Friday morning, Alvaro and Adriana, the owners of our Costa Rican animal rescue project, gifted us with a special break – a visit to a local elementary school. We arrived and gathered in an outdoor play area to wait for the students. Grade by grade, they came out from their classrooms in their blue and white uniforms and lined up in front of our group, looking around excitedly and chattering amongst themselves. Once the first, third and fifth grades were introduced by their teachers, they were free to come join us, and they did so eagerly!
The volunteers took to the young students with initiative. Busayo led a group out to the field to kick around a soccer ball, while Jenaro showed off his hoop skills with several younger boys in tow hysterically trying to steal the ball. Tyra led the little ones to the grass for sack races, and everyone else facilitated jump rope for the energetic students. All over the school, elementary-age kids and high schoolers played together. It was very natural, and gazing around the modest facilities, appeared highly rewarding for everyone involved. Later that day when we circled up, many said the activity was one of their favorite parts of the whole trip.
After giving snack breaks to the children, we returned to the rescue center for lunch. We ate our home cooked meals, and then Adriana, intent on helping us understand the greater purpose of their sanctuary, gave us an interesting workshop on wild animal trafficking. We learned that it is a 20 billion dollar industry and watched videos demonstrating how the animals are captured, sold, and then most often suffer either because their owners don’t know how to care for them or give them up once they mature. Jenaro shared stories about the expensive, exotic animal products sold in Mexico, such as $5,000 crocodile shoes!
After the presentation, we took baskets of fruits and vegetables around to each enclosure to say goodbye to the animals. A kinkajou had just been shown her new home and climbed curiously around every inch of her habitat. The spider monkeys gave us their hands one last, sentimental time. Finally, we thanked our kind and knowledgeable hosts at the center and went home to hot meals with our families.