On the 10th day of our cultural immersion in Turrialba, Costa Rica, we collaborated with the stakeholders of a  primary school called, “Escuela Santa Rosa”. Through this partnership, we began our community action project of painting the rusted fences and poles around the school to provide a safer learning environment for the children. Our lunch was in the school’s comedor (cafeteria), where we ate food normally served to the school children.  We learned that schools provide free meals for students in Costa Rica. This practice began a long time ago when the country’s president decided to abolish the army and invest instead in free education and health care. The educational system here strongly promotes the health and well-being of students and their families.

We learned about the teamwork and effort that goes into maintaining a school for future generations. We felt that working at the school provides an example for the school children that we, as students like them, can contribute to their community. Even though we were seen as strangers, the schoolchildren and teachers welcomed us into their classrooms and environment. Although it was our first day working on the community action project, we found it to be less challenging than we imagined. As we worked throughout the day, the children inspired us to continue despite the heat.

Being “Liders del Dia” (Leaders of the Day) allowed us to delegate tasks to our group members despite an unusual schedule and to partake in a new learning experience.  One of us learned that having a strong voice doesn’t always mean you have to project it out loud, it means you can communicate through your actions and impact on your community.  Also, the other co-leader expanded their knowledge of what it means to be a voice for others.

Reflecting on the work that we have done so far motivated us to work harder for the next few days.  As an environmentally sustainable orange character once said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” – (Dr. Suess’s The Lorax).