Thursday, December 20, 2012

Communicate Good with Beth Awalt!

Starfish co-founder Beth Awalt was recently featured in an interview with "Communicate Good" Thanks to Rich and Miriam for composing the interview!

Check out the interview with Beth here:
Talking Good with Beth Awalt

...and make sure to "like" it on facebook and share it with your friends.  Thanks to Communicate Good for giving a voice to great causes!

Beth with Starfish Scholar Maria during a visit to Maria's home in June 2012.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Congratulations Dayanna!

At Dayanna's "Colegio" (High School) she was invited to be part of a special class filled with all scholarship students from various foundations.  These students, as some of the brightest in their grade, have been given the opportunity to participate in "Practicas" or mini internships/practicals in the various subjects throughout the school year.  Although these classes have an extra cost, it is evident in Dayanna's work ethic and her grades that these classes are worth the extra effort.  Dayanna was even 1 of 3 students in this course to get a special certificate for her business practical for her excellent completion of the project.  Congratulations Dayanna!

Dayanna giving a presentation about youth rights at our November monthly meeting!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scholars who lead by example!

These past 2 weeks I was "out of the office" as I traveled home for Thanksgiving.  While gone, Starfish scholars assumed leadership responsibilities to make sure our programming could continue.  Students each from the morning session and afternoon session were put in charge of snack, cleaning, attendance, behavior and keep tracking of the "estrellitas" or stars earned by each student.   Check out our new "Battle Star" rewards chart to see the different kinds of stars our scholars have earned for their excellent participation in our programs!

Pictured above is the Battle Star chart for Guasmo.  We are so proud of our scholars and their efforts!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today on Thanksgiving 2 Starfish Scholars share what they are most thankful for - their studies!

Geovanny shows us how studious he is with his drawing, "Agradezco al estudio" - I am thankful for my studies!

Jerson is excited about his studies, "Viva el estudio, gracias por el estudio"  - Thanks for my studies!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Inspiring Messages from our Scholars!

Today 3 Starfish scholars have some important messages to share with us through their drawings!

Steve says "yes" to sports and "no" to drugs with his drawing of WWE fighters getting ready for a fight.  He also shares with us his love for learning English!

"Sí al deporte, no a las drogas"

Andrés reminds us the importance of always having good communication.

"Siempre comunicativo"

Anthony shows us his love for sports, especially soccer!

"Viva el deporte"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanks for helping me in the best moments of my life!

Today Starfish scholar Pamela shares with us her gratitude for being a Starfish scholar, as well as her hopes for the future!

Hola me llamo Pamela.  Me da gusto, alegría y emoción conocer a gente que le gusta ayudar a jóvenes, niños y adolescentes. No puedo explicar con palabras pero sí les digo que estoy agradecida por todo lo que han hecho con cada uno de los becados.  Yo cuando este en la Universidad, quiero trabajar como ustedes, ayudar y trabajar en alegria y armonia todo el trabajo y emoción de esta fundación.

Cada día que pase, estoy muy contenta.  Me alegro mas de la cuenta por que sé que hay personas que me quieren y me ayudan en los mejores momentos de mi vida.  Le digo lo que siento por Estrellitas del Mar.  Gracias x todo.  Gracias!   Att: Pamela Rodriguez

Hi my name is Pamela.  I'm happy, joyful and excited to know people like you who like to help young people, children and adolescents.  I can't explain it in words, but I can tell you that I am grateful for all you have done for each of the scholarship students.  When I am in college I want to do work like you all - I want to help and work with happiness and harmony just like all the work and excitement that is this foundation.

With each passing day, I am very happy.  It makes me even more happy because I know that there are people who love me and help me in the best moments of my life.  I'm just telling you want I feel for Starfish.  Thanks for everything.  Thank you! From, Pamela Rodriguez

Pamela, (above in white shirt), relaxing at the end of homework help with some of her Starfish friends!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños Isa!

Today is Starfish co-founder Beth's birthday! (Beth goes by Isa in Ecuador).  We hope you have a great birthday and thank you for your commitment to a brighter future for our Starfish scholars!!!

Maria, Taylor, Ashley, Steve and Jenn with their birthday cards!

Jenn and Anabel are Barcelona fans, but because it's her birthday we love Beth even though she's an Emelec fan!

Marlon, Jenn, Anabel and William with their birthday cards!

Friday, October 5, 2012

My backpack weighs more than I do!

Check out this video from an Ecuadorian television station about the crazy list of supplies many Ecuadorian schools require!  The "No-ticias" program from Gama TV is known for purposefully "mis-informing" and making parodies of the news.

This particular video is extremely relevant to Starfish as it makes fun of the lists of supplies that students in Ecuador are required to buy at the start of each school year.  I for one can attest that I was never required to buy half the amount of supplies for school that Ecuadorian students are required to buy...factor in the difference in average salaries and we are talking about an impossible amount of money for many families to afford.

I am learning this year that the best students who are elected leaders of their classes are often required to purchase things such as music speakers and other expensive things explained in this song.  Another interesting fact - students take regular public buses to school, meaning they also pay a bus fare as opposed to the yellow school buses most of us took through high school!

