Last July, Greenheart Travel awarded Chicago high school students with a volunteer trip of a lifetime to Costa Rica. Not only were these students able to immerse themselves in a new culture, they were also able to get a glimpse of the role they play within the global community. Below, each student shares a bit of insight into what it meant to travel to a foreign country and how this adventure changed their perspective on what it truly means to have a “rich” life.
by Liliana Devila
I think it’s extremely important to get out of your comfort zone, because it allows you to experience so many new things. Plus, this trip allows you to be someone you may have always wanted to be. With the hike and zip-lining, I learned that I’m a really brave person and can do all that I have set my mind to do. As long as I believe in myself, all is good. I would describe it as being a rich day, we do so much that showed us a lot. Live in the moment, take it all as it comes. Get closer to your buddies that came along, build bonds, be grateful that you got such an amazing opportunity. You are one of a few. And last of all, enjoy yourself wholeheartedly. The advantages and opportunities I’ve been able to experience have helped me learn to be more grateful as a person.
By Shakira Gibson
Upon arrival to Costa Rica I noticed a certain sweet presence from people. When I saw all the trees and mountains and exotic animals, that’s when I knew I wasn’t in the U.S. anymore. I’m learning that it is so good to try new things. If you don’t you’ll never know what anything is. Pura Vida! The living style of Pura Vida is the smartest way of life to me. It’s so calm and happy. It seems as if everything is handled calmly and everyone approaches life with open arms. I may try to live this way. Try new things just to say “Yeah, I did that.” When hiking, I learned that there is way more to me than people see. All people see is the surface when there really is much more. I also learned that I am able to try new things and step outside the box. The greatest take away I have is to be grateful for what I have at home. After being here, I learned that being rich has nothing to do with the materials you own. It’s about using what you have; appreciating what you have and not taking things for granted. Family, necessities, shelter, that is what being rich is about.
by Maricarmen de la Rosa
Today we went to volunteer and feed the animals at Proyecto Asis. There were monkeys, pigs, birds, racoons and a sloth. When the guide described the history of Proyecto Asis, I was happy to know that there are people that care a lot about the animals. Some of the animals have been mistreated by other people, and Proyecto Asis took them in. My favorite animal, I will say, is the monkey Cebollito. He is the youngest monkey. It was an amazing opportunity to feed those beautiful animals.
I was lucky to see Costa Rica from many angles and see how truly beautiful it is. I would describe it as a rich life, not many people get the opportunity to do what I did. To be surrounded by nature in the middle of the forest is a rich life. This program has made me grateful of what I have and even prouder to be bilingual. I am more aware of the environment now and have different views.
I will continue to live Pura Vida in Chicago by being more environmentally conscious, not only myself, but I will inform the peers that surround me. I will also be more thankful about the small things in life because those small things make a big difference. The past week in Costa Rica has proven to me that being rich is not about having big luxurious things, but by having basic essentials like food, water, shelter and a loving family.
If someone was unsure about traveling, I would tell them that traveling will give them an experience that would last a lifetime. I think I have been shaped by Costa Rica in a positive way, and I became more confident and calm. By volunteering, people are promoting helping others and it’s even better to volunteer abroad because then other people from different parts of the world get influenced to help out as well. People then get a sense that they are not alone.
by Eric Garcia
I will continue to live the Pura Vida in Chicago by becoming more environmentally friendly. This trip has definitely changed the way I viewed things. I realize that being rich and having it all doesn’t mean anything. You can be less fortunate and still have a home, a family, a car and a garden full of fruit trees. Not having money with you all of the time can contribute to your happiness. I managed to live without my cell phone for 10 days, and it felt great to not use it and spend time with my host family. I feel sad to leave a beautiful family behind, but I know I’ll visit them in the future. My trip to Costa Rica has definitely been a shape changer for me. Helping feed the wild animals was one opportunity many will have have, and I was very lucky to be able to go through that experience.
by Erica Valentin
There is nothing more enriching than knowing that you are surrounded by nature. There is no car, train, bus, or machinery voice like in the city. Every day is a new beginning, new adventure here. There is no stress, no problems, no city blue toxic smoke to breath in that slowly poisons your soul. I really had an amazing experience in Costa Rica. My host mother Dona Maria was the nicest and most heart-warming person you will ever meet. Her food was so delicious and she was always smiling. If one of my family members was unsure about traveling I would tell them to just go for it. They need to open themselves up to new things and learn from experiences. This trip has made me appreciate my family and everything that I have in my life. Volunteering could make people realize how much the world is in need and teach them to be less selfish. Traveling to different countries to do volunteer work would make people more aware of the problems around the world and give them a change to help change it.