Since the initial program in 2010 Calgary Serves teams have been traveling to Isla Chira, Costa Rica to work with the Escuela Montero y Palito. These teams have painted classrooms, built a wheel-chair accessible sidewalk and constructed a basketball court with the help of the community. The basketball court, completed in May 2011, is the first basketball court on the island.
Students live in a host family, are immersed in local culture and work closely with community members. This program focuses on community-based rural tourism and ethical international engagement. Students stay with host families and work on volunteer projects with the Montero y Palito Elementary School. Alongside local leaders, students engaged in a project decided upon by the community.
In 2012 the Centre for Community Engaged Learning partnered with the Students’ Union to expand the CSI Costa Rica program and doubled the number of student participants to 24.
In 2013, the group built a computer classroom with local contractors to accommodate computers that were donated through a Costa Rican NGO. Our students fundraised to provide the required air conditioner to keep the room cool enough to operate the computers in Chira’s incredible humidity. Additionally, for the first time, the team worked with the schools in San Antonio and Bocana to offer fun and engaging English lessons on a few afternoons. The motivation behind the ‘after-school’ program is really to help students develop an appreciation for and interest in speaking English.
In May 2014, a team of students and staff made the fifth annual trip to Isla Chira, Costa Rica, the largest island in the Gulf of Nicoya. The student participants worked with local community members to build a new floor for the outdoor school meeting space, and volunteered with a local cooperative to rejuvinate the mangrove population on Isla Chira.
The 2015 ucalgarycares group will build upon the work of previous teams, and will visit with local leaders, including the leaders of two women’s cooperatives, and local educators in addition to the community-dictated volunteer project. Ultimately, the group will begin developing ideas about community development, international service, and the benefits and threats of tourism to a community like Chira.
“My most memorable experience was interacting with the locals. When told that we were visiting students who were here to volunteer, they always took the time to share their stories and offer their thanks. It was very humbling to hear and made me really appreciate what I have back home.” – 2012 Participant
“Spending time with my host family [was meaningful] because it shows you how you can still have fun together even with a cultural and language barrier.” – 2012 Participant