Community service is an important part of teen travel. It is not all about the hours. It is getting the kids to want to take part in community service even after they have filled all their required hours. This is when you know the community service they have done has filled it's purpose.
At Costa Rican Resource many of our community service projects are geared toward sustainability and conservation. We often build things to help local communities teach the locals along with the our visiting teens. Some of our projects include building recycle bins for schools, biodigestors for homes and schools, planting trees, and all of these go along with teaching the importance of why and how these methods need to become part of our everyday life. We also give basic gardening courses to get small rural communities growing a local food supply. This is a way of making our visiting guests aware of the importance of local food and for the villagers to live more sustainably.
Costa Rican Resource offers youth travel for those looking for a full trip of community service or those looking for a little adventure mixed with the idea of giving back to different communities in and around the area.
Our community service projects are selected very carefully in communities where we have developed contacts and made friends. The many different projects we have throughout the country range from painting schools, taking Spanish classes in communities, visiting orphanages, eco-projects, and much more. Our student travel programs are designed to fit your group’s interest in community service.
We work with a number of different communities throughout the country. We can take our students to former United Fruit Company Plantations and learn about the history of the company and the communities. We also have Indian reservations that we take groups to where students live with the Indians and learn their customs and style of living. Local Costa Rican villages are also a popular stop for our students. The local communities we have selected are carefully picked and do amazing jobs of making all our groups feel welcome. We consider the members of each community to be a part of our staff.
Sitio de Mata, Turrialba
Costa Rican Resource has developed a relationship with this rural community called Sitio de Mata. This is a beautiful area with amazing views of the Irazu and Turrialba Volcano and tucked away in the mountains with a perfect tempature of 70 degrees year round. Not only is the natural setting perfect but the people in this community is what makes it what it is. The students that visit this village leave with a true understanding of how Costa Rican's and many Central American's survive in the country-side.
The homestays in the area are absolutely amazing being humble and small homes with extremely proud and large hearts making for the best host you would ever want. The community really gets involved in wanting to show off their many different talents from dancing performances for each group, cooking local cuisine tour, local music, and most important a local smile from the time you arrive till the time you leave, you will feel among family.
We are on a very personal and family like relationship with the members of the community. This relationship was started by Tom and one of our guides Marlon. Marlon was born and raised in the village of Sitio de Mata and has been guiding the Pacuare River for 14 yrs. When Tom arrived to Costa Rica it was Marlon who trained Tom to be a river-guide and to this day Tom is no where near as good as Marlon.
During the training period Tom spent most of his time in the village of Sitio de Mata. From that point on Tom and Marlon have had the vision of making a positive impact on the community of Sitio de Mata. After seeing such a positive response by Marlon's family and other members of the community the idea of bringing students started to unfold.
Their idea is not to develop a large tourist attraction it is simply to open the eyes of students and allow the small local village of Sitio de Mata to help in so many different ways. With the help of your students we have many projects that are taking place without you even knowing it or us asking you for money. Each student that visits Sitio de Mata we donate $10's to the current project we are working on for the community. At the present moment we are working on the raising the funds for the Community Center to be finished with paint and ceramic tile on the top and bottom floor.
This is a home located in Alajuela for teenage girls who have no place to go. Costa Rican Resource has two roles in dealing with Hogar Siembra. First it is to allow the girls of the home to do culture exchange with visiting students making it very educational and secondly Costa Rican Resource makes an effort to show each girl in the home some of the best tourist attractions in the country. Some of the activities that take place in the home are cooking classes. The girls are taught how to live on their own so that when they turn 18 they are ready to be on their own. Because of this cooking is a popular skill the girls are trained in since it can provide work when they leave the home and give them the skill they need to live on their own.
The girls have no problem in showing off some of the skills they have perfected to our different student groups. Sometimes just a visit and an exchange of smiles is often the best gift that can be given and most rewarding for your students and the members of the home. With help from our funds from our student groups it has been a great exchange with the Hogar Siembra allowing us to bring student groups into the Hogar and meet with the girls and in return Costa Rican Resource on our days off has shown these girls some of the best tourist attractions.
