So we are wrapping up Day 1 of our trip and we had a great start! We got to the Santa Teresa community at about 2AM last night after we were up and out by 9am.
We spent the day at the Santa Teresa School where there are only 14 students. The school has only one teacher and the kids are all in one classroom for grades 1-6, which is a normal school for this area. And after grade 6, the students either work at home, in the pineapple fields, or as an apprentice of a trade if they don’t have access to a high school (which these students don’t have).
There were many things going on at the school today! Our group was playing soccer with the kids, playing bingo, Pictionary, and reading books in the classroom. We also rotated doing two bigger projects at the school where we are painting a mural on their sidewalk and we are painting their cafeteria and kitchen.
We completed our volunteering at 1 because the whole community was attending a funeral this afternoon so they closed the school.
When we got back the students had the chance to go on a hike around the Dole Pineapple property, swam in the lake, and enjoy the company and scenery of Costa Rica.
So despite 5 hours of sleep we had a great first day! Your sons and daughters are doing amazing work! Not only in the projects but interacting with the kids with playing soccer, piggyback rides, chase and everything else that goes along with relating to younger kids. The smiles, laughing, and genuine fun is so great to see.
While in London, our students attended the Agatha Christie mystery "The Mousetrap", which is the longest-running play in the world!
They also spent the day at Windsor Castle. The queen was there!
Their last night in London was spent by the Thames River.
We just reserved Paris and Barcelona for April Vacation 2020!
Stay tuned for details!
Our students spent their first day visiting York Minster and stopped at Alnwich where they filmed Harry Potter!
When we toured “the Minster”, of course it was amazing to think of the years and labor it took to build this church. It was so impressive to see their exhibit explaining how engineers saved its structure when it was in danger of falling down.
Day 2 was a success! We got to the school at 8am this morning and after breaking up into five groups we got right to work and rotated the work every hour or so.
Two groups stayed inside the classroom to read stories, play games, and to do arts and crafts with the kids. Another group played soccer in the fields until it got a bit too hot.
The last two groups worked on our two main projects.... the painting of a mural as well as the cafeteria and kitchen area. It was so great to see so much team work and camaraderie go into these projects and the outcome is awesome! The mural is a caterpillar with the Spanish alphabet painted on the sidewalk outside the school.
Today, some of their girl students wore their traditional red and white flown dresses and demonstrated traditional Costa Rican dances for our kids!
With the great teamwork we were able to finish all our projects by 1pm. After lunch we went on a tour of the local community and saw local pineapple and sugar cane farms. We stopped at a nearby hands-on sustainable farm so our students could see the local business, learn about the dairy process, and actually see some culture of Costa Rica. Some students even took the firsthand opportunity to learn how milk a cow.
This evening Mr. Corrales, our host the past few days, taught the students a bit about another local business... coffee. His family has had coffee bean fields in Costa Rica since the 1800s.
We have had a great start to our trip at the Santa Teresa school and community. We have been welcomed at the school and at the farm of Mr Corrales. The hospitality of he and his staff has been amazing from sharing his home with us to the great food prepared by his staff.
This is our last night in Santa Teresa as we leave tomorrow for Nuevo Arenal.
This morning we said our goodbyes to the children at the Santa Teresa school. As we pulled up in our bus, their students came running out to greet us and give US gifts of heart shaped balloons and erasers as a sign of appreciation of our work. In only a few short days, our presence and work had a huge impact on this school and was evident by the tears of their students (and ours) during their goodbyes. Even their teacher was had tears of joy and thanks as she was saying thank you to myself and the other chaperones.
On our way to our new community we were able to see more of Costa Rica. Passing through many small villages, we saw the local people at work: in the fields picking pineapples, cutting down sugar cane, and caring for plantain trees.
We were also able to stop in the town of La Fortuna for the afternoon where we were able to see more of Costa Rica.... from up in the trees! Our first stop was a zip lining course at the base of a volcano in the town. A total of 13 lines all the down gave us spectacular views of the country, the coast line, and a first hand view of a sloth sleeping in the trees. Everyone on the trip was able to conquer their fears and anxieties and took part in this amazing experience.
After lunch we went for a hike in Mystico at the hanging bridges. This trail is a two hour walk through part of the jungle and rainforest over a series of six suspension bridges. As we walked through the forest canopy we saw many awesome sights... beautiful flowers, humming birds, lizards, a monkey, and what many think was a sloth.
This day was a great break from the service work we have been working so hard on as well as a great way to build up our sense of community and see the beauty of the country.
Tomorrow we start our work at two other schools in Neuvo Arenal with a new set projects to complete and new students to impact. And our kids are definitely up for this!
We had a very busy and productive day in Neuvo Arenal!
