My Thank You Letter to Rustic Pathways

My Thank You Letter to Rustic Pathways

Deandra Forde

Summer Camp Leadership, Costa Rica 2013 | Advanced Leadership Challenge, Dominican Republic 2014

DeAndra Forde is an Admissions Associate at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BS in Nutrition and Foods from Drexel University, Class of 2019 and is an MPH Candidate.

All photos have been provided by DeAndra. Read and watch her story below!

In the summers of 2013 and 2014, I traveled to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways.

It was a fantastic experience that will forever impact the way I look at the world around me and at the people with whom I share this planet.

After both Summer Camp Leadership programs, I left both countries with a desire to help people. I appreciate Rustic Pathways because they work on the philosophy of not having the saviorship mentality through these programs.

More importantly, they create lasting relationships to create sustainable change and work with locals to achieve their goals. While doing this, students can learn about various environmental conservation initiatives, develop/strengthen language skills, find their leadership styles, and more, all while exploring and learning about a new culture and country.

During my time in the Dominican Republic, I visited Jarbacoa, a small town in the country’s higher elevations. On my visit, all of the people I encountered were passionate, kind, generous, and welcoming people.

On my trip, our focus was to run a day camp for kids within the village. Through this, the Rustic Pathways students were able to find their leadership styles all while having fun with kids, sharing a week that all involved would remember.

Through my Costa Rican and Dominican Republic experience, I saw that language wasn’t a barrier. Although my Spanish at the time was intermediate-basic, that didn’t matter.

Everyone on that program was able to connect, and it just further showed me that a language barrier isn’t a barrier to create fruitful and impactful relationships.

I could talk about my love and experiences forever, but the last thing I will share that I’ve alluded to before is building relationships.

Through my Dominican Republic program, I gained a lifelong sister, Molly Halberg. Our friendship started on a sad note; her luggage never left the United States.

When I heard our program lead Courtney say that there was a girl on our trip that needed clothes, I immediately went into my suitcase and gave her three outfits. At this moment, I was so glad that I overpacked, I’m a Girl Scout, so I’m always prepared.

After we were all settled in our cabins, Molly came to me and said how she was shocked that I would immediately share my personal belongings with a complete stranger. My response and thought process was that it was the absolute least I could do, especially after a long flight one of the best feelings is taking a shower and change into something clean.

From there, we just clicked! Since then, Molly and I have stayed in close contact throughout the years, all while living on opposite sides of the country.

I love my Rustic Pathways family, and I’m so grateful for the adventures and lasting memories!

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, or view more Alumni Stories here