It was summer of 2013 when I decided that I finally wanted to take a leap and do something I have never done before.

I wanted to live in another country for a month and do something selfless. My roommate Brittany at the time suggested I go to Costa Rica to volunteer with uVolunteer. Since in had just graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature I thought it would be cool to use my Spanish and help others at the same time.

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After a couple months, the plans were settled. I wanted to volunteer at a children’s community center and also work in an orphanage during Christmas time. At first I was really nervous and afraid about being in a foreign country by myself, but sure enough, the moment I got off the plane, Ligia’s friendly smile greeted me!

Anna Castiglione

We took a taxi to the host home where I would be staying and I got to meet the lovely Isabel and her daughter Katherine. Ligia then showed me around a bit and asked if I wanted to help with the children’s Christmas party the next day. I said sure!! So the next day I got to meet the other volunteer Jasmine, she and I were creating decorations for the party room. After that, we all went outside to play with the kids and help lead the treasure hunt that the other leaders had planned.

It was a lot of fun to see how happy the kids were and I felt blessed to experience the warm sunshine and so many happy little faces.

Monday came along and we all walked together to the community center where we would be working. We were shown the town, which is a poor neighborhood in San Ramon, Costa Rica. There were shacks and destroyed playgrounds. There isn’t a safe place for the kids to play, so all the kids go to the Church community center where we volunteer. This is a safe place for them to go and meet other children and leaders. We spend the day painting nails, drawing, singing, playing tag, and hula hooping. This project is a high energy one, since the kids come wanting to play!! I was sad to leave so many familiar happy faces that it was hard for me to say goodbye, especially working with Nohelia who was super nice and great to all of us.

I couldn’t believe that I was as nervous as I was. Ligia, Nohelia, Isabel and her family were so welcoming that I instantly felt at home more and more every day. I was so comfortable at my host home that Katherine and I started doing yoga together in her living room. After the first couple weeks, Christmas was around the corner and I had to switch projects since the community center closed for Christmas.

That following Monday I was taken to the orphanage in San Ramon. Here I got to meet all the children which there were about 10 and two babies. Here the children live in a home and have a playground with a lot of outdoor space so they could play. My job here was slightly different but I was willing to do anything I could to help out the Tias. The Tias are the ladies who work in the orphanage and take care of the kids by cooking, cleaning, and bathing. I spent a lot of time playing and after the kids ate, I got to clean dishes and sweep the floor. My favorite part of volunteering at there was spending Christmas with them.

The children got to take a field trip to the local pool. We all hopped on the bus with Ashley another volunteer and the Tias. Once we got there it was great to see all the kids having fun in the pool. Best Christmas ever, and certainly rewarding to be a part of something that the kids will always remember as a fun Christmas.

I have no regrets picking uVolunteer. I loved my experience with all my heart. Costa Rica is a perfect place to practice your Spanish or even learn since all the people are super friendly. It is also very easy to travel to and from different locations. I wish I had more time to visit the Caribbean side but next time I come to Costa Rica I will. One place that I traveled to was Santa Teresa, which is on the Nicoya Peninsula and you have to take a ferry to get there, but that’s half the fun! I got to see a tree full of pelicans and people dancing salsa on the ferry ride. Santa Teresa is a touristy surf town with so many types of healthy restaurants and surf shops. The girls and I rented a surfboard and got lessons from some local boys.

The ocean is beautiful and sunset is breathtaking. We stayed four days in a hostel for ten dollars a night and woke up to the sound of howling monkeys.

The ambiance is gorgeous, the food was amazing, we ate rice and beans along with my new favorite vegetables yucca and chayote. I loved making patacones with my host family. Patacones are fried bananas flattened out and fried to a perfect consistency.

Christmas and New Year’s in San Ramon were amazing and I already have plans to come back and visit. I would most certainly recommend this program and trip to anyone who is looking to open their minds to a different style of living. PURAVIDA para Siempre!!

By Anna Castiglione

At the end of my program, I left this report for uVolunteer. I hope it helps future volunteers have a good understanding of the uVolunteer program. I've also allowed uVolunteer to give out my email address to those interested in asking me questions about my trip and the uVolunteer program.

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