Starfish scholarships for 2012-2013 represent $216 worth of supplies, while an average monthly salary is about $280!  This parody is done to the tune of a popular song "Una vaina loca" (loosely translated - a crazy nuisance).  Translated lyrics below!

Que hago? Esta está caro                               
Seguro quiere estudiar mijo?                         
Una lista loca la que piden ahora                    
Yo no creo que un niño gaste todo esto en un año escolar
Piden calculadora y hasta computadora
Y mi guagua este año recien va para el prescolar.

What do I do?  This is expensive.
Are you sure you want to study son?
What a crazy list they require now.
I don't believe a kid will use all of this in one school year.
They require a calculator, and even a computer
And my kid is just going to preschool!

Para los ninos empiezen las clases
Y si no tienes plata que haces
En la escuala te sugieren donde tienes que comprar
Me pidieron 4 uniformes
para que no gaste ropa dice los rectores
terno y bano para un paseo que van a hacer.

School is starting for the kids
And if you don't have money, what do you do?
The school suggests when you should buy
They required 4 uniforms
"So you don't waste your clothes" said the directors
suit and bathing suit just for one field trip they're gonna take.

Una vaina la que piden ahora
tanto papel de color le alcanza hasta la Universidad
como 40 carpetas
frijol, fideos, lentejas
debe ser para arte porque lonche ya me hicieron pagar.

What a crazy nuisance they require
So much colored paper it'll last until college
Like 40 folders,
Beans, noodles and lentils
It must be for art class because they already made me pay for snack!

Oigame porque me piden la computadora
si mi hijo no sabe leer senora
eso le dije yo a la profesora
si no te gusta buscate otro colegio ahora.

Listen, why do you ask me for a computer
If my son can't even read miss?
I said this to the teacher
"Well if you don't like it, find yourself another school now"

La mochila esta full
pesa mas que me hijo el Raul
y ahora que hago hay que cancelar 3 meses de bus escolar.

The backpack is full, 
It weighs more than my son Raul
And now how am I going to pay for 3 months of the school bus?

Pura vaina loca la que piden ahora
y que al coca barriga el seguro debo comprar
ya quede chiro
prestame don Ramiro
que al medio ano seguro han de querer el aula pintar.

Such a crazy nuisance what they require now,
I'm already broke,
Lend me money Mr. Ramiro
Because halfway through the year I'm sure they're going to want to paint the classroom

Una vaca loca me pidieron ahora
para el dia de professor de donde el billete voy a sacar
que a una gringa loca contrataron ahora
es la teacher de ingles y un bono extra toca pagar.

Now they asked me for a crazy cow for teacher's day
where am I going to get this money?
Now they hired a crazy gringa
She's the English teacher and we have to pay an extra stipend!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mi Colegio by Dayanna.

Dayanna shares with us a little bit about her high school and her experience as a Starfish scholar.

Yo me llamo Dayanna Zuñiga Salas.  Estudio en el Colegio Dr. Juan Modesto Carbo Noboa del curso 4/2.  Soy una señorita aplicada en mis estudios.  Yo con mis amigos (Espinoza, Maldonado, Davis, Yagual) somos muy aplicados.  Mi colegio es de 2 pisos y pide muchas cosas y cosas que son muy cara.  A veces no pido por el temor de perder la beca y despues digo yo mismo "no, si no pido saco 0" y me decido pedirlo.  Gracias por su ayuda!

My name is Dayanna Zuñiga Salas.  I study in the high school "Dr. Juan Modesto Carbo Noboa" and I am section 4/2.  I am a hard-working young lady.  My friends (Espinoza, Maldonado, Davis, Yagual) and I are very attentive to our studies.  My high school is 2 floors and asks for us to buy a lot of our own materials that are very expensive.  Sometimes I don't want to ask for so much because I don't want to lose my scholarship but then I tell myself "No, if I don't ask, I will get a 0" and I decide to ask for it.  Thanks for your help!

**Note** In many high schools, students in their last 3 years of high school are required to do internships and/or practicals for which they are required to supply their own, sometimes very expensive materials.  Dayanna has done practicals "prácticas" so far in accounting, mechanics and chemistry.  Without the help of her scholarship, she would be forced to sit out these classes and receive a 0 for the assignment as she has done in past years.

Dayanna (above, far left in jeans) with her Starfish friends at one of the monthly meetings.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"One Fairfield's alum's fight against poverty in Ecuador..."

Check out the awesome article about The Starfish Foundation in last week's issue of The Fairfield Mirror. Co-founder Jenn Zocco graduated from Fairfield University in 2010, and it's safe to say her Fairfield education played a big part in motivating her to do all that she has done for The Starfish Foundation so far. Starfish is grateful to Kelsey from FU for writing this beautiful article! Be sure to check it out on pages 10-11.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thank you, Emily C. Specchio Foundation!

Co-founders Jenn Zocco and Beth Awalt have been selected as the 2012 Emily C. Specchio Foundation Ambassadors.

