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Veronika Malek helps add a room to the village church.
November 22, 2010
Rich Coast, Rich Experience
I recently discovered that “Costa Rica” means “rich coast” in English, something I found to be true in many ways when I participated in a community service trip to that country. It was not only the incredibly beautiful fauna that caught my eye, but also the very friendly and open-minded way in which the ticos and ticas approached us.
Upon arrival in Costa Rica, we participated in an orientation camp, where we learned more about the Costa Rican lifestyle and brushed up on our Spanish.
Our first project, at the turtle site in Matapallo, gave our group the opportunity to apply our linguistic skills and cultural knowledge. Together with volunteers from all over the world, we cleaned up the beach, assisted with the construction of a turtle egg hatchery, and spent parts of the night patrolling the beach in search of fresh nests.
After five days at the first turtle site, we left for the beautiful mountains of Canitas, a small village in Monte Verde, where we spent the day clearing a rainforest pathway.

We worked with the local people to build an additional room in the village church. Our group did everything, from digging to mixing cement. Everyone agreed that it was inspiring to see the results of our work.
Staying with my host family was a truly authentic Costa Rican experience or a “Pura Vida” (a Costa Rican phrase to express a philosophy of strong community). My host mother taught me to cook some delicious meals, I played soccer with my two host sisters and my host father showed me how to milk a cow. They were a wonderful and caring family and, although we did not share the same language, I learned to listen by showing respect and interest.
Working together with like-minded individuals from across the globe was one of the most empowering experiences I have ever had. Taking a risk and relying on other people’s strengths, when necessary, taught me as much about inter-cultural communication as it did about myself. In addition to being able to build something with my own hands, it was also a chance to truly appreciate the small things in life: a cold shower was like heaven after a hot day on the beach, and putting on a dry shirt, after wearing damp clothing, felt like winning the lottery.
Veronika, Grade 12 student

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