BY COURTNEY LEVINSON
This summer I joined a group of 23 volunteers and four counselors on a trip to Costa Rica through West Coast Connections (WCC), a student travel program company for young adults. I participated in two community service projects called Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) and Siempre Amigos, a non-profit organization that helps improve the quality of life for families in the country.
During our time in the country, we were able to stay in the cities of Central Valley, San Jose, Flamingo and Rincón de la Vieja. On the first day of CRHF, a few of the volunteers and I traveled to a daycare in the city of La Carpio to offer mothers and children of the city a place to come to during the day, since most of the population aren’t able to provide for their family due to the poverty present in the city. The daycare not only offers shelter, but it is able to make the citizens escape the pressures of home by providing hot meals as well as playing games with volunteers and other children of the city. One of the most heartwarming scenes I was able to witness was when I saw the hot lunches the grandmothers of the community made for the volunteers as they welcomed us with open arms.
Due to most children not having enough money to go swimming or play in the parks, each volunteer was paired with a child and we made sure he or she had the best day possible. While we were getting to know our buddies, I made a deep connection with many of the children. I was motivated to make sure my buddy got whatever he wanted because many of the children go back to abusive homes. I wanted my buddy to have an unforgettable experience so he forgets about his troubles at home. After an amazing day of playing, my buddy taught me small actions can go a long way and I think we both left feeling grateful for our experiences.
Although leaving my buddy was a bittersweet feeling, I knew I would have more opportunities to make a difference in Costa Rica. One way WCC enriches the lives of Costa Rican families is by building homes for the citizens. Our next destination was the city of Flamingo, where Siempre Amigos and I helped rebuild a family’s home. When we got to the family, I saw how they lived in a small room with just the baby’s crib and the parents’ bed. Seeing the family’s faces made me excited for the days to come because I knew we were going to make a significant difference in their life.
The first step was working from the ground up, so we had to make and pour the cement for the base of the house. We ran dirt up and down from a ditch until we had enough to mix it into cement. Eventually over three days, we had the floor laid out and the walls built. Afterwards, the family’s house was painted and it had a safer structure than the four walls they had before. I am grateful we were able to give the family a better quality of life. Even though rebuilding the house was difficult work, it was the most rewarding because I was able to see a family’s life improve right in front of me.
Being able to be a part of the continued progress Costa Rica is making was truly a blessing. The city of La Carpio is beginning to get back on their feet after several decades of poverty and crime. It’s an amazing feeling to know I was a slight part of it. The impact of meeting the children of La Carpio is a memory I will hold dear and value forever. My trip to Costa Rica and participating in volunteer projects was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It gave me positive experiences, leaving me with a new found value of Costa Rica and its culture.