Eta Beta’s Cate Hovey tells us about her internship with Starfish International and all that she gained from supporting young women in The Gambia.
Tell us about you!
My name is Cate Hovey and I am a member of the Eta Beta chapter at Allegheny College. I am a psychology major and an education and music double minor. I am hoping to one day become a special education teacher. I am the Philanthropy and Public Relations Chair for my chapter. I love Ronald McDonald House Charities and everything it does for children and families around the world. Outside of ADPi, I’m involved in a few different organizations. I am a Bonner leader at Allegheny. Through this organization I work at our local middle school on a tutoring program. I am a part of Up Till Dawn, an organization that helps to fund raise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and I interned for Starfish International.
What is Starfish International?
Starfish International is an organization in The Gambia, West Africa that strives to give young girls in the country access to better education. The organization was started by Yassin Sarr whose mother raised four children almost on her own and sent all of them to university with only a high school education. Yassin was so inspired by her mother and thought about what women could achieve if they were all given the opportunity to go away to college or university. When Starfish was first created it was a program for girls age 13-18. As the organization has grown, they now accept 100 girls and 30 boys into the program. Although the focus is still mainly on educating young girls, there is also the hope to educate young boys and help them to understand that educating other girls in their community is important. During the school year there is an after school program that the students attend. Girls are given tutoring in various subjects along with classes that highlight the five Starfish qualities: nobility, independence, service, courtesy, and knowledge. Every summer, volunteers from all over come to The Gambia to teach these summer classes. The classes are not the typical math and science and English that someone might think of. This past summer we had classes that included topics like; Arabic, nutrition, and business. The point of these nontraditional classes is to give the students a more well rounded education. When they go on to apply for college and university they will have an upper hand because they now possess knowledge that their peers may not.
Why did you apply for the internship?
I wanted to apply for this internship because when I heard about it I just felt called to The Gambia. Something in my heart was telling me I needed to go. I believed in Yassin’s dream, and I believed in what these girls could do.
What have you learned from the internship and what do you hope to take with you moving forward?
The biggest thing I learned from my internship and my time in Gambia was how to love others. In the U.S., we are very individualistic and very focused on ourselves. We only do things to benefit ourselves, and if something doesn’t benefit us we usually shy away from it or complain about having to do it. While being abroad I learned that my place in the world is so small, but I can make a significant difference. There is no possible way for me to save everyone, but I can make a difference in the life of a few people.
Has ADPi contributed to your involvement/success in any way? If so, how have your ADPi sisters supported you?
ADPi has given me the confidence to go out and chase my dreams. I’ve gained leadership skills through ADPi that I was able to take to The Gambia with me. There were times where I would be teaching classes on my own, so I really had to step up and prove that I was able to control my students and also maintain a fun and enriching learning environment. My sisters were with me every step of the way, from the application process to calming my fears before flying all the way to The Gambia on my own. They encouraged me and never let me doubt myself, and I know they’ll be there for me when I start to get homesick for my home away from home.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’d love more people to be involved with this amazing organization. I think anyone can benefit from spending time in The Gambia with Starfish International. These young men and women will inspire anyone beyond what you could ever imagine. They are so strong and so willing to learn. I see these women going off and doing amazing things to benefit their country, community, and themselves. Starfish is always looking for more volunteers and I highly recommend it. I cannot wait to go home to The Gambia again one day soon.