After breakfast at 7:30 we divided into two groups and went to two different schools for morning service. One group went to the El Aguacate School and the other to Mata de Cana School both elementary schools grades 1-6. While at these schools our students read to their students Bible stories, did lots of coloring and drawing, played soccer, hula hoop, and catch.
While at the El Aguacate School there were more physical projects to be completed but when we got there Sister Elisha, the director, said all she wanted was for our students to talk to the kids and help them learn their English. This school has 35 students grades 1-6 , in one room with one teacher, so she wanted her students to have as much individual attention as possible. We accomplished just that as many of our students walked out with homemade thank you cards.
The other school, Mata de Cana, is another grade 1-6 school for 45 students. The group did much of the same work talking to the students and helping with English. The distinct difference being that their group had a bit of a dance contest and magic show with the talents of Mr Martin. (Whose birthday is today!)
After lunch we all met at the Mata de Cana school for more physical projects: painting the outside school walls, painting benches, painting a hop scotch, and we were asked to paint another mural at this school. It was a very busy and very hot afternoon but we with teamwork and perseverance we finished the first coats of paint on these all things and wrapped up about 4pm.
Everyone in the group is definitely feeling tired as we work to complete these projects, but also feel a sense of pride in the great work they are doing.
Today was a great and productive last day of our service in Nuevo Arenal! The day started off overcast and rainy but turned into a wonderful hot day.
After breakfast we broke up into our two groups once again and went on our service projects for the day.
One group went to a local 300 acre farm and planted lots of fruit and vegetable seeds and pineapples. This local farm is owned by an author in Vermont and run by a local caretaker named Jorge. As it was told to us every time the author sells or publishes a book he buys seeds and sends them to the caretaker of his farm. All the food grown here goes straight to the members of this small community. So while we were there we planted lots of little tiny seeds... tomato, cilantro, squash, peppers, and even some pineapple. Our kids even got to sample a taste of freshly picked Sweet Pepper and Panama Pepper, which we realized was very hot! After we finished, we went to his neighbors house, Diphelia, which was about a 25 minute walk through the beautiful terrain of Costa Rica. She lost her family to a mud slide a few years back and ever since then has greeted and hosted groups for a delicious home cooked meal complete with homemade tortilla chips. Afterwards we met the other group at the Mata de Cana school where we were yesterday.
While one group was reforesting and farming the other group was doing the projects that were started yesterday. Before the two groups joined together about 1:30 this group taught the local students how to play “red light, green light” game and completed many projects: cleaning out and painting a supply closet, cleaning out and painting the serving area of their cafeteria, painted some benches and desks, completed the hop scotch, and continued their work on the mural.
When we joined groups at 1:30, we were able to complete the second coat of yellow paint in the front wall of the school, did the first coat of paint on the side of the school, and completed the mural. With outstanding teamwork and focus all of these projects were completed by 3:30.
We competed our day with a picturesque picnic dinner on Lake Arenal. This was our last day of service of the week as tomorrow we make our way back to San Jose to prepare for our journey back home.
This morning we packed our bags and bus after breakfast as we began our journey back to San Jose. Before we left the village of Nuevo Arenal we gathered at the Immaculate Conception Church of Nuevo Arenal. The pastor, Fr. Martin, celebrated a beautiful bilingual Mass for only our group and some of students assumed the role of the choir and lead us in song. During Mass he urged us to bring home and put into action everything we have learned about ourselves during the course of this week. At the conclusion he called all of us up to the altar and gave us a blessing of safe travels. It was a great way to end our week of service!
We were able to stop in the town of La Fortuna for lunch, some souvenir shopping, and to hang out in the town square park. We also had the opportunity to visit a local woodworking shop where the disabled owner creates beautiful pieces and sells them to support his family. He took us into his small shop and demonstrated how he carves some of his work. We saw firsthand how a jigsaw and chipper were able to turn a small tree stump into a beautiful bowl.
It has been a great week of service, of building and forming relationships, and a great experience of culture for everyone. Take a look at the attached pictures and you see many of the service projects we completed this week.... the painting of the kitchen, cafe, and mural at the Santa Teresa school as well as the painting of walls, benches, cafe, hopscotch, and mural at the Mata de Cana school. We accomplished all of these things plus working with so many children.
All of your sons and daughters will have many stories to share with you when they return to you about what they saw and what they did. So many have commented during our nightly reflections that “they didn’t know service could be this fun” and “how grateful they are for this opportunity. And last night that “going home is bittersweet they “cant believe it’s time to go already”.
Tomorrow the students will return with some more realization of the opportunities given to them, perhaps more inspired, maybe with a better understanding of what it means to serve and live out their faith, and hopefully with more wisdom about the world around them.