As a Community and Economic Development volunteer in Bataan, Limón, Costa Rica, my work has largely consisted of one-on-one training and small-group consulting. Mainly, I have worked with a group of women who run an Empresa de Crédito Comunal, which is a micro-lending institution set up by FINCA Costa Rica. (For more information, visit fincacostarica.org, in Spanish) My attempts at organizing community action, therefore, have been few and left wanting. I was very happy when Orlando Carvajal, member of Asociación Costa Rica and the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. and his group of students from the George Washington University chapter of the Circle K International community service club contacted me about their plan to spend their spring vacation sharing and serving with the people of Bataan.
Much like a Peace Corps Volunteer would hope to do, Orlando, a native of Bataan, had contacted community members and discussed their priorities for collaborative projects. They made arrangements for groups of local Bataneños to work with the GW students and carry out several service-learning activities, including cleaning and renovating a neighborhood park, painting murals at a local elementary school and organizing reading activities at schools in urban Puerto Limón and in the Cabecar indigenous community of Bajo Chirripo. Much in line with Peace Corps’ philosophy, Orlando had inspired the different communities to invest their own time and resources into the activities; their participation increases the likelihood that an impact will continue to be felt for years to come. The students even took time to visit the women’s Empresa, listening to their presentation and asking very pertinent questions to understand FINCA CR’s unique model of micro-lending and the bank’s impact in the lives of these women. Upon return to Washington, DC the group of students were invited to give a presentation on their experience in Costa Rica at the Costa Rican Embassy. Personally, I am very grateful to Orlando and to his students for allowing me to participate in their activities and share my experiences with them. The students were so receptive to the entire experience, I’m confident that this unique third goal activity will result in some future PCVs.
Friends of Costa Rica has recently partnered with Asociación Costa Rica to facilitate third goal activities including helping to plan the annual Independence Day celebration at the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington, DC.