Costa Rica Community Service:
Stories from the Field
Getting to Work
July 10, 2018
Today we headed downtown to begin some community service at a school. We first noticed the paint on a play structure was fading so we decided to re-paint it so the colors would be brighter. There were not enough paint brushes, so a few of us had to find a store that sold them, but to find a store, we had to ask locals. It was difficult because none of us spoke Spanish very well, but we were able to hold a few conversations—a pleasant surprise. We also spoke to a few others in Spanish that day—mostly little kids who had a lot to say—and it was so fun to learn about their lives.
Later that night, we set off for the beach, and on the way there, saw many horses on the side of the road; all of the trees and greenery made it feel like we were on the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland! Once we arrived, we had a bonfire which was lots of fun. We sang songs as Kene played the guitar and we saw bioluminescent organisms in the water.
The next morning, we split up to pursue different projects in smaller groups. Some students returned to the preschool to revive a hopscotch caterpillar at the entrance and a mural around the yard. A few others went to the local water provider, the Aqueducto, to create signs; this is supposed to help promote awareness of water sources that will help dissuade litter and pollution. The majority of us went to a neighborhood called Buena Vista, located along the sea, to work with a local civic youth group, GOALS; their mission was to turn an old piece of land into a vibrant futsal court and public park. Later, four students departed for El Jobo to help conduct environmental research and will report back on their findings tomorrow. All of us got to meet and work with locals at every one of these sites.
Later in the afternoon, we met with the younger kids again for art time and made figurines of animals out of plastic bottles. After, a few of us decided to attend an afternoon Mass at the village church to experience the faith that many of the locals shared. We can’t wait for another day of adventure and learning tomorrow!
July 9, 2018
We woke up early to eat breakfast, and soon after, got ready for the adventurous day ahead of us. First, we went for a snorkel at the off-shore islands near our hotel; there, we spotted a turtle, ray, eel, hundreds of fish, and many tiny jellyfish. After, we went to a beach to play soccer and go for a quick swim before heading back to the hotel to pack for our next trip. At the hotel, we had an orientation about what the plans were for Cuajiniquil, the community service village we would be helping in, and soon departed for the town. We spent the hour drive there singing the whole time until we arrived and settled into our new house, ate dinner, and met with our host family.
While we all loved snorkeling and surfing, the main reason why many of us ventured on this new and exciting expedition was for the community service aspect. Personally, activism is the core of who I am, and it has been for the last six years. As a blogger, author, and motivational speaker, I have always loved exploring different parts of the world and learning about how my generation can help empower communities. I was counting down the days until I could travel to Costa Rica and learn more about the community and its incredible people.
After a nutritious breakfast from generous community members, we walked to downtown Cuajiniquil and were given an assignment—in Spanish—to help us explore. We had tolearn four new Spanish phrases and words, meet four new community members and get to know them, and find four things that we are passionate to learn more about or take action on, in the community.
So, after exploring the pueblo (village) for two hours, I learned new phrases such as “Cual es tu nombre?” (what is your name) and “Donde trabajas?” (where do you work). I met incredible and friendly people like Maureen—who explained that she welcomes monkeys and birds onto her property, and even invited us to her home—and Junior, who has owned a bakery for the past five years. I also met a man who has traveled the world, going to places like Ecuador and Nicaragua and working as a sea captain to sail with students from colleges all over the U.S. who are studying marine biology. Did I mention that he has done this for the past 20 years?
Our trip leaders also asked us what we—our group—are passionate about learning more on or rebuilding in this community? Interviewing locals, creating a place for stray dogs, assisting Junior in his bakery, and even renovating an abandoned play structure we found.
To debrief, we went to a beautiful gazebo and were given delicious smoothies with nine different flavors—I definitely think that everyone tried at least four!
For many of us, we love young kids and wanted to meet and interact with them, so we had the opportunity to meet a bunch of toddlers and do arts and crafts with them, which was awesome. But what was even better was when we played and learned new games from each other; even though there was a language barrier, our love of games brought us together.
Today was an amazing day, filled with new experiences and exploration. I cannot wait to do more tomorrow.
Un Buen Comienzo
July 9, 2018
We were all really nervous to meet each other the first day, but once we had dinner at Air Margaritaville in the Miami Airport, we started introducing ourselves. Not everyone had arrived yet, so we spent the next part of the day meeting the rest of the crew before finally setting off to Costa Rica! We landed safely and took a bus to our hotel, where we participated in a team scavenger hunt that helped us familiarize ourselves with Playa Hermosa—the town we were going to be staying in for the next two days. We ended up learning a lot of interesting facts about Costa Rica! After, we ate an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Aqua Sport and were serenaded by local music while we ate traditional Costa Rican meals. We ended the day with a group meeting to prepare ourselves for the activities we’ll be doing tomorrow.
