Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet Sylvie - our newest volunteer!

About 2 weeks ago we received another volunteer.  Sylvie is a language and tourism major who joins us from Italy on her college break.  This week she shares with us a little bit about her first couple of weeks in Ecuador!

Sylvie and Abigail working on some English homework in Flor de Bastión!

"When I came from Italy around two weeks ago in order to be a volunteer in the Starfish Foundation I didn't know what to expect.  Now I can tell you that I am really happy to be here!  The family where I live, the children who attend the "refuerzo" program, the family where sometimes I have lunch, the Ecuadorian Starfish employees, and of course, Jenn make me feel good everyday.

It is great to get in touch with a new culture in a different way: I can say that I am not a "tourist" just coming to Ecuador to take pictures of the landscapes, but I am here to give my contribution helping the Starfish Foundation, which is making a big effort to improve education in Flor de Bastión and Guasmo.  I admire the care and enthusiasm that the Starfish employees have for their job and it is a pleasure to see how the children are grateful to them.  They are very nice, they are happy to learn and I really appreciate when they are interested in my different culture and country.  I often sit with some of them chatting a lot about everything, and I think that is a great opportunity to learn besides just doing homework.

Sylvie & Briggette in Guasmo

Living with a family in Guasmo is something that I will never forget: I come from a totally different reality and what I expected was to learn about the Ecuadorian lifestyle, and that's exactly what I am doing.

I think that an experience as a volunteer in the Starfish Foundation is something that everybody should do in his/her life.  I am sure that when I go back to Italy I will be a different person and I am sure that I will always keep in my heart this month in Ecuador and the great people I have met."

Sylvie with Melani and Adrian, children of Starfish employee Maricruz.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gracias Damien House!

Here's one last post from our students about the experience at Damien House.  With all this excitement about community service and leadership development, we can't wait to find more ways to get involved!

Sister Annie, Damien House founder, with Starfish students Nery, Sofia, Andreina, Solange and André.

Card for Damien House
by Pamela, Flor de Bastión

Thanks for opening us the doors of your foundation.  The experience was really great.  The people who are part of your foundation are really cool.

The women are very dynamic, happy, full of life, and very friendly.  The men have a strong character, but full of advice for those who need it.

The experience is unforgettable.  You all are beautiful people who deserve so much more love than what you have.


Sister Annie in the women's section speaking with Starfish students!

Beach bags, a talent of many of the men at Damien House!
"Carta para la Fundación Padre Damien"
por Pamela, Flor de Bastión

Gracias por abrirnos las puertas de su fundación.  La experiencia fue super chevere.  Las personas que integran la fundación son super que chevere.

Las señoras son muy dinámicas, alegres, llenas de vida y muy amables.  Los señores tienen el carácter fuerte pero llenos de consejos para al que lo necesita.

La experiencia es inolvidable.  Son lindas personas que merecen mucho más amor del que ya tienen.

Att. Starfish

Hammock making time!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Joel's experience at Damien House!

Joel had a great time at Damien House a few weeks ago...find out about his experience through his own words!
Joel, participating in "refuerzo" or tutoring with another Starfish scholar, Betsabeth.
"Hi, I'm Joel.  I'm a scholarship student at The Starfish Foundation.  We visited Damien House, a foundation where there were people with Hansen's disease.  It was interesting because I didn't know a lot about this disease.

Jonathan, our tour guide, explaining about Damien House and Hansen's disease.

I wasn't used to socializing with elderly people, I thought it was boring, but I was wrong.  They welcomed us, and I met them one by one.  They gave us a tour of the foundation.  After, they told us we could visit whatever part of the foundation that we wanted to.  I went to the men's section.  They taught me to play dominoes together with some of the other students.  When we went to the women's section, they gave us the advice that we should keep studying, and not to go down the wrong path.  I really liked it.  I'd like to be able to go back some day."

The women's section!

"Hola Soy Joel.  Soy un becado de Starfish Foundation.  Nosotros hicimos una visita a la Fundación Padre Damián, una fundación donde había personas con la enfermedad de Hansen.  Me pareció algo interesante porque conocía poco sobre esta enfermedad.

Yo casi no estaba acostumbrado a socializar mucho con personas de tercera edad, pensaba que era aburrido, pero me equivoqué.  Ellos nos recibieron muy felices, los fui conociendo uno por uno.  Nos dieron un recorrido por toda la fundación.  Después nos dijeron que podríamos ir a visitar a cualquier parte.  Fui a la parte de los abuelitos.  Ellos me enseñaron a jugar dominó junto con otros becados y aprendimos a jugar.  Cuando fuimos a la parte de la abuelitas, ellas nos aconsejaron que sigamos en los estudios, que no nos vamos por el mal camino.  En mi opinión a mí me gustó.  Quisiera que alguna vez se vuelva a repetir."

Joel (black shirt) with Starfish scholars Danny and Anthony and their new friend!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Visiting Schools in Guayaquil

I have spent the past few weeks visiting all of the schools that the Starfish Scholars attend.  Out of all the youth we work with, 28 are Starfish Scholars.  These 28 scholars attend 18 different schools.

On each visit, a parent and a Starfish Employee accompanied me so that we could find the correct person to talk to.  In the visit we explained more about Starfish, what we provide for the students, and found out more about their school life.  The teachers told us about each students' behavior, grades, test scores, missing work and any other concerns they may have had.

The visits were eye-opening for me.  From working with the students, I had some ideas about their school life, but seeing it first hand was an entirely different story.  Most schools I visited were huge, with an average of 40-50 students per classroom.  With class sizes so large, it often seemed like the students were in control, rather than the teacher.  It was also rare the teacher who had the time to seek out a personal relationship with a student to help them succeed, again due to these class sizes.  Often times teachers had to pull out folders or notebooks, or call the student over to see who he/she was.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that despite all of these challenging realities, many teachers were able to easily recall the Starfish scholars as they are stepping up to be leaders in their classroom.

Milena is the Presidenta (President) of her class. Danny is part of the student council.  Joel is on a committee that studies human rights.  Arelisa is also Presidenta of her class - and up for election of President of the whole high school!

Tutoring in Flor
We hope that these visits allowed the teachers to see the help that some of their students receive, and open up the door to better future communication with their families and with us.  When we all work together, we can help the students achieve their maximum potential.  With the grades and comments we received this week we are having parent conferences when necessary, as well as an employee meeting to discuss specific areas that need strengthening for each student.

Unfortunately, there aren't any pictures of these visits, so enjoy these other pictures from August!!

One of the groups we took to visit Damien House.

Don Leon working hard on his hamaca (hammock).

Yessenia, helping one of the patients fix his radio.

Starfish scholars learning how to play dominos at Damien House.