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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Starfish One by One

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, International, International Economic Development, Microfinance

Mission: Empower and educate young women in Guatemala to be leaders in their communities.

Geographic areas served: Guatemala

Programs: Starfish's mission is to empower young guatemalan women through education and mentorship to become leaders in their community. Starfish furthers its program mission by providing assistance to estrella de mar, a local non- governmental organization registered in guatemala.

Community Stories

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Carma S.

Donor

Rating: 5

My husband and I made our first trip to Guatemala in February 2013 to visit Starfish one by one, I can say that we were blown away. We visited classrooms and were delighted at the quality of the education, mentoring and interaction between the young ladies. Home visits made us realize that these girls would not have an opportunity for education without help. The barriers of illiteracy, remoteness, language and discrimination are insurmountable for these beautiful women.
I am convinced with the help of the mentoring and support received from Starfish, these ladies can lead the way for their families, sisters for years to come.

Donor

Rating: 5

My Rotary club is currently working with Starfish to support a group of girls in a mentor circle. From the first time we connected with Starfish, we have been so impressed by their mission, organization and communication. The structure of their program is built for sustainability and long-term success for the girls that they support. In addition, a group of our members visited Guatemala and our sponsor group in March of this year. The trip was truly life-changing for our travelers. We had the opportunity to get to know the Starfish team in Guatemala, interact with families and get a true picture of the challenges that families face. We also got to see the true benefit of this program first hand. I consider it a true honor to work with this organization and will tell anyone who will listen all about it!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

A kind group of people with a purpose that makes a big difference. Connects donors to recipients with personal letters, pictures and drawings. Great for my children to have these to make the connection.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Starfish One-by-One supports the education and empowerment of young girls in rural Guatemala to break the cycle of poverty and contribute to their families and communities. They provide scholarships so that girls can continue their education in high school and give them mentors from the community. The girls meet with their mentors once a week and receive training on a number of subjects, including job skills, handling money, and running a business. I was able to spend a day with a group of girls in Panajachel, Guatemala, and their dedicated mentors. There is no doubt that these girls have overcome difficult circumstances and made sacrifices to continue their education. They are dedicated to their studies and so eager to learn; it is so inspirational to see how they have been empowered by their mentors. The mentors I spoke with hope to inspire and empower the girls become active and outspoken in their communities so that they can become agents of social change. The girls took turns explaining how different their lives are now that they have been able to continue their education. Reina started and said that before receiving a scholarship, she never spoke up in class. She was shy and intimidated. Now, she regularly participates in class and has become active in her community. She discovered her love of singing, and her new-found confidence shone through as she proudly displayed to me the scarves and shirts she made for her family. She hopes to graduate from high school, attend a university and pursue a career that will allow her to help her family and her community. Rosa is the first person, male or female, in her family to attend school past primary school, and is now tutoring a group of children from her community in Spanish. My experience with Starfish One-by-One was truly unforgettable. These girls have become inspired and now empowered to know that they can make a difference in their communities.

9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure of being hired to produce a short promotional film for Starfish One by One on location in Guatemala. It was the most rewarding experience of my working life, and one I will never forget. The organization is doing great work with an inspiring group of young people. I hope they can continue to offer support, and grow as an organization, helping more young people get the education they rightly deserve. Thanks to everyone at Starfish and good luck to all of the students!

11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first heard of the Starfish program from a friend who serves on the Board and immediately loved the concept of the work being done by this organization. Then, I visited Guatemala myself and met some of the girls (including the one I get to sponsor), as well as their in-country mentors, parents and siblings. After that first-hand experience, I am blown away by the difference Starfish is making in the lives of these children, their family and the greater community. The Mentorship Program enhances their current public education, offers them the skills of clear communication, sound judgement and self esteem. The difference made to one child's life in this program is truly amazing, and ripples through the family and community. I highly recommend getting involved with Starfish in any capacity you desire. In addition to making a difference in a child's life, you will gain much personally.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Starfish One by One demonstrates a continual focus on quality over quantity. Through its unique blend of scholarship and mentorship, it really does promote and develop leaders that will change the landscape of their communities. I have been impressed by the dedication and heartfelt expertise of the Guatemalan staff.