The next day, we woke up fairly early to eat breakfast before heading out on our first service trip. We spent almost two hours cleaning trash and plastic out of a river with The Leatherback Trust, an organization dedicated to conservation and studying sea turtles. We gathered bags of garbage and recyclables, as well as some odd items like TVs and printers.
After our work there was done, we left for Playa Grande. Along the way, we stopped for lunch, swam in a pool and played some frisbee, until it was time for us to set off once again. Our surf instructors from Frijoles Locos greeted us at the beach and we split into two groups; one for surfing and the other for swimming, playing soccer, and relaxing.
Before we knew it, it was time to get back to the hotel, and we spent the car ride singing, talking, and entertaining ourselves. It was dinner time as soon as we got back to the hotel where we celebrated Sabrina’s birthday eating delicious desserts. We then concluded the night with a group recap led by our trip leaders.
Living the Costa Rican Life
July 22, 2017
I wake up to the sounds of roosters and motorcycles curled up with me in my mosquito net. I brush my teeth as quick as possible in the sink, taking a quick look in the mirror which was a bad idea; my hair is as frizzy as it can be. Then, we eat some delicious fruit and cereal for breakfast and head off to the first adventure of the day: painting murals at the local high school, painting walls, and fixing up all the finishing touches to the art. After, we were waiting for our leader when we heard shouting—another of our groups heading to the beach. So we joined them. It was only an eight minute ride to the beach but it felt like a long roller coaster ride. Once we got to the beach we drove into a beautiful, peaceful, serene view of the ocean bay of Costa Rica. We took off our work shoes and ran to the water. We enjoyed the moments at the beach and then left for lunch. Lunch, at our favorite neighborhood house, was excellent.
After lunch we headed to the salon—community center—to watch local dancers and singers put on a show. It is always interesting and exciting watching a show in a different language; you mostly try to figure out what the heck they are saying and what the show is about. Thankfully, we debriefed the whole show afterward so we could understand every part of it as we walked back to the house. Once we were back at the house, we all drank plain black coffee to boost our energy levels after a long morning; we got our energy right back and headed over to the elementary school across the street.
I walked through the gate with students running, yelling my name and giving me big hugs. I said “Hola” to every little student I saw and watched them smirk at me and give me mysterious looks or huge smiles. I live for little moments like these; I love seeing how these kids get so happy. We did art and played tag and kicked the ball around until their bell rang for it all to come to a sad ending of the eventful playtime.
The day went on and we headed to the biggest soccer game yet. We took off all of our shoes and ran on the field ready to make our teams. We ran around playing soccer, sliding everywhere and running as fast as we could to score! I love these moments as well because these kids are wearing no shoes and playing so well in this same humidity that leaves me struggling. They play so well everyday. We played for hours and then headed to dinner. We ate yummy, delicious fish and bonded as a group, most of us were laughing our heads off. After dinner we headed to the green house— the house where the girls are sleeping—and ended the day with long games.
I came into this trip, imagining what this trip was going to be like in my head, expecting to have an experience of a lifetime. As the trip went on I realized how grateful I am for my house, my AC, and everything that these happy people in Costa Rica don’t get to have. Seeing this town through my own eyes has been a very creative process; I would maybe describe it as chaotic, but always fun.
Settling into Village Life
June 30, 2016
Although we had a ton of fun during our first few days in Costa Rica, we’re excited to settle into Pozo Azul, the village we’ll call home for the next week. There was a grand welcoming, known as Bienvenidos, where the village welcomed everyone with food, dancing, and a piñata!
First Days in Playa Hermosa
July 18, 2016
Our two days in Playa Hermosa have been filled with amazing activities which truly made us appreciate the immense beauty of Costa Rican wildlife and its diverse natural treasures. From surfing to snorkeling, to enjoying picnics and scavenger hunts, it has really been a unique start to the trip.
Our Special Week Helping the Community of Quebrada Grande
August 12, 2014
We can’t believe a week has already passed in the village of Quebrada Grande! We’ve been busy learning about life here in northern Costa Rica, while helping the town with some important development projects. From eating cajeta (a Costa Rican carrot cake), to hiking to the Catarata los Chorros waterfall, to dancing with local children at the Bienvenida party, we’ve also been having lots of fun.