Amidst the exotic wildlife and lush rain forests of Costa Rica are areas of urban development in need of support. Most of the population is under 25 years old, unemployed, and often live in poor, meager conditions. Lifeworks-Costa Rica works with Giselle and the Fundacion Humanitaria to help alleviate some of the harsh conditions facing the people.
Homeless children come running out from under the highway bridge to hug Giselle when she arrives... Visit the enormous poor community of La Carpio, and you'll find Giselle helping doctors provide aid to children. Tomorrow, she'll stop by the soup kitchen to visit with the homeless, donating both her time and energy to ensure that all are fed. This might be quite enough for one person, yet battered and homeless women also know Giselle, as do the elderly, as well as those indigenous people living in remote mountain villages. Even the toughest street kids in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, will smile and shake your hand when they hear "Amigo de Giselle!" "If she's your friend, I'm your friend too!"
Giselle, is actually Gail Nystrom, an ex-Peace Corp worker who went home to Colorado when her volunteer time was up, yet returned to Costa Rica less than a year later to found the Fundacion Humanitaria.
For the majority of the program, we will be living with local families just outside of San Jose and working with a community school near Santa Ana. Fluency in Spanish is not required for the program, and we will attend the Peace Corp's Center of Human Potential to enhance our language skills and improve communication with our new friends.
We will participate in the construction and painting of local buildings, as well as teach and play with children in the community. Between projects, we will travel from the Central Valley to the Tortuguero Park to help clean its Caribbean shoreline. Tortuguero is home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting sites in the world and almost everyone who visits is lucky enough to observe them laying their eggs at night.
While exploring ancient rainforests, it is not uncommon to see monkeys, toucans, crocodiles, iguanas, and sloths. During our stay we will also visit the active volcano, Arenal, and view the many dramatic landscapes this country has to offer.
This is an unforgettable experience and each of us will leave with an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment for having helped some of the real people to whom Giselle has devoted her life.
President's Volunteer Service Award, Humanitarian Foundation