9

Donor

Rating: 5

Starfish is truly unique! I was glad to support the program to provide mentorship and education to girls from rural areas to enrich their lives knowing they may not otherwise be able to continue their education. It was comforting to exchange letters with Brenda, the girl I sponsor … then I made the trip to Guatemala to witness firsthand the change Starfish is making in the lives of these girls. We first attended a mentoring and education class. The class focused on the value of family. Each of us were asked to speak to our family circumstances, siblings, parents, lifestyle, etc. I was in awe to find out that everyone of the girls in the class were dedicated to coming to class, despite the poverty and need for their help at home. This program gives them hope for change and encourages them to dream. I was struck to learn that everyone in the class was the child of two illiterate parents, most of whom don’t speak Spanish but only their native language. It was this moment when I realized the potential that Starfish offers these girls … how does one escape poverty under these circumstances? Starfish truly changes one life at a time. I suggest volunteering time to witness it first hand, meet the girls and wonderful contributors to the program, and experience the natural beauty of Guatemala!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a fabulous organization that helps educate young Mayan girls that show great promise for continuing their education after public school ends at a young age. The mentors for the girls are Mayan women who discuss life skills + school work, etc. It is very exciting to see the change that takes place in their self esteem, etc. after just one year in the Starfish program. Before the girls are enrolled in the program, there are in depth interviews with the families to ensure the parents' full support for educating their daughters.

7

Board Member

Rating: 5

I firmly believe that education is the key to changing lives. Starfish offers that possibility for Mayan girls and boys who would otherwise not have an opportunity to continue past grade school. I personally support 4 children and receive letters from them with explanations of their family and school lives that also include charming drawings. My most recent letters speak of job goals( for example, Victor wants to be a skilled accountant) and I hear increasing levels of confidence in their voices. I am so uplifted by what the mentors and students do together. One example is a field trip students took to a museum in Guatemala City. This is a common occurrence for students in our country but not so in rural Guatemala. Just the experience of being on a bus riding to the city was educational. Imagine what they saw and learned at the national museum! In my opinion the linch pin in this organization is the indigenous mentors and the help, love and guidance they give to their small groups of students weekly. They give that helping hand of friendship and hope to these wonderful children and enable these kids to believe in themselves. I think so highly of Starfish One by One that I am now on the advisory board. I encourage others to support this wonderful organization that offers a hand up and not hand out. One of my favorite expressions comes from Thornton Wilder who said " Money is like manure. It doesn't do much good unless it is spread around for young things to grow."

6

Donor

Rating: 5

I am a Gringa living here in Guatemala. In my earlier work with an NGO I came to realize the desperate need for an education that offers critical thinking. The Ning's, through Starfish are doing just that for a small group of young women who have the will and the intelligence to step up and out of a life of poverty and to help others to do so as well. The Mentorship Program compliments their current public education, offers them the skills of clear communication, sound judgement and self esteem. It brings tears to my eyes to see a young woman who, three years ago could barely lift her head to say hello to a stranger now entering a room, looking at everyone there and beginning to speak with knowledge and confidence. I just wish that we could clone the Nings and their capable Mentors a thousand times over for all young women in Guatemala and everywhere who want to change their lives and the lives of others.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am such a big fan of this charity because as a woman born in South America, I have personally witnessed the poverty and lack of opportunity for girls. I love the work that Starfish is doing in Guatemala with girls- empowering them through education and giving them the tools and self confidence they need to help themselves. They can then give back to their communities and families and break the cycle of poverty.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I fell in love with the idea behind Starfish One by One: making a difference one person at a time by educating adolescent girls. Starfish targets the most at risk and deprived individuals: rural Mayan adolescent girls who, without the help of scholarships, peer support, and mentor support, would not be able to finish jr high - high school. These very girls ALSO have more potential than anyone else in their communities to bring lasting, positive change. By getting an education, they will marry later, have fewer children, and invest their added income into their communities. A persistent effort in this direction has the potential to heal the whole culture of its most damaging problems, all of which stem from oppression and poverty. The most distinguishing aspect of Starfish One by One's program, though, is the centrality of the Starfish Mentors, who are all rural Mayan women (except for one male mentor who works with Starfish's groups of boys- boys are less at risk thangirls, but still marginalized and oppressed). The Mentors are college educated, and yet have overcome the same obstacles that Starfish students face. They speak the same dialect as their Mayan students. They guide the youngsters through their education step by step, working with them in froups of 15 at least once a week outside of the regular classroom. I met these Mentors. They are multilingual, passionate, energetic, unbelievably organized and utterly devoted to providing leadership and support to each student. I'm completely convinced of the power of this program. I had to resign as their art director because of the demands of being a mother, but if not for that I would continue to work for Starfish on a volunteer basis. I hope to have the privelege of being useful to these wonderful people again someday. I visited some of the Starfish students this past January, and saw for myself what the girls are up against, as well as the tremendous hope and energy they experience as Starfish scholarship students. These girls would do anything to finish school. It is their hope, for their own futures and for their families. I met the young woman who I have the honor of sponsoring; her name is Dolores. In Mayan families girls like Dolores are expected to take care of younger siblings (she is one of 7 or 8 children) and do household chores; that is why most girls are not allowed to continue to go to school past 6th grade. Dolores keeps up all her household chores, and studies after she has finished. It is a long day. Dolores, like all the other girls I met, also has a long walk to a pick-up spot where she rides in the back of a truck to school. Going to school for these girls is a sacrifice and a hardship. But they want it , desperately. Another young woman, Jeronima, is 20 (many girls must interrupt their studies to help aging or sick parents or siblings)and is finishing her high school degree. Since she is the only person in her village who speaks Spanish, she has begun to advocate on behalf of her village for better roads, better access. She is going to be an agent of change in her community. These girls are going to change their world. This is how they will rise, on their own, out of the poverty and marginalization that has been inflicted on them by corrupt, cruel governments for generations.

