Written by Pauline Fardow – GVI Manuel Antonio Community Volunteer
I don’t know anyone my age back home who hasn’t finished high school. Here in Quepos, Costa Rica it’s almost the exact opposite. In Costa Rica they live by the expression, Pura vida which kind of means, just relax and enjoy the day. This expression not only affects the culture in general it also affects the children and their attitude when it comes to school. School here is optional and you’re free to leave whenever you like. Many children have difficulties with concentrating, focusing and behaving. One of the reasons might be that people live by this expression. Just like every child, these children needs someone who can encourage them and rewards them for going to school, otherwise it’s just hard work with no pay off. At the same time living in poor conditions, like many of these children do, it’s unsure if their parents will have enough money to pay for the next school next term. Because of that it’s easier just not to care; you never know when someone will take it away from you.
We run a community center where we help out with homework, play games with the kids and give classes in English. We are trying to give these children courage and confirmation about doing well in school and in life. When I first got here I wasn’t really prepared for the negative attitude against school. Because of this I didn’t really feel appreciated. During my 4 weeks here I’ve learnt that many of these children do care and also that there are many ways of showing gratitude. When a smiling child runs to you with their arms open you know you made a little difference. It’s a fantastic feeling helping one of the boys or girls and later hear them saying thank you and knowing that they really mean it.
Actually you don’t need to know many words of another language to laugh or make these children gain some confident. They have so much capacity and they are so intelligent, but they need someone to tell them. Every smiling face makes it worth being here and hopefully one day they start smiling and helping each other and then it’s time for us to leave. I hope these children are encouraged to believe in themselves and in their future, be successful in life without losing the Pura Vida lifestyle.