Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth

Saludos desde el lugar más feliz del mundo!

Greetings from the happiest place on earth! And the one of the most productive!
In the past 6 months, volunteers contributed 720 hours to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health and Goal 6: Combat Diseases. In addition, the volunteers provided a total of 936 hours of labor, working hand-in-hand with our dedicated community partners on achieving their own locally defined development goals.

Cañitas: This lovely tiny town hosted a strong and dedicated team of volunteers. Upon arrival, they witnessed firsthand the consequences of flooding, as the village health clinic was submerged in mud. Patiently, work was initiated by cleaning and scrubbing the inside of the structure while on the outside the garden also needed maintenance. This crew also dug enthusiastically a large dry well next to building, and cleaned the surrounding drainage and property to ensure the effectiveness of the structure during the rainy season year. A walkway was built to enter the building securely and a wall was built inside to separate the infirmary from the doctor’s office. The fence was welded and got lots of green paint! The outside of the building was painted cream and the window frames got chocolate color enamel. And in between all the hard work, a few soccer pick-up games, Costa Rica vs. USA, friendship scored!

CASEM: We supported our dear CASEM this past summer by helping them build a new diner! Faced with difficult economic times, it is their goal to increase income by serving wonderful local cuisine. At the beginning of the year the wood for the diner’s furniture was scraped, sanded and perfected. The first chair rolled out of Faustino´s hands and the others came quickly! Another team built and painted additional storage space at the back of the building to provide room for the new traditional kitchen stove. The tabletops were also sanded and prepared. We celebrated the 200th Team to serve in Costa Rica after 18 years of service in the Monteverde area. This team moved and stored the materials into the newly built storage and prepared the back room for the new chairs and tables.

Join us again: I would like to share what some of our volunteers said after experiencing the service program: “If we get to know people from other countries we will lose distrust” – Pat. “I learned the way the women never gave up during our work and kept trying until everything was done” - Zack, “Speechless at the sincerity of the of the local peoples’ gratitude” - Donna.

Come and work hand-in-hand with people you get to know and support. Let your friends and family know about your experience and encourage them to do the same, or send someone you love to perpetuate this chain of goodwill and peace. Entertaining rides guaranteed! The only line you will have to stand in is to get a shovel or a brush! Adventure in Service, smiles waiting to greet you!

You may also contribute to the priorities of all of our host communities in Costa Rica by clicking here to make a donation to the general Costa Rica fund.
Mil Gracias to all the dedicated volunteers’ families, mother and daughters, college and high school students, friends and colleagues, retirees that refuse to give up work that brings joy, enthusiasm, and knowledge to this happy place. You have made it even happier! So, in the words of Ben Franklin: “Well done is better than well said!"

Tropically yours, Costa Rica Country Manager Nia Salas

Friday, October 22, 2010

Final Day in Ecuador...

Final Day, October 22, 2010

I can’t believe this adventure is over. What a fantastic time I’ve had with this wonderful team!

We board the big bus at the usual time. We’re one less on the team now since Joanne left to go home to Hawaii Thursday night. Six left, or eight really since Carl and Sylvia have been working right alongside of us for many of the work days.

We knew it would be a short day so on arrival at center #2, Bill, Steve Fox, and I got straight to work on the baby changing table. We are learning to make do with what is available as far as materials and tools. Somehow, the table comes together and we hear later from Carl that tia Patti is very pleased with how it turned out. She can now have a sort of “changing assembly line” upstairs in the baby room.

Cora and tia Patti shed a few tears as Cora prepared to leave. With so many babies to care for, Patti understandably is overwhelmed and will miss Cora’s capable hands to assist.

At center #1, Kathleen and Carol helped prepare their charges for the farewell ceremony that would happen at 11 am. Some children are dressed in traditional Ecuadorian outfits, others in skeleton outfits or hats.

The whole team, along with Carl and Sylvia, arrived at Center #1 for the big send off. There were many dances and songs including one performed by the team. “The Wheels on the Bus” sung in Spanish and including all the motions was a big hit with the kids. Gifts were passed out for all the team members.

Everyone had a laugh as Steve Fox and Carl were pulled up by the tias to do a dance.

After many hugs and goodbyes, we again boarded the bus for our trip back to Quito. We stopped at a local mall to enjoy a lunch in the food court. Dinner was at a barbeque restaurant where we ate way too much but enjoyed each other’s company for the last time.

Bill, Cora and I left for the airport at 9 pm for an 11:30pm flight. The flight was delayed until nearly 1am so all were exhausted by the time we boarded. Bill and I ran immediately after landing in Atlanta leaving Cora in the security line trying desperately to make to our connection. We made it by minutes and were left wondering if Cora made her connection that was supposed to leave ten minutes after ours.

Steve Fox was to leave Saturday morning and Carol and Kathleen were off to the Galapagos on Monday.

I will remember this trip for my fellow team members, the gracious Ecuadorian people, the wonderful leadership of Carl Granger, and of course, those cute kids.

Thought for the day: I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. ~George Bernard Shaw

Submitted by Jane Sauther

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Team Journal ~ First Day of Teaching in Poland!

Journal Entry for October 5, 2010

I went in to today, Tuesday, a bit apprehensive and sleep deprived – it would seem that for me, it does not matter which side of the desk I am on when it comes to ‘first day jitters!’ But, breakfast came and went, and next thing I knew I was headed with driver Roman and three of my teammates towards our students in the city.

We arrived and began teaching in a flurry, and wouldn’t you know it… everyone had a fantastic time. Mike mastered a few key vocabulary words with the younger crowd, while 28 year old Vicki wowed the 5th and 6th graders with her ‘Awesome Cheer.’ Jim enjoyed many reunions with old summer camp friends, and I seemed to navigate the teen students without so much as a cross word or stern look (simply one invitation to speak in front of the class to spotlight chatty Damian’s language skills).

The afternoon was also filled with activities as folks such as Vicki, Darlene, Bruce and Ralph prepped for their first afternoon tutoring sessions. Dorota and I even had the privilege to drop in on Darlene at her after school program, as well as Marge and Rob with their advanced students. And may I say, Rob’s kids were joyously enthusiastic – due in equal part to English and Pan Rob from Denver no doubt. 

As our first day of teaching draws to a close and we hurriedly prepare for lesson #2, I am struck by a number of things. First and foremost, we are all so privileged to be here. No matter the motivation or intentions, we are a dynamic group of unique, colorful, educated, worldly folks who truly have something to offer to and learn from the Polish people everyday. Speaking personally, I know I have already learned a great deal from our team, Dorota, our students, and countless others that have impacted our journey in ways both obvious and unseen.

I want to thank everyone for building my appreciation for this program and I wish everyone fun celebrations in the immediate future and more life-changing connections and experiences in the weeks to come.

In closing, please – for my sake if for no other reason, as I am leaving so soon – never pass up an opportunity in this wonderful country side. Whatever the offer may be… Play tennis with Marek, drink tea with the deputy governor and play football with your students. As Dorota so wisely pointed out last Sunday, our teaching is a means to an end NOT an end in itself.

So, make your volunteer adventure rich, bold, meaningful and unexpected. I expect nothing less of you all and will look forward to hearing your stories in the weeks and months to come!!

Stephanie Peterson, Global Volunteers Volunteer Relations Manager