ONE NEWFOUNDLANDER PLUS TWENTY-NINE OTHER CANADIANS EQUALS COMPASSION!!
Being privileged to retire from teaching at the young age of fifty has given me the opportunity to go full time in another very rewarding “career” – volunteering. Even in my wildest dreams, though, I could never have imagined the joys this would bring to my life. Nor could I have envisioned that it would result in amazing cross-cultural experiences and eye opening international travel. In 2008, I was overjoyed to spend some time at a children’s orphanage in Africa, and now in April 2012 had the awesome challenge to interact with needy children in Costa Rica.
As the sole representative of Newfoundland and Labrador I was thrilled to be a part of a caring group of thirty volunteers of varying ages, and representing seven provinces of Canada. We travelled to that beautiful country on a distribution trip with the humanitarian agency Samaritan’s Purse. Over a thousand children were presented with Christmas Shoeboxes donated earlier in the season by generous Canadians. After flying into San Jose the group travelled five hours by bus to the province of Puntarenas and visited local villages near the towns of Jaco and Quepos. Crossing over water on a small boat to one village, and crossing a bridge on foot to reach another, was well worth it! The overwhelming joy on the children’s faces when they received their shoeboxes said it all. Every item – whether school supplies, hygiene products, or little toys – brought a happy smile to each little face: and a tear to the eye of each volunteer! As a team we were shocked to learn that the main social problems encountered by these children are alcohol and drug abuse, as well as child prostitution involving children as young as five to seven years old.
The distribution was very well organized by the Samaritan’s Purse national director in Costa Rica. Before our arrival she had contacted local ministers and school principals to inform them of the program. By the time we got to each destination, organizers knew exactly the number of children that would be there and could arrange them by gender and age so that the actual distribution ran very smoothly each time. This early preparation meant there was time for us to interact with the children through activities such as face painting, finger nail painting, balloon animal creation, and interactive games like soccer, ‘duck, duck, goose’, and skipping rope. Also, since most of the children came from very impoverished areas, a meal was generally provided by local people and our Canadian team was able to help serve the food to the children.
This was truly a memorable experience for all involved and we were more than happy to bring joy to so many little lives that otherwise would not have experienced it. Next season we will mark the 100millionth shoebox given to a child in some poor area of the world – but we will still only have reached five percent of the children who need this help! It is imperative that we all work together to enrich the lives of these precious children.