We are so appreciative of this opportunity. Throughout the next year, the Emily C. Specchio Foundation will provide Starfish with mentorship, an initial monetary award and a matching grant - totaling up to $8,500 at most! Beth and Jenn are busy putting together speaker's kits and promo videos for upcoming speaking engagements.

To learn more about the program, visit Let any Virginia Tech students know that there are opportunities for them as well! Emily had a great passion for social justice, especially abroad, and we are honored to be chosen to represent her foundation this year.

Make sure to check out the video from A Night with an Angel 2012, featuring many past and present scholarship winners, as well as The Emily C. Specchio Foundation webpage, to learn more about or donate to the organization.

Friday, September 21, 2012

La pasé posi...I had an awesome time!

Today Jerson, a Starfish scholar from Guasmo, shares with us what he liked about Sunday's day of fun where our scholarship students from Flor de Bastión finally got to visit Guasmo!

  • La comida estuvo bueno.
  • El postre también.
  • Decorar las plumas.
  • Jugar con los juegos de mesa.
  • La pasé bien con los chicos y las chicas.
Que se reúnen otra vez con los de Flor de Bastíon.  La pasé posi ayer.  Me gustó la reunión y quiero que se suban las fotos al Facebook!

  • The food was great.
  • The dessert was great too. (*note, Starfish volunteers Ashley and Taylor made rice krispie treats and puppy chow so the kids could try some delicious treats from the U.S.  Thanks!!!)
  • We decorated pens.
  • We played board games.
  • I had fun with the other kids.
I hope we can meet again with the kids from Flor de Bastión.  I had an awesome time yesterday.  I liked the meeting and want to see the pictures on Facebook!

Jerson (above, left) receiving homework help on a drawing assignment!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Starfish Reflection in the Words of a Scholar!

Today Steve had already finished all his homework so our volunteers asked him to spend his time writing about his experience with Starfish to share with all of us!

Lunes, 17 Septiembre

Ayer la pase muy bien con los de la Flor de Bastión.  Se nos cerró una puerta y no podiamos salir por un rato y ahi vinieron y abrieron la puerta y salimos.  La pasamos muy bien con Ashley y Taylor en Estrellitas del Mar.  Me paso haciendo deberes y recibiendo clases de música.  Tengo que estudiar más para el futuro porque de grande quiero ser un policia.  Quiero que sean más reuniones y que nos llevan de paseo para distraernos!

Monday, September 17

Yesterday I had a great time with the other students from Flor de Bastion.  During the meeting a door got locked and we couldn't leave the auditorium for a little bit, but then someone came and opened the door and we could leave.  We have a great time with Ashley and Taylor at The Starfish Foundation.  I do my homework and go to music classes.  I have to keep studying more for the future because when I grow up I want to be a police officer.  I can't wait for more meetings and I hope they bring us on field trips so we can have fun!

Steve (yellow shirt) dancing and having fun at the June Integration Day in Flor de Bastion!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Words from a Starfish Scholar!

Today one of our scholarship students from Guasmo shares with us a little bit about the new homework help program and her experience at her high school!

Miercoles, 29 agosto 2012

Hola, mi nombre es Maria y tengo 13 años .  Les quiero decir que gracias por que nos han ayudado mucho con las tareas de recuperación.  Gracias por la ayuda de Taylor, Ashley y Jenny que han decidido ayudarnos con la tarea después de habernos ayudado Martin y Michael con la tarea de fotografía.  Yo en mi colegio la paso bien por que estoy con unas de mis mejores amigas como Kenia.  Mis olimpiadas son muy buenas especialmente hoy día miércoles me toca jugar y espero ganar.  Gracias por ayudarnos!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hi my name is Maria and I am 13 years old.  I want to thank you all because you have helped us a lot with our homework and reinforcement in all our classes. Thanks to the help of Taylor, Ashley and Jenny who have decided to help us with our homework after Martin and Michael also helped us with the photography project.  I like my high school because I am with some of my best friends like Kenia.  The Olympics at my school are great too especially today, Wednesday because it’s my turn to play and I hope to win.  Thanks for helping us!

Maria (black-and-white top) and her friends at the June Starfish Scholars meeting.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Taking a brave step, thanks to HOBY.

My biggest motivation as a HOBY Ambassador in 2004 was the keynote speech from Sandy Queen. Sandy's message centers around a song by Jana Stanfield - "What step would I take today if I were brave?" As I sat there in the auditorium, I knew that I had to take a big step. I can be courageous. I can make a difference. ...but how? That question remained to be answered.

After my year of volunteer service in Ecuador, I was asking myself many questions. The original question that Dr. Albert Schweitzer asked Hugh O'Brian was, "What are you going to do about it?" What am I going to do about the poverty I know exists? What am I going to do about the lack of opportunity for jobs, education, and food? After just a few weeks back in the U.S., inspired by many people at HOBY and Villanova, my friend Jenn and I took a big step. We started The Starfish Foundation, Inc.

