by Shannon Farley

Veragua Rainforest and EcoTeach Travel make a difference for rural elementary schoolchildren in Costa Rica by gifting needed school supplies to start the new school year.

Members of Veragua Rainforest Foundation and EcoTeach Travel smile with students at Peje River School, who happily received new school supplies.

For the second consecutive year, the Veragua Foundation for Education & Rainforest Research in Costa Rica along with EcoTeach Foundation and EcoTeach Travel in the United States have united forces to ensure that no child misses school because they don’t have enough money to buy school supplies.

Called “Project Backpack”, in early February, much-needed school supplies were gifted to Costa Rican elementary school students beginning the new 2018 school year in the rural communities of Las Brisas de Veragua de Limon and Union of the Peje River, located near Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure Park.

The rural areas are home to dozens of families who can’t easily afford to pay for both school uniforms and school supplies each year. It often happens that students simply make-do without supplies. The small, one-room schools combine kindergarten through sixth grade all together with one teacher, who doubles as school director, and also are limited in resources.

“The donation of supplies is of great importance for the students of Las Brisas de Veragua since the majority of the students’ parents do not have the resources to buy these supplies,” said Las Brisas School Director, Melida Brooks Johnson.

“The purpose of this project is to create awareness that education is a right; and part of that is to have the necessary materials and supplies for the good academic performance of our children, allowing them to feel motivated to return to school in the new 2018 school year,” Brooks added. The 2018 Costa Rica school year began Feb. 6.

Students at Las Brisas School by Veragua Rainforest receive school supplies with Project Backpack 2018.

On Feb. 13, 35 students at Las Brisas School and 23 children at Peje River School happily met representatives from EcoTeach and the Veragua Foundation. Every boy and girl at the two elementary schools received a colorful, brand new backpack filled with fresh notebooks, pens, pencils, colored pencils, colored construction paper, a geometry kit, maps, and many other items.

“These tools are basic for the children to study, and motivate them to study. All the families in our area need this help,” said Emilio Paniagua, Director of Peje River School.

“This initiative is very important because we continue to foster the role of education in our neighboring communities,” said Marti Jimenez, President of Veragua Rainforest. “We want these kids to stay in school, and providing them with the same school supplies that other kids have in the cities helps close the gap in opportunity and even motivation. The project also strengthens our close-knit relationship with our neighboring communities.”

Look who’s got a brand new backpack full of school supplies! This Las Brisas School student does, thanks to Veragua Rainforest and EcoTeach Travel.

Since its opening in 2008, Veragua Rainforest founders and staff have worked in partnership with their local communities in education, conservation, and improving the quality of life of local residents.

Ecoteach Travel leads educational trips to Costa Rica, among many other countries, with U.S. high school students. In Costa Rica, their groups visit the popular, award-winning eco-park of Veragua Rainforest in the Caribbean mountains.

Together with Veragua Rainforest, EcoTeach has adopted the schools of Las Brisas and Peje River to do maintenance projects, teach environmental protection, and promote reforestation in the area.

“EcoTeach has been an amazing supporter of Las Brisas and Peje River, tiny communities that are very far away from EcoTeach’s home in the U.S. It’s really heartfelt that they care about people in our neighborhood, and we feel honored to be their local partner,” said Jimenez. “Part of our essence at Veragua Rainforest is to have a positive impact in our surroundings; it’s just the right thing to do.”