10

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I visited Starfish in January 2010 along with four other Rotarians. We went to the homes of four families, all of whom have daughters in the program (described elsewhere by other reviewers), and saw first hand the economic plight of these girls. We visited the learning center in Pana and met there the staff and about 15 other Starfish girls. Ted, Connie and Travis Ning are visionaries, each with a heart for service and willing hands to do the work. They're gifts to the world, and Starfish is an example of the concrete ways in which our gifts can be passed forward.

6

Donor

Rating: 5

We met Ted and Connie Ning of Evergreen, Colorado through a mutual friend. Over dinner one evening Ted and Connie told us about "Starfish One by One." We appreciated their vision for empowering young Mayan girls in Guatemala. We were intrigued and wanted to see firsthand how this was being done. In January 2010, along with our mutual friends, we spent a week in Guatemala with Ted, Connie, their son Travis, and several of their local leaders. It was a wonderful experience and we hope to return and offer ourselves as volunteers for short-term service. During our visit, Travis, the local director, provided us with many opportunities to meet and interact with the local leaders and the young Mayan women they served. The goal of Starfish One by One is to provide relational and financial support that will enable these teenagers to continue their education beyond 6th grade. The philosophy is simple yet powerful: if you educate women you can change the world. Educated women have better economic opportunities, have fewer children, provide better nutrition for their families, all of which improve communities, countries, and the world. These young women were chosen by their teachers because they have great potential and are financially the most in need. Families must also agree to be supportive of their daughter as she pursues her education. Starfish One by One provides scholarship help and weekly mentoring groups. The mentors are local Mayan women who are college educated and who know well the Mayan culture and the challenges ahead for these young women. They meet with the young women at least weekly to provide tutoring assistance, personal support, goal setting, and a great deal of encouragement. We had the privilege of meeting the mentors, observing several mentoring groups, and talking with the families whose daughters were in the program. We were very impressed with the quality of the local leaders and mentors. As we interacted with the families, there was great sensitivity and respect from the Starfish One by One staff. And there was a great deal of appreciation and affection from the families for the opportunity given to their daughter to continue her education. All in all, the vision of the Nings, the high quality of the local staff and mentors, the gratitude and support of the families, and the contagious enthusiasm of the young girls are some of the reasons that we are enthusiastically sharing our experience with Starfish One by One. We are surely going to return and be continually supportive of this tremendous work. Doug and Jeannie Amidon, Carlsbad, CA

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Starfish One by One offers scholarships and mentorships to help Mayan girls get an education so they can ultimately break the cycle of poverty. Girls in that culture are not encouraged to get an education. Starfish not only offers financial assistance, but mentors to help offer counseling and academic encouragemenet for families who do not support education for girls, or do not know how to provide academic support because they never got an education. I sponsor 2 girls and frequently exchange e-mails with one of them. She updates me on her progress and always tells me how grateful she is to already be the most educated person in her family--and she's only in 6th grade! This is a very hands-on organization and the founders and mentors work very hard to stay involved in the girls' lives and abreast of personal and academic happenings so they can continue to help them stay in the program. Great organization! Great people!