AKASH IN COSTA RICA
My name is Akash and I have spent the past 6 months volunteering in an orphanage for abused children in Costa Rica.
Hogar Sol is an orphanage for sexually and Physically abused children in Costa Rica. There is space for approximately twenty children, aged between newborns and eleven year olds, at any one time. Hogar Sol provides the kids with everything they need – including the support of child psychologists who help the children with any difficulties they may be having.
MY ROLE IN HOGAR SOL
As a volunteer I was expected to provide general support for the staff who are stretched thin trying to take full care of the children. This would include helping at meal times, general support in the orphanage but primarily looking after and giving the kids the love and support they may have lacked earlier in their lives.
A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME IS…
In the morning, a lot of the elder children would be in school and I would do stimulation activities with the babies which basically amounted to keeping an eye on them as they played – however it also included helping them to walk etc. After some of the kids returned from school there was lunch where I would try to feed pretty uncooperative babies! Most of the kids would then have a nap except for two or three who would have reading time with me. As the rest of the kids woke up, bedlam would descend and reading time would turn into playtime again!
WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO WHEN I’M NOT VOLUNTEERING
It is hard to know where to start and I believe that this aspect of the exchange is just as integral to your experience as the project and host family. Costa Rica is very accessible and being based in the centre of the country in the capital of San Jose greatly helped this. An endless list of stunning beaches, rainforests teeming with wildlife and adventure activities are in easy weekend reach. I also joined local dance classes which were incredibly fun and along with making local friends, enabled me to more fully engage with a big part of Latin American culture!
THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT LIVING & VOLUNTEERING IN COSTA RICA IS
The people! For me, hands down the best aspect of volunteering. I loved socialising with like-minded volunteers, though the fact that they are from across the world adds a completely new
and unique dimension to the friendship which I hadn’t experienced before. However, there is also the aspect of your host family who can genuinely become your second family providing love, support and a door into the very heart of your countries culture.
FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNT/GAINED
SO MUCH! Not only a great grasp of a foreign language and lifelong friends from all over the world, but also a more open mind to everything and everyone around me. I am a lot more willing to push myself out of my comfort zone and try different things now. Obviously I feel a lot more comfortable working with children now than I did before I left, which also brings with it a development of patience and a self reliance that I needed to gain when making decisions with the children because at the start I did not know, for example, how to discipline the kids. A very personal aspect of myself which was developed was the ‘pura vida’ side of living in Costa Rica. This phrase embodies a philosophy to relax, enjoy the moment and not stress. For me this was initially hard to adapt as someone who left very much a punctual and busy Brit, but I hope I retain and, to some extent, embody this approach in the intense UK lifestyle.