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Construction in Costa Rica

1 September, 2017

UK-based Andrew Halliday, account management specialist, recently volunteered in Costa Rica to construct an office for Hogar Crea Niñas Adolescentes, Tres Rios, an orphanage for teenage girls. Andrew shares his experience in Costa Rica and the incredible lessons he learned.

Before joining CEB, now Gartner, I had other opportunities to volunteer in Africa, which I had found fulfilling and enjoyable. Being fluent in Spanish and having a fascination for all aspects of Spanish-related culture—not to mention a passion for exploring the world—I decided to use my daytime volunteer leave to travel to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a truly inspiring place. It takes up only 0.1% of the world’s landmass, yet it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Although it is a developing country, it has issues with a lack of maintenance and new investment in infrastructure, not to mention a poverty rate close to 23%.

 

Upon arriving in San Jose, the capital, I met with the charity Maximo Nivel. They run various projects, including childcare, health care, teaching English, construction, coffee farming, and sea turtle conservation, across Latin American countries.

My particular project was constructing an office at a teenage girls’ orphanage in a tiny town in the mountains at 5,345 feet above sea level: Hogar Crea Niñas Adolescentes, Tres Rios.

This was a truly inspirational experience and one that has helped me to understand more profoundly what is meant by the spirit of generosity. During the five days, I and a few other volunteers from all over the world built an office from scratch using basic tools. Seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces, the excitement with the gifts that we donated, and the result of our construction work was moving and gratifying.

During my time, I stayed with a local family who showed incredible hospitality with albeit limited facilities, namely a lack of hot water! Marita, the mother of my host family, spoke little English. But by speaking in her language, we were able to make a connection. She was extraordinarily welcoming, a great cook, and a superb mother. Of course, my being there was a form of support for her, but her generosity enriched the experience beyond all measure.

Marita’s background is fascinating. Her father was a coffee farmer, and she is one of 17 siblings. She has been welcoming people to her home for over two decades, and this has become her whole life with few opportunities to travel. By being able to speak her language, I could give her a glimpse into my world and hopefully bring some pleasure into the hard routine of her day. The picture above shows her house, which her husband’s father built himself.

This experience was an incredible opportunity to serve a community that is seriously in need of support. One of the many things I learned during my time there was that it is completely irrelevant what you have in life. Back home, people worry about what materials they own and how big their houses are or how fast their cars are. In reality, life is made up of much more.

The list of my highlights is long. However, I can say that Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries; the people are welcoming and kind; and the volunteer project was very rewarding.

This was a great learning experience for which I am very grateful. Thank you to the Global Corporate Citizenship team for this incredible opportunity to allow me to give something back and help improve the lives of others.


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