Thursday June 27, 2019
Hello Family & Loved Ones!
Our students have arrived at our gorgeous home base in Junquillal, Costa Rica. Most were exhausted after traveling since late last night, but everyone is now happily in the rooms they’ll call home for the next 10 days.
All but six students arrived in the afternoon. We walked on the beach, completed the swim test, watched the sunset together and had a traditional Costa Rican dinner called casado. We can’t wait for the adventures, service learning, lifelong memories, and deep friendships that await.
Pura Vida!! More updates to come.
Your Beachside Service Adventure Team,
Michael, Daya, Nora, Sergio, Kevin, & Jacob
Friday June 28, 2019
Orientation Day of Beachside Service Adventure Session 2 was a giant success! We kicked off the our summer with a welcome circle including some quick Spanish learning, an active game, and a mindful moment. Then we announced service projects; students will be working with local organizations cleaning up beaches, planting trees, restoring the watershed, and beautifying the community.
Every student successfully completed the orientation photo scavenger hunt learning about environmental risks, inventing the perfect disciplinary policy, hysterically acting out “code of conduct” skits, and learning about Costa Rican culture and how to be respectful travelers. All students also met their service/mentor groups today and started to discover the leadership curriculum focused on GLA’s leadership pillars.
We talked in small groups about what leadership means to us and when we have been leaders. Then the “Bucket of Dreams” activity was a very fun (and often frustrating) way to actively learn about teamwork, support, and the different styles of leadership. While students wrote in their journals, mentors completed the health checks with each student to make sure everyone is happy, healthy, and enjoying themselves.
After a review of water safety and the final swim test, we met up to watch the sunset and walk on the beach. We enjoyed a peaceful 6pm sunset and had our first “Chow Circle” where the leaders of the day introduced tomorrow’s Leadership Pillar. We ate dinner in our new friend groups and then all the students had free time to relax, walk around the hotel, and play games. In the evening, mentor groups met up for a talk about what we value personally and as a group. We put those values to the test and came up with our own community contracts that we’ll abide by for the next 10 days.
It has been a very long day, but we are so excited to meet our local community organizations and start service learning tomorrow!
Saturday June 29, 2019
At GLA, we follow a “leadership pillar” every day. The first pillar for today was “Live your values”. As the leaders of the day, last night during chow circle we challenged everyone to live their values. This means to be authentic to yourself, and follow your beliefs. During mentor groups we made a group contract saying which assets we value the most while doing service. For example, if your value is inclusion, throughout the day your goal might be to make no one feel left out.
Today was our first service day, some of the service sites include Rio Seco (a local community), Restoring our watershed (ROW), turtle conservation and beach cleanup, as well as trash separation at Marbella community.
At Rio Seco today, we we worked on restoring a historic Costa Rican church and made sure to stick to the values we chose the night before.
While at the community of Marbella, we went to a Costa Rican community and organized and recycled the trash of the community. It was rewarding. The people were very nice and friendly. We then connected with the people there and we were given a tour to a nearby beach.
At ROW, GLA students went to a tree conservation site where they learned about the power of erosion on the environment. They were then asked to assist in placing seedlings into bags of dirt which they sifted and made fertile, allowing for the trees to grow. Students also got to enjoy fresh bananas which were very delicious.
Finally, at VerdiAzul, turtle conservation and beach cleanup, we picked up small micro plastics. This is very crucial because although we think of micro plastics as harmless, they can pose a serious threat to the turtles – as the turtles can swallow them. In addition to micro plastics, we picked up metal cans, bags and more. Doing this we ensured that the turtles can safely make it back to their homes.
Later in the day, we were lucky enough to be hosted by the locals in their community, Las Delicias. We played traditional games with local leader Frank, played soccer with local school kids and Doña Yolanda welcomed us into her house to teach us how to cook empanadas! We all had am amazing time trying new food and interacting with the locals. We’re very grateful for the experience they shared with us.
By Amitha Soundararajan and Cameron Hornbarger
Ps. Hi mom and dad – amitha
Sunday June 30, 2019
At our meeting last night, the new Leaders of the Day discussed the GLA pillar which everyone would be focusing on for the next day: Connect and Influence. This meant not only engaging with the locals, but with the campers around us. Through these new interactions, we will be able to have a greater impact on others.
Later, in mentor groups, the groups discussed the sharing of photos. Groups were presented different photographs shared on social media. Through discussion, we were able to identify problematic posting, as well as gain a better understanding of the role of social media in breaking and spreading stereotypes.
Sunday was an adventure. We spent the morning sailing on a catamaran where we were able to sit above deck and enjoy the beautiful weather. A short boat-ride later and we were at our destination: a shoreline where we suited up in snorkeling gear and ventured out to the wildlife filled rocks along the shore. Some of the sights included many vibrantly colored fish, sea urchins, and even an eel. Back on land, we took a drive to a nearby beach where we got to play in the wild waves.
Upon returning to Home Base, we were taught how to dance by locals. They led us in a Zumba warm up, basic salsa steps, a traditional dance from this region of Costa Rica, and then topped it off with a freestyle group dance off.
