This past summer, 360° students proudly completed 33,068.5 hours across all of our dedicated Community Service programs, which is the equivalent of 3.8 years! This first instalment of our summer 2014 Community Service blogs will focus on our visits to South and Central America. Here is just a small glimpse into some of the life-changing experiences we had during our time in these regions.
With the help of the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation, travelers worked with youth in La Carpio, “The Village of Hope” teaching English classes, doing art projects, and playing soccer with the kids. While taking part in beautification projects in the village, a group of 360° students noticed a large hole in a local woman’s home. The group actively coordinated with supervisors to acquire building materials, and was able to erect a new wall in its place.
In Monteverde, travelers worked with coffee co-ops in the community planting rice and beans, while other groups lent a hand on the hillside planting trees to prevent erosion of the mountain. In the poverty stricken town of Flamingo, groups took a three day long stay and spent time with families in need. In one instance, an elderly widow and mother of three, was brought to tears after seeing how a group had painted her neighborhood in lively, bright colors, rejuvenating the spirit of the local culture. For these underprivileged residents, even the smallest of gestures can go a long way in the community’s overall wellness and quality of life.
We travelled to the capital city of Quito, where we had the pleasure of working with the Fundacicón Aliñambi Orphanage. During the day, we prepared meals, baked fresh bread, and refurbished garden areas before giving the teachers a much-needed break and playing organized sports with the kids in our downtime.
In San Cristobal, travelers organized clean ups, and worked with the local high school repairing an area of damaged floor, which they were able to transform into a cafeteria space. 360° Student Travel participants worked with the Latacunga Seniors’ Home, creating joint art projects with residents, preparing lunches, and doing fun makeovers that had everyone smiling.
Under guidance of leading community members in the Amazon, groups worked to collect raw building materials to replace dilapidated shelters, establishing new hut walls. Collaboration with the Amazonian leaders led to a great cultural exchange and deeper understanding of the community. Working with the Ranchos Primicas Reforestation Project, groups cleared fields and planted new trees to reforest the natural habitat of the Giant Tortoise and Darwin Finch, learning the importance of a balanced ecology.
While at the Amazon Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, we had the opportunity to interact with exotic creatures such as howler monkeys, parrots, wild boars, and native turtles, preparing meals for the animals and maintaining their living spaces. Time was also spent in the jungle with Inferno farm communities, clearing fields and planting yucca.
Volunteering at a local nursery in Corao, students refurbished classrooms and organized materials, which were then used to reestablish the school’s trout farm. At the Girls Orphanage in Cusco, school yards were so overgrown and full of debris, that it had become unsafe for them to play. Trip members were able to clear away much of the space and apply fresh coats of paint, leaving the girls with a safer environment, murals and memories to last a lifetime.
In Ica, we spent time at a local school helping students improve their English through one-on-one conversations and recreational activities that were fun for everyone. At Asilo Liar Seniors’ Home in Arequipa, we had the pleasure of interacting with older community members who had many stories to share. This led to an evening of dancing and a variety show full of laughter, and heart felt human connections.
A big, “Thank You!” to everyone who made this year so special. We can’t wait to get back to these regions next summer, for more hard work, even more community service, and memorable experiences. Stay tuned for the next installment of our blog, where we’ll look at what our U.S. Community Service trips in Boston, Washington, California, Hawaii, and Alaska got up to!
The Westcoast Blogger