Thursday, July 25, 2013

Congratulations Danny!

Danny was recently elected to his Student Council as one of 2 people to represent each class.  He was elected by his classmates, what an honor - Congrats Danny!

Danny, working hard on a presentation for Social Studies.

"They chose me for Student Council first by calling all the Presidents of all the different classes and all the representatives from each class.  Then they gave us a talk about what our responsibilities would be.  Then all the representatives of each class had to pick 2 students for the Presidency in each class and they picked me and a friend who is the sports representative.  The next day we had a meeting for all those chosen for the student council and the guidance counselor explained that we wouldn't have the power of President or Vice-President, but that we could be representatives for the class."

~Danny Zambrano, Guasmo

Danny and the rest of his Starfish friends - the morning group in Guasmo!

"Me cogieron en el consejo estudiantil de la forma que llamaron a los presidentes de cada curso y a los otros vocales de cada presidente de cada curso.  Luego nos dieron la charla de como deberían ser nuestras responsabilidades.  Después cada undo de los vocales de cada curso deberían de coger dos alumnos de la Presidencia de cada curso y de ahi me cogió a mí y a un amigo que es vocal de deportes.  El siguiente día tuvimos una reunión de los escogidos para el consejo estudiantil y el profesor de orientación dijo que no pudimos tener los cargos de Presidente y Vice-Presidente, solo pudimos ser los vocales."

~Danny Zambrano, Guasmo

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New opportunities, New Hope

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has funded some new schools in some of the most vulnerable areas.  When Cristhian & Eddy found out that their were still a few spots left and that Eddy knew one of the directors, they decided to try their luck at getting two of those spots even though they are already two months into the school year.  Normally this is not allowed in Ecuador.  There are no school districts, so even if you move you're out of luck and probably in for a very long commute for the rest of the year.  Also most families probably would not be able to afford to buy new supplies and uniforms.  Luckily the boys are able to use the same uniform and we were able to help them out with some of the supplies!

Eddy & Cristhian spending time with Starfish volunteer, Andrew!

Today Cristhian & Eddy share with us about their decision and their awesome new high school!

"We changed schools for a better future because at the high school where we were there wasn't any hope for a better future.  The difference now is that our new high school is really big.  There are labs for physics, biology and English.  There are computers for each student in each lab.  There is a cafeteria.  There are 3 soccer fields and they're going to make another grass soccer field.  The teachers are cool.  We have electricity workshops too.  Next week they are going to take us to ElectroGuayas (the electric company) so that we can learn more.  What we learn in this high school is going to help us get ahead and help others!"

~Cristhian and Eddy, Flor de Bastión

*Note* This school is not typical of the schools where our Starfish scholars study, but we are excited about new opportunities in the near future if the government continues these initiatives next year!

UPDATE: Starfish Scholars (& sisters!) Pamela & Lili have also switched to this new school.  We feel very fortunate that our scholars have sought out this great opportunity for a better education!!

Singing partners Jordan & Eddy at June's Integration Day.
"Nos cambiamos de colegio por un mejor futuro porque en el colegio donde estábamos no había esperanza para un mejor futuro.  La diferencia es que el nuevo colegio es grandísimo.  Hay laboratorios para física, biología y ingles.  Hay computadoras para cada alumno en cada laboratorio.  Hay un comedor.  Hay 3 canchas y van a hacer otra cancha de césped.  Los profesores son cheveres.  Hay talleres para electricidad también.  Nos van a llevar a la empresa ElectroGuayas para aprender mas también. Lo que aprendemos en este colegio nos va a ayudar a salir adelante y ayudar a los demás!"

~Cristhian y Eddy, Flor de Bastión

Cristhian with some of his Starfish friends & family.
(L to R: Dulce, Melani, Cristhian, Arelisa, Pamela, Tyrone)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Minga - work day!

Today's Spanish word of the day is "Minga" or something like a "work day" in English.  In Flor de Bastión, our scholars and their families have been busy with many mingas, helping to renovate the space lent to us by Starfish Scholar Kiara's family.

Kiara & Cristhian's dads - working hard along with 2-year Starfish scholar, Cristhian!

