On June 1st, 19 rising seniors from Jesuit high school NOLA, a Jesuit priest-in-training, the school’s Service Director, and I began a 10-day adventure. We were met at the airport by our in-community host, a PCV named Kiara Feliz and climbed into a buseta and set out for the rural community of El Encanto (“The Enchanted”), a three hour drive north towards Nicaragua and named for its surrounding beauty of mountains, Arenal
Volcano, and endless pineapple fields. As we approached the town, paved roads and busy streets behind us, the volunteers were dropped off in pairs at host families’ houses. Many of the volunteers only knew a handful of words in Spanish, and as they stepped off the bus with faces of trepidation, the local Costa Ricans opened their doors with gifts of fresh pineapple, open arms, and smiles. Ten days later, during the final group reflection, the team members confessed their uncertainty during these first moments but described the amazing experiences
shared with their host families throughout the week including learning about daily life in the town, playing soccer with the local youth, eating enough rice beans to curb their enthusiasm for local cuisine and dancing “the cumbia”.
During our stay, community activities included a soccer tournament, making tamales to sell at a fundraiser for the court, a dance, a scavenger hunt of the community, a hike to the larger nearby town, Pital, and most importantly the construction of the multi-use court. The team laid the foundation for the court during the course of the week and endured some delays due to the seasonably rainy weather. Despite this, the boys were determined to complete the court; they even agreed to wake up an hour earlier than scheduled to get more done before the rain started. The boys worked extremely hard, carrying 100lb bags of cement to the construction site, heaving buckets of sand into the mixer and pushing wheelbarrows filled to the brim – more challenging than many of them expected. The team worked alongside a crew of men from the town and they were in awe of the locals’ strength despite their smaller size. This realization only further motivated the boys to work harder.
The week was celebrated with friendships, dancing, hard work, and lots of laughs. The high school students from Jesuit NOLA left with heavy hearts not wanting to say goodbye to the friends and families they had made and the place they called home for a life-changing week.
Jenna Balkus- CFK Representative
I learned from the community to be more open and friendly…They come together as a community to help a member in need. For example, my host family’s house burned down two years ago, and the community rallied together and built a new house for them in no time.’
Charles Glass- HS Student
‘Costa Ricans do some things very differently and throughout the trip I was open to doing most of these things. I was very surprised because I did not see myself as someone to throw himself into new situations.’
Nick Gray- HS Student
‘On this trip I stayed with a family in their house. I got a chance not only to see it but also to experience the Costa Rican lifestyle. I ate their kinds of food, slept in their beds, showered in cold water, and even spoke their language when conversing with them.’
Jose Cusco- HS Student
‘I learned that being with family is the most unique gift in life. It was something special to see. Another thing I learned from the community in general is how to be resourceful. It seems as if nothing at all goes to waste. Every dish, even if plastic, every bottle, every scrap… If we don’t eat it, the dogs or cows will. It’s very different from at home, where almost everything is just thrown out.’
Brandon Beck- HS Student
‘From El Encanto, I learned what a true community looks like. A lot is done here for the communal good, not for one individual. The way the community came together to build this court shows how strong the bonds in this community are.’
Gray Cressy- HS Student
‘I learned from this trip that I am very wasteful. I throw a lot of things away that I could easily wash and reuse, but I don’t because I am busy and just throw things away. I also learned that I am very wasteful with my food.’
Bobby Oswald- HS Student