Homebuilding trips to Costa Rica aren’t just for student groups.
Last week some of our staff returned from a trip to Costa Rica. Each year in January we meet in person to prepare for trip season with safety training. This year we were able to add a service component to our gathering. The first half of the homebuilding project was done by members of SYTA (who were also in San Jose hosting their annual convention) and then our crew finished it off, helping the family move in and giving them their keys.
Travel is already a life-changing experience but when you can learn about other people and help them along the way, that takes it to a whole new level.
The Solis family needed a new home and we were ready to help. Antonio and Lorena have three teenage children: Maria, who hopes to attend college next year, Fabia, an excellent student, and Joselyn, the youngest and also a great student. Antonio deals salvage and produce at a local market, but a few years ago he began to have health problems and also mechanical issues with his truck. His already small earnings began to shrink. Providing a suitable home for the family will help them get back on their feet.
With the foundation already laid and frame already up it was time for us to add walls, the roof, paint, wiring, windows, and more. Here’s what we found upon arrival:
We hired a local contractor to do the major work, like roofing:
Our electrician was a pretty cool dude too!
The weather was hot and the work was hard, but spirits were high and everyone was having fun and savoring every minute.
Brian, our Special Projects Coordinator and basically a Ph.D. in tour guiding says this of his experience:
“We’re a group of people coming here to help another group of people who really need it. This gives them a step up they could probably never get on their own. And what else was I going to do? Sit at home and watch TV?”
Some of our family members joined in on the experience as well, like Amelia. She’s ten years old and was documenting the trip so that she could return home and perform a show-and-tell for her classmates. Her message for them will be this:
“The trip was so fun because we got to build someone a nice house compared to their old house. Even if it’s hot and you’re tired and working hard on the outside, it feels good on the inside. It’s totally worth it!”
Once we got the walls up it’s time for paint inside and out:
Then some of our strongest team members used shovels to mix cement on the ground so the family could have a small patio and sidewalk:
After four total days of homebuilding we hosted what most of our travelers usually claim to be their favorite part of these trips: the key ceremony. We circle the house hand-in-hand and say a blessing before gathering at the front door to say goodbye. Both Antonio and Lorena spoke about their gratitude and love for everyone involved, causing many to shed mucho tears. Lives were obviously changed.
Fernanda, a Leaf Cutter Project participant who also helped with the homebuilding (along with two of her classmates) said this after we left:
“Homebuilding changes my life because I see other people working for people they don’t really know. I get a sense of pride for Costa Rica and the people here who need help.”
We concluded our trip to Costa Rica with a few days of meetings, safety training, and fun:
Pura vida, Costa Rica!