Just about a year after my return to the U.S., I spoke at HOBY's World Leadership Congress (WLC) in Chicago to share the impact that HOBY has had on my life. Truth, I've been involved in numerous adventures that led me to where I am today. But more importantly -- I was finally able to answer Sandy Queen's question.

I wanted to blog just a bit about speaking at WLC for a few reasons. HOBY is very important to me, and many HOBY alum have been so supportive to Jenn and I in this endeavor. The Ambassadors at WLC were an incredible audience - mainly because many of them have also started non-profit organizations! I feel confident in saying that many of these students are going to take VERY brave steps in the next few years. 

Here are some pictures from my time in Chicago! Thanks to Angie U. for taking them :)

About to speak alongside LTC Brian Yee, HOBY MD 1986, and Laura Limarzi, HOBY Canada and WLC 2011, about keeping the HOBY spirit alive.

Explaining the millions of thoughts running through my head as a high-school sophomore in 2004.

Reiterating that ever-important question: what was I going to do about all the poverty that I knew existed?

Sharing the story of The Starfish Foundation, Inc.!

--Beth Awalt, Co-founder of The Starfish Foundation, Inc.,
HOBY Maryland and Central PA Volunteer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The most fun yet...

I was wrong last time because today was the most fun I have had in Guasmo. When we arrived at Mi Cometa, we went upstairs and most of the kids were there already. We saw that Solange had brought a basketball so we immediately started dribbling. We went all the way on the roof and were dribbling up there. Anthony and Andres wanted it to be them two against me just trying to steal the ball from me. It was really fun keeping it away from them, but also challenging too. The girls started taking pictures of us playing and finally they all said they wanted to go to a park where they have basketball courts. Martin and I agreed without hesitation because basketball is our favorite sport. 

The park took a while to get there but it was an amazing park. They had giant slides, high monkey bars, rings, a chain to climb, soccer field, jet, train, basketball court, stage and see-saws. We had so much fun at the park with the kids. We took pictures of all the activities we were doing played some games that the kids made up. We played a 5 on 5 basketball game that the kids seemed to love. The kids did really well they all had their own talents that were good for playing. Joel is an all around athlete and excels in every sport he plays. He is really quick and learns things fast. Andres and Anthony were doing really good at shooting the ball. Solange was able to dribble and pass the ball well and Maria was very aggressive it surprised us. Esteve was all over the place so when we played it was a good match up. We took more photos of the kids on the jet plane and on the train. 

In the afternoon, William, Marlon, Bebzebeth, Dianna, Eric and Carlos came. We all were upstairs and we asked them what they wanted to do. They said they wanted to go to the park we went to earlier to check it out. We didn’t do as much stuff but still had a blast playing basketball. It was Martin and William versus Marlon, Eric and I. The girls were just going around taking pictures of each other posing for them. They got very into taking pictures so fast and the quality of their photos keeps increasing. The thing that I think is most important is to have a variety of pictures, but not just in numbers; by making sure they take pictures different ways from different angles. We just want them to be creative and express themselves. 

--July 23, 2012

We left early to Mi Cometa today. It was a great success this morning because we were able to get there only taking two buses. When we got there Betzabeth called Martin and so we went to walk her from her house. We played some of the games upstairs until Maria and Esteve had to leave at 11. The kids have gotten pretty good at Uno and know the tricks to the game. I don’t think I will ever be able to play Uno again without thinking of all the amazing kids here. They have truly impacted my life for the better. 

It was only Genesis and Betzabeth left at Mi Cometa with us so we went to grab some food. We went to this sit down little restaurant that Martin and I had been to before. Martin and I shared a plate and the girls shared a plate. The food was really good! Betzabeth kept telling me I was very bad for not eating the soup, but I didn’t care for it much. 

When we got back to Mi Cometa we were showing the girls some magic tricks. Martin started off with the cards and doing a few card tricks and then I started doing a trick with paper. I hold the paper to my thumb for a while so it stays then eventually I pretend to suck it into my mouth, but what really happens is that I put my thumb back so it isn’t visible. I finish the trick by coughing and pretending to catch the paper in my hand. The girls were so amazed by my trick it was so cool to see the looks on their faces.

--July 30, 2012

Michael, Ryan and Martin with Guasmo Starfish Scholars!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Continuing the Photo Projects

Today was a very interesting day. Walking outside the gate from our friends house I realized with Martin how I used to waste dimes like they weren’t any value at all. Don’t get me wrong- I used to collect coins, but I would also see one on the floor and just kick it or throw it. I never could have imagined someone else desperately needing that money to get to work or to school. It is just way different. 

We took the 2 bus all the way to Flor de Bastion and then took a motor taxi up to the houses. We got there a little early so we just hung out discussing what we should do today. Lily and Christian were the first to arrive and they were so excited to see us. We showed them the new Uno spin game so they could read the instructions and explain to all the other kids for us. I asked Lily how she had done on our test and she said she got 18/20. We started to play the new Uno game while everyone else was getting there. 

