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Volunteering In Costa Rica – If An 80 Year Old Woman Can Do It, You Can Do It!
I’ve only been in Arizona for a few days and my mind keeps going back to the orphanage in Costa Rica. I sit back down and start looking at the pictures for the umpteenth time and my eyes water and then I laugh and then I get up and wipe my eyes again. There are so many memories and have I done enough or is there still more I can do.
When our bus drops me off at the locked door in front of their building, all these kids are standing there…arms outstretched…waiting for one of the Aunties to unlock it from the kitchen and let me in. . They would be hanging from my legs and feet and, if they were tall enough, hanging from my shoulders begging for a ride or the mixed noises, begging for paper and crayons to show me their artistic talents. Daniel and his sister were brought from the hospital by the Red Cross where they were mistreated by their family. Daniel really knows how to give a meaningful hug. He made a drawing and it was for me. He wrote in Spanish I WANT TO BE A TOURIST. We were teachers or tourists as he saw us. One day he got in trouble for wearing sunglasses and was sent to his room. He tore up his room in anger. I was asked to see him again but to leave him alone until he calmed down. I came back a few minutes later, sat on her bed and we were both crying and hugging each other. He looked at my tears and I could tell in his eyes that I was probably one of the few people in his life who cried for him.
The little ones have different ways of showing… and asking for affection. A little preschooler likes to work with my hair and put on makeup too and then turns my face to her like she’s beautiful now. They like to put their body on my lap and make me rub my back. At the same time, there will be one or two sitting on my ankles and feet, asking me to pass them. I know this is good for the stomach muscles and as I look at some of my pictures from that time, I should have done it more.
The doctor visits every Thursday to check on the children. There is an orphanage for boys and an orphanage for girls, and then the one I spent several weeks in was a mixed group of boys and girls under the age of 12. She sat one day holding 17 month old Jefferson and we had a good conversation. He told me that these children need a lot of love and that he gives his time one day a week. He told me he works in the ER at a local hospital…always the ER…and as he also said “Life isn’t perfect” so he’s going to be around these little kids, and then everything else goes out of 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 floor several times. I asked him why he did that and it was a plain and simple answer. I JUST WANT TO HELP!
One of the little ones, Erasmo, goes to preschool and whenever he came “home” he came running to me… his eyes wide open and his mouth even wider… and he gave me a HI-FIVE. One day he came home from school, gave me the normal high-five and then in English, said “book” and then jumped on my lap and was so excited to show me all his achievements in that book, marked with stars and then. turned to MICKEL MOUSE and wanted him to read the story about Mickel Mouse. Several of the other children gathered around us as he showed so much enthusiasm that they wanted to share the moments. I read Mickey Mouse in English knowing full well that they couldn’t understand a word of it, but I did the next best thing: I did voice changes, facial expressions, and I guess you could call it exaggerated animation. Whatever, everyone seemed to enjoy it and we finished the story with lots of laughs.
I spent 12 weeks in Costa Rica with an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. I attended several schools, worked with the Womens Empowerment Group, was asked to participate in the Teacher’s Conference two different times helping English teachers with pronunciation, visited the senior daycare and the children’s daycare (2-6 year olds). ) where they were learning how to wash their hands and brush their teeth and I still had time to join the other volunteers on weekend trips and yes, even horseback riding. I missed the zipline on purpose!!!!!
Although I feel like I’ve had a very full life with 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren, a successful career and a marriage that has lasted 51 years, turning 80 this year is another big milestone in my life. I’m still looking ahead to tomorrow and next week and I know very well that there is something more for me. THEY ARE WAITING.
When asked how I felt about my experience, this is the best description I can come up with.
It’s like after you have eaten your favorite food, sitting in your favorite chair, in your favorite room, listening to your favorite music and your favorite friend is next to 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’s all the time they had available. EVERYONE who left when their time was up wished they could have stayed longer. A couple of girls made arrangements to extend their time by another week. They were very excited about it. They told me how lucky I was to be able to stay longer. They didn’t want to leave their new found friends, the very warm and helpful staff and “their kids” at the different schools. More tears came when they talked about leaving “their children.” They wanted to make sure they were in capable hands. I can’t tell you how many hugs and tears were shared when the last day came. They didn’t want to leave. I can still see their faces looking out the window of the van, tears streaming down their cheeks and waving to all of us standing inside the gate waving and blowing kisses. From my recent emails, they tell me that the worst moment of their life was when they were on their way home from the airport.
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