A few months ago Ricky and I were fortunate enough to receive a truly inspirational email from a client. This client mentioned that he and his wife were planning a trip to Costa Rica and during their vacation they wanted to visit a local elementary school in order to donate a number of supplies they were planning on bringing with them from home. Not only did this couple purchase, pack, and lug 130lbs of school supplies and toys from their Minnesota home to Costa Rica, but they also took the time to think about how their decision to visit a foreign country might be used for something beyond their own reward.
Fortunately for us, these clients needed the assistance of a bilingual Spanish-English translator to help express in English the words and emotions of the Spanish-speaking school children. Naturally, Ricky jumped at the chance to be able to help in any way that he could and he met the clients upon their arrival into La Fortuna. What followed was a visit to a school in nearby Monterrey, a likely humbling experience for our clients (although I would assume these clients were pretty humble to begin with!), and some life-changing experiences for the kids.
For an entire account of the day you can read the full post on our client’s blog: Boris Chaplin Blog. In the meantime, I can’t help but share the following few paragraphs with you as written by our client’s wife. If this doesn’t remind you of how easily a kind gesture can bring pure happiness, I don’t know what else will.
“Our interpreter Ricky stepped up as we were bringing the bags in and told the kids that we brought some school supplies for them. The kids were looking at us with curiosity.
We opened the first box and pulled out large bundles of colored construction paper and markers. With Ricky’s help we asked if there is anyone in the room who likes to draw. Every single hand shot up in the air. We started pulling things out of the box and laying them out on the table that was right by the door. Next, we pulled out half a dozen boxes of band-aids with fun cartoon characters. After explaining to the teachers and the kids what that was, judging by the excitement in the room we thought for sure someone is going to run outside and scrape their knee on purpose just to get the fun band-aid. Then, we pulled out some bottles of antiseptic and I think the female teacher’s heart began to melt. We also gave packages and packages of stickers and I think we finely won her over.
Next, we pulled out shiny soccer balls and the kids went ballistic (soccer is the most popular sport in Costa Rica). When the sparkling pencils came out the kids were uncontrollable. Finally, they managed to form a line so each child could receive two pencils. And then it was the stuffed animals. The kids were jumping up and down, screaming and crying. The reaction took us completely by surprise. Both boys and girls were hugging and kissing their toys, they were rocking and petting them. Our hearts swelled up with joy. My hands were shaking and I was completely choked up trying to hold back the tears. It was very emotional to see how much joy a simple toy could bring to a child.”
I cannot help but smile each time I think of these clients and their incredible passion to give. Hopefully this couple is not one in a million. We hope they are one of a million other tourists who take a minute to think about what they can do while on vacation to give back to a country wherein pockets of poverty lie between the high-rise condos and all-inclusive resorts. Specifically, and as also mentioned in our client’s post on the subject, most school children in Costa Rica walk to and from school daily, many of them unsupervised (as their parents are at work), and often in the rain. If any group of children would be deserving of such an unselfish gift, it would be these kids. Ricky and I regularly find the same small group of three school children (two brothers and one friend) at our home whenever it is raining in the afternoon, as they seek shelter until the rain passes and have taken a liking to our doorstep. We provide them with a glass of juice or water (although they are polite enough not to ask), perhaps a snack, and a few board games and/or playing cards to keep them entertained during their visit. We know as soon as the rain lets up they have a multi-mile walk home and will arrive just in time for dinner before its off to bed. Morning comes early when the long walk needs to be made all over again.
To our clients who made the decision to visit and donate to the school in monterrey – thank-you for your work and your humility. Your example is true inspiration at its finest and a perfect example of how travellers can use their vacations to treat others in addition to themselves.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you participated in a volunteer program in Costa Rica or initiated your own by donating supplies brought from home? How did it go?