- Mary Rogelstad
- March 25, 2022
- Tagged In:
- Costa Rica
Community leaders in Costa Rica are busy mapping out service projects for Rustic Pathways students who are traveling this summer. The communities create proposals based on current needs and work with Rustic staff members to select the best ones.
The goal is to create three-year plans broken down into tasks that can be completed by small groups during Rustic Pathways’ service trips for teens. The pandemic interrupted some of these previous efforts. Therefore, this summer some students will be working on older projects that were not completed because of Covid restrictions, and others will be tackling new ones.
Each community is required to have a local leader who will spearhead the effort and ensure the right professionals are in place. The supplies for each project are purchased by using a portion of the fees Rustic families pay for programs.
Country Director Wainer Ocampo says the overall coordination of service projects is challenging but rewarding.
“We’re always checking on projects before the groups arrive. It is the most difficult part of what we do,” Ocampo said. “But we make sure the projects are meaningful and address real needs.”
This summer most of the Costa Rican program sessions are expected to have one project that involves conservation efforts, such as planting trees, and one project that will be focused on infrastructure. Exceptions include the Summer Camp Leadership program that focuses on students working with children attending the camp.
For this program, students will tackle projects at a local elementary school or work on a senior citizen center this summer. A school in Matapalo has worked in partnership with Rustic Pathways for four years.
This has led to the completion of a playground, locker rooms, and a sports court for the 220 students at the school. This past summer students in the surf program replaced the flooring in a hallway and classrooms, installing a new tile floor. They also worked on a host of other small infrastructure projects, such as creating a sidewalk and a water drainage system for the school.
“It was hard work, and I often finished the afternoons with my shoes caked in mud and concrete,” alumna Caroline Bae said after traveling on this program in 2021. “However, at the end of our trip, it was incredibly fulfilling to look back and see how our work would make a difference and benefit students in the years to come.”
The Costa Rican foundation Futuro Brillante (Bright Future) is helping coordinate the work. The director of the organization Lindsay Losasso says schools like the one in Matapalo need volunteers to make these kind of improvements possible,
“The government does not have a lot of money for maintenance in public schools,” Losasso said.
Sophia Salem, who also traveled in 2021, said she struggled to install a classroom door during the project work, but she got encouragement from the other students. With their help, she was able to get the job done.
“It was so rewarding to be able to give back to this school and help out so many kids,” Salem said.
Below is a look at some of the work completed in the school where Rustic Pathways students will likely return in 2022.
In recent years Rustic students in this program have worked on a number of projects at two different schools and a planned community center. They built an assembly hall and a couple of bathrooms in one school and put together a fence and worked on a sports area in the other.
Last summer alumna Kanika Patel and her fellow travelers did some projects at the community center site, along with working on a shed for park ranger tools. She says it was rewarding to see how local community members appreciated their work.
“The people in Costa Rica performed small acts of kindness throughout our days,” Patel said. “For example, while we were working in the community center a guy who lived across the street came over and gave us a bunch of plantains from his yard.”
Later Patel said the local school principal told them how much she appreciated what they were doing. This coming summer similar projects are expected since there is still much work to be done. Below are some photos from the sites where student projects have been held and where students will likely return this summer.