Niles resident making difference on other side of the worldPublished 12:07pm Friday, July 25, 2014
It’s easy to think that as one person, you alone cannot make a difference, but I would like to tell you that simply isn’t true. You have probably heard the starfish parable before, but if not, I’ve included it…
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir.” The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water, and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
It only takes one person to make a difference in the lives of others. You have an opportunity to do it every day, with everyone whom you come in contact. Becca Bunch, a Niles resident since 1991, is doing just that…in Southeast Asia, as the Fundraising & Operations Coordinator for Starfish Project, a fair trade jewelry business that derives its name from the above parable and seeks to transform the lives of exploited women, one by one, through the sale of beautiful, handcrafted jewelry. Here’s a bit more about Becca and her experiences both in Niles and at Starfish Project.
Q: What did you like most about Niles?
I did not appreciate it as much as I should have at the time but after living in Asia I really appreciate having grown up in a small town in which people know each other and everything is within a few minutes of each other.
Q: What do you miss most about the U.S.?
After living in East Asia I have begun to appreciate the US more; that tends to happen because as they say, you do not know what you have got until it is gone. I really miss the blue skies, the while fluffy cumulous clouds, the green grass that I can walk on barefoot, the clean air, and conveniences of living in a place where you can speak the language fluently and everything is at your fingertips. It is the little things that you do not notice until you leave that I soak up when I go back home.
Q: What do you like most about Asia?
In the area in which I live it is very international, and I have the opportunity to work, live with, and be friends with people from cultures around the world. I find it fascinating how the different cultures from the States, and other countries interact with one another; I love being a part of that.
Q: How did you end up in East Asia and at Starfish Project?
After I went on my semester abroad and visited Starfish Project in Asia through Bethel College, I returned the following summer for an internship doing whatever they needed or asked of me. When I returned back for my last year of college I wanted to go back to continue working with them but I just did not see how it was possible. When I started dreaming about coming back, I asked God to have the Founder email me if He wanted me to return and then three days later she did. After much consideration, prayer, and seeking wise council I made the decision in April to go back to work at Starfish Project once I graduated.
Q: What is your role at Starfish Project?
I am the Fundraising and Operations Coordinator. This means that I do all of the reporting for our grants, research for new grant opportunities, organize our events, and write all of our newsletters that go to the general public and wholesalers, along with our internal newsletter.
Q: What inspires you about Starfish Project?
At Starfish Project I am inspired by the heart of the organization to act as a launching pad for every woman that works for Starfish. There are people who say that it is unique that we not only offer alternative employment, a safe shelter, and counseling but we also offer educational and vocational training opportunities. I am encouraged that there are so many opportunities for women to take on more responsibility and leadership within this organization that are transferable outside as well. I love that we are not just giving women jobs but we are providing them with the tools and skills they need to empower themselves, and be successful no matter where they decide to work in the future.
Q: What does Starfish mean to you and why do you want others to know about the organization?
The moment I first heard of Starfish Project during my freshmen year of college, I knew that I wanted to work for this organization. I was not sure how it was going to happen but with every cell in my body, I wanted it. Since that moment I have gotten involved however I could, visiting the Asia office during my semester abroad, volunteering in the US office, interning with them, and now working with the organization in Asia. I fully believe in everything Starfish Project does as an organization to bring hope to women who were caught in exploitation. My hope is that as more people learn about the organization that they will be burdened for this issue, whether it is for the women or the people who exploited them, and do whatever they can with the gifts that they have to do something about it.
Q: What piece of advice would you offer readers?
The other day somebody asked me for advice if they want to serve overseas someday with an organization, and I told her this: Get involved with organizations working in issues you are passionate about now, go to conferences and events about the topic, get advice from people who are older and wiser than you that can give you insight into your field of interest, get plugged into some communities, churches, networks that will support and encourage you, find out as much as you can, and pray. One thing I have learned this year is that I know nothing, and if I am going to not only survive but thrive in this work that I am going to need to learn as much as I can from people who have gone before me. They have so much to offer and there is no point in reinventing the wheel.
Starfish Project volunteer staff, like Becca, help make a difference in the lives of women who make the choice to leave their life of exploitation to come to Starfish Project, where their lives are transformed as they are given access to services such as counseling, vocational training, language classes, family education grants, health care, and housing at Starfish Project’s shelter.
Women are trained in management, language, organization, technological and leadership skills, often taught by volunteers, and each day the vision of ‘making a difference to the one’ is realized. While you may not make the decision Becca made to come to work at Starfish Project full-time, you can still make a difference in the lives of the women who come to Starfish Project.
Consider getting involved through purchasing products online, hosting a Starfish Project party, selling products as an Advocate of Hope, donating to Starfish Project, and volunteering in our U.S. office (located in Goshen, Indiana). To learn more about Starfish Project and to get involved, please visit www.starfish-project.com.