Ashley Garry - General Care Projects in Costa Rica
Arriving in Costa Rica
My journey in Costa Rica was unlike any other experience I have been all over the world, but had never lived in another country with a family that did not speak my native language, English.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with my host family because the last time I spoke Spanish was in school… four years ago. When my host family greeted me in Heredia, all of my worries, fears and anxieties went away, as they were warm and welcoming just like I had hoped they would be.
My Care Project
The school I would be volunteering in for two weeks was called the Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo. The first day at the day care centre was a true example of culture shock.
Sitting at desks, quietly, listening to the teacher is the vision I had in my mind before arriving at the school. Boy, was I wrong!
I remember walking in to the room with about ten, four-year-olds running wildly, looking at Freddy, our Projects Abroad Coordinator, and asking, “What am I supposed to do?” He replied, “Entertain them.” I swallowed a lump in my throat; petrified. Within seconds, I had five small children hanging from my arms and sitting on my legs. I knew I had to let loose and just have fun with them.
As the week went on, I definitely felt more confident in my own skin and noticed a change in the way the children viewed me. I was no longer the timid American, but I was the American that was teaching them social skills and even some English words.
One little girl was constantly hanging on me and starting little fights with the other children in her class. I decided this wasn’t fun for anyone, and my back was starting to hurt from her jumping on me! I sat down with her and decided to give her one-on-one attention.
I would show her things in Spanish, but repeat them in English. She was able to pronounce simple objects and colours, as well as phrases. I taught her “high-five” and would give her a high-five after anytime she said or did something nicely.
This really helped me understand that these children have a true love of learning new things, and that they really do enjoy the time we spend giving them that extra little bit of attention that they may not be receiving at home.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad allowed me to immerse myself in the Costa Rican culture in a way that allowed me to embrace diversity, accept differences and come out of my comfort zone.
Our Projects Abroad Coordinator was with us 100% of the time in Costa Rica, whether we were exploring the area around the school in San Jose, Zip Lining through a Canopy Tour in El Poas Volcan, and even for a farewell dinner in Heredia, and I felt safe the entire time.
Costa Rica taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida, and living life to its ultimate potential!
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.