Starfish Foundation for the Empowerment of Filipino Youth (FILSTAR) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that aims to empower, inspire, and give hope and help to motivated and underprivileged youth in the most poverty-stricken areas of the Philippines.
Before Starfish Foundation was established, one of our founders had been dedicated to helping disadvantaged Filipino youth individually by providing them with educational assistance. As time went on, he wanted to assist more students but needed help. He then formed relationships with an established NGO in Tacloban City, Leyte, a church, and an NGO in Calbayog City, Samar to be able to do more.
As relationships with other organizations developed, the number of students increased, and other related projects were able to be done. We built and renovated five schools in Calbayog City, repaired a church, and accomplished other projects there as well. One of his observations was that "life is real there", and he fell in love with Calbayog City and its people.
Samar is one of the most impoverished provinces in the Philippines and poverty is a way of life for many who live there. Opportunity for young people is lacking, no matter how much enthusiasm they may have or how big their dreams may be.
Despite our own hope and ambition, we soon realized that we can't be everywhere. There are many other places in undeveloped countries where life is unfairly difficult too. But we know we can make a difference somewhere, so we have focused ourselves in Calbayog City where poverty is rampant and where it is the norm. We have students in other places too, Nueva Ecija, Cebu, Tacloban City, and Manila - all of them in need. Even many exceptional students who are able to get tuition scholarships are not able to afford the additional costs of education and many of the best end up farming rice.
Many times we've become engaged with unexpected medical problems that befell our students, sometimes their family and others as well. There is sparse medical care where we are, and what there is often is utterly unaffordable by the people living there who have hardly enough money to buy their daily food. But we try to do what needs to be done. We've had many successful outcomes, but there are also some sad stories that would break your heart.
As things evolved, one of our students was able to complete her education in the USA. Then, as time went on and the number of students and projects grew, the activity in the Philippines became increasingly difficult to manage. In 2014, together with her mentor, he and his former student formed Starfish Foundation for the Empowerment of Filipino Youth. Today that student is the Executive Director of Starfish Foundation, and her mentor is President of the Board.
"I want to excite young people and give them real life experiences. I want to give them a chance and the ability to change and help their communities. I want to make sure that these young people are prepared for what's ahead of them. The future belongs to them, and I feel like it is my responsibility to prepare them for it" our president said.
In 2018, Starfish Foundation was able to expand its programs with the help of volunteer students and student groups from the local college.
It is our goal to help young people to become responsible community leaders and to be able to prosper and stand on their own two feet. A rising economy will lift all boats, and education and opportunity is key for that to happen. Starfish is moving forward and our intent is to bring as many underprivileged Filipinos along with it.
In 2019 our plan is to establish a sister NGO in the Philippines so that we can be increasingly certain that the efforts of Starfish will be able to go on for decades.
THE STARFISH STORY
A young girl was walking along the beach one morning where thousands of starfish had washed up onto the shore. She came across an old man who was picking up one starfish after another and throwing them back into the sea.
"Why are you throwing the starfish back into the sea?" she asked.
"Because the sun is coming up and the tide is going out, and if I don't throw them into the sea they will die."
"But there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly save them all. Even if you work all day, you can't make a difference at all," she replied.
The old man bent down picked up another starfish and threw him into the sea.
"Well," he said, "it made a difference to that one."