Christian Hoyos’ Summer of Service

This summer I went on a community service and leadership trip with Rustic Pathways to Costa Rica. For the first four days of the trip, along with 15 other American teenagers and 3 Rustic Pathways counselors, I was given the opportunity to get acquainted with my colleagues and the beauty of the Costa Rican rain forest by going white water rafting, zip-lining, and horse-back riding.

On day five, we arrived at ‘Casi Cielo’, located one and a half miles away from La Fortuna, the facility where we would host our camp for a select group of Costa Rican children- the little Ticos. Immediately after arriving, we participated in intensive training sessions which gave us strategies and ideas for working together and turning our ideas into a real summer camp for Costa Rican children. Then, we spent the afternoon working to plan the agenda for the next week and creating the itinerary and activities that eventually made our summer camp a wonderful success!

The next 7 days were a dream come true for the little Ticos who for the most part were participating in their first ever “summer camp.” The Ticos were chosen to come to the camp because they demonstrated diligence in school. Although some days it was very tiring to wake up at 7:00 am (especially in the summer!) and to take care of hyper children, I was always motivated to give every moment my best effort because I knew how much it meant to the kids and how hard they worked to be there. I woke up early early everyday to have breakfast with my fellow counselors and to put the final touches on the agenda for the day, before receiving the Ticos at 8:00 am.

We spent the next 7 days with the children, running various games and activities while coordinating their lunch and snack times. The children would alternate from the arts and crafts station to the outdoor station and then to the indoor station. The camp name was ‘Los Pequenos Superheroes’ (The Little Superheroes); we tried to incorporate the superhero theme into all of our activities. The Ticos were split up into three groups: Los Monos Fantasticos (The Fantastic Monkeys), Los Capitanes Ticos (The Captains Ticos), and Los Conquistadores Ticos (The Conquerers Ticos). On the last day of camp, we set up an awesome Superhero Olympics day, where a “villain” was said to be destroying Costa Rica; the little Ticos had to compete in different activities to win pieces of a puzzle that would eventually form a map leading to where the villain was hiding! Through teamwork and a lot of laughs, the little Ticos finally built the puzzle and captured the villain! (Shout outs go to our camp supervisor, Oliver, for dressing up as the villain and enduring the playful punches and kicks the little Ticos gave him when they believed they had captured the man who was “destroying their country!”)

We said goodbye to the little Ticos everyday at 4:00 pm when the bus came to pick them up. After a nice 15 minute break of silence (the break was definitely needed), we, the camp counselors, would enjoy our free time by jumping into the river, playing cards, and telling stories of funny moments that happened throughout the day with the little Ticos. In the evening, before dinner, we would all gather around to evaluate the day and prepare for the next one. Sometimes there were children that were not engaging in an activity so we had to think about ways to get them more involved. We would share stories of what activities worked so that we could plan future activities according to what the children were liking. A large part of our discussions was our organization. Sometimes groups took too long to move from station to station or were taking too long to to finish an activity, which both caused delays in everyone’s schedule; no one wanted to miss lunch or an activity. Being 16 and 17 year olds, which are usually supervised and not the supervisors, we had to discuss ways that we could improve our organization (which we did!).

On the final day of camp, we went to “Termales”, a large family-style water park. After an amazing day spent running around and swimming with the little Ticos, which we had gotten to know so well in the course of the week, it was time to say goodbye. Upon arriving in Costa Rica and seeing the little Ticos I was not expecting to get emotionally attached to anything in the short two week trip, but I did. When the bus dropped us off at our camp, we were told that the kids were going to stay on the bus- this was goodbye. After giving them hugs and saying goodbye to all the kids, I got off the bus as quickly as possible because I couldn’t bear to see them crying. As I was waiting for my colleagues to get off the bus, the little Ticos threw bracelets, shirts, and notes out of the windows of the bus to me, making the goodbye so much harder. I picked them up and put them in my bag and waved goodbye, grateful that I had an effect on their lives.

While working with the kids, I saw so much of my little cousins and friends from Colombia when I looked at the little Ticos. Their stories were so similar; one girl, Laura, told me, in response to my question, “what do you like to do,” that she liked only to study because when she got good grades her mother would take her to McDonalds-something that is taken for granted in the United States. Hearing things like that while on my trip to Costa Rica reminded me of why it  is so important to have a larger perspective and understand that not everyone lives like you! I’m so glad I was able to mentor the children in Costa Rica, even if it was for 7 days. I am hopeful that they will remember our advice: have confidence and you can do anything you want to! Looking back now, I read the little note that Marlon threw to me from the window of the bus: (translated) “I thank you so much for everything you did for us and for being my friend, I love you.”

