Summer intern Joel Campo shares his experiences working on project Beyond el Campo in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.
I have now been in Santa Cruz de Leon Cortes, Costa Rica for two weeks and it has been great. Since being here, Cheyenne, Lexie and I have taught English lessons to children and adults, and have also been working on constructing a new computer room for the public library. Teaching and constructing the computer room is going really well and is a very rewarding experience. We hope to finish the computer room soon so that it may be useful to the people of Santa Cruz. Also, Cheyenne, Lexie, and I have many things planned for upcoming weeks and we are excited to see how everything works out!
However, although teaching, constructing the computer room, and planning new projects are a large part of the great experience I am having, one thing that has really impacted me is some of the great people I have met here in Santa Cruz. My host mom, Ana Navarro, happens to be one of these great people. Ana makes clothes for a living and has a nice shop at the front of the house, and also works with the local government. Ana has two sons, Cesar (19) and Miguel (21). One thing that has stood out to me about her is that she seems to be able to talk to anyone. Ana and I have discussed many topics since I’ve arrived in Santa Cruz. We have talked about the experiences she has had hosting volunteers over the years and I realized that a few years ago she hosted Caitlin Scudder, the founder of the Beyond El Campo initiative. Caitlin and Ana’s family remain friends to this day. Ana and I also talked about her experiences visiting the United States. Coincidentally, she spent time in my home state (New Jersey) and worked in Elizabeth for a few months, which was the city where my father worked for many years. Speaking of fathers, I should also mention that Ana and I have spent time discussing a topic that is difficult for the both of us—the passing of our fathers in November of 2012. This was the first year in my life that I didn’t spend Father’s day with my family; but I am glad that I have felt comfortable enough to talk to Ana and her family about our similar experiences. I am very grateful to have landed in this host family and out of the many people I have met here in Santa Cruz, Ana is largely responsible for the amazing time I am having.
Another person I have met and made good friends with is a young man named Adonay (18). I met Adonay because he is currently renting a room at Ana’s house. He has supported himself for the past two years and his weekly schedule is one that is difficult for me to imagine. He wakes up every morning during the week at 4:30am to go to work on a farm, and he finishes working around 2:00pm. Then, he borrows a friend’s motorcycle to go take classes at the high school he attends about a half hour away. He usually does not return back to Ana’s house until 9:30pm during the week. I grew up in a small middle-class city in New Jersey so I haven’t been exposed to many situations like Adonay’s, but as hard as Adonay’s situation may be, his thirst for knowledge has pleasantly surprised me. Whenever he and I have free time, he asks me to practice English with him and I of course am more than happy to oblige. He told me he hopes to one day go to college in the United States and become a doctor. I told him to keep working and to never give up.
Another person who has really inspired me during my time here is an elderly woman named Gillermina. Last week, Adonay and I went on a walk (which is more similar to a hike here in Santa Cruz) to Gillermina’s house so that he could introduce us. Gillermina is a highly respected woman here in Santa Cruz and I was fortunate enough to talk to her about her life for a few hours. She is 64 years old and in 2007 she published a collection of beautiful poems, many of which have to do with her experiences here in Santa Cruz. Her inspiration to publish the book of poems came after she had been on her deathbed for many months while battling stomach cancer for six years. She won the battle, and is now fully cured and walks around with a beautiful, welcoming smile. She also has a great voice and I was happy to hear her read a few poems and sing a few songs that she had written. While I was at her home she even read a poem that is dedicated to the volunteers that come to work in Santa Cruz every year. Meeting Gillermina is something I will never forget. I plan to bring her book of poems back home so that I can give it to my grandmother as a gift.
Our goals coming here were to create equal educational opportunities through teaching English and to provide new resources for the public library. But as you can see, in this post I decided to focus less on what we have been doing and more on the great people I have interacted with here in Santa Cruz. I feel what we are doing in this community is very important but creating relationships with the people here is just as crucial. I look forward to continue working with Cheyenne and Lexie (and now Andrew, who is a high school student that just arrived today!) because they are all awesome, hardworking people and we are all on the same page about what we want to accomplish in time we have here. I am very excited to be on this team and I am just as excited to establish relationships with more great people in this community.
Finally, the Costa Rican national team is playing great in the World Cup and their performance has given the Santa Cruz community and the Beyond El Campo interns one more reason to smile! GO TICOS!