Tag Archives: Volunteer

Costa Rica: A Paradise for Tourists and Volunteers Alike

Costa Rica, with its lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and rich biodiversity, has rightfully earned its place as a favorite tourist destination. This Central American gem not only captivates visitors with its natural beauty but also offers a unique opportunity for those seeking meaningful travel experiences through volunteering.

Pura Vida Lifestyle

Costa Rica is synonymous with the “Pura Vida” lifestyle, a phrase that encapsulates the country’s laid-back attitude and emphasis on enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Visitors are welcomed with open arms by the warm and friendly locals, making it a destination where the hospitality is as memorable as the scenery.

Breathtaking Natural Wonders

From the misty cloud forests of Monteverde to the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica boasts a diverse range of ecosystems. Travelers can explore volcanoes, hike through dense rainforests, and relax on golden sands—all within a relatively compact geographical area. The country’s commitment to conservation ensures that these natural wonders are preserved for future generations.

Adventures and Thrills

Thrill-seekers will find their paradise in Costa Rica. With activities like zip-lining through the treetops, whitewater rafting on raging rivers, and surfing along the Pacific coast, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping adventures. The country’s topography provides the perfect backdrop for an array of exciting outdoor pursuits.

Wildlife Haven

Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot, home to a staggering variety of flora and fauna. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot howler monkeys, colorful toucans, and elusive jaguars in their natural habitats. The country’s commitment to sustainability ensures that ecotourism is not just a buzzword but a way of life.

Volunteering Opportunities

For those seeking a more immersive and purposeful experience, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation offers ample opportunities for community service work. Engaging in community development projects, wildlife conservation efforts, or educational initiatives allows visitors to make a positive impact on the local communities and ecosystems.

Costa Rica has been a pioneer in sustainable tourism and conservation. The government’s dedication to protecting the environment has led to the establishment of numerous national parks and reserves. The CRHF contributes to these efforts by participating in eco-friendly activities and supporting businesses that prioritize sustainability.

Cultural Richness

Beyond its natural wonders, Costa Rica has a vibrant cultural scene. Visitors can explore charming towns, savor traditional cuisine, and partake in local festivals. The blend of indigenous, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean influences adds depth to the cultural tapestry of the country.

In conclusion, Costa Rica’s appeal as a tourist destination goes far beyond its postcard-perfect landscapes. The combination of warm hospitality, diverse ecosystems, and opportunities for meaningful engagement through community service makes it a favorite among those seeking both relaxation and purpose in their travels. We invite you to join our initiative with the CRHF and provide support to the Costa Rican community. Whether you’re lounging on a sun-kissed beach or actively contributing to local initiatives, Costa Rica welcomes you with open arms and the promise of a truly enriching experience.

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.

Why We Do This

We sang. We laughed. We Saw each other. Children of the Massai. Pure sweet innocence.

Some people ask me why I do this work…sometimes it is genuine curiosity or desire to know. Sometimes people don’t believe our stats. And some might just be jealous. Lately, I got challenged from someone calling me a failure because I didn’t recruit more volunteers. And someone unrelated hinted that I was doing it for “ego”.

Let me make one thing clear…There is absolutely NOTHING that you can say that I haven’t already turned over in my head…remember it has been 40 years to try one thing or another. I feel like I’ve been pretty well honed.

And then there are moments that just bring it all to my heart. I call them moments of grace when there is a glow in the air and I can hear the universe hum. And thats what happened yesterday… because 13 year old Osmani came home alive after 3 months in the hospital. The tears of joy were flowing…there is a mini mini, a mini, a 9 year old, an 11 year old, osmani and a 16 year old girl who wants to be a doctor. and an extremely dedicated mother who learned in the hospital how to bathe, dress, carry and help with the toilet for her son. But yesterday all the chorus was tears, “we missed you sooooo much” repeated over and over.

