Helen Elizabeth Jeffrey - Tropical Dry Forest Conservation & Community in Costa Rica
Arriving in Costa Rica
This was my first trip abroad by myself so I was a little nervous, but also very excited. When arriving at the airport, the Projects Abroad staff were very welcoming and ensured me that they’d take good care of me.
We waited for the other volunteers to arrive and when they arrived we all got along really well; straight away which made me feel more at ease and it made it easier to make friends. The drive to my host family showed me just how different the Costa Rican culture was and I immediately knew I would enjoy myself.
Conservation Project at Bara Honda
During my first week in Costa Rica, I was based at Barra Honda National Park. The atmosphere there was so different in comparison to being in the towns- it was serene, quiet and untouched. All the girls were in a dorm of their own and it gave us a good chance to get to know each other better. It certainly took a lot of getting used to being at the national park; insects and animals around you 24/7, but we were soon immune to it.
We planted trees, cleared trails, helped to build bio gardens and much more. The thing that fascinated me the most was the study of bats that was going on at the time I was there. They were studying the different species of bats, their diets and the tents that the bats made from the leaves of the Panama tree for sleeping in.
The staff in Barra Honda had made the national park as sustainable as possible by educating the local people and building things like bio gardens. Some of the staff members had not spoken any English until volunteers started coming, which I really admired. They were like a family and I’d never felt more at home.
The work was hard and physically exerting, and by the end of the day you were so tired. I have never experienced anything this rewarding before. I really felt that I was helping to keep the national park sustainable and it made me appreciate natural beauty so much more. I enjoyed my time so much at Barra Honda that I returned there for my third week, instead of doing 2 weeks of my care placement.
Care Project in Heredia
I was placed at a school named ‘Semillitas de Vida’, which means ‘Seeds of Life’ where I looked after children from age 3 to 4. I got to really interact with the children and learnt a lot about the Costa Rican culture and way of life from the teachers, Diana and Susanna.
I was really interested in listening to what they had to say because everything was just so different from how things worked in the UK. I had come to Costa Rica with a basic knowledge of the Spanish language and learnt so many new words and phrases from being around both the children and the teachers, Diana and Susanna.
I was really sad to say goodbye to the children as I had made such strong bonds with some of them. I was just as sad to say goodbye to Diana and Susanna. They had all taught me so much about the country and about themselves, and it made me truly appreciate just how lucky I was to be there.
Leaving Costa Rica
The day before my flight I left Barra Honda to take a bus back to the city. It was one of the hardest things, saying goodbye to the staff and all the friends that I had made. It had been a truly amazing trip! I made some lifelong friendships, and hope that I will visit Costa Rica again in the future.