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Wouldn't you enjoy living the life of Ted and Connie Ning?

Both successful professionals, Ted, a Clinical Professor in the Department of Surgery (Urology) at the University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine and Connie, a Marriage and Family Therapist, together they founded and serve as President and Vice President of Starfish One by One “a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides educational scholarships and support to rural Mayan children and their families. By assisting with the short-term economic and nutritional needs of families who otherwise could not afford to send their children to school beyond the 6th grade, we progress toward the long-term goal of breaking the generational cycle of poverty.”
 
It was Connie’s inspiration to name this new non-profit, Starfish One by One.  “It comes from the story of a mother seeing her daughter picking up only one of a beach covered by starfish and tossing it back into the sea. The mother asks ‘why save that one if you can’t save all of them,’ and the daughter replies because it will make a difference to this one, and she tosses the living starfish back into the sea, where it will thrive.”
 
The Nings are also the founders of Friendship Bridge, a non-profit organization that “provides microcredit and educational programs so women and their families can create their own solutions to poverty” in Guatemala. They have since handed the managerial reigns over to others, enabling themselves to reach out the Mayan population through Starfish One by One.
 
Their story is rich with experiences and far too complex to serve it justice here, but in a nutshell, initially they began reaching out to others in the ‘70s after the Viet Nam war, when Ted “returned to help with international adoptions. Their work halted after the closure of Viet Nam. “When access was reopened in 1988 we returned.” When he returned years later he “was curious if the projects he had launched years earlier still continued but none had. I realized that to bring successful projects into a community we have to integrate our help into their communities rather than force our solutions upon them,” he said.
 
The Nings began their hard work in Guatemala after taking a family trip there. Their development of Friendship Bridge exposed them to many aspects of that country, one being the Mayan people.
 
“Mayan kids are handicapped because school is taught only in Spanish,” said Connie, and contributed Ted, “they are judged when they are in first grade. As children, who have not even had the chance to learn the language, the schools dismiss them and they are not provided an education.” That is where Starfish One comes in.
 
Throughout Latin America, “most indigenous people have been obliterated,” said Connie. “Those that have survived are terribly disadvantaged. Starfish One by One works to establish positive mentorships to guide Mayan girls through an educational journey.”
 
The mentors become a critical part of each girl’s success. “We pay well,” said Ted. “We actually pay a better salary than teachers receive.” The fair salary encourages mentors to remain in the program and the Nings have discovered that it also brings an enthusiasm that results in multitasking and supporting the girls in ways the Nings and Starfish One by One initially couldn’t imagine.
 
The Nings and others involved in Starfish One by One have taken on a huge task when you discover the sad fact that in Latin America only Haiti has a worse record on spending government funds on education than in Guatemala. “The educational quality is very low,” said Ted.
 
Starfish One by One always welcomes help through financial donations, volunteers that work locally as well as those wishing to travel and help directly. “We need to raise at least $300,000 for the coming year,” said Ted.
 
Starfish One by One will hold an event in September. To learn more about this wonderful, compassionate organization, and to meet some of the beautiful girls that benefit from this organization, please look to www.Starfishonebyone.org.

Ted
What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be awake at every moment.

What is your greatest fear?
Not being effective.

What is the trait you most admire in others?
Resilience to life’s challenges

Which living person do you most admire?
Dalai Lama

What is your greatest extravagance?
ice cream

What is your greatest trait?
persistencne

What is the quality you most like in a person?
openness

When and where were you happiest?
the present moment

Who are your favorite public figures?  
Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Paul Farmer 

Who are your real-life heroes?
My wife, Connie.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being married for 42 years and still working at it.

If not in Colorado, where would you like to live?
Guatemala

What is your most treasured possession?
Knowledge

What do you most value in your friends?
Sharing the ups and downs of life

What is it that you most dislike?
Closemindedness

What is your greatest regret?
It took me so long to understand how things really work

What is your motto?
We can do it together 

CONNIE –
What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being able, in some small way, to effectively make the world a better place

What is your greatest fear?
That we all won't wake up in time to save our earth for our grandchildren and all future children

What is the trait you most admire in others?
intelligent compassion

Which living person do you most admire?
the Dali Lama

What is your greatest extravagance?
my garden

What is your greatest trait?
Courage/innovation

What is the quality you most like in a person?
kindness

When and where were you happiest?
now...both in Colorado and Guatemala

Who are your favorite public figures?
Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Barak and Michele Obama  

Who are your real-life heroes?
Gandi, King, Bobby Kennedy, Mary Oliver

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming a kinder more conscious person

If not in Colorado, where would you like to live?
Guatemala

What is your most treasured possession?
My life

What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty, caring, a global and spiritual perspective, intelligence

What is it that you most dislike?
sef-centeredness, superficiality

What is your greatest regret?
not following my heart/intuition earlier in life

What is your motto?
"always go towards your fears"