First, we had to buy many large sugar cane poles, which were then split into workable pieces to make the walls.  Kiara & Cristhian's dad, along with Cristhian worked tirelessly for several days to put up the walls.  The other students helped when the could at night and on the weekends.  The final step is buying some more tin for the roof.  It really has been a group effort - and something all the students are very invested in since they are really looking forward to an updated space to do homework, socialize, and have fun! 

To help cover the costs, the students are doing a raffle - so far we've raised $96!  In total we will need to raise about $250 - and the students are excited about being able to do this on their own.  They have some more fun & exciting ideas in the works so stay tuned for more updates and photos of the finished product in the coming weeks and months!

Part of the Flor de Bastión Starfish family in their partially renovated space with Jenn & Beth!

The crew, working late into the night to make the space ready for June's Integration Day. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My trip to Ecuador -- and freedom!

Happy Independence Day, to those reading this in the United States! I've been reflecting a lot on freedom, independence and liberty today -- grateful for all of those values we have here, and hoping that one day our brothers and sisters globally who do not have the same freedoms we do, can one day have them.

A few weeks ago, I journeyed to Ecuador to visit Starfish! I spent 4 incredible days with Jenn and the students/families, and have just a few moments to share about with you.

4 Freedoms I Love
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize these are in the U.S. Constitution, and I was in Ecuador. They are still beautiful stories that relate to these freedoms! I hope you enjoy.

1. Freedom to Education

Jenn helps Andres (and Danny!) understand long division.
Obviously, the freedom to study is so core to Starfish. I spent Monday and Tuesday of my trip with the students in "refuerzo," -- aka "tutoring." We have our 28 Starfish Scholars attend homework help twice a week in their respective neighborhood. Additionally, anyone who wants homework help can sign up (if there is still space left) for the tutoring program in their neighborhood. It's been a great way to meet new students, expand our programming, and hopefully recruit more Starfish Scholars for next academic year!

My favorite moment of the hours of tutoring was when Danny, a Starfish volunteer and Villanova friend, asked me how to do long division. In Ecuador, they teach a different method of long division -- so the answer will be the same, but it's quite challenging to teach another style. Luckily, Jenn came to save the day!

2. Freedom of Assembly
Flor de Bastion gathered the Starfish family to sing together! 

Integration Day happens twice a year at Starfish. All of our Starfish Scholars (and, new this year, all of our "tutor-only" students!) are invited to one of the neighborhoods for lunch, a talent show, activities and community-building. I've been blessed to be in Ecuador for the first of the Integration Days for the past two years, and every year I see so many young leaders from different families, backgrounds and demographics come together for a beautiful celebration of hope. We all believe in their future, and we hope with Starfish they will achieve their dreams!

3. Freedom of Speech

The famous skit, written by Valeria (right, brown shirt).
When I think of free speech, I think of little else than the skit performed by the students in Guasmo. Scene: at Integration Day. Yuliana narrates, Marcos is the teacher, and Valeria, Solange, Betsabeth, Joel and many other Guasmo students starred in the skit. Valeria wrote the skit, working through some challenging issues: slacking in school, drugs, alcohol, gangs, family problems and peer pressure. The best part of the skit was the debrief at the end -- when they led a great discussion about how to avoid these problems (especially peer pressure). Audience participation and engagement were high!

4. Freedom to Travel

Valeria, Yuliana, Tyrone, Maricruz, Jasmin, Jenn, me & Marcos.
This one, one of my biggest blessings. What a pleasure it is to travel to Ecuador, to spend time with this wonderful group of people. I've seen 20 of our Starfish Scholars grow over the past year, and just now met 30+ more students involved with Starfish in some way. I spent time with the employees (pictured with Jenn and I here), who I am impressed by more and more each day. I also spent time with a few of the families, whose hospitality, love and kindness speaks volumes to their character.

While in Ecuador this trip, I asked each student and employee, "What is your dream?" Their dreams motivated me -- especially when I saw how passionate many of these students are about achieving those dreams. So, my question for you -- what is your dream, and how are you going to achieve it?