I, like many English teachers, came to Costa Rica with the goal of doing volunteer work in the community. Once here, I realized that if volunteer work wasn’t organized already, only requiring me to show up and help out, I wasn’t likely to organize it myself (although I did try a few times). Here in Liberia, I’ve been fortunate to participate in two volunteer events that were well-organized and quite successful.
The most recent volunteer event was a Christmas luncheon with a non-profit organization called Manos Abiertas, which works in one of the poorest communities in Guanacaste, Martinas Bustos. Many households in the town of 3500 people do not have running water or electricity, and some dig through the trash to find their next meal. Manos Abiertas volunteers go every Saturday to teach literacy and vegetable-growing classes, as well as do various activities with the children.
The Christmas event was for those who participate in Manos Abiertas’ educational programs throughout the year. More than 30 volunteers came early on a Sunday morning to help clean, play games with the kids, cook and serve the lunch, and distribute presents to each of the 180 or so kids there. In fact, something that really impressed and moved me was that each child received a present with his/her name and picture on the gift tag! Many individuals and businesses in Liberia, including Instituto Estelar Bilingüe and its awesome students, donated food, funds, and supplies, so there were many ways to be involved in this beautiful event.
Another event I participated in a few months ago was a roadside cleanup organized by several tourism agencies in Guanacaste. Around 40 people participated! The volunteers were given trash bags, gloves, and plenty of refreshments, and we spent a Sunday morning picking up trash along the highway that goes from Liberia to the beach with the goal of keeping Guanacaste beautiful and clean.
Volunteering in Liberia is a great way to meet its people, practice Spanish, and make a difference in the community.