Starfish International, Gambia

Over the past 10 years, Starfish International has motivated hundreds of middle and high school girls to develop a determination to make their families and their communities better through service to humanity.

About the project

Starfish International, a nonprofit community-based organization that is focused on providing Gambian girls scholarships to achieve the highest level of education, teaching them entrepreneurship skills that will enhance their financial independence, exposing them to opportunities and experiences geared towards guiding them find their voices and choices and educating them to break all social, cultural and global barriers to girls’ education. Most importantly, the organization requires its members and beneficiaries to direct their knowledge, skills and virtues towards serving their communities and humanity at large.

How we help

Mona Foundation provides funding for the Skills and Business Center which will serve as the financial backbone for the organization. Once it is established, the center will be an opportunity for community members, particularly 100 girls and women, who never had the opportunity to have or attain a high school education, to learn skills that will enhance their capacity in being financially independent.

The Skills Center was founded by Mama Kujabi, a victim of life-long violence and abuse who resolutely defied all odds and started a small business which enabled her to support and educate herself and three daughters. In the long run, these individuals will be skillful enough to contribute even more to the development of their communities, mostly by starting their own businesses and even hiring others.
Despite the challenges brought by COVID-19, Starfish International has been able to advance their plans on time and within budget. As the situation unfortunately worsens and their teachers are struggling more financially, the fulfillment of promised payments, with the support of Mona, has been invaluable. By October 2020 it is projected that the renovations will be complete and the new Skills Center facility will be ready for 100 students.

StarFish International provided the following update in an email to Mona Foundation on May 13, 2020.

“As the Coronavirus has imposed a lockdown situation in many countries, Starfish International had released its students and staff to stay home two days before the government of The Gambia announced the ‘stay home’ regulation on the 18th of March, 2020. Since then, both staff and students have been working from home and participating in activities through virtual online sessions. As far as the Skill Center is concerned, some of the operations launched by the center to join in the fight against COVID-19 and to lessen the consequences of the pandemic on both the Skills Center students and staff include:

Soap Making: Mama Kujabi runs this activity. Given that disinfectants are one of the items we need in our communities to be able to defeat the virus, she has been making soap for sale at affordable prices for people to use as disinfectants. The cost of disinfectants has also been on the rise since the demand increased. So, having soap made for people to access and afford has contributed to assisting people who might otherwise not be able to get any disinfectants.

Mask Making: One of the classes that the Skills Center is offering is the sewing class. Since the lockdown, Mama Kujabi and the facilitator of the sewing class have taken up the responsibility of making cloth masks made from local fabrics. Cloth masks can be washed and reused. These masks have been distributed to our supporters, staff, and other organizations in the Gambia such as SolHealth in The Gambia who are doing outreach programs in different communities. We have also sent these masks to our supporters abroad, especially in the United States. The mask is ideal for preventing the transfer of droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. Further, it will go a long way in reducing the spread of the virus.

Staff Payment: One of the biggest fears that came with the lockdown was the lack of income it was going to bring for civilians and even for those working in the private sectors. Our Skill Center staff have been tasked with making efforts to educate and train the students as they stay at home, such as recording of lessons to share with their students online.  Our media house has been working with individual staff members to record lessons in Sewing, Hairdressing, and Catering, Arts and Craft. This way, Starfish can pay the salaries of the Skill Center staff and help them keep their families safe and fed even at a time when most are losing their means of income/living.

“One of the most significant achievements of the Skill Center has been the purchasing of two sewing machines for the sewing classes. These machines helped with the production of masks in these critical times and made the job much easier for the organization.

“We would like to recognize and sincerely thank the Mona Foundation for the immense role they have played in the sustenance and development of the Skills Center.”

Over the past 10 years, Starfish has motivated hundreds of middle and high school girls to develop a determination to make their families and their communities better through service to humanity. Staff and students at Starfish have engaged in community service projects including:

  • Educational and awareness programs with community leaders such as The Lamin Village Development Council, both Christian and Muslim religious leaders, and village elders.
  • Individual and group service projects and sensitization campaigns conducted in the surrounding communities
  • Gender equality workshops with various schools in the community.
  • Parents’ service projects where parents and guardians of our students come to the Starfish Community Library to render service in support of their children.
  • Adult Education and Literacy Classes including Mathematics, English, Reading and Writing.

This dedication to service has transformed the way the community sees our students. These girls are now honored as selfless community servants who are committed to making the world a better place. As a result, the community and local institutions continue to provide support and to show appreciation for their efforts.

Help establish and maintain a centre where young women are taught how to gain financial independence.

Click on each of the suggested donation amounts below to see what your investment in education of rural youth can support.


2020 Achievements

Trained 100 women, ages 13 – 20, in sewing skills, hairdressing, cooking, arts and crafts

30 students advanced to the next level of the program

11 staff received training

2021 Project Goals

Anticipating to teach 105 students

Will train 20 teachers and engage 160 parents

Change a life!

Give $24 a month to support one girl gain financial independence.