All posts by Gail Nystrom

Happy Birthday to Alan

32 years old and still with us in spite of meeting death two years ago by falling out of a third story construction site. He literally fought for life and limb. He did lose part of his right leg…but saved his life.

We celebrated with a family lunch at KFC at a venue on the third floor. He sat by the window. Here is his wife, her 4 year old daughter and two sons and Alan’s son. Boy those kids can eat! We got a super mega bucket. They scarfed down everything but the very bones.

Zuly says she tells the kids..let’s go out to eat… so she cooks up some rice and beans and they put a blanket on the floor of their little balcony..and they are out to eat!

We pull up into the parking lot in my car and all tumble out…the old lady, the one legged man, the woman with an unusual face, the tiny girl, the very tall boy and the very thin boy. Just like a circus clown car.

After we eat we go to the outdoor park down below and play hide and seek. I won every time because I’m sneaky and always get to the home free tree first.

Success Stories From The Field #2 – Yader Goes North

He did it! Our collaborator Yader is a participant in the Biden administrations program. This program was created to pave the way for the political and economic refugees to enter legally into the United States.

This program included extensive phone and in person interviews, orientation sessions, Q & A activities, review by both UNHCR and US embassy personnel and…the all important diploma…his first ever.

I pray that America will treat this fine man with the respect he deserves. I kind of compare this to my entry into Costa Rica with the Peace Corps in 1977. It is a life changer.

He will be called to board the plane any day now.

ps the picture in the background was done by Danny, one of the street kids more than 20 years ago. It shows a hand pointing toward the full moon.

Success Stories From The Field – The Electric Saw Accident

One and a half years ago he was using a round electric saw and it somehow got out of control. He cut his foot and hand and was bleeding profusely. His family was in a panic…the clinic was a 30 minute walk away. No one they knew had a car. And suddenly there were dozens of little kids swarming around me. And my car. “Por favor.” “Please please take him to ….the clinic.”

So we drove up there and I hardly got there before he was fainting and losing a lot of blood. From the clinic he was given an ambulance and off he went.

I didn’t see him after that..until yesterday. And there he was with two hands and two feet. What was the first thing he said to me? ” I’m so sorry I got your car all full of blood”. Imagine that. I just said..”the blood got cleaned up. I’m just glad to see you alive. ” And he looked at me and said, ” without those minutes you gave me I would not be here.” We looked at each other and in my head I heard Bob Marley singing…is this love is this love is this love is this love..and so it is.

Please consider donating to our emergency relief funds so we can continue to provide assistance in emergency situations.

New Year 2024 Day 1 Celebration and Birthdays

What an amazing way to start the New Year! Volunteers Vicki Schwarz and her friends sponsored a fantastic New Year party in order to celebrate her and Dans birthdays and to teach children about healthy eating…

Doña Antonia came through with a delicious tomatoes-only spaghetti sauce with spiral noodles. the 50 kids got a glass of milk to drink along with it. The desert was a fresh fruit cup with some ice cream and a home baked cookie.

We had fun singing together and Adolfo gave his life story to the kids. He emphasized belief in yourself, never give up and accept help when needed. An extra bonus was Alcider also had his birthday.

Each child was given a lovingly wrapped present of a notebook crayons or colored pencil or clay. Three children got a special gift that was raffled off. Our Automercado food program supplied a yummy chocolate cake. As the kids left they all got a hug from all the volunteers and then we sat down to eat together. Because we were starving.

A few tears of joy were shed. What a loving way to spend a birthday and a beginning of a new year. Thanks to our amazing team who set up the room, gathered the children and made sure everything went smoothly. Thanks so much to the volunteers and their coordinator Vicki for their wonderful new year 2024 first day.

ps. this was a party created with love and higher consciousness to celebrate birth and new beginnings. And it was fun and stress free. Everyone had a part to play and we all got along great. Mutual respect and true caring. No power plays on this day.
True gratitude.

Family Volunteer Stories – Community Service and Vacations

El Tope Nacional

Yesterday our volunteer family of six..four kids and mom and dad…needed an activity. We found out it was the day of the “Tope de San Jose 2023” or the San Jose 2023 Horse Parade. And as a bonus, the starting was just two blocks away from their Peace Center Hostel. So we walked over there. It was amazing to be so near to all the horse energy

The animals were astoundingly beautiful and majestic. The relation between the horses and their riders was like something out of mythology. A perfect balance of strength. The women riders were calm and composed and definitely in charge of their horses. We saw ponies and horses who were so large you would need a ladder to get on them. And the tails and manes and feet of the horses were braided and intertwined with brightly colored satin ribbons.

