Service Projects at a Glance
Whether it’s digging irrigation tunnels for better water access in South Africa or helping Houston homeowners recover from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, Westcoast Connection community service programs participate in a wide array of meaningful projects on five continents! With the help and direction of our longstanding local partners on the ground, our projects focus on five main themes: community welfare, youth leadership, environmental sustainability, infrastructure, and wildlife conservation. Check out some noteworthy projects we completed in previous summers to give you a glimpse at how we make our summers count!
Partner: Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation
With the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation we helped build a home for Santa Ana resident Julietta and her family. Over the course of three days we dug a 5-foot hole for the septic tank, hollowed out a trench and laid a water pipe and prepared the foundation of the house and front yard. At the end of our time there Julietta addressed our group, saying we were not just part of the story, but part of a dream. She made us feel like a member of her family, welcoming us back and offering us a place to stay.
Partner: Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation
With the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, we ran a day camp for the children of La Carpio. La Carpio is one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of Costa Rica, housing many children who are unfortunately left on their own while their parents are at work. Our day camp provided these children with the opportunity to play games, do arts and crafts and take some time to enjoy their childhood. We found that these children were very happy to just run around and play, setting a good example for us to enjoy the little things in life.
As we painted a faded gray wall, I saw a little Costa Rican women standing in a doorway, with an infant on her hip, and two little boys crawling by her feet. She stared at the wall, now bright pink and happy with joy in her eyes and a smile on her face, and I realized the paint stands for more than just a bucket of paint, but a new rejoice in a person and a family’s life. A simple coat of paint had that much of an impact; it brought happiness and the start of a new attitude. I had more epiphanies of the kind as I played soccer with the kids, and dug foundations for soon-to-be new homes. The excitement and thankfulness of the people radiated from their smiles. As I handed my donated supplies to my new seven-year old friend Gabriella, she peered into the bag to see pencils, socks, a soccer ball, and other simple items. She jumped up and down and began to show off her new socks to her friends. Socks! I realized in that moment how much I myself, and others close to me unknowingly take so much for granted every single day. I saw these people living 100% happy in their tin homes with dirt floors and no plumbing, and my perspective shifted immensely. Ten days, that’s all it took to change my perspective on life and hopefully to change other’s lives for the better.
Partner: Boys & Girls Club, Windward Clubhouse
The rush of adrenaline you receive after knowing you made a little child smile that day was amazing. The opportunity to visit these boys and girls clubs in Hawaii is incredible. Watching these children interact with us, and treat us like they’ve known us for more than two days was heartwarming. It makes you realize and cherish the people around you and to be beyond thankful for everything you have. The relationships formed through the two days of working and playing were difficult to let go of when having to say goodbye. But the thought of these children and the memories made will stay with me forever and hopefully never be forgotten by these children.
Partner: Ranchos Primicias Reforestation Project
The goal of the Ranchos Primicias Reforestation Project is to reforest the natural habitat of the Giant Tortoise and the endemic Darwin Finch, a bird famously named after the evolutionary theorist who discovered it on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz. One of our groups planted 200 indigenous trees to aid in reforestation there. We learned about balance in ecology and removed intrusive species and helped replace them with native plants.
We worked at an orphanage in Quito, a school in Latacunga, we planted in the Amazon jungle and in San Cristobal, and worked at a high school in Santa Cruz. For me, the most rewarding part was working with the kids in the orphanage in Quito. In the morning, we planted in their garden, baked bread, and painted the walls of the school and in the afternoon, we played with the kids. I have never met nicer/cuter kids then the kids at this orphanage. The kids are happy with what they have, which is not a lot, and live life happily even though they have a tough life. Helping those kids by cooking and painting and gardening was such a rewarding experience because these kids deserve better than what they have and I wanted to do whatever I could to help them.
By working with children from around the world, we had the ability to learn that kids are alike no matter where they are from. After working hard in the morning in the orphanage’s greenhouse, we played soccer with the orphans. Although there was a language barrier between us, the game of soccer connected us. After my team scored a goal, the faces of the orphans lit up. I realized that all kids, no matter their background, just want to have fun.
Talk about meaningful and enduring work! One day we were planting dozens of trees to shade a local and sustainable fish farm in the Amazon, and another found us tilling, preparing and planting gardens at three schools and orphanages. We also built a wooden fence around a primary school to keep children from running into the road. We made 286 Adobe bricks for what will become a school in the town of Huaran. We had a blast stomping in the mud and forming the bricks with the guidance of some of the community members who helped us. At the end of the day, everyone looked back with pride and hoped to one day return in the future to see what becomes of this elementary school in the Sacred Valley.
Partner: Hogar de Niños Especiales
In Arequipa, we visited Hogar de Niños Especiales, an orphanage for kids with special needs. As a group, we worked together to clean windows, create a garden, and spend time with the kids. One of my favorite activities was hanging out with a 10 year-old boy. He is unable to speak and relies on others to feed and bathe him. At snack time, I had the opportunity to feed him oatmeal. Even though feeding him was difficult, due to his involuntary muscle movements, we worked together to get the job done. At times, I would accidentally spill some oatmeal on my lap, but the boy would instinctively wipe it off of me. This experience truly made me realize that actions speak louder than words. Actions prove who someone truly is, while words only show what someone wants to be. Even though he couldn’t speak, we formed a close relationship, and he taught me a valuable lesson that will help me be a better person in numerous situations.
Partner: Children’s Eco Training
Our project with Children’s Eco Training was to construct 28 sustainable vegetable gardens at the Klaserie School so that teachers can cook meals for students. Often times, the only meal students eat the whole day is provided by the gardens on school property. The project started by mapping out the location and then, working in teams, with a local leader from the community, we dug the foundation of the garden, then laid bricks and cement for the entire structure.
Partner: Patara Elephant Farm
We volunteered at the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai where we had the opportunity to be elephant caretakers for a day. We fed them bananas and sugar cane and bathed them in a nearby river. We helped apply the elephants’ daily skin care, which keeps them happy and healthy. The elephant population of Thailand has plummeted in the past century. We learned a great deal about their needs and conservation initiatives in place to ensure they are protected.
Partner: Lahu Tribal Village Service Project
Our service project with the Lahu Village was truly a rewarding experience. This three day road building project started bright and early each morning. Staying right next to the village really helped with getting to and from the site, and we got a lot of help from the villagers who would later use the road on a daily basis. Teamwork was a necessity as we came together to pass buckets of cement up the kilometer long track, singing as we worked. When the road was finished we celebrated with the villagers, and were invited to a special ceremony in our honor. What an experience to dance around a bonfire with children and villagers alike. Our reward was seeing the product of our hard work being used by these lovely people. On our last day we were invited into several homes and taught the traditional ways in which the villagers cook meals for their families. It was an experience that none of us will soon forget.
Partner: Boys & Girls Club of South Bay
The last few days have taught us that there are many different ways of helping people. At our time at the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Bay, we interacted directly with children from Kindergarten through 5th grade. We enjoyed time doing arts and crafts, playing games in the gym, and outside on the playground. The programs we directed related to the themes of “Living in America” and “Jurassic.” Having the opportunity to create these activities was incredibly fun and rewarding.
Partner: Boys & Girls Club, Windward Clubhouse
At the Boys and Girls Club Windward Clubhouse in Kailua, we directed programming for the children and teens of the club. We also led a “Map Talk” which created an opportunity to learn about the different areas of the US and Canada we come from. The Boys and Girls Club members also pinned places they were from, their place of origin prior to moving to Hawaii, places they have visited, and places they wished to visit.