- Group:Anglia Guides
- Age:15 - 21 years old
- Group Size:9 Guides and 3 Leaders
- Project:Care & Conservation
- Destination:Heredia and Barra Honda National Park, Costa Rica
I was fortunate enough to be offered a place on the 2016 Anglia Guiding trip to Costa Rica along with 8 other Guides and 3 leaders. The trip was organised through Projects Abroad and we had to fundraise the cost of the trip, which was a daunting thought!
Planning and Fundraising
We got lots of information through from both Guides and Projects Abroad which told us what to expect from the trip and how to prepare for it. We were also given lots of ideas for fundraising which was very supportive and made the target appear more achievable. I ended up arranging things like bag-packing at a supermarket, stalls at numerous fêtes and regular cake stalls at school, as well as getting grants from Guiding and other local organisations. We met up as a group a number of times to discuss the trip and get to know each other. Our main gathering was a weekend 5 months before we left where we were briefed by staff from Projects Abroad including Luis who was going to be our guide in Costa Rica and happened to be in the UK at that time – good planning!
Before we knew it, it was time to go...
We flew from Heathrow airport to Washington, then, after a few hours, we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica. At first we were unable to land because of violent (but very impressive) thunderstorms over the city so we circled for a while before having to be redirected as we were low on fuel. We briefly landed in Nicaragua to refuel before flying back to Costa Rica when we could actually land! It was about 11pm when we arrived and we were picked up at the airport by Luis who took us by minibus to our host families. I was a bit nervous about meeting the host families as none of our group spoke any Spanish and we were aware that they didn't speak much, if any, English but they were really welcoming and friendly. I was staying with another member of our group in a house belonging to Ana, Franklin and their two year old daughter Valentina. The other people in our group were staying in three other houses (belonging to relatives of Ana) around a central courtyard where we could all socialise. It was a lovely environment to spend the week in and great to experience their culture directly through family life. The house itself was very welcoming and homely. We experienced the toilets that you can't flush toilet paper down and freezing cold showers for the first (but definitely not the last) time of our trip which was all part of the experience!
Care Project Work - Heredia / San Jose
We had a couple of days to get into the swing of Costa Rican life before we started our project for the first week, working at a children's care centre. When we first arrived at the centre it was overwhelming how enthusiastic and excitable the children were. I was in a class of 5 year olds who loved getting our attention and playing with us. In the mornings we ran activities, such as sports, with our individual classes and interacted with them during break-times. At mealtimes we supervised the children as they ate and also helped prepare the mattresses for when they slept in the afternoon. Whilst the younger children slept, we ran arts and crafts activities for the older children who had mainly just come in from school. The children were all very friendly and did their best to communicate despite the language barrier and we all came away having improved our Spanish although it was still terrible! On our last day there we arranged a party for the children. We performed some songs and taught them 'If you're happy and you know it' and soon had everyone on their feet joining in! It was a wonderful atmosphere at the centre and everybody we met was extremely welcoming and enthusiastic.
Our Weekend Trip
At the weekends and evenings there were a variety of activities arranged such as dance lessons, visiting a volcano and having a tour of a coffee plantation. Our host families also invited us along to a local street party and firework display where everyone was out dancing on the streets and there was a wonderful sense of community. This all added to the trip and helped us immerse ourselves in their culture.
Conservation Project Work - Barra Honda National Park
The second week we spent in Barra Honda National Park, staying in the camp in the middle of the rainforest. We were extremely close to nature, as was made obvious by the large bugs in our room and the frog in the shower! We helped out with a variety of projects within the park, for example carrying out caterpillar and howler monkey surveys (in torrential rain) as well as tree planting and beach cleaning. The bat project involved going down a 60ft ladder into a large cave full of bats which was a scary but exciting experience. Later that night we saw bats up close as the rangers caught them and explained their anatomy which was extremely interesting. It was amazing being so close to the spectacular wildlife and wonderful to know that we were helping the animals and plants thrive. On our last day in the park we dragged ourselves out of bed at 3am to hike up the mountain from camp to see the sunrise. It was a long, hard walk up but definitely worth it when we reached the viewpoint, despite all the cloud! The walk back down was much easier and faster (maybe because we knew breakfast was waiting at the end) and we all caught up on sleep on the minibus journey back to San Jose that afternoon.
We were all sad to leave Costa Rica and knew that we would miss being in such a beautiful, relaxed country. I had a wonderful time out there, it was very enjoyable and I gained a lot of self-confidence. It was great to experience a new culture and engage with the local people. We bonded well with the children which, although it made it difficult to say goodbye, made our week at the centre even more rewarding. I learnt a lot about Costa Rican way of life and am glad that by staying with the host families we were able to experience their sense of community first hand. It was an amazing experience and I hope that I will have the opportunity to do a similar project in the future.
Thank-you to all the staff at Projects Abroad, the Luz Divina care centre, our host families and everyone at Barra Honda National Park for looking after us so well and making it such a memorable and worthwhile trip.
By Nicola Eldridge
Read more about Care & Conservation in Costa Rica