During the last week in May, eleven students and one faculty advisor from Fort Hays State University traveled to the southern region of Coasta Rica to the city of Shiroles, to participate in a few days of community service and also learn about the local culture.
One of the students who participated, is no stranger to global activism.
“I actually coordinated the trip through my job for the Global Leadership Project within the Center for Civic Leadership on campus. We were able to take eleven students and one faculty member to Shiroles, Costa Rica for a week of service to the people there. With our time in Costa Rica we helped with construction of a church. We traveled through the company Experience Mission, which gave us the opportunity to experience the poverty in the Southern part of Costa Rica. Experience Mission started building the church almost two years ago and hopes to finish sometime in the next year. While we were there for a week, we were able to help finish the wood floors, paint the ceiling beams, build a wall and assisted with Kids Club (idea of vacation bible school),” said Brenna Johnson, Beloit senior.
Another student appreciated the family who hosted the FHSU students and the service that they participated in.
“We went through Experience Mission who arranged transportation from the San Jose airport to Shiroles, Talamanca, our daily meals, and what became our home for the week. Upon arrival, we met Jordan and Karis as part of the EM Staff who helped us adjust to the culture. They introduced us to Victor, Sara, and their family, local natives who welcomed us and opened the doors to their home full-heartedly. All 12 of us were able to finish putting down the wood-flooring, finish a wall, and paint the rafters with the help of Victor, Jordan, and a few community members,” said Daisy Saavedra, Garden City sophomore.
Saavedra helped with the translation between the local children and the FHSU students while they helped out and played.
“Since the teachers on that reservation were on strike and children were not able to go to school, we also helped Karis with Kids Club, created by Experience Mission to help children in Costa Rica. We danced, sang, had children’s bible story-time, played games such as Simón Dice (Simon Says) or Pato Pato Ganso (Duck Duck Goose), laughed, and colored for 2 hours each day with them. I was the only fluent/bilingual speaker other than Jordan and spent a great deal of time translating between Fort Hays students and the local folks. In the end they all learned a few phrases and we used each other’s skills/talents to make change collectively,” Saavedra said.
The FHSU students are very thankful for their experience and would gladly participate in similar service again.
”I learned about the importance of communication and building relationships with those you meet. We were able to learn about the simple but yet beautiful lives of those in Costa Rica. If I was given the opportunity to do another international service trip I would sign up in a heartbeat. We aren’t able to have experiences like this every day and it is an amazing opportunity to learn about other’s cultures. The trip helped me to remember how blessed I am to have what I already own and that simplicity is something to strive for,” Johnson said.
An FHSU Student Government Association senator also felt fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and give service to the local people.
“We are very fortunate to have what we have and having the opportunity to go down to Costa Rica was an excellent opportunity to give back to individuals in need of our help. More importantly we built friendships with the natives and other group members that will last a lifetime. Traveling to Costa Rica further illustrated that there are people from all over the world that need our assistance. I would definitely travel abroad again and volunteer, for the world is a big place, but every little bit helps. This journey has further cemented in me not to take anything for granted,” said Brandon Taylor, Greensburg junior.
The eyes of the FHSU students were opened as they discovered a new culture.
“I think we were all inspired to see a collective culture in action and wished American culture was not so individualistic. For this service trip it didn’t matter that our legs were covered in bug bites, that we could only shower with cold water, that the rooster crowed hours before sunrise, if we got covered in mud and paint, that we bent at least 50 nails in the process, or that some didn’t know the language. What mattered is that we cared for one another unconditionally and grew to become a tight-knit group within a matter of hours as we strived to maintain a positive attitude and make a difference. We became a family,” Saavedra said.
The trip was sponsored by the Center for Civic Leadership and the Global Leadership project.