We asked if anyone wanted to take photos and Arelisa was the first to start. She had gone back inside for a while and me and Christian were playing when I realized that Martin and Argenisis were taking pictures. I grabbed Christian and took him with me to go find them. It was a good thing I did because that is when they both fed off each other’s energies and were really excited. While I watched them take photos I asked Martin if we should be taking pictures of them using cameras for the first time. We agreed that it would be a good idea and people would like to see the excitement in their faces. 

--July  17, 2012

It was probably the most fun I have had at Mi Cometa today. When we got there no kids were waiting for us so I was thinking that the kids weren’t coming again today. Martin started calling the families and Esteve was the first to show up. I was glad he showed up because he started helping Martin with calling all the other kids. They worked together and got through pretty much everyone. 

We let Joel, Marlon and Melany roam free to take pictures. The kids seemed to like the project and were very energetic. We even had them doing some poses in a circle and I took the photo of them to show them examples of being out of the ordinary with pictures. They definitely got the idea so I hope they will be able to excel in the program. Martin took a picture of Dianna with her friends because she lives so far it is hard for her to get to Mi Cometa. The girls and Geovanny showed up after so we were playing with all the kids. We gave Dianna one of the disposable cameras and told her to take around 15 pictures. We played soccer with the kids, taught the girls games and were all hanging out having an awesome time. This was the best time at Mi Cometa so far- it was great. 

--July  18, 2012

Today when we got to Flor de Bastion, Martin gave Samantha a camera so she could take some pictures of the kids and family. She took a lot of photos of the new born baby and the younger girls. While she did that we met Christian’s mom for the first time. She was very nice, inviting us into her home like if we were family. 

Martin, Lily, and Christian were all thinking of ideas to put on small pieces of paper so we could all play charades. We filled up a whole bowl of papers front and back. Martin explained to the kids and parents how to play and he went first. Everyone understood the game after Martin went with the occasional reminder that you can’t talk. Samantha has picked “Godzilla” but she wasn’t sure what it was so acted something else out. She asked me what it was after so I did my best to explain to her. I asked if she knew what a lizard was but she didn’t understand me so I started acting it out a little. Finally I said a dragon and she understood that so I kept going with it. I just said to her in Spanish a green dragon but with no wings. The whole family participated in playing and mostly everyone acted. The family had a lot of fun playing charades with us I was glad. 

Afterwards we went outside and we were playing volleyball with Christian’s soccer ball. Eventually a bunch of the local kids just walked up so we asked all of them if they wanted to play. We had a whole game going with about six players just keeping the ball up. All the kids had a lot of fun and the girls got some pretty good pictures of us. After a while of playing volleyball, Christian called us to his aunt’s house where his mother and aunt had made us some food. They gave us a mountain of rice that filled me up so much. The food was really good and we appreciated them cooking for us. They had just got a new motorcycle so we took pictures of the kids on the motorcycle. We had to leave after taking a few more photos and bid everyone a farewell.
 --July  19, 2012

Martin with some Starfish Scholars in Guasmo.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Photo Project in Guasmo: Day 1

Today we had to wake up really early because we had to get to Mi Cometa by 9 a.m. When we got there 4 kids were upstairs working on their homework. We asked if they needed any help with the homework, but they all said they knew how to do it. Maria was done with her homework already so Martin gave her the camera and let her roam free while he created a guideline list of what they could take pictures of. We had a list of 15 things and were able to get the kids really interested in the camera. 

When all the kids finished we went to the roof and took pictures of stuff there.  We told the kids to use their imagination and take whatever type of photos they wanted. We took some silly photos, too. The kids got really creative! Then we went down the street. Esteve took a really good photo of a tree that might have been my favorite photo of the day. They also took photos of caterpillars, hearts, shoes, the street, and of the organization. 

After we were done in the streets we went up to the roof and the kids wanted to play the ninja game again. Then they taught us some of the games that the kids play. It was interesting to learn the games that the children play. One we had to slap hands then the person it ended on called out a person and they would have to try to step on someones foot and if they missed the person they went after calls out another name. The other game was like hot potato playing with a scrunchie and someone else behind calling out something. The only difference was that if you do get caught with the scrunchie then you have to do a dare. I had lost so they took a picture of me acting like a monkey. 

After we took a lot of photos and played games we went back downstairs and worked on a puzzle with the kids. We had started the puzzle when the kids had to go back to get ready for school. We sent them off then went to go eat because we had time to kill before the other kids were going to get there. We waited and waited and waited but no other kids showed up. Finally toward the end of the time we had Martin called Genesis to come to the building. We explained to her the functions of our disposable camera and sent her on a mission to take at least 10 photos using her imagination. With that we asked if she had any work, but she said she didn’t so we dismissed her. We learned from the experience because in Flor de Bastion usually the kids show up without having to tell them, but here in Guasmo we would have to send out reminders to the families. 

Michael with some Starfish Scholars from Guasmo.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Introducing the Photo Project in Flor

Today we were working in Flor de Bastion. When we arrived at the house we took down all the chairs and tables. All the children came down and we set up the chairs in a circle so no one would feel left out. Martin then had them write their names down and asked if they had any questions for me. He then explained the photo project to the kids as best he could and I think they understand. 

