Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crossing into Haiti, by Jane Lorenzi

Today, we feature a post from Jane Lorenzi, a Starfish volunteer, who reflects on her immersion experience in the DR this past winter break.

I recently returned from an 8-day immersion program in the Dominican Republic through IMAP (International Marquette Action Program). Our group, which included 10 Marquette students and four staff members, spent the majority of our time in Dajabón, a bustling town on the Haiti / DR border. We encountered and sought to understand the complex social, economic, political, cultural, and historical realities of living on this border.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share journal entries and reflections from the experience. The following is a journal entry from 1/12/16, the day we had the opportunity to cross into Haiti.

There is no school today, the teacher told us.

We — the 14 of us, plus our translator Aleibi — are standing in a one-room school for orphaned and abandoned Haitian children.

Why is there no school today (a Tuesday)? we asked, naively curious.

Today is a “holiday,” he replied. Or at least, that’s how our translator interpreted it. The teacher added something else in Creole, and then Aleibi clarified: today is a day of remembrance, he said.

And then it hit us.

The day we crossed over into Haiti marked the sixth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destabilized an already precarious, extremely impoverished state. The significance of the date of our crossing was tragically ironic. Haiti was dangerously vulnerable before the quake, and the natural disaster only highlighted and magnified those vulnerabilities — among them, widespread extreme poverty, inequality, political instability, violence, and corruption, and a history of foreign intervention, occupation, and aid.

It was surreal to see Paul Farmer‘s book on Haiti and my Human Security class lecture literally come to life before our very eyes. This kind of suffering I had only read about in books and articles — and to know that the destitution only grew worse. So many questions whirled through my brain when I saw the MINUSTAH U.N. peacekeeping mission sign outside the police station (hey! we even took a picture with it). The failure of the mission, the cholera epidemic, the militarization of aid, the role of the U.N., the U.S., and the international community, the overwhelming presence of NGOs (they don’t call Haiti a “nation of NGOs” for nothing) … it felt like a living (3-D) version of my midterm paper on reconstruction in Haiti.

My soul cringed as I thought of what this community might equate “white foreigners” to — have we done more damage than good? Pictures of well-to-do U.S., Canadian, and European families dotted the dilapidated wooden shack of a school room. Toddlers waddled around without underwear, exposed to the elements. Small, malnourished young boys continuously begged us for money, pointing to their swollen stomachs and expressing their incredible hunger. One boy even remarked: “I know you have money!” in perfect Spanish (because he had seen us purchase expensive, relatively speaking, artisan products at the school store). Another young boy tried to punch the van as we drove away. There was intense anger and hurt in his eyes — a sentiment reflected in so many of the Haitians we encountered. Unlike most of the Dominicans we met who tend to greet even strangers with a friendly “Buenos” and certain warmth, the Haitians were noticeably disengaged. Few made eye contact, fewer waved back. There seemed to be something clouding their vision, as if they were staring helplessly into oblivion. It was chilling.

I felt even more uncomfortable at the border today than at the binational market. At least at the market, the workers were selling goods and there was actually a chance of us buying something. Parked on la calle internacional (an unpaved road which divides the two countries long ways down the middle), our white passenger van was like an enormous elephant in the room. It really felt like a spectacle this time, and we were an obnoxious imposition to someone’s daily routine.

This is not to degrade the experience in any way. I cling to these feelings and thoughts because I think it is extremely important to do so. I acknowledge the discomfort, the sense of being an imposition… at the same time, recognizing how incredibly valuable that border experience was. I will never be the same. The confrontation with a reality, the intense learning curve, the righteous anger, the thirst for justice, the motivation to seguir adelante. How heart wrenching and transformative it was for me as an individual, who strives for personal growth and always seeks to learn magis, more.

Despite my negative feelings towards certain aspects of the visit, I do wonder: If I don’t stand up for my fellow brothers and sisters — using my voice, education, skills, connections — who will? Not in a selfish way, but more so, how can I use the talents and resources I have been given to empower those who are burdened? (And this could apply to any human being, anywhere.) How can I lessen their burden without arrogantly imposing? I never want to create a culture of dependency. Yet I wonder how to address the dire, basic needs of these people, especially when the state itself is so weak. How do we strengthen institutions and locally-run organizations so that Haitians can help their fellow Haitians? Or, is an outsider needed sometimes to get things moving, to make people pay attention? What are we to “do” with countries like Haiti, when in too many ways it appears and feels broken beyond repair? It’s a constant source of reflection.

And I have no answers.

But I do keep this phrase close: Esos caminos hay que andarlos. These paths/journeys/ways/roads (depends on the translation, which makes the Spanish so beautiful!), you must walk them. Someone must walk these caminos and know these realities.

Amor, Talia

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Blog post from our educadores: Bestabeth, Yuliana and Misael

Values and Morality: Where have they gone? 
In today's modern culture, human society has lost many of its morals.  Unfortunately, in our worldwide family and education system, morality and values are not taught in schools as they should be.

