Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maine High School Student Joins Beyond el Campo

We are so pleased to welcome Julia Springer of Cape Elizabeth, Maine to the Beyond el Campo project, which is building a community library in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

A Cape Elizabeth High School senior, Julia is heading to the Honors Program at the University of Delaware next fall.

It is people like Julia, whose heart is first and foremost in it for the community, that Beyond el Campo, and Reader to Reader is proud to call part of our team.

Julia wrote a wonderful essay that explains her love for the people of Santa Cruz.

My name is Julia Springer, and this is my story of becoming forever attached to the people of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

A few summers ago, I realized I needed a change in my life. I needed to immerse myself in a different culture, to put myself wholeheartedly into something that would help others, and to take a step out of my comfort zone. This mission, hopefully resulting in a discovery of purpose and an appreciation for life, landed me in the small, coffee-farming village of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

From the moment I met my host-family and project advisors I knew that any ounce of nerves I had had were insignificant. Never in my life had I been greeted by such welcoming arms, or treated with such compassion. The people of Santa Cruz taught me the true value of optimism and simplicity. They were always positive and considerate, no matter what the circumstances. They wore smiles even when I trucked mud through the house accidentally, and always made sure everyone was given a hug and kiss goodnight.

Spending time with the families in Santa Cruz and getting to know the children and teenagers of the town re-introduced me to the meaning of love, family, hard work, fun, and most importantly, inequality. I was amazed by the endless entertainment that was found from sitting around my host-family’s kitchen table playing cards, as we attempted to teach each other simple games from our respective childhoods (after only two years of Spanish, I had trouble explaining why we call a game ‘go fish,’ or ‘va a pescar’). They included me in their daily activities, including cooking dinner and going on evening walks. In a matter of hours, they made me an integral part of their family, despite the language barrier or cultural differences.

As I spent time with my host-brother and his friends, I saw how seriously they took their education, but also the disappointment in the knowledge that no matter how hard they worked, their resources were limited and that many of them wouldn’t even graduate or reach college. Listening to them talk about their school, teachers, materials and futures, and comparing them to those of my own, I was struck by the scarcity of resources and opportunities they had. I thought about my own school: the new calculus textbooks, the dozens of shiny laptops for research, and the free tutoring services. I also realized how many of my peers, and regrettably myself included, took these valuable resources for granted. I had never stopped to appreciate how my teachers were willing to stay after school to help me, or the immense amount of research I could do just out of my own school’s library. I couldn’t imagine my education without these programs and materials, and it broke my heart to see that these kids, who were some of the hardest workers I had ever met, didn’t have the same opportunities as I did.

During the end of my senior year of high school, I was given the opportunity to spend two weeks doing whatever type of community service or internship I wanted. I immediately realized that this was my chance to give back to a community that had given so much to me. I was finally going to be able to help the people that I feel forever indebted to by helping raise money for the Beyond el Campo project. I thought back to the conversations I had with my peers in Santa Cruz about their education and dreams of reaching college. I am honored to have the opportunity to make these dreams a reality for them and to give back to the incredible town of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

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