Volunteer Review: Kelsey Z., General Care Projects in Costa Rica
My journey living in Costa Rica for six weeks was both rewarding and fulfilling. It was a valuable experience that I will never forget. I learned a lot about the world and myself while traveling alone.
Costa Rica is a beautiful green country that puts much emphasis on their environment and health. I was lucky to have been placed with such a caring and special host family. Carmen, the host mother, did not speak any English. I was only a beginner at Spanish, so I was also fortunate enough to have been placed with a sweet roommate named Marie, from Belgium. She spoke four languages in total, including Spanish and English. She made the translation barrier run much smoother. She was a very inspiring person and I was intrigued by her ambition and perspective on life.
The Projects Abroad staff was very friendly and agreeable. They wanted to help in any way possible.
My Care Project
It didn’t take long for me to bond with the children. They were extremely excited to welcome a new face and made it very easy to assimilate into their culture. Although I could not understand a majority of the things they were saying, we got our points across by expressions and emotions. I bonded with each and every kid individually and they were all so caring and inspiring.
It was hard to imagine the life they may live outside of the day care. I was informed when beginning the program that it was important to understand that the families welcomed into the program were of the lowest of low income. Unfortunately, with low income comes high stress levels and inevitably less time and attention spent caring for these amazing kids. Although there was nothing I could do to help the children’s home life, I felt that my contribution made a difference. I would love to return and see all the kids again.
It was very comforting to be able to see through the small things that some children’s families did that showed how cared for they really were. Some families were able to prove that money is not the only level of happiness. Several of the kids came in every day looking perfect, with nicely packed bags full of everything they might need throughout the day. They were clean, with good clothes and fitted shoes.
Diapers and wipes packed for the babies, juice for after lunch, and sometimes the occasional snack or lunch, mainly for our picky eaters of the group. The brothers, Tomas and Damien came in matching outfits every day, however some weren’t as lucky. No change of clothes, even though washing and changing the kids every day was an above and beyond task for the workers to willingly take on.
Outside of Pasitos, these kids have hard lives. Unimaginably hard from how it seemed. But when they are at Pasitos, they are just normal, happy, carefree children. I’ve never seen such loyalty than as big brother Joshua has for his little man Derrick. It was so natural and remarkable to witness.
Geunina is such a well-behaved and loving little sweet heart - the first to welcome the new children with warming invitations to join her and her friends, and always looking after the little ones. These kids are so young and innocent and untroubled of the potentially unpleasant situation they reside in.
It is hard not to worry about some of the children. Some do show untrusting traits, like they are afraid to get close to anyone. On our first day it was so overwhelming with all the new faces. Tomas was timid and stand offish and let the other kids push him around a bit, but once I got to know Tomas more he became much warmer and one child in particular I will never forget, he is kind-hearted and adorable.
I learned many things during my time spent abroad. I chose to read and write a lot while away. There was no emphasis on technology and it was refreshing to step outside of our high maintenance culture and be able to focus on much more important things.
Costa Rica is an extremely accepting and friendly place and it showed me that people should not be judged based on appearance or differences, people should be accepted for who they are. Although I would be considered different to a Costa Rican, by way of dress, appearance and language, I was treated like all others and never felt like an outsider.
It also made me realize how much is taken for granted in our society. In most of Costa Rica there is no air conditioning, no washers or dryers, no internet in a common household and no hot water in the showers. These things do not matter to Costa Ricans, because they are satisfied with what they do have, instead of a United States perspective that emphasizes maximization and getting more things rather than being content with what we have.
The kids at the day care center were enthusiastic and warm and I would love to be able to reunite with them someday. My experience has taught me to always remember there is someone out there who is happier than you, with much less than you have. In other words, take nothing for granted and make the best out of everything.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.