Hola! I feel blessed to have spent the past few weeks volunteering in the beautiful city of Sarchi, Costa Rica. After volunteering in Kenya I felt very inspired to do it again and this is where I landed, this time with the Duke of Edinburgh Program. There is actually a group based out of my hometown that organizes these trips every year so I was lucky to travel with likeminded people in my own community! The preparation for this trip was an experience itself. We collected donations of clothing, shoes, school supplies and hygiene products months before our departure so that we could distribute them throughout the schools and community. We brought 24 extra suitcases amongst our group full of donations. I made sure to pack my personal luggage light so that I had room to bring as many donations as possible.
We travelled to many different schools to distribute the donations we collected. We ensured that each child had proper shoes for the journey walking to and from school and all the playing in between, and proper school supplies so that they could learn to their full potential. Our group also pitched in to buy non-perishable food items for a few families in need in the community. We went door to door to give them enough for 2 weeks of food for their family, toys for the children, and any clothes, shoes and hygiene supplies needed in the household. Helping to provide these families with proper shoes was a really important project. For most of these families their only source of income comes from selling coffee beans, which is a seasonal job, so they need to be fit to work, including the children. If there are wares and tears in their shoes, they are much more susceptible to getting wounds and infections that prevent them from being able to work. Their days are long and the terrain is rough so a good pair of sturdy shoes make all the difference.
The projects we were doing on the elementary schools varied. Some schools we were expanding, others we were repairing. I had some challenges with the local construction workers because they didn’t believe that the young women should be doing any of the harder work or heavy lifting… I was not willing to accept this and working around the language barrier was difficult. There was a lot of painting and roof repairs being done, which is fine, the artistic side of me loves to paint and do that kind of meticulous work. The artistic side of me was able to flourish when I did a free hand painting of the Duke of Edinburgh logo onto the centre of the basketball court. I saw an opportunity to prove what I was capable of much more when the guys were unloading bags of cement from the truck. I walked up and asked for a bag and local men shooed me away. I guess it was a cultural barrier that I needed to brush off. I stood there as my male friends were given bags and I wouldn’t stand for it. Eventually I got my hands on a bag and pulled it towards me, as I was trying to lift it the guy picked it up and placed it on my shoulders. Maybe it was my persistence or maybe it was the look on my face when I realized this was the first bag of cement I have ever touched and underestimated how heavy it would be. However, the next time I wanted to participate in the laborious work they didn’t question me! I helped carry the concrete wall panels and put up the walls to the school. It was very rewarding work and I am very proud for putting myself out there and proving my strength.