Why did you decide to volunteer with Global Works in Costa Rica?
Molly: Last summer I was preparing to enter my senior year and final year of high school. I looked at it as my last summer to do some sort of summer program, since this upcoming summer I plan to focus on the preparation of college. I had done two other teen tours along with a soccer trip abroad with my school team and had amazing times on each trip, but wanted a little more. As I would be working on all my college applications at the end of summer/beginning of school year I began thinking it'd be nice to add one more trip, but that had more than just adventure. I decided I wanted the program to include: community service(I hadn't done much in the past and felt it would really help me with opportunities I might come across in the future), language opportunities(although I am not very good at spanish I think it is very important and such an advantage to be bilingual), and a homestay experience(I had never done anything like it before, but knew people who had and loved it). With these three requirements I did a lot of research of many different programs, but in the end Global Works stuck out to me because not only did it have the three things I wanted, but so much more, and not just one community service project, but three...in three different places!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer in Costa Rica.
Molly: This is a little hard since we had three different volunteer experiences, but I'll try my best. The first project was in Tenorio, where we stayed at an eco-lodge in the rainforest. We would wake up bright and early(wake up at 7 have breakfast, start work by 8) and begin the day. After breakfast we would put on all of our gear(boots, rain jacket, work gloves, and LOTS AND LOTS of bug spray) and head into the rainforest. It was usually raining, but that just added to the beauty. One day we spent carrying large and heavy bags of sand all they way up the mountain to be dropped off at the rainforest. To be more efficient we set-up a labor line(not sure that's the right name. I mean a line where people are at different points and you get a bag carry it to the next person, then go back to your spot and repeat until all the bags have gone through the line.), while the other day we each just carried up bags of our own. We did this in the morning, had lunch, then continued to work afterwards, usually something easier like picking up trash around the area. Another day we spent digging up the mud on the 1.5 mile trail, putting it into wheel barrels and wheeling it out of the rainforest. This was so the cement could be laid down. Again in the afternoon we would do something a bit less tiring.
The second project, longest and most rewarding, was in our homestay town of Cuipilapa. Everyday we would wake up, have breakfast with our families, then "go to work" aka walk down the road to the center of town where the Community Hall was. We would work all morning, sweeping the floors, scraping rust from fence siding, sanded tables and chairs so we could paint them, and painting the inside and outside of the building. Each day we would make more progress towards the final product. Though it wasn't just us doing boring jobs. Instead it turned into fun work because the local kids would come help and play with us everyday. Seeing us hard at work influenced them to help, too, taking pride and ownership in fixing up their community. After a morning of work each day, a different homestay family would make us lunch as we took an hour or so break. After lunch we'd go back to work till about 4ish, when we would have some free time until the afternoon activity with the community.
The third and final project was in Brujo in an amazing rainforest. We would wake up early, maybe 6, have breakfast made by the mother of the household, Rosa, and then do either an adventure activity or volunteer project, alternating the two between morning and afternoon. At this location, the service-projects were more relaxed and brief, since we spent more time going on adventures and learning about the rainforest around us, all the fresh fruit, and the amazing medicinal plants.
What made this experience unique and special?
Molly: I have had many other abroad experiences either with my family, a program, or sports team, but for none of those experiences was I able to walk away feeling like I hadn't just seen all the tourist places or done cool adventures, but rather I had made an impact on the place I visited and really felt I had connected and experienced life of the locals. That is of course until I went on my Global Works trip. Being able to come home and feel like I hadn't just visited Costa Rica, but truly made a mark and did something important was the most amazing feeling and is what made my volunteer abroad experience so unique and special.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Molly: This experience has impacted my future in more ways than I could ever imagine. Not only was I able to write my whole college essay about the experience, helping me show the college who I really am, which was so easy since the experience was so heartfelt that the words just flowed out, but the experience made me realize that I am the most happy when I am helping and truly connecting with others. This will help me in upcoming years figure out what I want to do and the person I truly want to be. This experience also allowed me to develop such meaningful relationships with people around the world. It's such a nice feeling to know I have a "second home" in Cuipilapa, where open arms in my homestay and throughout the town await me.