Our history

Starfish Asia was registered as a UK Charitable Trust in 2003, but the story starts much earlier in the 1980’s when Mike and Kerstin Wakely lived and worked in Pakistan, building relationships and becoming familiar with the needs and the problems of Pakistan, and especially of its minority Christian people.

Over the years, Mike and Kerstin were faced with seeing first-hand the impact from natural disasters such as the floods in 1997 as well as the ugly face of poverty derived from a multitude of factors such as inequality, lack of education, marginalisation and sometimes persecution of hundreds of poor minority communities in Pakistan.

It was in 1999, during a meeting with a Christian Pakistani, Ashley Arshad in Lahore, when Ashley said to Mike, “If you really want to help our community, help us with education.” It was advice that led to the founding of Starfish Asia to meet the educational needs of the poor, especially but not exclusively in the Pakistani Christian community.

In 2000, we received funds from a generous supporter to open a free High School for 200 children in Lahore.  Our work has grown from these small beginnings to a network of partners that are providing education through 46 schools and 6 homes for the disabled and neglected.  Our concern has always been for the poor, the socially marginalised, and the vulnerable.

Why the name Starfish Asia?

Most people have heard the story of the man walking on the beach, and discovering a small boy throwing starfish back into the water:

The Starfish

I was walking on the beach one morning and I saw a young man picking up starfish from the sand and flinging them back into the sea.

I asked why he did it.

“If I don’t, they will die in the midday sun,” he said.
“But there are thousands of starfish,” I replied.
“What difference does it make to save a few?”

He looked down at the starfish in his hand and flung it to safety in the waves.

“It makes a big difference to this one!” he said.

This is our philosophy – We know we can’t rescue everyone, but we surely must rescue some! Together we can make a great difference to many.

Our team

Mike and Kerstin Wakely worked in Christian voluntary service in Pakistan for ten years. In 2003 they founded Starfish Asia in response to the urgent need to provide education and hope for Pakistan’s Christian children. Mike continues to serve as the Executive Trustee.

Kerstin was originally the only administrator and treasurer but has gradually transferred responsibilities to Liz Ellis. She continues to communicate with our supporters.

Born and brought up in Pakistan, Rob Bavington joined the Starfish Asia team in January 2021. We invited him to join us four years ago, when he was living in Sweden, but circumstances meant that it was not possible at that time. He now lives in Bradford and, having worked part-time with a local charity serving the homeless, felt it was time to move on from that to focus more on Starfish Asia. Over the years Rob has worked with Youth For Christ, and spent 17 years in Sweden where he was involved with Church Planting and working within the Swedish school system. His childhood in Karachi made a big impression on him and he has never been able to shake the desire to be involved in a country with so many possibilities yet so many challenges.

Liz Ellis has taken over as our administrator. She grew up in Beckenham and now lives in Sevenoaks with her husband, three young daughters and Leo the Labrador. With her IT skills, experience in administration and a degree in Graphic and Media Design, Liz is an invaluable member of our team.

Mr. Devin Scobie (Chairman)
‎Senior Scottish Public Affairs professional and former company director
Chair of Starfish Asia since January 2020

Ms. Marjorie Murphy
Former Director of Mission & Evangelism in the Anglican Communion

Dr. Stephen Curran
Education Director of AE Tuition

Mr. Michael Wakely
Starfish Asia founder and Executive Trustee

Mr. Colin Wrigley MBE
Former Principal of Karachi Grammar School, Pakistan

Mrs. Sheila Thomas
Former Development Officer in Social Housing

Starfish Asia worldwide

Starfish Pakistan

Starfish Pakistan was registered as a Trust in Pakistan in 2003, and is operationally independent of Starfish Asia.

Starfish Pakistan is based in Lahore, and was recently taken over by Danishmand Wasti. He replaces Anser Javed as Chief Executive Officer. Anser and his wife Kashi offered 9 years of incredible service and we are grateful for their tireless contribution to so many. There is also a staff team of dedicated and hardworking individuals supporting the day-to-day running of the Pakistan office.

Danishmand and Jasmine Wasti

Image of Danishmand and Jasmine WastiDanishmand became Director of Starfish Pakistan in 2021, with the support of his wife Jasmine. They have both been members of the Starfish Pakistan board, Danishmand as Chairman for five years. He served as Training Director in Campus Crusade in Karachi for 8 years, working with young people, before becoming Director of Scripture Union in Lahore. He has been in Christian ministry for 35 years and was recently ordained in the Church of Pakistan.

Jasmine was previously head of the Matriculation Department in a Christian school and is passionate about helping young students, especially girls, reach their potential. She now supports Danishmand in his role, in particular overseeing the Scholarship programme and delivery of teacher training.

Starfish Asia (Singapore) Ltd

Starfish Asia (Singapore) Ltd is a registered company limited by guarantee that manages funds given for educational projects in Pakistan.

Starfish Asia (USA)

Starfish Asia (USA) is registered in the State of Ohio, and tax exempt under section 501(c)(3). The main office is in the State of Georgia.

Starfish Asia is a Charitable Incorporated Organization (CIO) with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, No. 1181649.  The main Starfish Asia office is located in Beckenham in southeast London.

Starfish Asia (Singapore) Ltd is a registered company limited by guarantee that manages funds given for educational projects in Pakistan.

Starfish Asia (USA) is registered in the State of Ohio, and tax exempt under section 501(c)(3). The main office in the USA is in the State of Georgia.

Starfish Pakistan was registered as a Trust in Pakistan in 2003. The main Pakistan office is located in Lahore.

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