Camas, WA students and teachers spend Spring Break in Ujarras, Costa Rica

A group of 21 students and teachers from Camas, WA spent their spring break building a court for a small, rural community in Southern Costa Rica.  Ujarrás de Buenos Aires is a community of indigenous Costa Ricans who live on a reserve. Their community sits in a valley between two lush hills at the base of the Talamanca Mountains, a truly picturesque tropical landscape.

We were 30 minutes away from bottled water for the team, a 10 minute walk to the nearest telephone, and the best option for a shower was in the local river flowing through the rainforest. This was truly a world away from Camas, Washington for this group.

We were able to learn a lot of the traditional culture that has been passed down from generation to generation and is still taught at the primary school.  We learned how to mash corn, which leaf could cure which sickness or illness, and how to shoot a blowgun. What an unforgettable experience for the students.

The community also has its share of problems.  Domestic violence, absent fathers and alcoholism are some of the most common.  The community is very rural and has no central place of gathering. The court we built will be used for school classes, sport’s teams, and a central place for kids to gather and play and be given a positive alternative to drugs and alcohol.  Few communities have a sport’s court in Southern Costa Rica and this one will be used in so many positive ways.

Partnering in this project with our group were The Peace Corps, Del Monte’s branch in Southern Costa Rica and the local community.  It truly was a joint venture. Below there is a picture of a plaque commemorating the court sponsors. The four hands around the plaque symbolize this partnership between the four groups mentioned above.

Here are some quotes from some of our group members:

“The fact that their relationships were so personal and they were so close to one another, there was such a great feeling of belonging even though we only spent 6 days with them.  I’ve never been somewhere that has welcomed me so much.”

“Basically this whole trip is one big memory for me.  The things we did for the community and everyone who helped make all this possible.  I will always remember. This has been the best week of my life!”

It is always the feedback from the local communities themselves that determine whether what we are doing is truly positive.  The quote below is from the Peace Corps Volunteer who hosted our group. He has been living in the site for two years and has deep ties and connections within the community.

“I had an incredible time with you and the group.  Like I said before, this was by far the highlight of my Peace Corps experience and I will always remember it with fond memories.  I think what you are doing is an amazing thing for not only the community that receives the court, but the kids that go on these trips as well.  I really believe in what you are doing, so if there’s anything I can do for Courts for Kids, please let me know.”