Creating Community

Creating Community

Isabel Arya

Bri Bri Village Service Experience, Costa Rica 2016 | Mountain Air and Village Service, Dominican Republic 2017 | Intro to Community Service in Thailand, 2018

Isabel is a first-year student at Haverford College, pursuing a major in Anthropology and a minor in Spanish. She hopes to one day work as a journalist, documenting and protecting human rights.

All photos have been provided by Isabel. Read her story below!

In a world that often seems so divisive, polarized, and impossibly hard to navigate, Rustic Pathways has shown me (three times over) the meaning and power of community.

I didn’t necessarily expect this outcome when I signed up for a fun 2016 summer adventure in Costa Rica. It quickly became clear to me, though, that this experience would be far more impactful than I could have imagined.

In the remote village of BriBri, my group – which quickly became family – worked alongside locals to build a bathroom with running water at the nearby elementary school. After service, we would gather around a table with our host family. Making meals, playing games, and telling stories with them allowed us to exchange our experiences and cultures with one another.

Without access to the internet and a boat ride away from the nearest town, I learned to slow down my pace and focus on forging real and lasting relationships. This is why I kept coming back to Rustic – traveling farther distances and on longer trips. It encourages me time and time again to prioritize community.

The following summer I headed to the Dominican Republic, where I helped construct an aqueduct in a rural mountain community called El Añil, which would provide 15 families with easy access to clean water for the first time.

As we neared the end, neighbors gathered around and many other kids picked up tools to help us along.

We easily could have used our linguistic and cultural divide as an excuse to work silently, or even separately. Instead, we committed to collaboration. While we shoveled and pick-axed, we were defined not by our differences but by our mutual commitment to and excitement about the project.

When we turned on the spigot at the final home, everyone took turns cupping the cold, clean water in their hands as we cheered and danced in the street. It’s something I will never forget.

I arrived in Thailand the next July, where I immediately found the same sense of community that has characterized every one of my Rustic experiences. At the base house, I met over 50 students and trip leaders who had come from countries all over the globe. It was remarkable to learn from and beside people who were eager to share their diverse experiences.

Rustic has inspired my passion for journalism and love of storytelling. I am a strong believer in exposing the truth and tackling the complicated stories. But I am also a strong believer in elevating simple, kind moments like these that remind us what it means to be human.

In our current digital, socially distanced, and disunited world, it can be easy to forget about community and difficult to maintain it. But if Rustic has taught me anything, it is that community is strong and resilient. Community extends across national borders, as well as cultural and linguistic barriers, to challenge narratives of exclusion and prejudice while affirming our shared humanity.

Wherever I go from here and whatever stories I have yet to tell, I am sure of this: my big and beautiful Rustic Pathways community will continue to guide me.

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