I am Stephen Thomson, a senior international studies major. For three weeks in July, I traveled to Costa Rica to volunteer at two locations. The first was for a special type of elementary school focusing on child development via education and nutrition called the Fundación DEHVI. DEHVI is an acronym for Desarrollo Humano Vital, or vital human development. The Fundación has several locations around San José; I worked at one in Pavas. The school has more than 200 children, ranging from infants to six-year-olds. My duties included teaching English using songs and short stories, as well as assisting with the everyday activities at the Fundación such as serving meals, playing games, and helping with the project that connected children with nature.
Since the school is a private, special development school, students do not get a summer break. Instead, some Fridays are special holidays for the children. For instance, my first Friday there was a water day for the children with a slip’n’slide and a lot of fresh fruit for everyone. During the Fundación’s July 24 celebration for the annexation of Guanacaste. I participated in one of the many traditional dances dressed as a campesino.
I also volunteered at the Asociación Obras del Espiritú Santo (AOES), which is located in Cristo Rey. The AOES is a Catholic faith-based, grassroots organization that provides poverty relief. I worked both in the daycare and Hunger Outreach Program. The daycare is free of charge for parents in the impoverished local community. The Hunger Outreach Program involves people from the AOES setting up tables of food and drink to be distributed to the homeless or impoverished, cutting hair, preaching and providing other services. My most moving experience occurred on the Saturday afternoon I went to Infernito. The name of the town in Alajuela literally translates to Little Hell. I felt as though I was making a difference in the lives of many people, and I felt incredibly blessed to have such an opportunity to serve. On the whole, my favorite aspect of my experience in Costa Rica was the people of the country who I worked alongside. Everyone I met was incredibly genuine, and I formed several lasting friendships.
I incorporated my experiences in Costa Rica into my Fulbright Fellowship application, submitted earlier this month. I applied for an English Teaching Assistant Fulbright to Costa Rica, where I would assist an English professor at a postsecondary institution. I plan to work in international development policymaking. My dream is to work for the State Department or United Nations, putting my skills to the test to improve and strengthen the global community.