Yoyoyo! Yo wassup!!!!!
I can’t believe you guys are now officially GLA Alumni!! I write this letter with a heavy heart because I miss you guys so much! Your energy, your positivity, your “what are the odds” shenanigans, your laughs, your smiles, and most importantly those big ol hearts you guys have that you used to connect and serve los niños de Costa Rica with! It seems like yesterday where we were all hanging and jumping off the dock at our lake, or riding around Costa Rica while listening to Mongos impressive impersonations of a howler monkey. You’re probably back in school (or starting college!) but we wanted you to know that here in our finca in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica 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 twenty-two of your peers gathered to learn what it means to serve, to be immersed within a new culture, 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, and far 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 a late night and a long bus ride lead us to our first ever dinner together as we ate quietly around a table awaiting pizza from the Iguana Loca. We are sure 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 your closest friends.
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 how about if you were going to go for a third serving of Alfredo’s pancakes? Through selfies with butterflies, horseback riding, singing together on the bus on the way back from zip-lining in the jungle, all of those moments brought us closer. Whether, you were having a blast or stepping out of your comfort zone, you were not only growing closer to those around you but you were learning to grow close to the children that you served so passionately. Whether you were at San Jorge with Aileen, Caheta with Casey, or Santa Teresa with James, you all managed to grow close to your students. You used each other’s energy and passion for children to reach beyond language and cultural barriers to make an impact on the students 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. Around a fire we learned that if you knew each other you would know that your peers were hilarious, and had amazing stories to tell, but if as you really knew each other you 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 with each other and with the children of our schools, 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 of camp, it’s important to recognize that the tears we shared for our kids 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 kids from near the finca and rekindle those memories of your first one minute stare-down, left-over-right while screaming, “Alfredo!!!!”, hearing your kids greet you with excitement each morning, or a well-done, “Yo whats up!!!!”. Remember to keep the energy and passion that you had for the children in Costa Rica, and to strive always impact the world both near and far.
So, as we write to after so many months, we’d like to really emphasize and remind you all that while it may seem that you were waiting for this experience, all along, it was really waiting for you. Each and every one of you made this experience what it was, before you it was just an idea. You dreamed big, you had courage, you took initiative, you were accountable for your actions, and you inspired each other to become better friends, better humans and better leaders. We hope that this is reminder of the steps that you took to become stronger, wiser leaders. Sharing and listening to one another’s stories, learning to give and receive feedback and effectively communicate to envision a better world as talented, compassionate global leaders who are equipped with the tools you need to continue to inspire action and change lives.