Wake up! Wake up! We woke up to a beautiful morning in Costa Rica. We had a more stay-at-home day planned today. But, don’t be fooled, we still did activities. After breakfast, we had some free time. Many of us either went outside and watched the rain, or played cards with our fellow peers. We had lots of fun teaching each other new games during that time as well.
Later on, we had a discussion prefacing our aid and development day with our wonderful program coordinators Sonia y Pana. We were taught about the different types of aid and development. We discussed definitions of aid, how aid and poverty can coexist, the sometimes-corrupt motives behind the aid industry, and the white savior complex. This led to a very deep conversation about how we could go about our volunteer work without making it seem like us, Americans, are the hero of the story. We agreed that more people should focus on “taking the photo but not being in it.” To us, this meant that we need to check our intentions before we do volunteer and service work, and especially before we go to post on social media. We realized that anything done solely for recognition only feeds more into the white savior complex. We agreed that true, righteous fulfillment comes with being fine with completing service work without having to bring attention to it.
Then, we had lunch and some free time before gathering once more for our guest speaker, Yanori! Yanori was an indigenous woman from the Boruca tribe and educated us on the different indigenous tribes present in Costa Rica. She reinforced that indigenous people are no different from anyone else. Contrary to their common portrayal in the media, they are people just like us. They live their lives in the modern day and shouldn’t be thought of as “left behind” or “behind the times.” She also taught us that when helping a community, it’s important to include members of said community so projects are sustainable and will actually make an impact. A project that will be a burden to the community once the volunteers leave helps no one. She also taught us to respect time regarding projects because things that don’t take long to create for us can take longer for others. One interesting thing we learned was that some indigenous people don’t like the term “reserves,” because it seems to further separate that group of people from what Americans consider “normal.” She concluded with a short film documentary that was actually centered on her, that really gave us some further background regarding her life.
After wishing Yanori a farewell, we ate a fantastic dinner, had our nightly meeting, and passed the torch along to the next leaders of the day!