Yolanda from San Andreas, Guatemala came to speak to us and thank us for supporting Starfish One By One.  Yolanda is one of the Starfish program graduates from the first class which started five years ago. She was accompanied by Darcy Struckoff, energetic director of development for Starfish who has helped organize the trip that 13 of our members will take to Guatemala in November to visit the Starfish site.  

Yolanda spoke to us about her experience as a graduate of the Starfish program.  Starfish has a three tiered program which involves identifying bright, but underprivileged Mayan girls.  The girls are enveloped into a program involving academic scholarships, mentorships and internships.  The girls and their families are "almost adopted" by the mentors who are themselves women who have broken the cycle of poverty and become empowered women.  The girls are guided, encouraged, coached and supported in many ways to nurture their eventual success.  95% of the girls in the program finish their education.  Throughout Guatemala only 5% of girls finish primary school most only finishing 2 years of school.

Yolanda was one of a group of 12 girls.  They picked a name for their group which was "United for a Dream".  Yolanda finished her High School and began University in January.  She speaks a Guatemalan dialect as well as is fluent in Spanish.  She came to Lakewood, Colorado to study and improve her English.  She wants to start a travel business in Guatemala helping tourists find the best places to shop and stay while they travel and learn the customs and traditions of Guatemala and the Mayan people.  She also hopes to employ others to help with the overall economy.

Our club was one of the sponsoring clubs for a Global Matching Grant through the Rotary Foundation.  We got the cooperation of 21 other clubs in and outside of our district.  Together we raised $69,000 in support of Starfish efforts in Guatemala.  The program is now five years old and quite successful.  One of their graduates is the first Mayan female city councilwoman in Guatemala.  How's that for Engaging Rotary and Changing Lives!!!

Darcy translated for Yolanda and also shared information about the organization of Starfish One By One.  It is run by  140 indigenous women in Guatemala and funded and supported by the efforts of the office for Starfish One By One in Evergreen Colorado.  It gets it's name from the parable of the Starfish which is an adapted and shortened version of The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley.  For a delightful, and appropriately female adaptation of the story, Google "Starfish Story" and click on the link for Ordinary People Change The World dot Com.  It's worth the effort.

We wish Yolanda and Darcy all the best as they each pursue their dreams to make a difference for people in the world.

The Starfish Story
By City Year

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” 

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. - adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

Perseverance against great odds and against the criticism of others is the very hallmark of value-based idealism, as is refusing to accept failure. The understanding that we hold in our hands the power to change a life, a mind, or a circumstance today – right now – is a powerful insight and motivator. At the same time, idealistic acts, even highly symbolic ones, have the power to inspire others to act, and sometimes in numbers significant enough to make a major or even complete impact on the problem at hand. Perhaps most inspiring of all is to witness the idealistic power of children and young people in action. The idealism of youth is a powerful force for leading change in the world. Often it is our youth who put into values that we have instilled in them – but have failed to act on ourselves. The world, therefore, depends on the idealism of youth to lead the way.