On June 24, thirty EHS students committed to making a difference in the world arrived in Costa Rica for an 8 day service and sun trip with Mrs. Claudia Murray, Spanish teacher and Advisor of the EHS Red Cross Club; Mr. Will Montepeque, Spanish teacher; and Dr. Kate Kieres, EHS Principal. Many of the students were members of the Red Cross Club but those who weren’t just wanted to experience this special type of trip which combines rural tourism with sustainable development in Costa Rica. EHS students worked with a local environmental conservation group whose mission it is to bring sustainable development to the Los Santos region of Costa Rica. To help small farmers in the region convert their coffee plantations to organic, ecological farms free of pesticides and chemicals, the organization educates the farmers and the community about how to go about this conversion. In exchange for their willingness to convert their farms, they help develop the communities in areas that are lacking, such as installing water purification systems, and building sidewalks. The projects aim to protect the cloud forests and raise the economic status and awareness of ecology.
It was two such projects where Emmaus High School students were asked to help. Hours were spent clearing land, digging and leveling dirt, mixing cement, transporting it to the sidewalk site and laying the cement that would transform into 18 feet of EHS student -created sidewalk for the school children in the community. These children currently have to walk on a dangerous street to get to and from school. EHS students also composted 135 bags of organic material to give to farmers.
Also on the schedule was a day working with disadvantaged children at a local elementary school. EHS students conducted activities in Spanish with the 30 children aged 2 through 10 at the Escuela Pochotal.
Students stayed in rural cabins and rustic hotels where the owners themselves prepared traditional Costa Rican meals. The trip also had an adventure component which included traveling by 4×4, zip lining through a jungle, playing soccer in the clouds, and kayaking in the lake at the base of an active volcano, which provided the students with a well-deserved break. The consensus was that the service projects were the best part of the trip, with several newly-graduated seniors committing to the director of the organization to returning on their own for month-long stays solely for service projects over their college breaks.