total budget for the entire year in just one night!

Guests Gabi, Julie, Shane, Nicole & Marcus

See our newsletter for official numbers, and if you don’t already receive it, don’t forget to sign up!

This night would not have been possible without the dedicated help and organization of many volunteers like those pictured below.  Thank you, gracias, from the bottom of our hearts!

   

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Starfish!

Without Starfish, finishing high school is only a dream for many of our students.  High costs and other necessities often create the sad reality that education just cannot be a priority.  But our students know that the way to break that cycle is to finish their studies.  This Thanksgiving, help us help them make their dreams come true.  Making a donation to our campaign is easy, just click here!
While we all celebrate with our families today, we suggest spreading that gratitude by donating the amount you would spend on a Thanksgiving pie.  Any amount makes a difference!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Starfish!

This past Saturday, November 9th, Starfish celebrated it’s 2nd birthday!  We are so thankful for all the support we’ve received over the past 2 years, and so excited for what is to come.  Check out our most recent newsletter for a look back on what we’ve accomplished over the past two years:
 http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a57e17f39addec163f1de7ff8&id=b26d3f3bd0&e=1174b54840

And don’t forget about our current campaign.  This year for #GivingTuesday our goal is to raise $2000 to kick-off our fundraising for the 2014 school year.  Giving Tuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Starfish is honored to participate for the second year in a row, and we hope to count on YOU for support!  Share this campaign with your friends today!

Our scholars thank you for all that you do!!