There were over 2000 horses and riders. A virtual invasion of San Jose. Full of fierce and controlled strength. But.. cheerful and peaceful, as Costa Ricans should be.

But..don’t mess with them…As our national anthem says..if somebody tries to detain our glory, you will see our people rise up to protect our honor. These horses would make a formidable foe.

As an added bonus right on the corner where the horses walked by, we found a little restaurant called Cahuita. This is the name of the Caribbean village where the family will be staying for a few nights. So we sat in their window eating patti, patacones with guacamole, fried yucca, cheese squares and drinking frog water and lemonade while listening to Bob Marley sing ” Is this love is this love is this love”

Lost Fossils

And then…since I noticed that these folks were quite adventurous we took off to visit fossil land. This is a place I’ve been to years ago…where there is a crystal cave and fossils of ancient shellfish. 

We arrived at the place and were greeted by four very sweet and friendly “guard” dogs. And  no human to be found. It was eerily and deliciously intriguing, and a bit scary at the same time. 

We walked on rock roads and abandoned paths and  buildings. We discovered a  building where lye was produced, an abandoned soccer court, a decrepit water slide, remnants of a zip line, leaf  cutter ants, antlions, a sparkling clear stream filled with little  butterflies to wade in and..oh yes..fossils galore. 

Dad is a geologist and rock star..so he was in his element  explaining all the history of the rocks and fossils. This experience was like a return to childhood before cellphones and computers got in the way. We took delight in all the unexpected treasures we found. 

On the drive out we did find a guy who told us that they had stopped operations because of covid and the owner just passed away three months ago. What a hidden gem this place is. 

We then rode down the hill and dropped the family off at the bullfighting arena. 

What’s Next

Tomorrow we are off to the Cabecar indigenous reserve, port city Limon, Caribbean village Cahuita and jungle adventure Tortuguero. I think this family is having the vacation of a lifetime.


2023 CRHF Christmas Party – An Unforgettable Day

Some days are just meant to be unforgettable. Our donor Gary has given us a generous Christmas party for many years . But this time his assistant had an incredibly plucky idea…Let’s just take everyone to Parque de Diversiones – the national amusement park .

So.. with great trepidation and a pinch of hope we potted our scheme. The ever patient Katya who is our assistant began to make the list. And wound up checking it much more than twice. Our faithful teachers vetted every single person. And the meticulous Natasha took care of all the details having to do with the Park, payments and protocols.

Somehow – with help From above, we pulled it off. Nearly six hundred children and parents…who live near this financially unaccessible national amusement park, who pass by it on their way to and from anywhere, were able to enjoy a day of pure excitement and joy. They walked and rode and ate to their heart’s content. And, we didn’t lose anyone and no one got hurt.

Building Peace: Costa Rica’s Approach To National Security Without An Army

How does a country with no army protect itself from invasion? From a neighboring country, from drugs traffickers. From gangs. From gun violence. From any other disturbing situation?

Our president AND his advisors have cooked up a plan. First and foremost. Strengthen the education system. Second reinforce pride in the country through unified celebration of national holidays. A small gesture..renovate the school uniform rules. And then, introduce the word sovereignty to the national vocabulary.

A firm unified and led concept. Like when mom and dad sit the wayward child down for a talk. Clear rules and expectations. Coupled with ,”we know you can do it”. Attention and praise for small improvement and consistent steady encouragement.

Then…hire 300 more well trained police and publish videos of them together at an induction ceremony. Not to threaten or be aggressive but to REMIND. We are here. Standing firm. Tighten up consequences for small infractions like speeding or running a traffic sign. Align the judicial system, with the police system, with an attitude of restorative justice. Use the press to keep communication open.

And I’ll tell you what we don’t do. We don’t all walk around carrying guns. We don’t lose our daily courtesy. We don’t forget to greet each other no matter what soccer team you are rooting for. And when we discover a bully or a grooming or a cyber danger our government and ngo system step in to educate and support the situation.

Costa Rica is still far from the country it dreams of becoming but it certainly is way beyond the hatred and it’s consequences found in other sadly suffering parts of the world. We are blessed because we have strong and wise leadership. And we know our children will not have to go to war. We believe in ourselves.

Reuniting in Plaza de la Democracia: Liberation, Family and Unexpected Celebrations

The day of the commemoration liberation from the army we were standing in the Democracy Plaza. Waiting. Someone said…look, there is the president and they are filming him. Of course we had to go and cureosiar. Sure enough. There was a film crew filming a president…But it was an actor look alike of President Figueres…doing a reenactment of the speech had dismantling the army.