A tropical storm came through just as class was ending, so we all took shelter from the pouring rain. Leaders of the day met with the directors to discuss what has been going well and where we can improve the student dynamic. The student leaders had a very productive talk and came up with great solutions to make what’s already a very fun and positive group even better! It was presented during nightly “chow circle” and all students were on board. Then we had anonymous shout outs, announcements, and as always, the Leader of the Day ceremony to “pass the torch” to tomorrow’s leaders.
– by Evan
Monday July 1, 2019
Last night in mentor groups we had a mock debate about a controversial issue in a beach town not far from us. Some represented Hotel Riu, a conglomerate company from Spain that is accused of environmental and human rights violations. Some represented MINAE, the ministry of the environment in Costa Rica. Some represented Fraternidad Guanacasteco, an organization representing the local people. And some represented La Municipalidad, the local (and possibly corrupt) government. The discussions got very heated, but many were able to come up with sensible agreements for a very complex problem.
The next morning we spilt into our mentor groups to go to our service projects. One of our teams was working on water restoration, today they found tree saplings in the forest. With those saplings, they replanted them to help them grow safely.
Another one of our service groups went down to the beach to release some sea turtles and then after that they went to another location to make compost.
Also one of our service groups went down to a local church and picked up the trash around and repainted the benches.
Our last service group also went to a local church and helped refurbish it by cleaning and repainting.
After service we all had lunch and then headed down to the Eco Museum, which focused on the area’s indigenous people and how they live. We also got to see how their pottery is made and got a chance to create our own bowls using the traditional naturally made clay.
We got home in time for a gorgeous sunset, had chow circle, and our Leader of the Day ceremony.
– Anna & London
Tuesday July 2, 2019
In mentor groups last night, we had an activity where every member of the group was randomly given a label, like “privileged” “incompetent” or “genius”. Then we had to plan a fundraiser treating each other in the way we’d treat someone who was known as that descriptor. After many laughs, our debrief discussion focused on the labels we give each other and how they are never the full picture. Then we watched the TED Talk “Danger of a Single Story” by Chimimanda Adichie, which discusses the importance of sharing “multiple stories” about people, places and cultures. We split into mentor groups to break it down and apply it to ourselves.
This morning, to start off a fantastic day, we all went to zip line through the jungle. Everyone had a blast! It was incredible to soar over all of the trees and smell the unforgettable aroma of the rainforest. After that, we all climbed in the van; sweaty and tired, and went for a quick dip in the pool. The splashing and laugher was contagious.
Following that, we each divided up into our service groups. The Marbella group continued to paint the local church, the once dirty walls are now perfectly white. In the Rio Seco group, they continued painting benches a brilliant blue and started in on painting the tree trunks white in a surrounding park to protect from bug infestation. In ROW, they continued to plant trees and shell seeds of different indigenous plants. They were able to spot howler monkeys in the trees above them as they worked. In the VerdiAzul group, they helped sort at the local recycling center. Their duty was to sift through cans and squish them to prepare them for further processing. After that, we all met back at home base and the next leaders of the day became inaugurated.
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Last night in mentor groups we had “Mentor Speed Dating”, where groups of 4 or 5 students spent 7 minutes with a member of GLA staff. The staff shared a moment from their lives about travel, service or leadership. Then the groups rotated until everyone had heard every mentor’s story. It was an impactful night to realize how many directions life can take and the untold stories that all of us hold. At chow circle, we discussed our pillar for the day; to take action. Our team decided to inspire our peers by being the first to volunteer in our groups. We finished the night off with a delicious dinner and some free time by the pool.
The next morning all of our service groups completed outstanding work today, despite the hot temperatures. Rio Seco worked at the local church and painted benches as well as a casita near the area. Along with Rio Seco, Marbella finished painting the outside of the church white. Row worked in the tropical forest planting seedlings near the river and worked together to help restore the water shed. Using the power of water and the conservation of it, Verdiazul worked to come up with a relay game to help educate local children.
As well as completing service, we took a bus ride to a beautiful beach and played in the waves for a couple hours. After beach time we had a guest speaker, Silvia, share all about Costa Rica. We discussed Costa Rica’s rich history and beautiful landscapes, as well as all that Costa Rica has to offer. She answered our many questions and we finished just in time for another beautiful Junquillal sunset.
-written by Olivia
Last night in mentor group we talked about what to do with all this newly acquired knowledge now that we’re soon heading back to our home countries. We made personal goals and group goals to keep ourselves accountable.
Today was an amazing last day of an amazing trip. We completed our last mornings of service, playing activities with local kids or finishing up the last parts of our projects. After lunch, we had local vendors set up at our resort so we could load up on locally-made souvenirs. We had an anonymous appreciation circle where we could tap our friends that have impacted us in so many ways. We had our last mentor groups to talk about our inner critics and where they come from and how to deal with them in a productive way. It’s a very impactful lesson that ends in a highly positive and emotional way. Finally, we had a pool party that we never wanted to end!
It has been an incredible 10 days that we’ll remember forever! We hope all students a safe trip home on Saturday and continue on with a fulfilled life of service, learning and leadership!!
Lots of love from your BSA team,
Daya, Drake, Jacob, Kevin, Michael, Nora, & Sergio