So, as you can probably tell by the title, I am soon to be leaving this beautiful island nation of Costa Rica and returning to the bitter cold of reality (and Canada ). Being here, on the ground, out in the open and right in the middle of social work has taught me so much and I will be returning to the snow, a changed person. But before I get into that, lemme show you some highlights of my time working here in Costa Rica.
Pueblito is an orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike its Canadian counterpart. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion, the kids have a better experience growing up there than an orphanage in Toronto. Instead of putting all the kids to live in a foster house, Pueblito is set up more like a community. The kids live in something of a “gated community”. There are 18 houses in this community each with about 5-8 kids in each with a surrogate mother who looks after them. Along with the houses, there is also a computer lab, outdoor gym, playgrounds, daycare (free for the surrounding community) and a nurse’s office, as well as onsite psychologists, social workers and tutors for homework. This kind of model allows the kids to grow up in more of a community environment. They even have a bus that they use to take the kids on field trips. This model and place are not without its flaws, don’t get me wrong but it was interesting to see a different model in place and one that I would be glad to see implemented in Toronto. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids for obvious reasons but here are some murals that are on the property, one of which the kids helped make.
English Classes: We got the awesome opportunity to teach English. Not with like a full classroom or anything (I’m not trying to hype myself up lol) but with a group of indigenous students. It was a group of about 7-15 kids and since English is their THIRD language they were having some trouble with it so we offered to teach them. So every Monday from 1-3pm we would have English Classes. It was a lot of fun working with the students and fun teaching something that we sometimes take for granted.
Visiting Earth University and the TEC University fair :
Earth University, as many of you may not know, is one of the best universities in Costa Rica and after visiting it, I can see why WHOA IS IT IMPRESSIVE. The grounds of the school are so large that if you didn’t have a car or a bike with you, you would probably be walking for about 20 minutes before you saw any sign of human life, yeah it’s that big. But it’s not just it’s a size that’s great. Everything from its curriculum, the way they teach the classes, the layout of the school, the mandatory activities and even the application and selection process set this school apart from the others in Costa Rica. I can’t go into depth on each of these points but I’ll say a little about each of them. They specialize in Agriculture, Business and Leadership programs. Every classroom is separate and has a retracting wall so they can bring in animals and plants to help the students learn and most of their classes have a hands-on approach. The layout of the offices of the teachers and services are extremely accessible to the students and you don’t need an appointment to see them you just pop in when you need to, Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 11am the students are required to work on one of the on-campus farms for them to really GET into their work and learn firsthand about agriculture and the process up close and personal. And the entire staff is involved with the application/selection process, they mostly bring students from around the world, and many from small villages as they recognize that sometimes you may not have access to the best education but you are still able to make a difference. They actually travel to the country to interview the student and they have to demonstrate how they have helped your community to get in. It is a very extensive but interesting approach. I could say more but I feel like I’m getting a bit too long on this post. if you wanna know more, google “Earth University”.
Food Fair: I know I know, your thinking omg there’s more, this is the last one, il try to not make it as long as the last. We held a Pot Luck with the indigenous students and it was a great time. They were stoked for it and they each made a traditional dish from their communities so it was a great opportunity for us to try food from each of the different indigenous tribes. of course, they wanted us to make some traditional Canadian food for them so we made some homemade mac n cheese and of course, the EXTREMELY traditional and precious Canadian food that is Poutine ;)haha. Needless to say, it was a delicious night and we ended it off with some karaoke XD I may or may not have brought the house down 😉
There’s a week left till I’m headed back to the land of ice and snow and I will be very sad to be leaving this awesome place and the awesome people I’ve met here. Being here in Costa Rica has taught me many things about its people and about myself but something really important it has taught me is something I might have been ignoring for some time in the busy North American lifestyle, and that is, to slow down and smell the roses. In Toronto, everything is very task-oriented, no one really leaves their house unless they have something to do or somewhere to go, no one really smells the roses we all just assume they will be there later for us to smell, but before you notice the moments past and you’ve missed it. Being here, its reminded to me to smell those roses and to live in the moment, and the importance of living in the moment, life’s too short to be living anywhere else.
Costa Rica has also taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida. Some of you may know what this means, some of you may not, it is basically the slogan for Costa Rican life and it mean “pure life”. It’s all about living life to the fullest and making the most out of life. not just that, its also about finding happiness and being happy in life and recognizing that there are always people out there who have it worse than you, so you should never take what you have for granted. It encompasses all that is Costa Rican life and every Tico lives their life to Pura Vida. This is something I truly love and will be taking this home and everywhere else I travel to for the rest of my life (and yes there will be many more places 🙂 ).
Before I say goodbye for this post I would like to give a special shout out to Blair Fewster and Diana Segura Sojo, my supervisors in both Canada and here in Costa Rica. this awesome opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without you guys and you have both gone above and beyond to help us and make sure this opportunity was a great one. You are both fantastic and keep up everything you are doing. Never change. Also, another shout out to the Global Experience Office at Centennial College for setting this up as well, thank you, guys. you have all given me an experience that has changed my life.
OK enough of the mushy stuff, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you are all having a fantastic day and keep smiling. Pura Vida Mae.
By: Jason Bridgemohan