About

Established in 2010, Starfysh is a grassroots movement of folks with the crazy notion that we could turn desperate poverty on its ear for a small island in Haiti that 100,000 of the poorest people on Earth call home—and restore dignity and hope to those who’ve lost both.

Nothing less than a grand experiment in human compassion, Starfysh asks, “What if a few people and organizations, in gutsy Christian response, came together in synergistic partnerships and collaboration to focus on this small island of precious people? To demonstrate to them the love of Christ by feeding them and healing their sick and injured? To restore in them the dignity that God originally created them to have? To make sure their water doesn’t make them sick? To make sure each family has a weather-tight home, a garden, and a dignified way to provide for themselves? To restore in them the ability to hope again?” We choose to rise to the occasion.

We are Starfysh. And we invite you to join us. Thank you.

The Starfish Parable

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, so he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man reached down to the shore, picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!” As if he hadn’t heard, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean.

As it met the water, he turned, smiled, and said, “Yes, but I just made a big difference to that one!”

The Island of La Gonave

They call her La Gonave. Home to 100,000 of the poorest, most beaten down people with whom we share our planet—yet most of the world does not know that she and her people exist. While the island is considered part of Haiti, La Gonave is, for the most part, disregarded by her motherland. She is “The Forgotten Haiti,” where three of every four children under five years of age are malnourished and where most people have no access to safe, clean water. Where meaningful work is nearly non-existent and the ability to hope for a better future has evaporated. Where only a slim minority of children can attend school and where, even for those fortunate enough to attend and complete school, there are no next steps.

But La Gonave’s people are beautiful, created by God to reflect his dignity, just like you and me.

They are a people who love their country, for all its flaws. They are smart people, beautiful people, creative people, and industrious people, whose children love to play and sing. They are a resilient people who desire, more than anything, to make a go of it, and who are willing to work hard to pull themselves and their land out of their rotten situation…if only there were a way to do it.

Sadly, these people have lost the hope and dignity they were created to have. They feel they have nothing to be proud of and they are sure the world doesn’t see them. Their lives are quietly desperate…hidden, for the most part, from the rest of Haiti…and certainly from the rest of the world.

Friends in need, we see you and choose this day to join you in your struggle.

On the island…

  • 1 of every 13 children die before their 5th birthday.
  • 3 of every 4 children under 5 are malnourished and underweight.
  • 2 of every 3 children are anemic.
  • 3 of every 4 children are iodine deficient.
  • 1 of every 3 children are infected with intestinal parasites.
  • Diarrhea causes more deaths than any other illness.
  • 80% of people have no access to basic health care.
  • Fewer than half of people can read.

Our Purpose

Mission
Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, and by his model of compassionate servanthood, Starfysh exists to demonstrate Christian love and compassion through alleviating physical suffering and addressing social injustice on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. Starfysh’s mission is to bring sustainable transformation to an island.  With God’s help, we will work alongside the people of La Gonave to bring the vicious cycle of their desperate poverty to a screeching halt.

The Benchmark: Sustainability
Bold and gutsy claims must be backed by bold and gutsy plans. We must be smart, inventive, innovate. It is a new day. We cannot afford to revisit failed methodologies (i.e. those that have yielded short-lived, unsustainable outcomes.) Sustainability must be the benchmark by which success in our mission (true transformation) is measured. Sustainability must, therefore, be the measure by which all of our methods (policies, projects, budgets, etc.) are assessed. We will make honest, even painful decisions to let go of things that don’t yield permanent outcomes. We must pour our energies into outcomes that will outlive Starfysh, surviving and thriving on their own.

Vision
Our vision is to reverse the vicious cycle of poverty on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. We’ll know our vision has been realized when drinking water is clean, food is abundant, and people are able to provide for themselves, thus building dignity and hope for every person, every family, and every village on the island.

Core Values
Driven and guided by the following core values, Starfysh is resolutely committed to implementing long-term, sustainable, and assets-based initiatives to communities on La Gonave. These values frame all of our planning and are central considerations to each project we implement.

