Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Evening for the Stars...CT style!

Beth & Jenn with former Starfish volunteer and photographer for the night, Maria!
A few weeks ago, we held another successful, "Evening for the Stars," this time in Windsor Locks, CT.  For the third time now, friends of Starfish gathered together for a night of good food, great company and a chance to learn a little bit more about our programs.  

Delicious buffet dinner
The night started off with some social time to browse the silent auction items and participate in a 50-50 raffle.  This year's auction not only featured several items from Ecuador, but also many local products.  In total there were over 35 items up for auction!

Auction Items from Ecuador!
Once all of our guests had arrived, we sat down for a delicious meal of rice, beans, enchiladas, chicken & more.  We shared with our guests about the need for Starfish and shared some of videos of our students. 

Guests Nadia, Joe, Matt, Rachel, Liz, Alyssa, Jenn & Jeff
As dinner was winding down, we had one last call for the silent auction before our keynote speaker, Don Awalt, gave a heartwarming and thought-provoking reflection on his recent trip to visit Starfish in Guayaquil.

Don during his reflection
All in all, it was a great night to share with friends, and a very successful fundraiser.  Between ticket sales, auction, raffle and general donations including those received from friends who could not attend, we raised 10% of our total budget for the entire year in just one night!

Guests Gabi, Julie, Shane, Nicole & Marcus
See our newsletter for official numbers, and if you don't already receive it, don't forget to sign up!

This night would not have been possible without the dedicated help and organization of many volunteers like those pictured below.  Thank you, gracias, from the bottom of our hearts!



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exciting News from our Flor de Bastión Employees

Newly painted walls in our new place!
Students comfortably fit in our new &
 improved BIG classroom in Flor!

We are very happy to write to you all again after a few months.  We want to tell you that things are getting even better every day here.  Now we have a bigger space and we have a lot of hopes, we've thought about a lot of things that we are going to do.  The most important to highlight is that we are like a big family, and united we are going to achieve all of our goals.

More space for more supplies!
And a whole field outside just for us! 
Recently, we had a visit from the Board & other friends of Starfish and for us it was an unforgettable experience.  Both the employees and the students were very excited about their arrival.  Some of the students were able to meet their pen pals, and for each one it was really interesting to meet them in person as they exchanged likes and preferences.  The days that they were here in Ecuador were really fun.  Both in the "Olimpiadas" (field day) and trip to the beach all of the students behaved really well and we are really proud of them.

We've also had many visits from volunteers during these months.  They've been a lot of help in our tutoring program since they share their cultures with each one of us, in addition to teaching small English classes for the students.  Not too long ago ago 2 of them left and we want to tell them through this blog that we are going to miss them and we hope they come back soon.

With love,
The Flor de Bastión Employees

And for our Spanish-language readers, here is their original text!

Nos sentimos muy contentos de volver a escribirles después de algunos meses. Queremos contarles que las cosas aquí cada día van  mejorando, ahora ya tenemos un lugar más amplio y tenemos muchas expectativas, hemos pensado en muchas cosas que vamos a  hacer y lo importante de destacar es que somos una gran familia y todos unidos vamos a lograr  lo que nos  hemos propuesto.
Recientemente tuvimos la visita de la Directiva y para nosotros fue una experiencia inolvidable, tanto los ayudantes como los chicos nos sentimos  muy emocionados de su llegada. Algunos de los becados conocieron a sus amigos de correspondencia, para cada uno fue muy interesante conocerlos en persona pues intercambiaron gusto y preferencia. Los días que estuvieron aquí en Ecuador fueron muy divertidos tanto en las olimpiadas como en el viaje a la playa todos la chicos tuvieron un muy buen comportamiento y estamos muy orgullosos de ellos.
También hemos tenido visitas de muchos voluntarios estos meses, quienes han sido de mucha ayuda en nuestros refuerzos ya que comparten la cultura de su país con cada uno de nosotros además les dan pequeñas clases de inglés a los chicos. Hace poco dos de ellos se fueron y queremos decirles a través de esta blog que los vamos a extrañar y esperamos regresen pronto.
Con cariño,
Ayudantes “Flor de Bastión “

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stepping into a New World

Welcome to Flor de Bastion.

A place covered in lomas (hills) and filled with dogs roaming the dusty dirt streets, a beautiful community filled with warm smiles and open arms. 

Usually, we work in Flor on Tuesdays and Fridays, returning to Guasmo (where we volunteers live) afterwards by bus after a long day. My fifth week in Ecuador I decided to do something different: spend Tuesday through Friday in Flor instead of returning home in between sessions. 


Isa (a.k.a. Beth, Starfish co-founder) originally inspired me to spend an extended period of time in Flor. When she visited as part of Starfish’s retreat group, she spent a night with a Starfish scholar’s family in Flor. She talked about how amazing it was to see and experience life after refuerzo in Flor, especially because it differs significantly from Guasmo in terms of development. 

Spending a few nights up north has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. My days were filled with visiting scholars’ homes, seeing some of the kids outside of the classroom, and getting to see their true personalities shine. My nights were filled with lots of laughter, especially from simply talking about our day. I have learned from my time in Ecuador that the dinner table is where everything happens, where you really get to see someone and learn about his/her aspirations in life.

I cherished every moment.

Written by Summer/Fall 2014 Starfish volunteer in Ecuador, Nancy Landeros

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Familia: A Starfish Volunteer Reflection Part 2 of 2

Part 2: (Be sure to check out last week's post if you missed Part 1)

To survive in Ecuador you have to pay attention and learn quickly. The custom while greeting people is to kiss them on the left cheek. Women kiss each other and men kiss women, but men do not kiss other men. You can imagine how this can be tricky when you are first learning the cultural norms and your Ecuadorian family member’s are practical jokesters. Another interesting cultural phenomenon is machismo, best translated as an intense masculine pride of sorts. This can best be seen while taking public transportation. If you are a man, the bus will not stop for you when you are boarding or debarking. However, the bus comes to a complete halt for women. Some interesting facts: the current gas price is about a dollar, 22 chocolate covered bananas cost $1.40, and bus fare is 25 cents.  The words that come to mind when thinking back on this experience are “eye-opening” and “life changing.” It is not every day that you can experience the culture and the people that you find in Ecuador and it really makes you appreciate your life.


I have been asked several times “what is your favorite thing about Ecuador?” To me the answer is simple: its people… especially my Ecuadorian friends and family. I stayed with a host family in Guasmo during my trip. My host mother’s name was Filadelfia (pronounced Philadelphia) which we all thought was funny given that I go to school in Philadelphia. Filadelfia, in my humble opinion, is one of Ecuador’s best cooks. This single mother of three runs the house, cooks every meal, not only for our family but occasionally for the neighbors, all out of a compassion for her friends and family. 

Some of the kids who made a particular impact on me were Geovanny, Christian, Joel, and Mike. These four boys as well as all of the children’s at Starfish have such compassion and genuineness and will never be forgotten. These boys would go out of their way to say hello and make sure that my day was going well. By the end of my trip, these boys went from being my students to my friends to my little brothers. 

If you ever have an opportunity to visit Ecuador I would highly recommend it. In Ecuador it’s not hard to find an experience that will make an impression and meeting these families was truly an unforgettable experience.



All the best,

Greg “Gregorio” Branigan 


Written by Summer 2014 Starfish volunteer in Ecuador, Greg Branigan.