Guatemala 2013 trip diary: Starfish One by One


By Stephanie Sawyer
San Luis Obispo (CA)

After breakfast at our hotel, Utz Jay, this morning we took the one and a half block walk over to Starfish One by One. Melanie was our guide for the day and greeted our group with many hugs and warm welcomes!

After introductions to the staff and volunteers, they gave our ladies an overview of the services which include tutoring and mentorship programs for first generation high school students. Most of the girls are the first in the family to graduate due to many economic and social obstacles. This is where the work of the mentors fits in. Because parents haven’t received formal education, they often don’t understand the opportunities and benefits that can help the whole family after educating their daughters. The girls who are selected enter into a six-year leadership program. There are 220 girls currently enrolled. Since the pilot program in 2008, Starfish One by One has had 13 graduates, 7 of which are in university! For this team, it isn’t about how many, but rather how far one girl can go!

We split into two groups of Dining for Women ladies and staff members to see two of the program sites as well and visit homes of the families of the girls. Although the locations were different, the experiences were similar.

My group took a magnificent boat ride across Lake Atitlan then rode in the back of a truck (Guatemalan style!) to the tutoring center in Santiago. Again we were welcomed and introduced to the girls and mentors. The girls sang us a song about empowerment and then we played an ice breaker game to introduce ourselves and get to know each other.

Then we watched the mentorship portion of day lead by Andrea. Today the discussion was on team work. The girls role played scenarios and practiced problem solving and vocal empowerment. It was hard not to notice how much more strong and confident these young ladies are in comparison to the very shy girls we have come across outside of this organization. They speak louder and with more pride and smiles! They acted out what it looks like when people don’t work as a team, and then the second group displayed more helpful teamwork. This was followed by a discussion on what the differences, emotions and results were of each group.

Each girl then wrote out an example of a struggle they have experienced while working in a group and they put the sheet of paper in a hat. Then the pieces of paper were pulled and read to the group, acted out (the girls are wonderful actresses!!) and then together they discussed solutions to each situation. Then together we acted out an exercise in 3 teams of girls mixed with Dining for Women ladies and performed an “egg drop” to practice the teamwork we just discussed.

We left the program location to have lunch at the home of one of the girls enrolled. We were welcomed warmly again and enjoyed another ice breaker to get to know the family we visited. Each person introduced themselves, we danced and sang, and then together we prepared a meal. We learned to make tortillas and had a many good laughs while enjoying the meal together.

That evening we met up again as a whole group and took some of the staff and mentors to dinner at a sushi restaurant in Panajachel called Restaurante Hana. We sat in a beautiful outdoor space and ate Japanese food “family style”. The evening was once again full of laughter and connection, as our personal stories were shared and we encouraged each other in the work being done.

It is a tradition at Dining for Women dinners to read our Dinner Affirmation before we eat. Melanie did us the great honor of reading our affirmation in Spanish so that our guests could also partake of our communal affirmation. As a chapter leader, I love this part of the evening, but must say the words will have a new and more personal meaning for me in the future. This is because at the end of the affirmation, we say “….may we all dine together someday”, and after today, I can now say that I have had that honor.

Starfish Post