Volunteering In Costa Rica – If An 80 Year Old Woman Can Do It, You Can Do It!

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I have been back in Arizona for only a few days and my mind keeps going back to the orphanage in Costa Rica. I sit down again and start looking at the pictures for the umpteenth time and my eyes get watery and then I laugh and and then I get up and wipe my eyes again. There are so many memories and did I do enough or is there still something else I can do.

When our bus drops me off at the locked gate in front of their building, all of these little kids are standing there… with outstretched arms… waiting for one of the Tias to unlock it from the kitchen and allow me to enter. They would be hanging on my legs and feet and if they were tall enough, hanging on my shoulders asking for a ride or from the mixed noises, asking for paper and crayons to show me their artistic talents. Daniel and his sister were brought in from the hospital by the Red Cross where they were badly mistreated by family. Daniel really knows how to give a meaningful hug. He drew a picture and it was for me. He wrote in Spanish I LOVE YOU TOURIST. We were either a teacher or a tourist as he saw us. He got in trouble one day over a pair of sunglasses and was sent to his room. He tore up his room from anger. They asked me to go back and see it but leave him alone until he calmed down. I slipped back in a few minutes later, sat on his bed and we were both crying and hugging. He looked up at my tears and I could tell in his eyes that I was probably one of the few people in his life that cried for him.

The little ones have different ways of showing… and asking for affection. One little preschooler likes to work with my hair and also she puts on pretend makeup and then turns my face to her as if now I am beautiful. They like to put their body across my lap and have me rub their back. At the same time, there will be one or two sitting on my ankles and feet, asking me to give them a ride. I know this is good for the tummy muscles and as I look at some of my pictures from that time, I should have done it more.

The doctor makes a visit every Thursday to check on the kids. There is a boys orphanage and a girls orphanage and then the one where I spent several weeks, was a mixed boys and girls under 12. He sat one day holding 17 month old Jefferson and we had a nice conversation. He told me these kids need lots of loving and he gives of his time one day a week. He told me he works in the Emergency Room at a local hospital… always emergencies… and as he also said “Life isn’t perfect” so he goes to be around these little kids, and then everything else leaves his mind. Some of the older boys come back to play with these little ones whenever they can and one boy came back and mopped the floors several times. I asked why he did that and it was a plain, simple answer. I JUST WANT TO HELP !

One of the little guys, Erasmo, goes to preschool and whenever he would get “home” he would come running towards me… his eyes wide open and his mouth even wider… and would give me a HI-FIVE. One day he came in from school, gave me the normal hi-five and then in English, said “book” and then jumped on my lap and was so excited to show me all of his accomplishments in that book, marked with stars and then turned to MICKEL MOUSE and wanted me to read him the story about Mickel Mouse. Several of the other children gathered around us as he showed so much excitement that they wanted to share the moments. I read Mickey Mouse in English knowing full well they could not understand a word of it but I did the next best thing, I did voice changes, facial expressions and guess it could be called exaggerated animation. Whatever, they all seemed to enjoy it and we ended the story with lots of laughter.

I spent 12 weeks in Costa Rica with an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. I attended several of the schools, worked with the Womens Empowerment Group, was asked to join in the Teachers Conference two different times helping the English teachers with pronunciation, visited the Senior Day Care Center and the Children’s Day Care Center (2-6 year olds) where they were learning about washing hands and brushing teeth and I still had time to join the other volunteers on weekend trips and yes, even horseback riding. I missed the zip-lining on purpose!!!!!

Even though I feel I have had a very full life with 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren, a successful career and a marriage that lasted 51 years, turning 80 this year is another high lite in my life. I am still looking ahead to tomorrow and next week and I know full well there is something else out there for me. I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.

When asked how I felt about my experience, this is the best description I can come up with.

It is like after you have eaten your very favorite meal, sitting in your very favorite chair, in your very favorite room, listening to your very favorite music and your very favorite friend is right beside you.

I made a very good decision when I decided to spend 12 weeks with Cross Cultural Solutions in San Carlos, Costa Rica. Some of the volunteers came in for 2 weeks because that is all of the time they had available to them. EVERYONE that left when their time was up, wished they could stay on longer. A couple of the girls made arrangements to extend their time for another week. They were so excited about that. They told me how lucky I was to be able to stay longer. They did not want to leave their new found friends, the very warm and helpful staff and “their kids” at the different schools. More tears came out when they talked about leaving “their kids”. They wanted to make sure they were in capable hands. Can’t tell you how many hugs and tears were shared when the final day arrived. They did not want to leave. I can still see their faces looking out the window of the van, with tears flowing down their cheeks and waving to all of us standing inside the gate waving and throwing kisses to them. From my recent emails, I am being told that the worst time of their life was when they were on their way to the airport to go back home.

write by Manfred

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