by Shannon Farley
Students in USA give a cross-border Valentine’s Day 2017 gift of much-needed school supplies to 52 schoolchildren in rural Caribbean Costa Rica by Veragua Rainforest.
Valentine’s Day in Costa Rica is known as the “Day of Love and Friendship.” And on this Valentine’s Day 2017, students from two schools in the USA shared friendship and goodwill across borders with 52 happy schoolchildren in rural Caribbean Costa Rica with the gift of much-needed school supplies.
Just beginning the new 2017 school year on Feb. 6, Costa Rican elementary school students in the rural communities of Brisas de Veragua de Limon and Union of the Peje River near Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure Park were thrilled with the generous donation. Called “Project Backpack 2017”, the cross-cultural contribution was organized and funded by the Veragua Foundation for Education & Rainforest Research in Costa Rica, and Ecoteach Foundation and Ecoteach Travel in the United States.
“My family couldn’t buy my notebooks this year. These new supplies will help me do great this year!” exclaimed one student amid happy squeals of delight from the children discovering all of the goodies in their new backpacks.
Based in Washington State, Ecoteach Travel leads educational trips to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador. Veragua Rainforest is a popular, award-winning Costa Rica eco-adventure park near the Caribbean Port of Limon. The Veragua Foundation actively engages in rainforest research and charitable contributions to neighboring communities.
Every boy and girl at the two one-room elementary schools of Las Brisas and Peje River received a colorful, brand new backpack filled with fresh new notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, geometry kits, scissors, paper, and a Spanish dictionary, among many other items. The small schools combine kindergarten through sixth grades all together with one teacher, who doubles as school director. In low-income rural areas such as this, neither schools nor parents can afford many school supplies, and oftentimes students simply make-do without any.
Since its opening eight years ago, Veragua Rainforest adopted the two schools to keep up regular maintenance, instruct students in environmental protection, and promote reforestation in the area. When Ecoteach Travel began bringing North American student groups to Veragua Rainforest five years ago to do research projects with field biologists, they asked to help at the local schools.
“This is one of the pillars of Ecoteach. We have a huge commitment to help where we travel, from reforestation to working with indigenous groups to helping schools,” said Carlos Viquez, Ecoteach Operations Manager for Costa Rica and Nicaragua. “Our philosophy is that travel can change the world, so it is important for us to make a difference in communities and it brings us joy.”
“Our goal has been for years to help mostly rural schools,” Viquez added. “Every school in Costa Rica has needs, but in the countryside they are even more.”
For the school supplies donated with Project Backpack, Ecoteach Foundation gathered funds from the North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics, the Rotary Interact Club at Kingston High School in Washington, and from Ecoteach Travel. Funds were sent to the Costa Rica Ecoteach office and materials were purchased locally. Veragua Rainforest also donated money, and facilitated getting all of the materials for the students.
“This is a wonderful project that is part of what we do in the community – helping the schoolchildren,” said Daniel Torres, Site Manager at Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure. “We work with the school directors to find out how many students there are, how many girls, how many boys, and what their specific needs are. We don’t just randomly give backpacks. We tailor everything specifically to the children.”
“Ecoteach helps out with many schools in Costa Rica, and we are very happy to have their support at the schools by Veragua Rainforest,” added Torres.
For Nick Jewett, Executive Director of Ecoteach Foundation, helping schoolchildren around the world is part of being a global citizen, an essential lesson for U.S. students.
“The students in the U.S. who help raise funds for schools have a sense of doing something in the world and having an impact. It changes their lives when they get involved in something like this,” said Jewitt.