Trip Report of Volunteer Work in Costa Rica

Jul 2nd, 2008, 06:12 AM
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Trip Report of Volunteer Work in Costa Rica

Ever since I have returned from my week in Costa Rica with 14 eighth graders the quesstion I am asked most often is, "Was your trip successful?" My witty reply is, "I brought everyone back who went and no one was injured, so yes it was a success."

To say everything ran smoothly may be an exaggeration, but as my husband who stayed in the states, kept assuring me if you can solve a problem in another country in less than 1 hour it wasn't really a problem.

Day 1..We are leaving from our school's parking lot @ 2:00 in the morning via one of our school busses. It is 2:15 and no school bus, after I call the head of transportation and wake him and his wife up we understand our bus driver still thinks it is Friday, he doesn't realize that after 12:00 midnight it becomes Saturday morning.

We are late to the airport and some of us do not make the 6:00 am flight to Atlanta. It doesn't help that I run my group of five students to Gate 28A and see that it is a Northwest Gate and not a Delta Gate. After looking closer at my boarding pass I realized I took the kids to my seat assignment not the gate. We all make the 7:15 flight and hook up in Atl and take the same flight to Liberia.

Saturday-Tuesday Morning--We stay at Buena Vista Lodge and everyone experienced the Mega-Combo. The staff at Buena Vista was great. They let us do 2 activities one day and 2 the next day. Any thing that we asked they accommodated. Their pact answer was' 'Whatever you want.' That was our definition of Pura Vida while there.

One of our 8th graders is blind and the staff went out of their way during the horseback riding, ziplining and waterslide to ensure his safety and fun. I don't think I have seen him smile all year as much as I did this past week.

Tuesday-Stop in Liberia for banking and shopping. I had brought a cashier's check made payable to the Bank of Costa Rica San Jose for a copier for the school. The bank didn't want to take it. After some pleading on my part they finally did. Doing business in Costa Rica is completely different than doing business in the states.

Tuesday evening-Saturday morning--Potrero staying and Villagio flor de Pacifico.

It was a lot hotter in Liberia and Potrero than at Buena Vista and the students and all adults welcomed the blast of a/c that hit when the doors to the haciendas were opened. I was supposed to meet with my contact Tuesday night. I went to his house and on one was there, his sister-in-law worked at the office and assured me he would be home later but no he wasn't.

Wednesday morning--All 23 of us load the bus with school supplies and head to Brasilito. My contact teaches English at the school in Brasilito so I figured we would connect then. When we get there another group from Florida is working with the students and painting and the principal tells me my contact is absent. We talk with the principal, hook up the wireless router we brought, give them school supplies and then meet our volunteer guru Leonie. She works with groups coordinating volunteer work at area schools.

While I talk with Leonie, the other people from out group walk around Brasilito and shop at the souvenir shops. Leonie arranges transportation for us back to Potrero and goes with us to talk to the principal there and helps to set up our next two days of work at the Potrero school. She was a lifesaver since my other contact was nowhere to be found.

As an aside here, if any reader wants to be involved in volunteer work in the Guanacaste region, please let me know as Leonie is a great resource and knows of many schools that could use the help.

Thursday--We work at the school and everything is fine. Some of the people in our group still want to shop so I suggest that we walk the beach from Potrero to Flamingo. (This is something I did in April when my husband and I were there, I would walk to the CPI school in Flamingo in the morning. I banked in Flamingo, but didn't shop there.) So 21 of us head out on the beach (2 of our adults went with Leonie to learn more about her volunteer program). It is a 45 minute to an hour walk. When we finally get to Flamingo we find out there are only two souvenir shops. If the name of the game that day was 'Get the Clueless Leader' I would not be here. Everyone made the best of it and we were all standing/sitting at the bus stop in time for the 6 o'clock bus back to Potrero. The bus came, the driver looked our way and kept going. (maybe he didn't want 21 people on his bus) All of our mouths, collectively dropped. We asked everyone who passed by when the next bus to Potrero would be and we got a different answer from everyone.

Being the leader that I am. I walked back across the bridge to Flamingo and arrange for a taxi for 21 people. It took me a long time to make the guy realize that I wanted one right then and that I really needed in for 21 people when all he saw was me. I really wasn't sure if I was successful or not, and went back to the bus stop and before I could explain our conversation a 14 pax taxi was there. It took two trips but we made it back to Potrero.

Friday--We worked in the school again and had sad goodbyes. In only the two days there our group had really bonded with the kids and teachers in the schools. Kickball was the favorite activity and everyone played.

Saturday morning--Carlos our Tico bus driver knew when 4:00 in the morning was, so we had no problems on the return trip.

I know this is long, but I have left out almost as much as I put in. It was a wonderful time, and I can't say how wonderful the Ticos were. From all the guards at the Villagio giving our kids high fives everytime they walked by, to the Marco Polo restaurant asking us what the kids would like to eat.

I am including a link to some of our pictures.

As a note for CPI fans. I know now why shillmac and others say it can be a party school in the summer. There were a few students staying at the Villagio with us, and they did like to party. I didn't mind that at all, but some of the language they used wasn't appropriate in a family setting.
cgenster is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2008, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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I am laughing so hard at your CR adventures and now you understand why I dubbed myself the Clueless Exchange Director in March during our CR volunteer work! Things certainly do not go as planned. The principal in Brasilito forgot to tell us that three grades didn't meet for class so we showed up the next day with five teams ready to teach - oops, only three classes were there!

It's an experience that you and your students will never forget. The Ticos are such lovely, warm people that the stress factor will eventually disappear and you'll only remember the great times and laugh at your adventures.

Welcome back.
colibri is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Thanks Vicki,

You inspired me with your report before I ever left.

I do know that some of the things will provide us with laughs for a good part of the school year next fall. It's a good thing my shoulders are broad.
cgenster is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2008, 04:06 PM
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Thanks for the report I would love to have your school contact information. Thanks
cmazza is offline  
Jul 6th, 2008, 03:29 PM
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Hi if you would like to email me at [email protected] I will give you the contact information.
cgenster is offline  
Jul 6th, 2008, 04:55 PM
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I really enjoyed reading this. How do you go about volunteering in a place like costa rica?
martyindy is offline  
Jul 6th, 2008, 05:03 PM
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It depends on what area you would like to volunteer in. If you google volunteer work in Costa Rica you will get a lot of hits. If you are interested in helping out schools I have found a lot of contacts who can point you in the right direction. If you are interested look in my previous reply and email me and I can give you the information that I have.
cgenster is offline  
Jul 7th, 2008, 04:23 PM
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Glad to hear your trip was successful (in unconventional ways). Our Girl Scout trip, too, was a good one. While digging for a foundation on our Habitat Project, we came across a pig carcass--instant biology lesson! I agree, if you bring them all home in one piece, it's a success! Good report. K
TrvlMaven is offline  
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