Last week I spent the week with a group of university students who were spending their reading week doing community service-learning in the small community of Quizarra, Costa Rica. This was part of Carleton’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, described as a “service-learning initiative which connects students to national and international partners, enabling them to engage in meaningful community service and critical reflection.”
During the week, we met members of the local community, we explored, and we worked hard. We were working on a project with the goal of building a new set of washrooms for the local elementary school so that the school can remain open, as the current washrooms are outdated and nearly obsolete. We started the project from scratch, and we were able to level out an area for the foundation, as well as dig a massive hole and trench for the septic system. We were also invited to design and paint two murals – one for the kindergarten classroom and one on the front of the main school building. Finishing our portion of the project gave everyone a real sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
The cool part about ASB is that, while you are working on a project that benefits the local community, you also participate in reflection activities with your group that allow you to grow on a personal level and realize things about yourself that you may not have otherwise. I admire the students who participate in this experience for their selflessness and courage to do a trip like this.
Toward the end of the week, we got a free day to visit Manuel Antonio National Park, where swam in the Pacific Ocean, and saw monkeys and a sloth! This was an awesome day spent in the sunshine and taking in the stunning views.
I had an amazing time with my group; we had lots of inside jokes, sarcasm and laughs. We became close quite quickly living in such close quarters for a week. I felt like I could be myself and that is a pretty great feeling.
Photos courtesy of Mona Mahmoud.