Starfish International Newsletter [Issue #1: 12/10]

Even Slip-ups can be Blessings: The New Starfish Website     

A few months ago, David posted a message on a Drupal bulletin board seeking a web developer who was inspired to help us redesign our website.  A Drupal rep notified him that the post would be deleted since it was submitted on the wrong bulletin board.  Several weeks later, the universe crossed our path with Renee Duran.  Renee was just learning about Drupal and somehow accessed our post while searching Drupal’s Help Menu.  She replied and said she was inspired to help us despite being brand new to Drupal web development.  After a lot of time and dedication, Renee has created a work of art: our new website!  We cannot express the level of gratitude and appreciation we have for Renee’s service!  It reaffirms our complete faith in the idea that with the right motive and hard work, any dream can be realized.

So take some time and explore our site in-depth.  You will find many ways to get inspired and get involved.  Also, please take a moment to “Like Us”, “Follow Us”, and “Share Us” with your friends and family.


Serendipity: Learning about and using Social Media to Advance Starfish

We are asking everyone reading this to make a commitment and take at least one concrete step to help Starfish before leaving the website: “Like Us” on Facebook, “Follow Us” on Twitter, and/or forward our website to your email contacts and ask them to do the same and get involved.

A month ago, Yassin was invited to a special dinner at Syracuse University in honor of Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times columnist and co-author of “Half The Sky.”  Sitting next to her was Christen Brandt, one of the founders of She’s The First. Christen pairs up sponsors with girls seeking funding for their education in developing countries.  This serendipitous meeting led to another dinner in which Christen give David a crash course on the use of social media to promote a cause.  Since then we have been Facebooking and Tweeting and just recently had our 100th Twitter follower.  Realizing the power of these tools, we hope that each of you will “Like Us”, “Follow Us”, and “Share Us” to spread the news about our work.


Taking the Goodies to The People: Manlius Pebble Hill’s 4th Grade Bake Sale

In November, Mr. Rufo and Mr. Sommers’4th grade class picked Starfish as the organization to do a fundraiser for.  They wanted to highlight an organization that was just starting out and raise both funds and awareness for it.  They used their recess period to plan their fundraiser and recruited their family member to help bake their goodies.  They put up signs, they ran an educational video about Starfish and The Gambia, and instead of staying in one spot and expecting their potential customers to come to them, they put their baked goods on a cart and rolled it around the Lower School, from class to class.  In the end, they sold all of their goodies and raised $199.87 for Starfish.  We couldn’t be prouder and more grateful of this class for their hard work, tenacity, and ingenuity.


Another Exciting Summer: Starfish International’s Summer School Program 2011

The summer program for 2011 is shaping up to be an exciting one.  We are taking our first steps towards moving the Starfish Girls from ideas about empowerment to practical applications of those ideas.  We are launching a financial literacy and small business development project.  Celebrations are a prized activity in Gambian culture, and Gambian women are constantly having their pictures taken at these celebrations.  Starfish Girls are going to focus on this domestic market and get the training they need to start small businesses as local photographers.

15 girls are going to be trained in basic photography and business development.  At the end of the program, they will each be given a camera and access to a printing facility. With their business plan to accompany them, they will be encouraged to each start a small photography business.  The hope is that this pilot project will expand to include many more girls and serve as a model for our girls to use business opportunities in their immediate environment to start on their way to financial independence.

We will also be conducting classes for all 100 girls in Mathematics, English Conversation, and Emergency Preparedness.  The Mathematics class will set the foundation for the skills the girls will learn during the next academic year.  The English Conversation class will increase their English conversation skills and confidence expressing their thoughts in English.  We believe that our students know the obstacles they face and the solutions that will eradicate them better than anyone else.  The Emergency Preparedness will provide the girls basic training in CPR, first aid, and other life saving skills such as water purification methods that are invaluable in all communities, but particularly in emergency situations. This training will make the girls assets within the community and community members that people can look to on a daily basis for assistance.

If you are interested in helping with these classes and have a passion for the subject matters, contact us.


The Birth of an Academy: Plans to Start Building the Academy of Excellence for Girls

We are thrilled to announce that we are making plans to start the construction of the highly anticipated Academy of Excellence for Girls in The Gambia, West Africa.  Such an academy in this part of the world is long overdue and will be a wellspring of inspiration and advancement for the Starfish Girls, their families, their communities, and their nation.

The first phase in this endeavor is the construction of a Kindergarten and the opening of the Academy in September of 2011.  Foreign aid has a much higher chance for success when it is managed by the local people.  Mam-Yassin has a passion for this work and is relocating her family to The Gambia so that they can be on the ground implementing the Starfish projects.  Already, help from U.S. volunteers and donors has enabled Starfish to build the first children’s library that allows children to take the books home with them, to pay the school fees of 100 girls, and to run summer school programs for the past 2 years.  After only two 5-week summer programs, the girls were able to grow from shy and soft-spoken students to students who took charge of the program and spoke up for themselves at every step, clearly articulating their goals, values, and plans for their lives.  You can imagine the tremendous difference and capacity for change and leadership Starfish’s permanent presence and continuous work with the girls will produce.  So, by providing 12 years of instruction guided by a curriculum focused on service to humanity, starting with this Kindergarten Class of 2011, we can make an even bigger impact.

To ensure the success of this endeavor, we are galvanizing the troops to raise enough funds to complete the construction the Kindergarten and ship donated school supplies by the beginning of August 2011.  [Click HERE to Buy Bricks for 50¢]  In addition, we are seeking 3 American teachers who can commit to a minimum of at least 3 months of service.  They will be paired them up with 3 Gambian teachers to run 3 classrooms.  The Academy will be equipped with distance learning technology to allow additional teachers who are unable to serve in The Gambia to get involved.

We are extremely excited about embarking on this journey to making this dream a reality.  In order to realize this vision, we need all hands on deck.  This work needs to be done and right away.  Every day that it is not done, the longer it takes for the problems that plague humanity, which include illiteracy, poverty, overpopulation, environmental issues, lack of maternal health, high infant mortality, and threats to global security, to be eradicated.  So, please help us Spread the Word and Build the Academy.  The Starfish Girls have already expressed their gratitiude for your help!

Spread the Word!!!

  1. “Like" us on Facebook
  2. “Follow" us on Twitter 
  3. “Subscribe” to us on YouTube 
  4. “Favorite” us on Flickr

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