Seventeen volunteers from The College of William and Mary, all from various sororities, took their spring break to travel to a small town in Costa Rica, about two hours from San Jose to complete our eighth court building project in Costa Rica. The team worked hard building the court and putting up a retaining wall among other jobs, but also had a great immersion experience. In the words of one of our participants, ‘a service trip is a great way to see different cultures in a realistic, non-touristy way.’ Some of the opportunities this group had were playing a soccer match with the locals, helping local women with everyday chores, going to a rodeo, learning dances and Costa Rican games and many, many more experiences they will not forget.
The community of Grifo Alto has been trying to construct a court for many years, but has not had the means until now, and they are very excited. In the words of Theresa Wilson, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Grifo Alto,”The court is in use nearly 24/7 or at least for as long as there is daylight. It has been a critical and amazing addition to the community and it is already starting to combat youth vagrancy, smoking, and drinking. The unemployed youth spend their time playing and hanging out in a sports area instead of the side of the road. They are channeling all their excess energy into basketball and soccer while also making stronger, healthier relationships with their peers. They are learning all the things that group sports teach such as teamwork, commitment, concentration, dedication, etc. This court has already made an impact in the lives of the youth and kids of Grifo Alto. I cannot thank Courts for Kids and the William and Mary group enough for seeing this project through.”
One thing I am going to feel different about when we go home is how much I use technology. In Costa Rica, everything was face-to-face, people had real relationships with each other. I’m so used to texting/talking to people on the phone that I’ve forgotten how much more satisfying to talk to people in person. It is also nice to have all that time freed up. Now that I’m not fiddling with my phone or computer I have much more time to relax or get more work done. When I go back I will try to remember what it’s like in a world without gadgets and that it is not necessary to use them all the time.
This trip helped to show me a reminder of how although we focus on the differences between cultures … that we are all more alike than we are different. It impacted me greatly in the sense that sometimes I get caught up in doing things for myself that it is nice to finally be a part of something bigger than all of us.
One of the most meaningful lessons I will take away from this trip is that love and laughter can be a universal language; no translator is needed to interpret a warm, genuine smile, no dictionary necessary to understand an enveloping embrace.
When I was sitting around the campfire with them, all I would think of was they did have so much- in community, strength, generosity, and appreciation. They taught me a lot, and I can’t really fully describe all I learned from the cultural experience. Seeing a community with a less chaotic, more simple lifestyle made me want to slow down, prioritize, evaluate and think. I wish we weren’t leaving tomorrow- I just want to stay and wake up this happy every morning, cows or no cows.