We then broke the kids up into groups to brainstorm ideas for what to do and not to do with the cameras. The kids had a harder time coming up with ideas then the kids at Mi Cometa. I think it may have been the way Martin explained it or because the kids at Mi Cometa have a much larger group. We added stuff to the group we were helping, giving them ideas so they could get moving with other ideas. The group was definitely not as rowdy as the Mi Cometa group. We came together to share our notes and all the kids spoke, behaved well, and listened. 

The whole time we were split into groups Lily was using the camera to take pictures of everything that was happening. We finished explaining the photo project and had the kids make a pledge to take care of the cameras. I then got out the crackers and peanut butter and right away some of the girls knew what it was. Only Evelyn and Argenis preferred the crackers without the peanut butter, the rest of the kids seemed to love it. We then played the ninja game with the kids, I think they understood the game well because Martin was one of the first out. We then played a game where we had our hands on the table and one slap meant keep going the same direction, while two slaps reverses the flow. It took a while, but the kids understood. After that we played some Uno with all the kids and Melina won way before everyone else, she keeps winning it is ridiculous. The kids were packing up to leave already so we put the tables and chairs away. 

Lily’s mom then invited us in to eat some rice with lentils and tomatoes. She had already served us so I couldn’t say no to her, especially since they don’t have much. It was heartwarming to see someone with so little offer you things out of the kindness of your heart. I was very humbled by the mother. I normally can’t stand the taste of tomatoes, but for the first time I ate a full cut up tomato. Lily had a test the next day so we asked her if she needed help studying. We helped her a little with her math and English. These students are so engaged in learning that they are willing to learn a new language instead of just relaxing at home. I don’t know many kids these days that even do their homework, let alone go off by themselves to work on other things.

Martin and Michael in Flor de Bastion.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meetings galore! from Michael & Martin


It was our first day back in Guayaquil after a trip to Quito and I needed a haircut. The unique thing about the haircut was the lady that cut my hair came to the house we are staying at. It was a different experience getting my haircut where I am staying; it shows me how different our cultures can be. After we were ready we went to Mi Cometa for a meeting with the kids. The meeting was to introduce the photography project to the kids. My mother came with us so that she could explain the project to the kids. Arriving at Mi Cometa we had to get the keys from Andres to open the upstairs room. The kids arrived around 1:30 and started to come in one by one. Martin went with a few of the girls to get drinks and snacks while my mom and I waited for the rest of the kids to get there. Finally, pretty much everyone showed up and we were able to begin. We started the meeting with a name game where we had to say our name then followed by our favorite fruit. I couldn’t think of anything so I just said “Melon”.  Then Martin asked the kids if they had any questions for my mother or I. They had asked our favorite color, what I study, and where I go to school. We started the meeting by telling them about the cameras. We explained the two types of cameras and how they work. We then explained the type of work we were going to be doing with the camera and followed up with the main goal of the project. We then broke off into groups to make a list of rules for the camera. We sort of made it into a contest making it girls versus boys. We sat at the boys circle and they were saying some pretty crazy stuff that would make all of us laugh. One of the boys said, “Don’t take the camera into the bathroom”, which was pretty much implied but I told them they could write it just in case. We finished with that little game and then shared our rules with the whole group. Most of the girls answers were nice and a few basic rules. They said things like, “take pictures of flowers, people, and other beautiful things”. The boys were more focused on the actual rules of the cameras; it was interesting to see the comparison in the thinking of the kids. We then passed out snacks for the kids and while I did that Martin had the kids take a picture, with the digital camera, of the person to the right of them. My mom demonstrated first and the kids learned quickly.  Our meeting was pretty much done after that so we did a few icebreakers. We played the “Cow” and “Ninja” game. The Cow game went by pretty fast because it is a trick that is played on one of the kids. During the game I had to take one of the kids outside so my mom could explain they were playing a trick on him. I took Geovanny to the roof and was able to have a conversation with him. I found out that he plays volleyball and soccer. I told him one of the days I come I will play with him. I also asked if he has a girlfriend, but he said no. Then I said, “Tienes dos novias?” he laughed at me and agreed. I was glad I was able to connect with one of the kids because during the meeting I felt so distant because I wasn’t speaking much.  The Ninja game took a little longer, but the kids really enjoyed it. I was one of the winners along with Andres. We then told the kids the schedule for us being able to work with them and had them all write it down. We closed the meeting and the kids roamed free for a while. Some of the girls asked me what my favorite type of music was and I told them I didn’t really have a favorite type. Then a little later two of the girls wanted to take a picture with me so I gladly agreed to. Then, Geovanny came running in so we took a group photo it was pretty cool. I had to bend down a lot though because I tower over all the kids. All in all it was a great day and the kids were super excited to meet us. I look forward to working with all these kids for the next few weeks.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Michael & Martin - day four

