Rachel Schick, Gymnastics Class of 2017 and Biological Sciences major, had the opportunity to travel with LEAD to Costa Rica for a service learning trip.
The minute we stepped onto the plane to head to Costa Rica I could tell the trip was going to be one I’ll never forget. Everyone apart of the team exuded positive energy and excitement. All the energy buzz bounced off from person to person on the team and this buzz even strengthened through the trip! The experiences I had in the country of Costa Rica humbled, enlightened, and filled my heart with pure bliss.
The children we met there changed our lives. Positively by opening their hearts and allowing us to immersing ourselves into their community and culture. Most of us on the team knew the least basic amount of Spanish. Ex: ¡Hola!. That was it….any other words or sentence formation past that was non existent up until our first show distribution. Two years of español in high school did nothing for me (sorry Mrs. Hartz. LOL). The children made you reflect upon your personal priorities. This realization came from observing their school environments- clothing they wore, outdated technology and playground equipment, low school supplies, make shift classroom equipment, etc. We help the aesthetic look to school number two by painting their cafeteria. The colors of different verde (green) shades submerged the walls after we finished painting. Together we made the cafeteria look rejuvenated!
Life in the CEDCAS area was rough. Full of poverty, violence, gangs, drugs, and lack of necessary living requirements (clean running water, toilets, showers, etc.) Many individuals lived in ‘Squatter communities or houses’. These are individuals or families that live in ‘make shift’ homes (ingredients of Tin -colorful) on land. This is a sketchy way of living because it is illegal and normally full of violence. The high treats that circulate through the communities causes children to stay in doors after dark and also leads a family member to stay put on the habituated land 24/7. The reasoning is to stop someone from stealing their home because after squatting for 10 years the government legalizes the land in that families name. One parent staying home at all times contributes to children’s independent living experience. The children will have to walk to and from school alone. Surrounded by constant treats of danger these children have the guts and maybe even ignorance to live independently when need be. Knowing how these children live made the look on their faces and in the eyes when they were handed a pair of NIKE shoes in the orange box priceless. It was so special to see in the eyes of the children (and their teachers and parents) how the shoes we gifted them were gifts of love and a step towards a healthier life.
The moments I shared with the team lead to newly form relationships that I know will last for the rest of my life. Special moments, plus newly form friendship bonds, has left an imprint on my heart. This once and a life time experience will be with me forever. My heart and mind will never forget the smiling children, small feet, orange NIKE boxes, edge gripping road trips, lush green environments, rice and beans, etc. So many great moments and memories where borne out of such a impoverished area. I found beauty in the ashes. I’m bless beyond belief that UGA allowed me to partake it such a heart felt service event!