Thursday, February 27, 2014

Noticias from Guayaquil

  • The school year is winding down here in Guayaquil.  About half of our students finished final exams last week, and the other half will finish this week...just in time for some of rainy season's wettest days yet.  Luckily, our classrooms are holding up just fine due to the hard work we put in last month at the "minga."
    David & Cristhian at last month's minga
  • Last week two volunteers from the Netherlands arrived at Starfish.  They've been staying with Starfish employee's Marcos' family and have had a great time getting to know the kids, helping them study for exams, and even teaching them a little bit of Dutch! Stay tuned for an update from Twan & Rianne!
    Rianne with Starfish tutoring student, Genesis.

Rianne, Yuliana, Cynthia, Lissette and Twan
  • This past weekend was an exciting weekend in Guayaquil - Saturday, February 22nd, the two Guayaquil soccer teams played against each other in the "Clásico".  Emelec beat Barcelona 2-1. Sunday was election day.  Elections took place for mayor and other district/provincial positions.  Voting is mandatory for all Ecuadorian citizens 18 & older.
    Left: Jaime Nebot re-elected as mayor of Guayaquil.
    Right: Mauricio Rodas elected as mayor or Quito
  • In March we will run a mini vacation camp for our Starfish students, as well as select new Starfish Scholars for the 2014-2015 school year.  This year we hope to increase the number of scholars to 40!
    Eddy, Arelisa, Cristhian, Milena & Pamela at October's vacation camp!
  • In other news, our 2nd annual benefit dinner is planned for Friday, March 7th in Baltimore, MD.  With over 50 tickets purchased, a guest speaker, silent auction, Ecuadorian-themed meal and many more surprises, it's shaping up to be the event of the year!  Reserve your tickets today and tweet at us from the event with hashtag #forthestars!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Professional Development Workshop with Destination Imagination

Thanks to Destination Imagination: Guasmo Sur Project (DIGS), and their leader Sarah for a great set of workshops for our employees this past week.  We learned how to think creatively - and to teach our kids to think creatively as well!  Destination Imagination teaches Teamwork, Problem Solving and Creativity.
Sarah and her volunteer Rosa starting off the workshop!
One of the main goals of  DI is that the kids learn to think creatively, and for themselves, without someone giving them a hint or the answer as is customary in the rote memorization learning system of the public schools in Ecuador.

In DI there are Central Challenges that are worked on throughout the year, while during the workshops we learned how to do Instant Challenges that are either based on presentation or construction.  These challenges generally take around 5 minutes and are a great way to wake up our minds to start a meeting - Here are some pictures from the challenges!

In May, we will be participating in another set of workshops with the volunteers from DIGS and teachers from another scholarship program at Mi Cometa.  We're excited to continue working together with our community organizations to improve the quality of education in our neighborhoods!

Starfish students participating in one of the activities we learned at DI!

Thanks DIGS & Sarah!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Field Trip for Guayaquil's Best Students

A few weekends ago, three Starfish students were awarded the honor to attend a Scout field trip for the students with the best grades for this first half of this school year.  5 high schools participated - of those 5 schools - Starfish has students in 2 - and 3 of our students were selected to attend!!!

Here, Cristhian and Eddy share a few words about their experience, while below are some pictures from Maria's group!

"It was awesome because we were in groups with kids from other high schools that we didn't know before.  We did a lot of icebreaker activities and they taught us funny songs.  After we showered, we did more icebreakers and we played soccer.

The next day, they woke us up really early and we did some exercises.  Later we had to help clean up the area.  Later they taught us how to do different kinds of knots and the Dinapen (part of the Police force - National Police Specializing in Children and Adolescents) gave us a talk about drugs.

Later, they taught us to put up and take down tents and when we went swimming I learned how to swim.  We also went on a 3 or 4 hour hike and when we got back it was already nighttime.  That night we played "rubbi scout" until midnight and then we went to shower and go to bed.

The next days, we cleaned up our tents and brought them to the coliseum.  Then we had to wait for the bus to take us back home.  It was a great experience."  ~Eddy (& Cristhian!)

"Me pareció chevere porque hicimos grupos con otros chicos del colegio que no nos relacionábamos, después hicimos dinámicas, nos enseñaron músicas chistosas.  Luego de bañarnos, nos hicieron hacer más dinámicas y jugar pelota.

Al día siguiente nos levantaron de mañanita y hicimos ejercicio y luego limpiamos el perímetro, luego nos enseñaron a hacer diferentes clases de nudos y la Dinapen nos dio una charla sobre las drogas.

Nos enseñaron a armar y desarmar carpas, fuimos a la piscina y aprendí nadar.  Hicimos una caminata de 3 a 4 horas más o menos y cuando regresamos ya era de noche.  Esa noche luego de cenar jugamos rubbi scout hasta las 12am y luego nos fuimos a bañar.  

Al día siguiente arreglamos y limpiamos la carpa y luego la llevamos al coliseo y después nos hicieron esperar el autobus para regresar a casa.  Para mi fue una experiencia maravillosa." - Eddy

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Second School Visits - with an Excellent Surprise!

This past week we finished up the second set of school visits for this academic year.  This time, our employees were a great help, allowing us to complete the visits in less time since we were able to split up the 18 schools where our 28 scholars study.

Set up of a typical high school in Guayaquil.  This is where Jerson studies!
Starfish aims to visit all the schools where our scholars study at least twice per year to check up on their grades, behavior and any other concerns the school & teachers may have.  Unfortunately, this is not something all parents are very accustomed to doing, and many schools have praised Starfish for going above and beyond caring about grades on a piece of a paper.

My favorite story of all the visits came 2 weeks ago when we visited "Colegio Nacional Mixto Jose Pino Ycaza".  In the afternoon, one of our graduating seniors studies at Pino Ycaza.  In the morning, 2nd year Starfish Scholar Argenis attends school.  Argenis has been a consistent presence at Starfish since its first days in Flor de Bastión.  He lives with his family just across the street from our classroom, so it's a pretty easy commute!

Argenis and Ariel giving a presentation at one of our tutoring sessions.
Though always in attendance, Argenis was never the first to volunteer for any activity and he always brought home average grades.  When Starfish employee, Jasmin, and I stepped foot into his high school for this second visit we were greeted with a wonderful surprise.  His teacher was ready and waiting for us, so excited to tell us, "Argenis participates all the time in class now, and his grades are on the rise.  When you visited last time I told him that I have to tell you guys the truth, and I think that motivated him to do better."  That same afternoon when I arrived at tutoring, Argenis handed me a copy of his current grades, which had indeed risen by more than a full letter grade!!

Argenis participating in an icebreaker with Pamela at one of our monthly meetings!