I’m so grateful for the opportunity that Friends Seminary gave me to be able to go on this trip. I look forward to going to Costa Rica again in the near future to check-in on the lives of the children I met. This trip has also motivated me participate in similar mentoring activities in my local community and, hopefully in the future, in the global community.

To conclude, I would like to share a quote from a shaman in the Maleku tribe that I met in Costa Rica: Everyone is the same: has legs, arms, hands, and feet. The only difference between them is what they have in their mind and heart.

Ewan’s Summer of Service Reflection

This summer, with the help of the Road Less Traveled I traveled to Costa Rica for nine days. The reason I choose this trip was because I wanted to help out those less fortunate and practice my Spanish speaking skills. In These nine days we traveled to a rural school in the countryside of Costa Rica. We helped repair a small school in a town that had a population of about 600 people. Our jobs mostly consisted of cementing, painting, and de-rusting. However, not only did we help repair a small school, but we were able to practice our Spanish speaking skills on all of the locals and teach English to them as well.  We stayed in a community center courtesy of the locals.

Over these nine days I became a much better Spanish speaker, and I realized how I take many things in my daily life for granted. Since we were in Costa Rica, not many people spoke English so everyone was practically forced to speak Spanish to one another. Because of this, I was able to get much better at speaking Spanish, and I was able to teach some of the locals English. After arriving in the small rural town it was hard for me to process how many of these people were living. Many people lived in small huts and shacks which had no air conditioning. Also, many people had to hand wash their cloths. In my house in New York, I own a washing machine, and I have air conditioning which I can change to whatever temperature I desire to be in my house. It just shows how many people, including myself take things like washing machines for granted when there are still people who hand wash their clothes. The time I spent in Costa Rica helped me look at the world in a different way, and I hope to experience trips like this in the future.


Giles Lemmon’s summer of service

Sail Newport was founded in 1983 and is a non-profit organization. Sail Newport is New England’s largest public sailing center. Sail Newport’s strives to promote affordable sailing opportunities to attract new sailors to the sport. Sail Newport is located in Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. Easy and affordable access to sailing are provided by them. The location of Sail Newport is perfect. It is situated in a sheltered cove, not far from the open ocean.

Beginning at age 8, I have enjoyed sailing at Sail Newport every summer. Sail Newport is, and always has been a major part of my life. It opened up new windows into a sport that I would have otherwise overlooked. I do not come from a sailing family. My family does not own a boat, so my parents could not have taught me anything about sailing themselves. My family is also not a member of a yacht club. Yacht clubs are the traditional place to learn how to sail. They are very hard to get into, and are usually incredibly expensive. I was able to learn to sail, despite all of these things however. Sail Newport does not require a membership or exclusive application process. I was able to go to a fantastic facility as nice as any yacht club and learn to sail from talented coaches. I believe that sail newport has touched me in a very personal way. They gave me an opportunity to learn to sail, a sport that would have otherwise been denied to me. I felt that I should put something back into the organization that has been so wonderful, so I decided to spend my time this summer helping out there.

During my time at Sail Newport, I helped with many activities. I was a sailing assistant, helping out an older, more experienced instructor. I worked with children that were around age 8-9 getting out on the water for the first time. The boats that they sailed were small, made of plastic, and about 8 feet long. Each morning, I helped them to set up their boats correctly. Setting up the boat is a very complex process, as the boats have many complex parts, and complex settings that need to be adjusted. At the beginning of my time there, the kids knew almost nothing about sailing, as they were just starting out. At the end of the session, the children were sailing around courses set in the harbor. It is another testament to sail Newport’s success that these children were able to learn to sail in such a short period of time. I also helped demonstrate the correct method for certain things, as the coaches were too large to fit in the boats. I also helped them the correct technique for launching boats from the boat ramp. It as a very interesting experience to teach people who are just starting to learn to sail. I, myself have memories about being taught by sailing assistants. Sail Newport is, and always has been a major part of my life, and it was a pleasure doing my community service there this summer

Acknowledgments: None

pictures were taken by me, and the satellite photo came from google earth

Annah’s Summer of Service with Heifer International

This past summer I travel with my youth group to Rutland, Massachusetts to volunteer and work with Heifer International. The week’s goals were to learn more about hunger, poverty and ecological sustainability in the world, work in the gardens and the animals that feed those on the grounds and provide local produce for the town, and to come away with ideas and ways to educate those in our communities back home in NYC.