  • Collaboration:  We celebrate the fact that we are but one of many in a world of compassionate people and organizations working to relieve suffering and improve life for the desperately poor. We value the importance of partnerships in our efforts to bring about significant, sustainable change, and welcome the expertise and skills that others can bring to the table.
  • Empowerment:  In all we do, we desire that the recipients of our compassion would be encouraged, equipped, strengthened toward greater levels of self-sufficiency.
  • Dignity:  We recognize that the dignity of individuals and communities can be diminished by indiscriminate and careless charity. In all we do, we demand of ourselves that we build up the worth of those we serve.
  • Holistic Focus:  We choose to pour all our energies into one place, the island of La Gonave, Haiti, and to address as many of the root causes of her poverty that we can. We are convinced that nothing short of such a focused and holistic approach can reverse the cycle of poverty in any one place.
  • Sustainability:  We regard our efforts as successful only to the point that we can see and measure progressively higher levels of independence.
  • Measurability:  We regard seriously our work and so will not let the outcomes of our efforts to go unmeasured. The stakes are too high. Measurements of project impact and effectiveness will be essential learning tools that will sharpen and refine us as we move forward toward our vision.

Guiding Principles
It is possible for development agencies and charities to have harmful consequences in the wake of their well-meant efforts. Indeed, charity efforts in Haiti have demonstrated abundant examples of this truth. Starfysh is always mindful of the harmful consequences that might arise out of the way we conduct ourselves in Haiti and strive hard to avoid the easy fixes and shortcuts that so often characterize the standard operating procedures of relief efforts.

In Starfysh’s determination to “do no harm,” we abide by the following principles…

  • Buy Local:  When possible we will support the local economy through procuring the supplies needed for our projects in Haiti, preferably right here on La Gonave, even at times when the cost of supplies locally is more expensive than if purchased and shipped in from elsewhere.
  • No Bribes:  We reject the practice of paying money for illegal favors.
  • Assets-Based (i.e. not needs-based) Approach:  Our approach in finding strategic solutions in a community gives priority to that village’s assets and strengths over its problems and needs.
  • Non-Political:  We do not take positions on Haitian politics nor do we attempt to influence political discourse.
  • Christ-Centered Ethos:  In all we do (in governance and strategic planning, in how we relate to people, and in our work on the ground in Haiti), our desire is that the love of God, in Jesus, will shine brightly for all to see and that people will be drawn toward a personal relationship with Him.

Our Team

BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

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Dr. Steve Edmondson, Founder & President
Position: Family Practice Physician, private practice
Education: BS Biology, Indiana Wesleyan University;
Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine

 

BrianDykstra-100pxBrian Dykstra, Vice President
Position: Managing Director, Oxford Financial Group
Education: BBA, Hope College
   

 

TimUlstad-100pxTim Ulstad, Secretary
Position: Licensed Counselor, Private Practice
Education: BS Secondary Education, Spring Arbor University; MA Counseling, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

 

DougLockhart-100pxDoug Lockhart, Treasurer
Position: SVP Bible Marketing and Outreach, HarperCollins Christian Publishing
Education: BBA, Spring Arbor University; MBA, WMU

 

Cherese Gordon, Member at Large
Position: Mission Team Leader
Education: BA Communications, Christian Ministry, Spring Arbor University

 

DanIrvine-100pxRev. Dan Irvine, Member at Large
Position: Caribe Atlantic Director, Global Partners
Education: BA Religious Education, Hope Sound Bible College; MA Leadership, Indiana Wesleyan University

 

EliMaxime100-pxDr. Eli Maxime, Member at Large
Position: General Practice Physician, La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital, La Gonave, Haiti
Education: Lumiere University, Port-au-Prince

 

DanielBertrand-100pxDaniel Bertrand, Advisory
Position: CEO La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital
Education: Engineering, Wesleyan College
   

 

JosephYves-100pxJoseph Yves, Advisory
Position: Community Health Education Coordinator
Education: Education, Wesleyan College

DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE:

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Paul Donn Jean
After earning his BS in Agriculture and MS in Project Design/Development, Paul Donn returned to his birthplace to lead Starfysh’s efforts to make La Gonave a land of flourishing trees and productive gardens and farms.

 

TEAM COORDINATOR AND HOST:

FreddyWilliams-100px

Freddy Williams
Formerly a full-time missionary in Haiti, Freddy brings a rich history of cultural understanding and experience, coupled with his gift of hospitality to his role as teams coordinator. Folks interested in visiting our work enjoy working with Freddy to make their visit a rewarding one.