I am a nursing student from North Carolina and this was my first time ever traveling outside of the country.
I am studying to become a developmental disability nurse, so I was excited to work in the special needs schools in San Ramon. This was the perfect opportunity for me to see the population that I love in a different country. I was staying with uVolunteer for four weeks, so I worked in a school for young children for two weeks and in an adult center for two weeks. I loved both of the projects and am so glad that I got to help them.
In the special needs school for children, I worked in two classrooms each day helping the teachers to manage having full classes. It can be a handful for one teacher to have eight children with special needs in one class. I helped the students with reading, making crafts, fine motor skills, and even learning how to swim. While I was in San Ramon, I was so lucky that the city had a celebration for the national day for people with disabilities. We had a parade that went all the way around town and was escorted by police. My students all dressed up in various career costumes and they all looked so very happy. We were able to have a celebration later in the day with other special needs organizations where there was dancing, singing, snacks, and games. Although the students may not have fully understood the purpose of the day, they certainly left their mark in San Ramon.
Later on during my time at the school of children, there was a fantastic talent show put on by the kids. I got to help my classes perform their songs, which was great fun. One of my groups performed a barnyard song while the other performed a sailor skit. This show was important to help empower the students. They are beginning to learn that they can partake in all aspects of regular life.
After I finished my time at the special needs school, I moved on to Special Needs Adults Center. This is a special needs center for adults after they have finished grade school. This school does not have enough resources and money as they need so I was glad I could help them. It was also amazing to see the amount of amazing love that went into the school and how humble the teachers and students were.
On my first day at the school I met a very sweet couple that had just recently become husband and wife. The two told me about how they lived together and everyone recognizes that they are spouses, but legally they could not be married. They never had a celebration, which I thought was crazy, so, without thinking, I declared that we would have a celebration! The teachers and students were all excited and we began planning. We planned for a couple of weeks and with the help of Ligia and Nohelia, we were able to have a beautiful ceremony. The couple exchanged their vows, we had cake, danced, and everyone had a great time. I am so glad that I could help the school to have a fun day and for the couple to celebrate their love.
Although I loved volunteering while I was in Costa Rica, I also loved the traveling that I got to do on the weekends. I was here for four weekends and I went to nine different destinations around Costa Rica. A special aspect of uVolunteer that I enjoy is getting the opportunity to travel with other volunteers from all over the world.
Some of my favorite travel excursions were to Monteverde, Isla Tortuga, and Manuel Antonio. In Monteverde, my volunteer friend, Lisa, and I went on a canopy tour which was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. We flew through the rainforest, zip lining on 15 different lines. After the canopy tour, we went on a coffee, sugar, chocolate tour in which we got to ride up the mountain in a traditional ox cart. At the end of the tour we were able to make our own fudge with ingredients of the tour. In Isla del Tortuga, we went on a boat ride around the beautiful islands of the pacific. We also stopped in the boat to go snorkeling where I saw at least a dozen different species of fish. Last, I went with a big group of volunteers to Manuel Antonio. This trip was especially fun, as we booked an inexpensive personal lodging house for only our volunteers. During the days we walked through the rainforest and popped out at the beach, and at night we had fun with each other company as we played Spanish monopoly, cards, and laughed all night long.
I am so thankful for the great experience that I had in Costa Rica. Words can barely describe the amount of love I have for the country, people, new friends, and special needs students. I hope to return in the future and hope that more volunteers can have as great of an experience as I had.