Now back in the United States, it is hard to imagine that just a little while ago, Duke and Vanderbilt teamed up to restore a clinic in the tiny beach town of Samara. By the end, our group had completely scraped, cleaned, painted the clinic. We even hung out with local monkeys during their lunch breaks in the mango trees!
Our two months were well spent, as we passed many hours working on the only health facility within a 45 minute radius, learned more about Costa Rican culture, and connecting with community members and other volunteers. One of the lasting memories for all of us came when we came for a final check-in with our non-profit, Crear and saw the finished product. We all reflected on how much of an impact our project will make. Now, as we continue with our college careers, we will always hold Costa Rica close in our memories as a place where team work and culture experience flourished.
At almost the halfway in our journey to clinic restoration in the small, beach town of Samara, everyone is extremely excited to see the finished product. In the last month, we have helped a community center reopen for public use by cleaning and organizing, worked more with the children, and even help with a community fundraiser, called Combate.
One of the most rewarding parts of our work has been the reaction from the community. The clinic is the closet place for community members to receive health care, and is frequented by people looking for treatment as well as those looking for a short cut to the beach. Community members have expressed their gratitude and taken a genuine interest in the restoration. Their sentiment has helped keep our moral high and us working hard. Our hope is that, in understanding their needs, we can leave the community better than we found it.
After sanding, scraping, and cleaning, we are ready to paint!
Crafts with local children!
Some of us took a break from clinic restoration to help Association Crear with its community fundraiser.
After a day of work, we stopped by a movie set to help some Columbia Univ. film school students!
Although these past two weeks have felt like longer, it is safe to say all of us are having a great time here in Costa Rica! I think it feels like we have been here for longer than we have because of the novelty of our environment and the amount we have learned and accomplished in such a short amount of time.
The first week and half was dedicated to learning about the culture and exploring the surrounding area. Andrea and Johanna, the directors of CREAR (the nonprofit we are volunteering with), set up some wonderful activities for us. Our orientation week included two beautiful hikes, a cooking class, a dance class, activities with the local kids, and various culture orientated discussions. It amazing how comfortable we all feel here in Samara after only two weeks. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, which has definitely made the adjustment period easier for us all.
This week we began our main project. We are hoping that $2,000 dollars, some donated materials, and about 65 hours of labor per person can transform a completely dilapidated building that serves as the towns health clinic into a facility that people feel safe and comfortable. In the first three days we have sanded down the chipping paint and plaster on the inside and outside of the building, knocked down a crumbling wall, cleaned out a neglected supply building, and weeded the unsightly overgrowth surrounding the building. Though we are the preparatory stages our progress is very exciting!
CREAR is a great organization and we believe renovating the clinic is a worthwhile and important task for the town of Samara. Things are going well and we are all excited to see what the next six weeks has in store for us!
As orientation ends, we are able to reflect on the amazing experiences that we have had in just one week! The lengthy orientation gave us ample opportunity to acclimate to our surroundings, both in terms of culture and climate!
We spent the first two days learning about Asociación Crear as a non-profit organization and touring their past projects in several neighborhoods of Sámara, including Cangrejal and El Torito. Crear has accomplished a lot in a relatively short amount of time, and we are very excited to contribute further in the next two months! Throughout orientation week, we were able to visit the after-school enrichment programs in both Sámara and El Torito, a nearby pueblo. The children here are enthusiastic and loving, making the afternoons spent with them very enjoyable. From playing fútbol in the backyard, to watercolor painting, to exchanging handmade friendship bracelets, the group loved spending time with the students!
We also visited the clinic itself, to see firsthand what restoration must be done. The clinic is certainly functional, but could surely use improvements. The earthquake that hit Sámara last year did considerable damage to the building. An entrance door cannot shut completely, and a large portion of the ceiling has cracked and caved in. The paint on the walls is dingy and faded, and the concrete is brittle and peeling. As we walked through, it was hard to imagine that this truly was a healthcare center. Its appearance so starkly differs from the clinics that we have visited in the United States. Ready access to high-quality and comprehensive healthcare is certainly something that I take for granted, and I hope that our restoration work can improve the patient experience for those in Sámara. In addition to the structural improvements, we want to beautify the exterior, make an entrance sign, and plant a garden in the front. I am very excited about the garden, as it will not only purify air but also lift patients’ spirits. We are also trying to expand and improve the waiting area for patients. From what we have heard, the community is thrilled that we are here to restore the clinic, so I hope that we live up to their expectations!
In our spare time, we were able to explore the beautiful hiking trails and beaches in and around Sámara. We did a sunrise hike to Playa Izquierda, as well as a four-hour morning hike to Punta Indio. The views were absolutely incredible and allowed us to fully experience the area in which we are working. We spend a considerable amount of free time on the beach, which is a fantastic luxury. We are very fortunate to be working in such a gorgeous area with such friendly locals, and we cannot wait to see what the next few weeks have in store!
Today is our first day of clinic restoration – wish us luck!
It is crazy to think that in a little over 12 hours we will be in Costa Rica. I am so excited to put the money we have raised over the year into action! There are six Duke students and four Vanderbilt student going on the trip. We will be living in apartments in Playa Sámara: learning about the culture, building friendships, and most importantly, working to help improve the community.
More specifically, we will be restoring a hospital and building a garden. On Fridays we will work with the kids in the Sámara community. I know this will be a very memorable experience and I can’t wait to get started!