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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 back in Arizona 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 gate in front of their building, all these kids are standing there… arms outstretched… waiting for one of the Tias to unlock it from the kitchen and let me in. They would hang on my legs and feet and if they were tall enough, hang on my shoulders asking for a ride or from the mixed noises, they would ask for paper and crayons to show me their artistic talents. Daniel and his sister were admitted from hospital by the Red Cross, where they were badly abused by their family. Daniel really knows how to give a meaningful hug. He painted 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 for a pair of sunglasses and was sent to his room. He tore his room apart in anger. They asked me to go back and look at it but to leave him alone until he calmed down. I slipped back a few minutes later, sat on his bed and we cried and hugged. 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.
Babies have different ways of showing… and asking for affection. A toddler likes to work with my hair and also put on makeup and then turn my face towards her like I’m now beautiful. They love to put their bodies on my lap and I rub their backs. At the same time, one or two will sit on my ankles and feet and ask me to give them a ride. I know this is good for the abs and as I look at some of my photos from that time, I should have done it more.
The doctor makes a visit every Thursday to check the children. There is a boys orphanage and a girls orphanage and then the one where I spent several weeks, it was a mixed boys and girls under 12. She sat one day holding 17 month old Jefferson and we had a nice conversation. He told me that these children need a lot of love and he gives of his time one day a week. He told me that he works in the ER at a local hospital… always an ER… and as he also said “Life isn’t perfect” so he goes to be around these little kids, and then everything else falls into place of . Some of the older boys come back to play with these little ones whenever they can and one boy came back and swept the floors several times. I asked why he did that and it was a simple, simple answer. I JUST WANT TO HELP!
One of the little ones, Erasmus, goes to kindergarten and whenever he got “home” he would come running to me… his eyes wide and his mouth even wider… and he 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 into my lap and was so excited to show me all his achievements in this book, marked with stars and then he turned to Michael Mouse and wanted me to read him the story about Michael Mouse. Many 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 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 it could be called over-animation. Anyway, 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 visited several of the schools, I worked with the Women’s Empowerment Group, I was asked to participate in the Teacher’s Conference two different times helping the English teachers with pronunciation, I visited the Senior Day Care Center and the Children’s Day Care Center (2-6 years old). ) where they learned about hand washing and tooth brushing and I still had time to join the other volunteers on weekend trips and yes, even horseback riding. I lost the zipper on purpose!!!!!
Although 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 has lasted 51 years, turning 80 this year is another high point in my life. I’m still looking ahead to tomorrow and next week and I know very well that there is something else out there for me. I LOOK FORWARD TO IT.
When asked how I felt about my experience, this is the best description I can come up with.
It’s like after you’ve eaten your very favorite meal, you’re sitting in your very favorite chair, in your very favorite room, listening to your very favorite music, and your very favorite friend is right 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 for 2 weeks because that was all the time they had. ALL who left when their time was up wished they had stayed longer. A couple of the girls arranged to extend their time for another week. They were so excited about it. I was told how lucky I was to be able to stay longer. They didn’t want to leave their new friends, the very warm and helpful staff and their “kids” at the various 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 arrived. 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 going to the airport to go home.
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