With our donor we paid the rent, gave them food baskets 3 days a week, got a full time caretaker so mom can go get some work. Got them a new stove top etc. They are set up. Tomorrow we will get the bathroom bathing chair.

And this is why..it doesn’t always work like this but as they say all the time with God’s help we are so grateful. At least we try. Only room for great humility here.

My Book is My Friend

There wasnt a shelf…

As with all our projects we try to anticipate needs. But..we also live in a place where what we think might happen doesnt. Like the time we were building a classroom and had to move a HUGE rock away. And we just did it. No fuss. A lot of sweat.

So..I went to Suretka where our building for the first indigenous library is complete. My goal was to set up the space for the materials we were donating. When I arrived I found quite a bit of construction debris so the school cleaning lady and two of the male staff swept and mopped and cleared out stuff. Then we brought in our boxes of materials.

You think this was easy!? It was sweat induced hot. The sweat was dripping off my nose. There was a great white table donated by Michael and Michaela..with the legs unscrewed for storage convenience. There was no phillips head screwdriver to be found. And no shelf on which to put the materials.

No problem you say? Just head over to the local ferreteria for 18 cement blocks and four wooden planks and a screwdriver. They offered me a huge fancy screwdriver for $10…I said…” I just need a little one”. and voila..they came up with a perfect teeny screwdriver for $1,50. Unfortunately they didn’t have one cement block or one wooden board. So, off I went on a hunt for these materials.

Thus..Giselle got to meet the neighbors. I found a place where a guy was cutting wood and he gave me four boards. and miraculously the school came up with 8 cement blocks and I had my shelves.

We brought life and color and learning to these kids.

New Home, Family Constellations

Building a concrete floor for the new house.

A woman was selling her house so she could return to Nicaragua. Our donor funded the $2500. Only in Carpio can you get a house that cheap. It is being upgraded by Geancarlos so his mother can move into it. She will then leave Geancarlos and his wife Brenda her house which is bigger. Child welfare will then return custody of her two sisters to Brenda. Their mother died after childbirth two years ago. Family constellations in poverty communities are so complex.

Cafe Howie

This is our first day of “Cafe Howie” named after our donor. We have started small..the four table and chair sets that Alan refurbished. A lovely white linen tablecloth from donations. The sweet rose flower arrangements left over from the gala dinner. Fresh hot coffee. Vegetable health drink. Fresh fruit smoothie. Arroz con leche and atol made with fresh cow’s milk. Wonderful warm homemade sweet bread. And lively music.

This first week is free samples. Next week we will ask c1000 colones for any two products. Humble beginnings but…big dreams

A Mother’s Struggle

Yesterday we visited Oneida, mother of Osmani who is the 13 year old who is still in the hospital after being caught in a gun incident. Child welfare and police inspectors visited her house on Tuesday. They declared the house inadequate.

She is not allowed to talk to anyone for legal reasons. It is an active investigation . She has to move out of La Carpio. She spends her days and nights between staying in the hospital with Osmani, searching for food and taking care of her other kids. If child welfare makes a surprise visit and finds the kids without a caretaker they can take them all away and she will not be allowed to see them or know where they are.

Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation goes into action. We loaded her down with food. We will provide her with a child care person. And we will search for a home for her. Somehow we have to get her out of this nightmare. This is such a clear case of severe trauma coming at her from all directions.

No images for security reasons.

Persistent Alan Carries On

Monday July 3rd, 2023

He’s off…to another round of treatment and operations. This is Alan who had one leg half amputated. But now the knee on the other leg needs work. But.. before.. take a look at this furniture he refurbished. With a donation of seven very used tables and 28 chairs he created a whole new look. He was working until they came to pick him up for his hospital stay.

Tuesday July 4th, 2023

We are happy to have Alan safely back at home after his surgery. He had a lot of fear to overcome because he had surgery in the same ICU that his mother died in. Talk about trauma triggered experience. He has great faith with which to face these situations. The 23rd Psalm has been especially relevant.