We have taken the girls rafting, ziplining, volcanoes, and waterfalls which are all in their backyard and might not have the chance to ever experience such activities without the help of the student groups of Costa Rican Resource. Thanks goes out to Hogar Siembra to always be willing and ready to receive a group and thanks goes out to our student groups because without you this relationship would not exist.
For students to come to Costa Rica and get a lesson on economics and how businesses run is an important part of history. We make this a very educational community service project. Finca 6 is one of the little pueblos that was formerly owned by the United Fruit Company which is a very interested history lesson in itself. There are some absolutely beautiful places to stay in Costa Rica where one feels the comfort of a 5 star hotel or a white sandy beach.
On the flip side there are some other areas where just having a nice cup of locally made coffee and taking a bite out of the freshest banana you can imagine while looking into the mountains thinking that a house on top of that mountain with A/C would be more my style. All of the homes are made out of wood and have been around for years. This is a different part of Costa Rica with many natural wonders nearby Finca 6 is not your average touristy stop.
The wages are very low and families really make an effort to have the wages to last the month in order to buy their daily needs. The Finca 6 is a pueblo we have developed a relationship with inorder to understand how these different families have survived over the years and how the larger companies have affected their life-style in health, finance, and everyday life. This works as an amazing worldly lesson on kids and allows them to have a different view on so many different things. We offer many projects in the different plantation villages. Our homestays are in Finca 6 but there are 12 different villages in the area and always a need for many different community service projects. These Finca's are located in an area where each student will leave with a better apprectiation for the small things they might take for granted in an everyday grocery store in the US (such as a banana).
Our community service projects are anything from English classes in the schools, painting schools, to more intense labor of building a sidewalk or even buidlings in some cases. Our present project at the moment is to build a side-walk. There has been an area of almost 2 acres donated by the government to work on different projects. Our current project we hope to move forward on is a sidewalk and basketball court. This basketball court is common in the rainy heavy rain areas and is commonly used as a dry area that wont become muddy and used for socail events such as community meetings, graduations, concerts, and all other community activities. The history of Costa Rica goes back millions of years in learning about the volcano but Finca 6 and it's neighboring communities bring alot of recent history to mind and become a real eye-opener.
Imagine driving into the mountains where you see no end, crossing rivers, hiking through the jungle and exploring what Costa Rica was hundreds of years ago before Columbus arrived. Let us not forget when dealing with students a nd culture activities that the Indian's are the true land-holders of the land of Costa Rica.
The Cabecar Indian tribe is one of the 8 different Indian tribes you can find in Costa Rica. With over 64,000 total Indians and 22 reserves in a population of over 4 million in the country the Indians of Costa Rica are far and few between. We feel the Cabecar tribe is some of most authentic Indians that are left in this small population.
We take you on a day trip into the Talamanca mountain range where we visit the small town of Quetzal where the road comes to an end. If you choose the hiking begins and we come across Indian huts where just visiting is an act of community service in itself. We often bring gifts of clothing, soccer balls, or food. In exchange for the gifts we learn about the culture of the Cabecar Indian and the history behind this amazing tribe. If your group is interested in doing a more extensive community service project there are always things to be worked on in the area from easy to intense community service a project is always needed.
Local Stops Along the Way
Just being a part of our tour consider yourself getting involved in the community service. For our groups that dont focus on one specific community service project they can expect to be giving back to the community by not even knowing it.
During our trips we always make an effort to go out of our way to help the small family run business' along the way. This might involve stopping at a local small resturaunt in Costa Rican known as "Sodas" and having the family do a small demonstration of what a "Soda" is and how they operate it with all members of the family.
We also might make a stop along the way to visit some agriculture area with an exchange of a lesson on where the "Heart of Palm" comes from and what they do with it by stopping at a local plantation and leaving a little tip when we make our departure is all ways in helping the local families get a cut of the tourism pie.