Thursday, March 27, 2014

Twan & Rianne's Volunteer Experience

Today's blog is a guest post from volunteers Twan & Rianne.  They are from the Netherlands and volunteered with Starfish for two weeks at the end of February - here is a reflection on their time with Starfish!

"We started traveling in September '13 to revitalize ourselves and explore another beautiful continent but also to make worthwhile experiences which will make our lives richer. We came across The Starfish Foundation and we could identify with its mission. We believe education is the first step towards a better future.

Rianne helping Starfish tutoring student, Genesis, with her English homework
The first day we arrived, Jenn picked us up and brought us to our host family for the next two weeks. Immediately we felt at home because of the warm welcome. Not only the family was great to us, everyone in the neighborhood came to welcome us, this stayed like this during the whole period. We loved it and would really like to thank them all for the amazing time they gave us!

Twan & Rianne with their host family :)
At the foundation we found groups of very sociable, friendly, intelligent and driven children. They were very curious about us, eager to learn about the Netherlands and to learn new things. The eagerness was to be found at some students, seriously trying to finish their homework to their best knowledge, driven to continue their studies at university if possible.

Twan, taking a break to play basketball with the kids in Guasmo!

Overall we had two amazing weeks and brought a lot of people into our hearts.  We wish everyone all the best and we hope to return one day! Keep up the good work!" ~Twan & Rianne

Thursday, March 20, 2014

From Baltimore to Ecuador!

From Baltimore to Ecuador!

On March 7, The Starfish Foundation hosted its first Baltimore “An Evening For the Stars” that welcomed over 100 guests where they celebrated the foundation’s accomplishments and heard its future dreams. Many guests traveled from corners of the United States to show their support for the Starfish Scholars in Ecuador, deserving recipients of educational scholarships through The Starfish Foundation.

Mike, Kathy, Beth, Don & Dave, part of the organizing crew for this event!
The check-in table!
“An Evening For the Stars” was an night of festive food, sights and sounds with an Ecuadorian flare! The chef served a menu of Ecuadorian favorites including tortilla shells filled with rice, beans and chicken, served with sweet plantains. Brightly decorated tables of yellow and aqua filled the room, topped with creative school-themed centerpieces, pen-pal letters from Starfish Scholars and their photos. The silent auction table was loaded with colorful treasures by Ecuadorian artists and unique handmade frames filled with pictures of Starfish Scholars.

Silent Auction table!

Our wonderful music for the night!
Rev. John Swope, SJ, the evening’s Keynote speaker, explained the importance of helping others in our world, just as we care for those in the United States. Beth Awalt, co-founder of The Starfish Foundation gave an enthusiastic presentation and showed videos of co-founder Jenn Zocco working in Ecuador alongside smiling Starfish Scholars! Beautiful live music filled the hall as new friends met and old friends laughed together all evening long. We give thanks to everyone who attended and to the volunteers who pulled this sensational event together.

Fr. Swope, SJ during his inspiring speech!
Kathy, Danny & Dr. Klingler - this year's award winners!

During “An Evening For the Stars” The Starfish Foundation’s spirit traveled across continents from Baltimore to Ecuador.

Reflection written by Kathy Awalt, Administrative Assistant for Starfish and one of our dedicated organizers of this wonderful event!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

First Ever Advisory Board Retreat

This past weekend, after our U.S. Advisory Board had the chance to meet in person for it's first-ever weekend Retreat.  During the weekend we worked on long-term objectives for Starfish.  

Don, Kathy, Ashley, Taylor, Beth, Melissa, Dave, Dr. Klingler, Jeff
Our Advisory Board serves to advise on all things Starfish and is comprised of people with a wide variety of expertise.  We are so blessed to have these people guide us as Starfish continues to grow exponentially.  Some of their exciting accomplishments include: Former CEO, Former Teacher, University Business Professor, Accountant, Teacher, Law Student, Former Starfish Volunteers, Former year-long volunteer in Paraguay, Former Fulbright in Honduras, and much more!

Beth, with mentor and Advisory Board member Dr. Klingler from Villanova University.
Stay tuned in the coming months to hear news about our 1-year and 5-year plans.  Get ready for big things!
Jenn got to join the fun from Ecuador via Google Hangout!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Carnaval 2014

This past weekend was a holiday here in Ecuador - Carnaval!  In our Sponsor a Scholar pen pal program, lots of our students wrote about this as their favorite holiday in their last card.  Carnaval is celebrated the last 2 days before Lent starts.  Here in Ecuador it's celebrated Saturday - Tuesday. This year at Starfish we started even earlier on Friday to give departing volunteers, Twan & Rianne, a little taste of what it's like to "play Carnaval".  Friday was full of clean fun, just using water.  However, many Carnaval traditions include playing with paint, mud and whatever else you have around!

Enjoy the pictures!

Preparing for action!

Briggitte and Juliana!

These girls tricked me into giving them the camera so they could dump a huge bucket of water on me without damaging the camera.   It was hot, so it was appreciated :)

Milena, Yuliana, Lili, Pamela & Jaren

Lili was one of the leaders of the action :)

And finallly, someone got Cristhian!