Jesuit NOLA students to Costa Rica

The week that we spent in the Costa Rican community of Matina was so eye-opening for our group, that by the end of the trip, a common theme was that “we thought we knew about Southern hospitality in New Orleans, but that is nothing in comparison to the people of Matina”.  That really does a good job of accurately capturing this Courts for Kids experience for us.
From the moment we arrived until the moment that we drove away with smiles and waving hands in our rear view, the community of Matina welcomed us with open hearts and arms. The project was one of the

biggest concrete pours in the history of Courts of Kids, so we knew that we had our work cut out for us.  With the threat of floods always present on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, our first goal was to fill in a two foot deep border which would support the court in the event of future floods. That task proved very time consuming due to

meticulous nature of it, but upon completion, our boys were reenergized and motivated.  Essentially, we had created our structural canvas, and we were now given the green light to start building our masterpiece.

With the overabundance of help from Escuela Matina’s students, staff and cooks, the leadership of Rosemarie Philip, Peace Corps Volunteer, along with the assistance of several community members in the physical labor associated with completing a project of this magnitude, we were able to finish the court the day before we left.  As the last corner of concrete was poured and smoothed, the entire group, along with students and community members, gathered around and let out a unified cheer.

The following day, we had an official inauguration with the community, and serenaded the court by playing basketball and soccer for hours under the hot morning sun. There could not have been a more fitting way for everyone involved to enjoy the fruits of their collective labor.  We left Matina with our hands full of blisters, our stomachs full of rice and beans, and our hearts full of the promise that service would become an integral part of our lives moving forward. Pura Vida!

~ Matt Tanner- Courts for Kids representative


Some quotes from the high school students…

This trip has taught me many things, but most importantly the universal constant that by reaching out and giving of yourself, you receive much more out of it.  No matter what struggles we endured going through in building the court for Matina, it was 

worth it.  I enjoyed every second of this trip, from toiling under the sun covered in dust to flying through the forest on a zipline.  The kids couldn’t have been more responsive and open to our badly butchered Spanish conversation.  Never in my life have I met people like those in Costa Rica.  I always thought that New Orleanians had the greatest system of southern hospitality; however, I’ve learned that the farther south you go, the more hospitable the people. 

I will always have a letter one of the children gave to me and it will always be special to me. 

I enjoyed talking about my culture and theirs, the similarities and the differences.

This trip truly was an eye opener for myself.  I never believed this would be as hard as it was.  I grew an appreciation for manual labor and also how people are the same all over the world.  I loved how my friendship grew even through the hardships when we doubted if the court would ever be made.  The reward of seeing the kids was worth the hardships and struggles we faced.  One of my best memories would be the conversations I had with the kids.  The language barrier was not 

as hard as I expected and my Spanish greatly improved.  This trip will never be forgotten, I will always cherish the moments I had.  I was very skeptical entering the trip on how the court would be beneficial to the community, but now fully understand.

  The court isn’t only for basketball but for a place to be free from the struggles the kids of Matina have.  Thank you for this great experience and Pura Vida.

I think I’ve been most impacted by how differently the people of Matina live from us.  They live very simply and are more care-free than us, which was both fascinating and at times frustrating. 

I immensely enjoyed this trip.  The work, which was by far the most difficult physical work I’ve ever done, was harder than I imagined it to be, which I did not think was possible.  But all of it completely paid off in the end, even the extra days of work, to see that court completed and to be able to play basketball and soccer with all of those kids.