Costa Rica

  • Highlands Ranch Rotary Club Works With Peace Corps As Part Of Give A Book Program see more

    At the end of October a team from the Highlands Ranch Rotary Club joined with other Rotarians from various parts of the U.S. and with current Peace Corps volunteers, in order to distribute books and establish a community library in the Monterrey area of Costa Rica.

    On this service trip, Rotarians from Highlands Ranch Rotary in Colorado were joined by Rotarians from the Rotary Club Cantonment, FL. Rotary Club of Casa Grande Daybreak,  Casa Grande,  AZ and Palisades Rotary Club, NJ. 

    With more than 775 million people over the age of 15 being illiterate, a key goal of Rotary International is to support education. Children may be more inclined to undertake a higher level of education if they are introduced to reading at an early age. The program, Give a Book, is designed to develop and increase literacy at all ages and to promote cultural awareness and global goodwill towards others.

    A highlight of the visit was the dedication of the Sue Fox Memorial Library. Sue had been a Peace Corps volunteer in her early 20’s and was recently President of the Denver Rotary Club. Sue helped to facilitate a memorandum of understanding between Peace Corp & Rotary. The MOU allowed for Rotary and Peace Corps to connect on service projects and this project was one of the first under this MOU.

    During the trip,  21 elementary schools received sets of 150 books. Sixteen smaller schools each received sets of 50 books. 45 books were provided to the International Baccalaureate program at a high school in San Carlos. The Sue Fox Memorial Library received approximately 800 books from the Give-A-Book warehouse, which were paid for by a grant from the Sue Fox Memorial Fund and Rotary District 5450.

    A currently serving Peace Corps Volunteer said, “I really cannot express just how grateful my community and I are to have met you. Your visit was incredibly special and the kids and teachers have been telling me how thrilled they were to meet with the Rotarians. I hope you know how much of a difference the books make in these kids’ lives. Monterrey has the wonderful advantage of being very protective of their traditional culture and supportive of youth initiatives, but one of the biggest challenges of the education system here is the promotion of creativity and critical thinking. Books open up new worlds for these kids, and I’m looking forward to working with the school principals, teachers, Ministry of Education, the local government, and the local girl and boy scouts to promote a reading culture. A love of reading truly does bring infinite rewards.”

    This is the third trip to Costa Rica by members of the Highlands Ranch Rotary Club and based on experience the committee has decided to concentrate on 3 key areas.

    1. Work with the Give a Book program + the local Peace Corp and deliver books to children of Elementary age.
    2. Establish community libraries wherever possible.
    3. Work with International Baccalaureate schools to help with English Language study and global business foundation study.

      ~Philip Calderbank, Rotary Club of Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

  • From Rotary Scholar To Peace Corps see more

    I have heard a variety of interesting stories about why the rural Costa Rican town I live in as a Peace Corps volunteer is called Monterrey. My favorite is the literal translation: “King of the Grass,” explained by a wizened elderly gentleman as the place his family settled to farm cattle because of its nutritious vegetation. On a good day, I can get a clear view of the Arenal Volcano and see the lush farmland that stretches endlessly below. The view is breathtaking. It truly is a green kingdom.

    My path to becoming a “loyal subject” of Monterrey was influenced by a lifelong involvement in community service. I grew up participating in the Girl Scouts, 4-H, and Key Club. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, I volunteered at Kiva – a nonprofit that makes small loans to empower entrepreneurs around the world.

    One of the highlights of my undergraduate experience was starting a student group that partnered with Kiva to offer no-interest microloans to low-income entrepreneurs in Oakland, California, USA. Our first borrower used the profits generated from her microloan to fund her son’s college education. As I am the daughter of a university professor, being able to impact someone’s life this way left a powerful impression. The experience cemented my commitment to a career in local economic development.

    A Rotary global grant made possible my dream of obtaining a Master of Science in Local Economic Development at the London School of Economics. Being exposed to such a diversity of international development theories and change-makers made my time in London one of the most inspiring periods of my life. Meeting Rotarians with an incredible dedication to service at both the Berkeley Rotary Club, which sponsored my global grant, and the Sidcup Rotary Club, which hosted me in the UK, reaffirmed my commitment to dedicating my own life to service. It was actually the experience of earning a master’s degree that gave me the confidence to apply to the Peace Corps.

    I have been serving as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development volunteer for almost a year now, and my primary focus is promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. Examples of some projects I work on include helping a small women’s group plan a sewing business and partnering with Grameen Bank to offer business coaching to female microloan borrowers.

    One of my best friends and co-workers here in Costa Rica is a mother of four who works as a professional clown and volunteers for the national social service organization to entertain some of the poorest children in Costa Rica. Her life story is incredible. For someone who struggles to feed her children as a single mother, her passion for helping other children both humbles and inspires me.

    Rotary has left a profound impression on me, as will my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. I can only hope that the next step will be similarly rewarding.

    ~Jasmine Segall, former Rotary global grant scholar

    Reprinted with permission from Rotary Voices blog, March 2017.