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By Dr. Sally Bassett
One of the greatest joys of leading “voluntourism” retreats to Costa Rica–trips mixed with travel and service–is the range of ages within a group. Recently, I had 20 people join me, including high school students, an 11 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. Our oldest was 70 years young—Bernadette was a delight as she zip-lined through the rainforest for her first time. Grey, our 5 year old from Zionsville, kept everyone joyfully engaged throughout the week as we worked at our International Center for Girls.
The group visited the school on four different occasions. Reading stations were set up; tie-dye activity commenced; the classroom was completely cleaned and reorganized; backpacks were handed out along with special stuffed animals and beanie babies; fluoride treatments were applied to each child’s teeth; games and singing with the children were a big hit; and a wonderful workshop on Empowerment was given by a sex education teacher from Richmond, IN. For years, Peace through Yoga Foundation has been deeply involved with the Carbon 1 and surrounding communities in Limon, Costa Rica. The International Center for Girls, located in Carbon 1, is very close to Samasati Nature Retreat and is the home for the Girls for Success Program. Girls for Success offers free English and sewing classes for girls ages 7-12 in Carbon 1 and surrounding communities. The program has 16 girls, and each girl is paired with a sponsor from the United States, who is associated with the Peace through Yoga Foundation.
The Girls for Success program is much more than just English and sewing classes. The students in the program are given a chance to express themselves, either with art, music, games, or yoga, which is sometimes not available to them in their daily routines. This program challenges their creative thinking while incorporating English into their everyday conversations. Aside from the classroom, the Girls for Success students are given opportunities every month to go on an excursion. Past excursions have included zip lining, horseback riding, beach picnics, and trips to the Jaguar Rescue Center. We have a big trip each November, in which the girls with the best attendance travel to San Jose for a culturally enriching weekend.