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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Friends and Life Lessons to Take Home – Community Service Costa Rica

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Pura Vida!!! Before we sign off for the summer, let us tell you a little bit about what we’ve been up to for the last few days. We continued our work with Urbarium, a community organization whose mandate is to create vibrant and accessible spaces for poor communities. The beautification project we worked on was the concrete soccer field. As we painted, we were joined by local community members who helped us pick up trash in areas surrounding the soccer field, and played games with us. Although the language barrier was challenging at times, we made a conscious effort to converse with the locals during our morning break (as we ate the most amazing pineapple!) and asked them their names and age. We quickly bonded over soccer and through playing the hand-game “Slide.” The ice cream in Costa Rica has proven to be amazing so far, and after dinner we went to our favorite ice cream spot, “POPS.”

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The next day as we finished our work, there were many of us that realized how important the field was as a community space in the neighborhood. She also felt happy to be able to bring color and spirit to an area that lacked vibrancy. We are all hopeful that, this space will be used for many years to bring people together. During lunch time, we were challenged by the locals kids to a soccer game. One of the 10 year old players on their team was nicknamed “Messi” and was known as the best soccer player in the neighborhood. Even though we lost 9-2, the sun was shining and everyone had a great time! Although we might have the resources to participate in soccer programs, we think the local players were much better because of all the heart they put into the sport! Playing on the beautiful new field was a perfect reward for all of our efforts.We left Urbarium with a more thorough understanding of community development, as well as the importance of patience and teamwork.

Now, our guest blogger Sophie shares more updates about our visit to the Britt Coffee Tour, and our wild karaoke night!

“We embarked on a great coffee tour in Heredia, and as we travelled through the coffee fields, we were led by two hilarious tour guides, Maria and Julio. They taught us about the history of coffee and the coffee-making process. We soon learned that Britt Coffee was the first plantation site to brew coffee where the beans were originally grown. During the tour, we sampled various delicious Costa Rican coffees. Later that night, we went to a karaoke restaurant in San Jose where we had our own private room, complete with colored lights, music and inviting staff. The trip members had a great time performing many song and dance numbers, one of which was the crowd-pleaser, “Don’t Stop Believing” which closed out the night!

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On our last day of service, we met with children from La Carpio: the poorest community in Costa Rica, composed mostly of Nicaraguan refugees. We spent the afternoon with them at a park’s incredible facilities and many of us were happy to meet up again with Ali, the boy we previously met in his last stage of advanced leukemia. They happily spent the afternoon with him and supervised him while he swam in the pool! Our group had a blast playing various games in the park with the children. Through face-painting, arts and crafts and sports, we  learned about the diversity of the socio-economic relationships of various Costa Rican communities, and have appreciated being able to contribute.

We celebrated Bastille Day (France’s Independence Day) on July 14th by sharing fun facts about France (that were mostly food related) and having red white and blue glow sticks at dinner. Our French trip members also helped us sing the national anthem on the bus. They especially enjoyed watching France win the World Cup the next day!

We truly cannot believe that this incredible service experience has come to an end, it is interesting to see how we have come full circle, from strangers to friends. This has been a unique experience, and our group has been insightful, cooperative, understanding, and proactive. We hope to take home some of the life lessons we have learned here in Costa Rica, and especially to adopt a Pura Vida approach to all that we do.

The friendships we’ve made, sing-a-longs, laughs and happy tears we have shared have made this entire experience unforgettable and we know that this was a trip of a lifetime, and are grateful for every moment.

The Westcoast Blogger!

Would you like to make a difference in a Costa Rican community? Check out all the amazing community service opportunities we have here!