Today we were working again in Flor de Bastion. We went straight to the piece of land where we set up and are allowed to play with the kids. Today Martin brought some English books so the kids could get a look at them. Christian, Samantha, and a few more kids were already there while we set up some tables. We played a couple of games of Uno that took forever for us to finish. More kids started to show up as we played and they just jumped in to join the game. After a while Christian, Martin and I started to play soccer with Christian's little cousin. Everyone pretty much started doing their own thing at that point. Samantha joined us so we started playing volleyball with everyone, even one of the other girls, Ana, jumped in to play with us. We were having a blast then we all sat down and the kids were talking to me. They asked me questions about how to say things in English, and then they asked if I could sing for them. I wasn’t prepared to sing anything so I got kind of embarrassed. The kids started chanting, but usually when I am asked to sing I forget all the songs that I know. I told Christian that if he went first I would follow. Christian didn’t end up singing, but one of the older guys named Jordan sang and he sings really well. The girls sang next and at that point we were all just hanging out. Then they asked if we could dance and what type of music we liked to dance to. Samantha offered to dance with me, but it was getting late and we had to pack up so we promised them to do it next week. These are all such great kids that were put into difficult situations but if they keep on the path they are on they should have no problem becoming what they aspire to be. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday / Feliz Cumpleanos to all the Starfish Scholars with birthdays in June and July!

Another performance from Integration Day!

Three Guasmo ladies (Dayanna, Karaoyln and Maria) prepared this song to sing for the party in a matter of minutes! Don't they have beautiful voices?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Michael & Martin visit Flor de Bastion!

Today was our first day in Flor de la Bastion. First, the whole family went to the apartment that Martin and I are staying in. We got a ride to Flor de Bastion.  He dropped us off where the motor taxis are and we were able to take that most of the way to where the scholars are. The cost of the motor taxi was only a quarter each, which I thought was awesome. When we arrived to the houses the kids were overjoyed to see Martin and meet our family. We were invited inside by Samantha’s aunt; she offered us watermelon and something to drink. The house was not built to the same standards I am used to. It didn’t have a roof or shower, but did have a little fridge and stove in the living room, cardboard for cover, and one bed. This reminded me of all that I should be thankful for. Although these people live in small homes and don't have much money, but they find a way to be happy, thrive, and prosper. We rounded up all the kids then went to the place where we are able to play with them since it is a weekend and they didn’t have school. I may not know the language, but there is a universal language that worked to my advantage: playing. My brothers and I were kicking the ball around with Christian while my mom showed the rest of the kids how to play the games we brought. We took Connect 4 and Uno with us to give to the kids.  They loved the games and by the end of the day they were already proficient in playing both games. They were all shouting with my mom “Comé! Comé! Comé!” when they had to pick up cards from the deck. It reminded me of what we used to do as kids which was heartwarming. I can’t wait to see the kids again! The mother of Lily lives across from the lot we were using so she invited us inside to eat, but I didn’t want to impose. We had already had a close relationship with Lily, her mother and Christian because they were there when we landed to see Martin. They made us feel at home and gave what they had to feed us. Only my mother, father and brother ate because I truly wasn’t that hungry at the time. My family wasn’t going to eat there but the mother insisted and had already prepared the food. She did pour me and my other brother a glass of homemade orange juice which is probably the best I have ever tasted. We said our goodbyes, but they surprised us further by walking us all the way back to the main street to catch the motor taxi. The smallest boy, lily’s little brother, was running to try to beat us but tired himself out so I picked him up and put him on my shoulder. The little rascal then started calling me “Caballo”, which is a horse, and whipped my shoulder to make me go faster so I pretended to trot then he was saying crazy horse. All in all a great day with the kids and I can’t believe how awesome some of these families are. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Interns Michael & Martin continue...


Today we went to Mi Cometa and it took around an hour. On the way Martin showed me the buses we would be taking and we passed by Flor De Bastion. When we arrived to Mi Cometa I wasn’t sure what to expect, but our hosts were always looking out for us. I was a little surprised to see it looked very similar to some of the places I have visited in Mexico. We went inside the establishment and found Janet. Our mom went with us and they made small talk while we got a tour of the building. My mom was quick to make friends with the workers there and they seemed to like my mom. We finally got into the meeting with the parents and a couple of students. The room was bare with no chairs and no air conditioning but I don’t mind the change much because I can adapt to my surroundings very well. Starting the meeting Janet introduced who we are and what we were going to be doing with the organization. I believe they had already met Martin, but I wasn’t sure. Janet introduced me as Martin’s little brother, then my name.  It was really funny to see all the reactions of the parents because they immediately lifted their hands motioning how much taller I am then him. Janet had us grab some chairs to sit down while she began presenting the agenda for the meeting. We started off with an ice breaker which was introducing our names, naming our favorite animals, and having to move like the animals we said. I chose a tiger so got down on all fours and growled, embarrassing myself in front of the parents. I remember Maria was a turtle, my mom was a tortoise, Martin was a lion, Fernando was a horse, but was reluctant to get on all fours so he pretended to ride the horse. We then broke off into couples where we had to describe each of our parents and tell how that has affected the person we are today. I was paired with a woman named Maria. She only spoke Spanish so I had to explain to her I didn’t speak much, but was able to understand most of it, so I thought. I found out later that the woman I was speaking to husband died around 2 years ago; she had two children in the program now and 5 children in all. The oldest is 20 years old, but she described him as not being her son anymore. Another man, Fernando, just lost his job and is taking care of one boy in the program that isn’t his biological son, but he considers the young man to be his son. One of the most heartfelt stories came from a grandmother of the child; I couldn’t understand her but my mom translated it after the meeting. She is an older woman taking care of her grandchild because the parents forgot about the child. She has to go out and find work every day just to provide food on the table; she described the situation as just trying to survive day by day putting bread on the table. These stories touched my heart because I was able to see all the excess I live in. I don’t really ask for much from my parents anymore, but still go out with friends and use more money then I should. I wish I could take back all that I have asked for in my life and put the money to help people in these situations.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Update #1 from Summer Intern Michael

