Introducing the Starfish Initiative, Our New Give Back

Feb 24, 2022 | Give Back

Our new Starfish Initiative aims to help young not-for-profits gain the marketing skills they need to grow. Meet our pilot partner, Mirrorbox Theatre, and learn about the origins of this new giving program.

John Osako of Informatics and Chris Buresh, of CHI Haiti

By Informatics President and COO John Osako — pictured above with friend Dr. Chris Buresh, co-creator of CHI Haiti (left).

Singular moments can change the trajectory of your life. They can change the way you think, the way you see the world and how you choose to live your life.

I had one of these moments, and it changed me forever. It also led to the creation of our agency's newest Give Back endeavor, called the Starfish Initiative. Let me explain.

In past years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Haiti and work with a secular organization, CHI Haiti, which sets up medical clinics in remote villages.

In Haiti, there is a never-ending need for everything. Only 90 minutes from the opulence of Miami, Haiti is impoverished to a level that is often hard to comprehend.

With CHI Haiti, medical practitioners from all over the country, as well as non-medical people like me, come together for a week of hard work in a makeshift clinic, often seeing over a thousand people. It’s a physically and emotionally draining week, but one spent with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.

Every night after dinner, we gathered as a group to review the day, look for process improvements, and plan for tomorrow. It was also a time to discuss emotions and feelings from the day, which are often overflowing and difficult to process.

No matter how hard you work, no matter how many people you see, there are hundreds more that are turned away—often those who have walked hours for the chance to be seen. It’s easy to fall into the feeling of malaise and helplessness.

On one of my early trips, after talking about that feeling of helplessness, one of the volunteers told a story that impacted me like few stories have:

One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?” The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The man laughed to himself and said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference to that one.”


The story reminded me that we each have the capacity to make a difference, we just need to act.

As a web design and digital marketing agency, we are not typically given the opportunity to change the world. We work extremely hard for our clients and genuinely care for them. We put our heart and soul into what we do. However, we know we will probably not create a website that will profoundly change the world.

So, what to do? How do we as a company make a difference?

Enter the Starfish Initiative.

About The Starfish Initiative

Our mission is to help small or startup not-for-profit organizations that are improving our communities over the course of six months to a year. We will bring our entire arsenal of tools and skills to help them achieve their goals, and document the process so other not-for-profit groups can benefit from their experiences.

Scenes from Mirrorbox Theatre

We’ll be piloting this new initiative with Cedar Rapids' own Mirrorbox Theatre. When we met with Mirrorbox's Founder and Artistic Director Cavan Hallman, we saw the passion that inspired this initiative in the first place—the desire to create meaningful change in our community.

Mirrorbox's mission is to introduce Iowa to insightful, modern productions written by bold, diverse and often underrepresented voices. Now in its fifth season, the organization has put on dozens of performances both virtually and in local theater venues.

So far, our team has identified areas where we can help them grow, and are developing strategies to introduce these meaningful productions to more Iowans. We'll also be documenting the process along the way with a new series of monthly blogs, so that others can learn from Mirrorbox's experience.

The past few years have created tremendous need for not only the basics like food and shelter, but also emotional needs of togetherness, acceptance, and hearing diverse voices. We look forward to working with many organizations with the Starfish Initiative. Our hope, like the story, is that our actions can help them make a difference.

We'll be posting updates on the Starfish Initiative at our blog and social pages. In the meantime, reach out to discuss how we can help your company or organization meet its digital marketing goals!

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