Students volunteer in Costa Rica, learn lifeskills through their experience

Arlene Ocana, Staff Writer

Seniors Isabelle Rodriguez and Marissa Doblados went to Costa Rica over the summer with volunteer programs Cross-Cultural Solutions and People to People, respectively. The programs gave them the opportunity to interact with kids from orphanages and work at a school.

People to People provides educational travel for students all over the globe and allows students to experience unique opportunities such as rappelling from a castle wall or riding an elephant and visiting places like the British Parliament, private islands in Fiji or the backstage of the Sydney Opera House.

Cross-Cultural Solutions works to address critical global issues by providing meaningful volunteer service to communities abroad and contributing responsibly to local economies.

Both students said the experience taught them valuable lessons along the way.

“It amazed me because every single day I would go [to the orphanage] and despite their tragic history, they were happy kids,” Rodriguez said.

“Not only did we experience a deeper depth and larger variety of everyday social and communication skills, teamwork, flexibility, and patience, we learned to be spontaneous, letting lose and not being afraid to get dirty,” Doblados said.

Rodriguez said she learned to appreciate what she has and the value of education, especially when she learned of the lack of funds for education at Hogarcito orphanage.

“It strengthened my interest in government issues,” Rodriguez said.

Doblados said she learned many life lessons, but the most important was Costa Rica’s motto “pura vida,” meaning “pure life.”

The saying means ,“Learn to get through the hardest times and push through the most difficult times to smile and appreciate life because that is what builds us and our character in the long run,” Doblados said.

Rodriguez’s and Doblados’s daily activities in each program differed but they shared the main purpose of helping out and giving kids the opportunity to learn. Rodriguez’s project focused more on the children and Doblados’s project was a mix between helping out and learning environmental conservation.

Rodriguez said that the children frequently asked questions about America, such as if there are tall buildings and
if people went to the beach. They wanted to learn more about it and asked to see pictures.

“They were really interested in shoes and how much they cost because they don’t have shoes,” Rodriguez said.

Doblados stayed for two nights with a homestay family and was able to learn about the culture as well as some Spanish. Rodriguez said her group volunteered at the orphanage and after they went back to their home base for lunch they spent the rest of the time either learning Spanish, participating in a cultural activity, or sightseeing.

Both students managed to squeeze in fun activities such as ziplining and went to a natural hot spring. Rodriguez got to see the hanging bridges in the rainforest and enjoyed some salsa classes while Doblados caught waves and took a surfing lesson.
Volunteer programs like these are open to anyone, but they are not free. Costs vary depending on the location and the volunteer program. Rodriguez said she spent a little under $4,000 for the trip.