We spent every morning doing animal chores which included feeding, milking, and cleaning of the stalls. By the end of the week I was an expert milker and a professional sheep herder. We spent afternoons having lessons on the different aspects and benefits of Heifer International. We learned about the economic benefits of various animals and how the Heifer ideology of giving away the calf of a cow to others will spread the wealth throughout entire villages. Unfortunately none of the animals that we worked with were given to people in need or that were part of Heifer. This was because it is better for local economies and for the animals if they come from the same region in which they are being given to. We also learned astonishing facts such as that North America is 5% of the population of the world and yet we use nearly a third its resources and make half of its waste. We learned fun facts as well, for example there are more chickens than people on the planet. And then in the nights we fed and put away the animals.

We learned how to live and eat sustainably and how to minimize our carbon foot print individually, as community, as nation and as a world. All of the meals we made and ate were from vegetables and animals that were raised and grown on the farm. We learned how important it is for us to eat local. Not only for our own health but for the ecological and economic benefits that it can give to our country and the world.

However some of the most important lessons learned on this trip was that of faith and family. One of the nights we stayed on the farm we spent living in the global village. This was a walking tour through the woods that had pit stops containing houses, gardens, animals and activities that would be found in the third world countries and areas that Heifer helps. I say areas because I was astonished to find that two of the 8 pit stops can be found in America. Three of my friends and I were selected to live in the Guatemala site and the rest of the group was spread out in the Kenya, Nepal, Ghana and Poland sites. We were sent to the village to trade for food where we got baby formula along with beans, cornmeal and an onion. The baby formula was because I was a expectant mother. Dinner was flavorless beans and cornmeal but we shared and bartered with fellow tribes and regions to make a feast. At what I assumed to be 8 o’clock (I didn’t know because we weren’t allowed 1st world items) I gave birth to a beautiful water balloon named Maria. Then in the morning we awoke to a frost that had destroyed a years worth of crops and we, as family. were forced to send our eldest son to work in the dangerous mines in the near by town.

Living in the village was hard for us city goers but no doubt was a piece of cake compared to the circumstances that are really in Guatemala. But it did teach me a few things. First it taught me that when making beans you need salt. Second that we as a society must do something to help these areas in dire circumstances and prevent another family from having to send there son off to work in unsafe areas. Third it taught me that even when you are sleeping out side, in a yurt or a hut and don’t have food or technology the only thing you truly need for happiness is friends around you, love and laughter.

My work with Heifer International over the summer was truly rewarding in many aspects. I can only hope that all those in our community can have such an eye-opening and rewarding experience.

Brigitte’s Summer of Service Reflection

This summer I worked at Columbia University Medical Center on 168th street and  Broadway in the Division of Nephrology & Rheumatology. For those of you that don’t know, nephrology is the study of the function and diseases of the kidney. What I loved about my service was that I had a huge array of tasks. I worked under a nephrologist and the regulatory manager of the division so I essentially did whatever I was assigned. My jobs ranged from taking the height and weight of patients, to entering notes, to making graphs, to organizing clinical study binders to organizing entire closets full of medical equipment. Overall, I spent the majority of the time either helping out in an appointment or making graphs showing creatinine levels over time for patients on a trial medication. I made sure that patients were comfortable and did what I could to aid the doctors. This helped to move appointments along and the doctors were pleasantly surprised that we fit in more patients than they had imagined! That was by far the most fun. While I was doing some of the other work like sorting various syringes I wasn’t thinking about what an incredible opportunity I was having and how much I was learning.

 My absolute highlight of the experience was one day after I had seen patients with the doctor and a medical student the medical student said I could go on rounds with him. I got to go to every intensive care unit in the hospital and visit every patient that had something off about their kidney as indicated on their sheets. This was incredibly difficult to see people in such awful conditions but helping them and talking to them was more rewarding than anything I have ever done. Later that day I went home and sobbed for quite I while but once I pulled myself together I realized just how far I had come. I had learned that you cannot take anything in life for granted because life is so short and you have to savor every minute of it and savor your health as best as you can because you are so lucky to have it. This was a turning point in which I realized that because of my good health I should give back all the time to those less fortunate. I want my way to be through providing medical services. That one day has changed my entire life focus. I am looking in to colleges with good pre-med programs now which is something I would have never imagined doing in the past. Before I had started working in the hospital I worked with a pediatrician for two weeks which showed me how much I love working in a hospital. Everything feels like a group effort and your work seems so important and the feeling of helping people in need is just the best thing. I really could not have asked for a more rewarding community service experience.