We have been providing him with essential goods and services through these difficult times. He is looking at months in a wheelchair….if anyone has an idea for a crafty project with wood for him please let us know. He knows all about painting, varnishing and carving.

Celebrating 25 Years – Love Grows

Many people talk about the epidemic of violence and hatred that is flooding our lands in the past few years.  They are horrified at yet another mass shooting or tiktok post urging people to take negative action.  One wonders where is the Good that used to be? How are we to combat this emotional virus that seems all around us?

One group of people committed to the ideals of empathy and compassion seem to have found an antidote to this illness through a systemitized effort that brings together a diverse group of people who believe in a dream. This dream is shared as people learn to show empathy – a heart mind connectio – and compassion – a heart soul connection that fearlessly performs Right Actions to make real change in the lives of many people.

On Sunday May 7, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation or CRHF sponsored its 25th year anniversary with a gala event at the Hotel Marriott in Belen Costa Rica.

After months of preparation, the people of La Carpio displayed the products of their efforts to cure their barrio.

Crafts made by grandmothers, teens and indigenous, bunkbeds as part of a shelter program, basic food baskets, sports activities, educational packages, and much more were on display to that visitors could get an idea of how this organization works.

Our spiral model of development was represented by a large model created out of hula hoops and brightly colored ribbon.

Three theater productions were featured.  One with the grandmothers showing how a woman came to La Carpio after her difficult abusive relation.  Another presented by the teen girls linked the story of Anne Frank with Covid in Carpio and Ukraine.  The third presentation was by the men of our group and is designed to show how youth abuse affects men from Nicaragua.

The Hotel Marriott generously provided a wonderful meal served with all the formality of the day.  Surprised to see a fork AND a knife, AND a piece of cloth called a napkin, the members of our sport league Rescate took valiantly went at the cutting of the meat. Meanwhile, the little kids were thrilled to find a bathroom faucet with HOT water coming out,

To make the cultural exchange even more interesting, the guests were interested to see the modified Montessori program that the Foundation sponsors and to learn about our Street children rescue program.

Then the show began….

The “minis” of our Montessori program sang the song “We are the Flowers of the Garden” showcasing their delightful costumes as flowers, sun, rain, and earth.  Who could resist the site of little children wiggling and singing a song about nature’s rhythms?

The soccer boys and girls made a pageant of the song “We Are the Champions” complete with a mockup of the wonderful bus we had been donated.

Next, the group of elementary kids sang the song “Prendo una vela”.. l light a candle …to honor 12 of their chosen heroes.  The candle they held was in a hand painted bottle with a copy of a painting by Patricia Erickson called “The Moon is a Woman’s Thing”.  Each of the children then gifted a candle to the women in the audience.  The men were given a hand painted rock with the saying “Upon this rock my church will be built”.

Then, the whole group sang the song “You Raise Me Up” ending with the creation of a human pyramid as the kids raised their arms in gratitude to the audience.

To end the evening, one girl, Francini came out alone and sang our theme song..Love Grows..one by one…two by two…four by four.”  She was soon joined by the rest of the group of children from the La Libertad section of La Carpio who repeated the song and its hand movements.

And finally, everyone stood and sang the song together.

Love grows..one by one…two by two…four by four. Love grows round in a circle and comes back to you to knock on your front door.

My final words to everyone: 

I was I

And

You were you.

Now

I am you…

And you are me…

And

We are We

It was a sweet evening indeed.

Gail Nystrom

Founder and Director

Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

We are very grateful for all the people who assisted and supported us in this very important event. We would also like to thank everyone who has supported us through the years and provided the resources to change the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable people in Costa Rica. We hope to have honored your support for our cause. Thank you for sharing our dream!

Proceeds from this activity will go toward:

Libros para todos program for the northern zone

A library program for, about and by indigenous in Suretka Talamanca

A Museum/Library in Amubri de Talamanca

Food baskets for La Carpio

Housing for la Carpio

Small businesses for single mothers heads of household