Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Volunteer Voice - Connecting through differences

Written by Zachary Ortwine - GVI Manuel Antonio Community Volunteer
I have been volunteering in Costa Rica for five weeks now and it has been quite an adventure! The volunteer project focuses on a small community called El Cocal, which is located right outside of Quepos. The children of El Cocal come from a diverse background, and each day of volunteering is unique. One of my favorite projects over the past five weeks was Columbus Day.

Columbus Day was a lot of fun and the children and audience got to learn about different cultures through skits and speeches. Some of my favorite costumes were the homemade (and very good) Native American style outfits in the picture shown. The children learned about Native American history and taught the audience of family and friends with performances and speeches. It is kind of rare to get as much community participation as we had for Columbus Day, so it was really exciting to see parents talking together and watching their kids’ performances. In the end, the GVI volunteers also performed a skit to display the volunteers’ cultures and perspective as foreigners to El Cocal. Many of the kids found parts of our skit to be funny and informative, and it was a great way to connect with the children and have some conversation topics.

Many of the kids in El Cocal come from poorer and sometimes troubled backgrounds. It means a lot to the volunteers and the kids to develop relationships, show them attention, and to gain their respect. Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate, due to my limited knowledge of Spanish, but over time and by interacting with the kids it has been rewarding to gain their trust and respect. I have also enjoyed learning Spanish and using it daily, and I know that it will be useful in future endeavors. Community projects are a real treat and I have had a wonderful time getting to know the kids and community of El Cocal. I look forward to spending my next three weeks volunteering and getting to know the kids better, and providing positive guidance in their lives.