BUT we were there for another mission. We were waiting for volunteer Julie, who had arrived just a week ago, to meet for the first time since she was nine months old, her very alive mother. It “only” took a few days to find Julie’s long lost family and there we were.  Waiting. Suddenly, we saw them mother, brother, sister and two delightful nephews walking toward us. Then there were hugs as they found each other again. Tears flowed and there was a kind of peace in the air. A relief and a calm.

Then we gathered ourselves to walk across the street to a local restaurant that had been tipped off about this life changing event. The Calypso band asked ” what song shall we play?’ and all we could think of was “happy birthday to you”. So there it was…and the whole restaurants broke into applause. A great meal, profound conversation and wonderful little drawings by the two little kids as a gift for “tia”. And all this transpired right there in the Democracy Plaza. Where years ago an army leader took a sledge hammer to a fortress wall forever changing the destiny of all Costa Rican children. Even the adopted ones.It was a good day.

Empowering Communities Through Partnerships: The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation’s Work Against Hunger

A Lifeline from Surplus: The Automercado Partnership
In the relentless work against poverty, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation has forged a crucial alliance with the Automercado supermarket chain. This section explores the daily routine of collecting surplus products and transforming them into basic food baskets for the community.

Nourishing Lives: Basic Food Baskets for Diverse Communities
Delving deeper into the impact of the Automercado partnership, this section highlights how the foundation’s outreach program reaches various segments of the community, providing nutritious food to the elderly, single mothers, disabled individuals, unemployed men, and refugees.

Small Business, Big Impact: Food Sustainable Livelihoods
Explore how the earnings generated from the modest sums paid by community members for the food baskets contribute to a sustainable small business enterprise. Learn how more than 50 individuals are supported, creating a positive economic cycle within the community.

Beyond Relief: A Holistic Approach to Poverty
This section emphasizes that the foundation’s efforts go beyond traditional humanitarian aid by promoting healthy eating habits. It introduces the educational sessions on making nutritious juices from rescued raw foods and the impact of these sessions on creating a healthier community.

Community Empowerment: Fostering Solidarity and Awareness
Highlight the foundation’s unique role in fostering a sense of community and solidarity through its programs. Explore how the hands-on educational approach empowers individuals to make better food choices and take responsibility for their well-being.

Sowing Seeds of Well-Being: Long-Term Impact
In conclusion, this section reflects on the lasting impact of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation’s collaborative efforts. It emphasizes the foundation as a beacon of hope and showcases how sustained community engagement and empowerment can create enduring solutions to combat poverty.

Aging, Care and Visibility

As usual my personal experience crosses over to my work with CRHF and vice versa. This past week I went to the US to help move my 93 year old Father into a smaller place with more care. He has lived for the past 8 years in this practically idyllic setting called Medford Leas. It is designed to accompany and support people as they age. Physically other worldly surrounded by streams forests, flower gardens and criss crossed with wide gently sleeping sidewalks for people walking independently, with canes, with scooters and wheelchairs. The level of care is carefully calibrated to ensure maximum independence. There is a cafeteria where residents can sit together and eat or take food home

There are two libraries. They have movie nights, game playing, music of all kinds, and a REALLY good lecture series. While there this time, we learned about Seabrook Farms where frozen vegetables were invented…and where Japanese people were living during the war. Everyone is super well dressed and friendly. And don’t even try to imagine the level of physical and mental health care. If you get a hangnail there is someone there to take care of it. Dad has issues with his feet because his heart doesn’t pump the blood enough. The doctors have been incredibly respectful and very human. There was talk of amputation which Dad soundly rejected. At one point he said I’m just going to stop taking all my meds..and the doctor said you will die within a month. Straight honest talk. But my sister researched and found an aparatos that massages and helps with blood flow. So Oopa, as he is known by hundreds of people here in Costa Rica and most of the family has now moved out of the apartment he lived in into a tiny, cozy space where he will be accompanied and cared for. What is the point of this very long post?

Because…I spent a week there. And everytime he needed something he got it…and more. He is living the time he has left living very protected. Which of course got me thinking about Don Luis who comes to our volunteer food program in la Carpio. He has chronic pain. No Access to medical care, lives alone, can’t work thus can’t pay rent etc etc. And of course I think

Does oopa’s life have more value than Don Luis? We can do more to de invisabilize people like Don Luis..and the many others like him. Shindler at the end of the movie said ” I could have done more””. My father has once again brought me to another level of awareness and motivated me to stretch. We can, and will, do more. Starting next week. When the elderly come for food, we will be giving them fresh fruit and vegetable drinks, light exercise classes, a listening heart, music and shared laughs. At least we can do that.

PS…I met the professor of a group of nursing students. They asked me for advice.,the words that came out were, when you are old your body doesn’t really matter to you…but it is the only thing that should matter.