Yoyoyo! Yo wassup!!!!!
Congratulations, you all are now officially GLA Alumni!! I write this letter with a heavy heart because We miss you guys! Your energy, your positivity, your shenanigans, your laughs, your smiles, and most importantly those big ol’ hearts you guys have that you used to connect and serve the people of Rancho Quemado with! It seems like yesterday where we were all hanging at Paraíso, playing spoons or uno and drinking smoothies, or against our better judgement getting too close and jumping in the water to swim with humpback whales . You’re probably back in school (or starting college!) but we wanted you to know that here in the heart of the Osa, Rancho Quemado, we are still thinking of you and the impact we made this summer together.
We write to you with the hopes of taking a walk down memory lane. Why? Because it wasn’t that long ago that you arrived in Costa Rica, where you and 17 of your peers gathered to learn what it means to serve, to be immersed within a new culture, to learn what I means to be a global leader, and most importantly to develop lifelong memories and relationships that we hope will continue to shape you as you grow into tomorrow’s future leaders within the United States, Canada, Brazil, and beyond.
So let’s start at day one: airport pickup day! Do you remember your excitement when you realized you were boarding an international flight by yourself for the first time? You may have only felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but you were, at that precise moment, growing immensely. It was that day when you met some of your closest friends, you just didn’t know it yet… Later, after everyone had arrived (except Jacob) and you were all making hand written assumptions of each other. We are sure that you will never forget just how uncomfortable you felt that first day; “Will I make any friends? What have I gotten myself into?”, were surely some thoughts that poured through everyone’s mind that night. However, you were only looking around the table at some of the people you would become very close with.
Let’s fast forward a bit to one of the biggest decisions you ever made; who was going to be the birdy, and who was going to be the perch, or if it’s even worth it to wear a rain jacket anymore? Through building filters with Pilo or working on the garden with Yolanda, zipping through the jungle, swimming with whales, and getting to know the people of Quemado you all were becoming closer and learning valuable lessons along the way. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you were not only growing closer to those around you but you were learning to grow within yourself and understand how you operate as a leader, and what are true wants or needs. You used the strength you have inside and the energy and passion of each other to reach beyond language cultural barriers, spiders in your rooms, and long GLA sessions to make an impact on the environment and the people of Rancho Quemado that they will never forget.
Finally, we take this walk down memory road to remind you of that deep bonds that you all formed with your GLA family. Sitting in circles at the biblioteca telling your stories to each other you began to open up with each other and learn that your peers were funny and heartfelt. And then at Laguna you shared your life albums and really began to learn just how complex, deep, and amazing each of you really were. Bonded by the fact that despite our individual struggles, we were the few with the opportunity to step far outside of our comfort zones, to not be held back by anything in order to use our talents, passions, and empathy to give back to our fellow humans. We realized that when we opened up, and we shared our true selves snd got vulnerable with each other, we began to recognize those formally strange faces not just as close friends, but as family: all in it together.
While it may have been hard to say goodbye, especially on our final days in Rancho, it’s important to recognize that the memories and tears we shared with the people there and for each other were a sign of the timeless bonds that you all developed. So now, as the months have passed, take the time to reach out to your GLA family, and the memories of your first yoyoyo, swimming in jungle pools, fighting the urge to pet every dog, getting caught in torrential downpours while working on the jungle trail, and playing soccer game on the last night. Remember to keep the energy and passion that you had for the work and beauty in Costa Rica, and strive to always impact the world both near and far.