Currently, our Starfish Foundation has the goal of including these values in its programs, in order to instill a sense of morality and community in the children and young people of our community. Our goal in this work is not only to help form well-educated, cultural, and justice-seeking young students in the classroom, but for the students to go out and apply the moral values that they learn. 

Our mission is to guide our students so that they may accomplish goals and objectives, and we hope that they carry these values into their professional work and future careers. 

In conclusion, the Starfish Foundation desires that all of its students develop good, positive attitudes that will infiltrate into their professional lives as future men and women. 

Do you want to be a part of our Starfish family? 

~Betsabeth, Yuliana, Misael~ 





En nuestros tiempos la sociedad humana ha perdido los valores morales, ya que lamentablemente en el núcleo familiar no se ha dado el aprendizaje debido.

Actualmente nuestra Fundación “ESTRELLITAS DEL MAR” tiene como objetivo inculcarle estos valores a los niños y jóvenes, nuestra labor no solo queda ahí, sino ayudarle a que reflejen lo que están aprendiendo, tanto dentro como fuera de la Fundación.

Nuestra misión es guiar a los chicos para que puedan cumplir sus metas y objetivos, ya sea corto o a largo plazo es decir que lleguen hacer profesionales y que su futuro mejore.

En conclusión la Fundación “ESTRELLITAS DEL MAR” desean que todos los chicos se desarrollen con buenas actitudes tanto moral y como profesional y sean hombres y mujeres de bien.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

A dose of inspiration, for your Thursday

If you haven't yet met Jane Lorenzi, affectionally known in Ecuador as Thalia, you need to do so ASAP. This incredible Marquette sophomore won the Social Innovation Design contest last year, has traveled to Ecuador to serve with Damien House and Ecuador four years in a row, and is one of the most powerful storytellers I know.

Her blog often captures incredible stories of the children she loves from Umoja, a camp in Baltimore hosted by her alma mater, her experiences with Starfish, where she has lived in homestays and volunteered for several weeks the past two summers, and her journey at Marquette.

Today, we share with you Jane's talk from MarquetteX this past fall. It's a beautiful story of humanity, and one likely to inspire your whole week!

"In small yet significant ways, dialogue helps us to acknowledge the dignity of another human soul, to better understand the needs of our world, and to work for human healing."

Scroll ahead to 1:01:15 if you want to see Jane's presentation!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Student blog post- Melanie's Community Service Project

The blog post for today comes from Melanie Paz, one of our high school seniors who recently completed a community service project at Starfish. Melanie is an ambitious, dedicated student with a bright future, and we are so proud of her and all she has accomplished!

Melanie's reflection:
For my community service project, I organized a Christmas party for the little brothers, sisters, and other young family members of the Starfish scholarship students in Guasmo.

First, I had to figure out how to finance my project. After thinking about it, I realized that often times, when people have outgrown their clothes, they either throw them away, sell them, or regift them. Therefore, I decided to ask for used clothes from neighbors and others close to me, so that I could sell the clothes and use the money to fund the party. Thankfully, people generously donated their old clothes, and I was able to put on a party for the kids to enjoy. Everyone had a great time, and it was a memorable day for all of us :)

With God's help, and with the assistance of those who helped me by donating their old clothes, everything went well, and the children had a great time! Watching the kids enjoy themselves brought me a lot of joy, and their parents and families came and thanked me, as did Jenn and a few others, and this made me feel proud to have completed my project.

Therefore, with a little effort, through my project, I demonstrated to the directors and members of Starfish that I remain thankful for all of the help that they have offered me throughout the years. Their support enables me to continue growing socially, academically, and spiritually.

Without a doubt, it was a beautiful and unforgettable experience, from which I learned a lot.

~Melanie Paz~

en español:
Realice un fiesta de navidad para los hermanos y sobrinos de los becados y no becados menores de 10 años de la fundación Estrellita del Mar, sede Guasmo.

Para poder financiar mi proyecto, me di cuenta que las personas de hoy en día no utilizan la ropa muy a menudo, la botan, la venden o la regalan, entonces opté por probar con esa idea y pedí ropa usada a personas muy cercanas a mi para así venderlas y sacar fondos para poder realizar la fiesta. Hice que los niños se sientan felices en estas fechas tan significantes para ellos.

Gracias a Dios, y a las personas que me ayudaron salio todo bien, los niños se divirtieron muchísimo, fui tan feliz al ver que ellos disfrutaban tanto de la fiesta. Recibí tantas felicitaciones de los padres de familia, Jenn y demás personas, que me sentí tan orgullosa de haber logrado mi proyecto.

Por lo tanto, Con ese granito de arena, muestro a las directoras y miembros de la fundación que quedo muy agradecida por todo el apoyo que me han brindado para así seguir creciendo en mi vida social, escolar y espiritual.

Sin duda alguna, fue una experiencia muy hermosa e inolvidable. De la cual aprendí mucho.

~Melanie Paz~