It is my first day in Ecuador. The flight was very long because we had three layovers. We went from LAX to San Salvador then proceeded to Costa Rica. From there we went to Quito, then to Ecuador, and finally one more short flight to Guayaquil. I am so excited to be able to have this opportunity. A year ago I never would have imagined being on a different continent. I am still unsure of what I want to do in the future. Currently, I am a business student at St John’s University. My father told me it was the most practical major because there is business in every aspect of life; this is why I choose Business. I am learning new things while studying in college, but the one thing I never want to let go of is helping others. If I can do one thing in my life it is to make a difference in other people’s lives for the better. Most of the times I prefer to work with kids because they are not at fault for the situations they have been put in, so if they are willing to work hard and strive they should be eligible for the same opportunities other children have. This internship is the perfect opportunity for me to reach out past my boundaries and discover myself while helping people in the process. I am also very nervous for the internship because unfortunately I don’t speak Spanish. I have been around Spanish all my life, most of my family and my parents speak the language fluently but I didn’t learn it. Right now I have a basic understanding of Spanish, I am confident I can understand most of it but I am not that good at speaking it. I feel this will be the greatest challenge for me because without knowing the language I won’t really be able to connect to the kids as much as I want to. Fortunately my brother is fluent in Spanish and he will be able to translate. I am sure at first it will be a challenge but along with these amazing kids my brother has told me so much about we will bypass this obstacle. Since I don’t know Spanish I have been questioning the way I am going to help the program. I am really good at interacting with children so that should work to my advantage. We are also going to implement a Photography program that I am excited for. I believe this is where I can contribute the most because I have been reading up on photography and although I am a beginner I am sure we can get this program off the ground with these kids. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Skit from our Dia de Integracion

After the group finds the money on the ground, they debate what to do with the large prize. In the end, the voice of reason shines: "the man's money fell; we have to return it to him. We have to be in solidarity and honest. We have to continue onwards. Therefore, we WILL return the money."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Day of Integration!

Sunday, June 17: Dia de Integracion - Estrellitas del Mar
We spent our Father's Day 2012 bonding as a whole group. Here's a play-by-play of what we did this day.

Mi Cometa's driver brings the Starfish Scholars from Guasmo to Flor de Bastion. Jenn had the place all decorated! Two friends of ours, Becky and Marita, joined us for this day. The three of us were so excited to see all the work Jenn had done in Guayaquil with Starfish thus far! 

Jenn and I each gave some opening remarks, and then one student each from Flor de Bastion and Guasmo spoke. Check out the videos on Facebook soon to see these speeches!

The students from Flor did a skit about honesty and solidarity. Finding money on the ground ... do you return it to the owner or spend it yourself? What if you are really in need? Starfish Scholars tells us that it's important to be honest and live in solidarity with those who have worked hard for their earnings.

Becky popped one of the flour balloons on our head. Thanks Becks :)

Becky and Marita were pulled to dance by Dayanna and Geovanny!

Lili, Arelisa and Pamela's mom Elena serving the lasagna. Cristhian's mom made the delicious lunch for us!

Becky, Marita, Beth and Jenn! <3 

Making Father's Day cards! Samantha, pictured here, won one of the two prizes.

Dayanna working on her card.

Jenn with some of the supportive family members in Flor de Bastion - Cristhian (in aqua), his sisters and mom (left) and Pamela's mom, Elena (right). We couldn't do it without them!

2012-2013 Starfish Scholars <3 

Jenn gave Samantha her Father's Day card award, and here I am giving Anthony his!

MIL GRACIAS to the four Scholars who have turned in EVERYTHING on time!

As Jenn says, here at Starfish, birthdays are really important to us. Look how many people we sang to for June and July!

Thanks for a great celebration, Jenn! It was so wonderful to meet all these incredible young leaders. <3 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flor de Bastion welcome speech!

Firstly, I want to give thanks to you all for coming, although we have told you welcome. Equally, we thank you for that which we have had, and we give you thanks for giving us the support that you have been able to provide for us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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.