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Skai Konyha - Care & Conservation in Costa Rica High School Special

At the Care placement

To start off, it is important to know that I am a city girl. I have grown up in New York City where there are over forty buildings in a two-block radius, and no more than thirty trees on one city block. The only animals I have come in to contact with are rats, pigeons, dogs, and some exotic animals behind a cage at the zoo. This has been my non-wilderness reality.

Conservation project in Barra Honda

On arriving to Barra Honda National Park, I was first stunned at the amount of trees. Driving down the road to the park, you could hear the buzzing of insects, monkeys howling, trees swaying, and the car tyres against the gravel. We were lead down a trail to our home for the week, but my cell phone could not get any service reception. I am a city girl who barely speaks Spanish and was not meant to be living in the forest without cellular data for a week, but I put on a smile and tried thinking optimistically.

The rest of the day was spent preparing our beds and cleaning the dorm. The other six girls and I struggled reading the instructions on how to put up a mosquito net, we laughed as we engulfed our room with insect repellent. It was only the first day, and we were laughing and giggling as if we had all been friends for years.

Meeting volunteers from all over the world

Me with other volunteers

There were nine other students on the trip (six girls and three boys). We came from different parts of the world; America, United Kingdom, Scotland, Canada, Russia, France, and more. But by the first night, it felt like we were a family. There was never a moment when we were not laughing about the adventures of our day or discussing and learning about each other’s lives back home. There was never a dull moment and till this day, I call them my brothers and sisters.

Besides my peers, the Projects Abroad staff also became part of our family in Barra Honda. I have never met a more dedicated, passionate, caring, and motivated group of individuals in my entire life. The staff were dedicated to their Costa Rican community and all of them had a passion for the work they were doing in the park. I was not a nature person, but their love for the forest and excitement to work every day made me appreciate nature. Every morning and throughout the day, each staff member had a huge smile of their face. They were happy being in the park, and their happiness inspired all of us. They cared for each of us and although we were in the middle of a forest, I felt safe and secure with them.

The rest of the week during the conservation project was mostly spent working and having fun. Every day we were making a difference. One day, we planted rare trees that were going extinct. Another day, we made a trail in the forest so cars could drive through the forest, or water could flow down and not drown the trees. The next day, we built a water filter for a neighboring school so the children could have clean water. There are numerous activities we all participated in, and all of them had a purpose. It barely felt like community service because it was so much fun, but I am happy to say that I, along with my friends, made a difference in Costa Rica.

Care Project

Sightseeing in Bara Honda

The care project was just as service driven and incredible as the conservation project. During the week we stayed with a host family. Five girls stayed in one house, the three boys stayed with a host family down the road, and two girls were placed in the house next door. We were all living next to each other, which was very comforting.

The family that so generously opened up their home to us was the most welcoming and loving family I have ever met. The parents had one son, three girls, and a dog, so it felt as if we were just additional members of an already amazing family. All of the kids were fun and looked to us as older siblings. They would always greet us good morning, watch television with us, included us in their games, and asked us many questions about our lives. I consider them my second family. Every morning we would wake up to a home cook meal by the parents. Breakfast was different and delicious every day; we had pancakes, eggs, omelets, rice and beans, and more.

I worked at a government-run day care center for children whose parents could not look after them during the day, due to work or other obligations. We watched over the children and cared for them. There were three faculty members for over forty kids and the staff always appreciated the extra assistance. Similar to the conservation project, I knew I was making a different in this community.

Swimming in Costa Rica

We usually had an activity after working that included dance class, movies, or bowling. It was a relaxing to have fun with my new friends after a long day. And once we finished, we came home to a lovely dinner made by our host parents. Dinners, similar to breakfast, ranged from macaroni and cheese to tacos. The host mom tried to provide an assortment of dishes and give us a little taste of Costa Rica.

Overall, the experience was an unforgettable one. I have realized how easy it is to get caught up in city life, and this trip helped me appreciate what the world has to offer, and the importance of giving back through service. I cannot thank Project Abroad enough for the amazing opportunity to make a difference in this world and travel all the way to Costa Rica to do it. Just from those two weeks I have seen a change in myself. I will definitely be returning and I recommend anyone and everyone to join a project with Projects Abroad.

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Skai Konyha

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