Volunteer in Costa Rica: If an 80-year-old woman can do it, you can do it!

February 28, 2022 0 Comments

I returned to Arizona for just 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 if I did enough or is there still something else I can do.

When our bus drops me off at the locked door in front of their building, all these little kids are standing there…with their arms outstretched…waiting for one of the aunts to open the kitchen door and let me in. . They would hang from my legs and feet and, if they were tall enough, they would hang from my shoulders and ask me to carry them or, between the mixed noises, they would ask me 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 the family. Daniel really knows how to give a meaningful hug. He made a drawing and it was for me. He wrote in Spanish I LOVE YOU TURISTA. We were a teacher or a tourist as he saw us. He got into trouble one day over a pair of sunglasses and was sent to his room. He trashed his room in anger. They asked me to come back to see him but to leave him alone until he calmed down. I came back in a few minutes later and sat on his bed and we were both crying and hugging each other. He looked at my tears and I could see in his eyes that I was probably one of the few people in his life who cried for him.

Little ones have different ways of showing… and asking for affection. A little preschooler likes to work with my hair and she also puts on pretend makeup and then turns my face to her like I’m beautiful now. They like to put her body on my lap and have their backs rubbed. At the same time, there will be one or two sitting on my ankles and feet, asking me to take them. I know this is good for my belly muscles and as I look at some of my photos from that time I should have done more of it.

The doctor visits every Thursday to see how the children are doing. There’s a boys’ orphanage and a girls’ orphanage and then the one I spent several weeks in, there was a mix of boys and girls under the age of 12. One day he sat down with 17-month-old Jefferson and we had a nice chat. She told me that these children need a lot of love and she gives of her time one day a week. He told me that he works in the emergency room of a local hospital…always an ER…and since he also said “Life isn’t perfect”, then he’s going to be surrounded by these little kids, and then everything else falls apart. It goes from your mind. . Some of the older children return to play with these little ones whenever they can and one child went back and mopped the floors several times. I asked him why he did that and it was a clear and simple answer. I JUST WANT TO HELP!

One of the little ones, Erasmo, goes to preschool and every time he came “home” he would come running up to me… with wide eyes and an even bigger mouth… giving me a HI-FIVE. One day he came home from school, he gave me the normal greeting and then in English, he said “book” and then he jumped on my lap and he was so excited to show me all his achievements in that book, marked with stars and then he turned to MICKEL MOUSE and he wanted me to read him the story of Mickel Mouse. Several of the other kids gathered around us as he showed so much emotion that they wanted to share the moments. I read Mickey Mouse in English knowing full well they couldn’t understand a word, 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 ended the story with lots of laughs.

I spent 12 weeks in Costa Rica with an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. I attended several of the schools, worked with the Women’s Empowerment Group, was asked to join the Teachers Conference two different times to help English teachers with pronunciation, visited the Senior Day Care Center and the Children’s Day Care Center (children from 2 to 6 years old). ) 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 I have had a very full life with 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, a successful career and a marriage that lasted 51 years, turning 80 this year is another milestone in my life. I am still thinking about tomorrow and next week and I know very well that there is something else for me. I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.

When asked how I felt about my experience, this is the best description I could come up with.

It’s like after you’ve eaten your favorite food, sitting in your favorite chair, in your favorite room, listening to your favorite music, and your 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 available. EVERYONE who left when time was up wished they could stay longer. A couple of the girls arranged to extend their time for another week. They were so excited about it. They told me 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 children” at the different schools. More tears welled up when they spoke of leaving “their children.” They wanted to make sure they were in good 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 truck, with tears running down their cheeks and waving to all of us inside the door waving and giving us kisses. From my recent emails, they tell me that the worst moment of their lives was when they were on their way to the airport to return home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *