Well known for exotic wildlife, lush rainforests, active volcanoes, pristine beaches, and more – Costa Rica has been a popular destination for nature lovers for decades. Consisting of only 0.03% of the world’s landmass, this small country still contains an amazing 5% of the world’s biodiversity. The countryside offers world famous surf, zip lining, and seemingly endless vistas. Yet amidst this treasure trove of plant and animal life lie communities in need of support.
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Sandwiched between two oceans and 800 miles of coast line, the Costa Rican people live a comparatively comfortable lifestyle. The national motto of “Pura Vida” or “Pure Life” encapsulates the tendency of Costa Rican Ticos and Ticas to be lighthearted, accommodating, and genuine. The nation is often referred to as the region’s developmental success story due to its high standard of living, 96% literacy rate, and environmental initiatives.
This prosperity has attracted people from all over the world to visit the country as tourists or expatriates looking to settle in the tropics. The steady economic expansion has also attracted populations from the more turbulent neighboring countries of Nicaragua and Panama. Some of these immigrants can be described as economic refugees but many of them have abandoned their assets, families, and entire lives to avoid violence and political persecution.
Since these people and their families are undocumented, they are often forced to live in poverty. Having nowhere else to turn, these refugees form makeshift communities, referred to as slums, and begin to rely on each other for survival. Slum life fosters social illnesses like crime, drug use, and illiteracy but history has shown that with some help, these populations integrate and become significant contributors to their new home. Each summer, GoBeyond students embark on high school community service trips to Costa Rica so they can lend a hand to these populations and explore the magnificence of their country.
“The last day of our high school trip to Costa Rica, we went to the Los Lagos resort, hiked the mountain to get a view of the volcano, and hung out at the pool and natural hot springs. Before leaving, we went to see the three crocodiles, turtles, and frogs they had on the property! Then we went to Termales Del Bosque, the hotel where we were staying, and went to the hot springs that were in the middle of the jungle. One of the pools was a whopping 48 degrees celcius; Kenta was the only one who went in all the way. The next day, we woke up to the surprise of going horseback riding! The ride was pleasant and peaceful, trotting through the rain-forest and enjoying the view from atop the hill.”