Heartlight at Starfish International


Heartlight at Starfish International

The Gambia

Starfish International: Starfish International (SI) subscribes to the belief that many of the global problems facing humanity today can be positively impacted by or even solved by the education of girls and women. We believe this education should include an excellent academic education, character development, and training in business development and health. When Starfish International was established in 2009, it aimed for a component to ensure the mental and emotional wellbeing of the students and staff it served. So, when Ms. Donna Richards introduced Attitudinal Healing to the program, not only was she supported to implement it, but several staff members were trained to guarantee the sustainability of the project. Ten years later, Attitudinal Healing, now called Heartlight at Starfish International, is one of the most desired and effective programs for student, staff, and volunteer development.

The Attitudinal Healing program offered the administration, staff, volunteers, and students the opportunity to benefit from character development, self-esteem, and self-development activities. The team in The Gambia learned about the Center for Inner Peace program, and the program instituted Attitudinal Healing as a mandatory self-development program that all staff members have to go through as part of their training. Ms. Richards trained a mentor called Isatou Camara, who learned the usage of the Heartlight materials and worked with the administration to inculcate it in the yearly goals of the organization. She has also trained several mentors who are now leading Attitudinal Healing activities at Starfish. Because Starfish International functions on models that have been influenced by the voices of the students and communities it serves, the program modified the exercises of meditation, readings, sending love, and sharing to best fit the culture and the types of students it is serving. Starfish International is very invested in people's mental and emotional wellbeing and providing support to everyone who steps foot within the walls of the Starfish Campus. Since the introduction of Attitudinal Healing, the resources and guidelines have been utilized to enrich our mentors' emotional and mental wellbeing and our volunteers, students, and even partners. As a result, we have diligently made great use of the Attitudinal Healing materials in aspects listed below.

  1. Heartlight Mentoring Program
    As mentors of our program are busy juggling school, doing their Starfish work, and mentoring students from different communities, Attitudinal Healing has served the purpose of the staff's mental and emotional wellbeing to a great length. There are times of the year when the work can be overwhelming, mainly because the program is a student-centered one. So, as an organization, we provide the Attitudinal Healing session twice during the week, for an hour per session for staff members to center themselves. They've used the space to talk about their work and personal issues and consult each other, providing guidance, support, and unconditional love. The activities have helped enhance their relationships with each other, with the volunteers, and with the Starfish students. As a result, the staff has also been better equipped to take on the emotional and mental struggles that the students and volunteers have had over the years.
  2. Volunteer Program
    For every volunteer that serves at Starfish International, Attitudinal Healing is included in their schedule. Coming into a new environment and leaving behind their ways of life can be challenging. So, Starfish provides the Attitudinal Healing space for both the volunteers and staff to use as a way of knowing each other at a deeper level, and holding space for each other to grow, embrace one another's culture, and thrive in service to humanity. When volunteers write blogs about their experiences, Heartlight is one of the activities that usually stands out for them. We have conducted Heartlight with volunteers and interns from all over the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and other places in Africa. Estimated, over 100 volunteers have gone through Attitudinal Healing through Starfish International.
  1. Sisters Care Club
    Sisters Care is one of the clubs at Starfish International that serves as a support group for girls in the program. The club's goal is to address its students' mental and emotional state and provide them with a community of like-minded individuals who can support them without asking for anything in return. During the club's weekly meetings, the facilitators use the attitudinal healing meditations guides and principles to check in and share without fear of judgment. This helps us in our work to understand what the students are going through and come up with solutions that address their needs. When unchecked, emotional and mental issues affect a girl's educational performance, social and other extracurricular activities, Starfish likes to offer all the support it can because we believe the girl's development should be supported with holistic solutions. For example, one of the most difficult challenges we had to deal with this year was losing a Starfish friend who was close to many of our senior students. Starfish provided facilities for students for meditation, prayers (if they wanted), sharing, readings, and mentorship that provided struggling students with a community to lean on.

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Donna Richards

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