1992 Jan. - March: In the small farms around the Lapa Rios nature reserve there are about fifty children between the ages of 7 and 15 years old. They have never gone to school because there is no school nearby and the parents do not have money to transport their children to Puerto Jiménez where there is a school. We couldn't just ignore these children. The community asked our help in organizing and building a school. We started a transportation program by paying for a pick-up truck to take the children to Puerto Jiménez. The parents are contributing to the cost by paying $7 per month per family. Sometimes the payment is in fruit, vegetables or chickens from their farms because they don't have any money. 22 children are going to school by pickup truck. 5 are over 10 years old and all but 3 are enrolled in grade 1.
April - May: When the parents came to pay their monthlyfee at the community meeting, everyone agreed that we neededa school in the neighborhood. A committee has been formedand a school will be built to open in March, 1993 if we canraise money and the help we need. We've received some donationsfrom friends to help defray transportation costs. The landfor the school has been donated and the building site hasbeen identified. The Supervisor of Education in Pto. Jiménezhas indicated that he can provide the committee with constructionplans, materials lists and cost estimates for the construction.Every month our school board meeting with all of the parentsgrows in numbers. Interest is growing. We had a meeting inSt. Paul with the organization known a Global Volunteers.They send interested individuals to local third world projectsto assist communities. Their 'hands on' approach encouragescommunities through faster progress, perhaps new ways to dothings, and a general coming together. Everyone has a win-win feeling when finished.
June: The rainy season has not stopped the transportationof the children to Puerto Jiménez though a 4-wheeldrive is essential. Some of the parents doubted we would keepup the transportation once it became difficult. We now havethree 4-wheel drive Toyota "taxi" pick-up truckson which we can rely. I had to drive one day with Memo tothe Tamales River and carry the children across the river on our shoulders.
56 people came to show Global Volunteers director we had acommunity and all wanted the school. The community must workside by side with the group.
July: We have interested The Global Volunteers inour project. Their representative, Ray Beise, has been tothe site and has approved the project and the organizationwill seek US and Canadian volunteers. This means that teamsof volunteers will help with the construction in November,1992 and February, 1993. They do not, however, provide financialhelp. Some more donations have helped pay for the transportation.
Sept.: We had to pay $1,500. from our own resourcesto have the public road repaired in order for the school transportto get up the mountain. The municipal trucks are all brokenand we are ignored. However, we have to keep our promise tothe neighbors. (Ouch!)
Oct.: Construction began on the "spring box",a water collecting system designed to trap water from a nearbynatural spring. Labor was supplied by the local communityand 10 Global Volunteers from the USA and Canada. At the endof 10 days the spring box was collecting a good quantity ofwater and water was running in a polyducto tube to the schoolsite. The footings were constructed for the toilet buildingand teacher's house. In addition to building the school thelocal people began to see they were a group and were workingtogether for the first time as a unit. The bonding of theneighbors was energizing for them and they looked forwardto the next Global Volunteer groups who were coming in December,1992 and March, 1993. (Took all gifts we received for transportationand bought building supplies for starting construction!) Somedaywe'll get paid back for the transportation but right now it'smore important to build the school.
We talked with the lead team of the US National Guard aboutcommunity building projects, hoping they built schools asone of their projects. As part of their 2 week yearly trainingthe US Corps of Engineers National Guards helps constructcommunity development needs in Central America. They toldus the Costa Rican government said nobody lives south of Pto.Jiménez! Precisely why not anything has ever happenedhere. They have plans for a small group will be in the Osain early March to complete a school for the Carbonera as theproject falls within their parameters.
Nov. - Dec. Contributions donated late in 1992 suppliedenough money to pay for the posts and preformed concrete wallsof the teacher's house, dining hall/kitchen and the toiletbuilding. The preformed, concrete school is the type of buildingthe government recommends in the harsh living conditions ofthe rainforest. Additional costs included the transportationand unloading of all the materials. We also had enough moneyto pay for necessary cement, steel re-bars and sand. The GlobalVolunteers returned and were able to construct more footingsand setting of posts to hold the walls. Many volunteers providedsupport for the children and families through cross culturallearning. Christmas offered new cultural treats for the families.Contributions for building materials continue to come littleby little. The community is not as enthused about workingtogether with the volunteers as they are about learning fromthem and having parties.
1993 Jan. - Feb.: The community is not getting thenecessary things lined up to be ready for the next volunteergroup in March. Interest seems to drop considerably when thevolunteers are not around to encourage the people and givethe needed direction. There are no contributions coming. Whatto do? Will we have to transport to town again? Will the NationalGuard be able to build?
March: The children were a part of the constructionprocess through leaning language and math skills - a differentkind of building process when the third Global Vol. groupcame March 1. This group of volunteers contributed more toteaching and social skills. More footings and posts were erectedby the community members and some of the volunteers. The springbox has dried but we'll run a tube from the river. The USGuards came to build at the same time as the volunteers, ANDbrought a water truck! So many together helping an area littleknown to the world before 1992.
The children came to the Carbonera School on March 1,1993. 19 students came the first day and classes wereheld in the neighbor's rancho near the school site and weretaught by Global Volunteers. By March 8th there were 26 children.On March 11th, the classroom building was finished and thebenches were moved into the permanent structure just completedby the U.S. National Guard from Kansas. A great day of celebration.The Global Volunteers and the Guards were thanked profuselyby the local people. (Although, those who contributed theirtime and talent felt more rewarded as the givers.) Truly awin-win situation. Our teacher, Gilberto, came to begin teachingwhen the new school building opened. We are blessed with ateacher who understands our needs, has enthusiasm and energy.The children respect and like him.
April: Although school has been in session for 5 weeksonly the teacher has a book. Money donated only to be usedfor supplies will purchase a few books for many to share.The school furniture and equipment is almost nonexistent. Carbonera School desperately needs contributions of money.
The funds will be used to:
June & July: Culver-Stockton College in Missouri,USA will be sending an education major to the Carbonera Schoolto help the teacher. This student teacher will be a volunteerwho no doubt will leave the area with a different perspectiveon education. The donation of a college student is anotherway of contributing. The student from the college will comein September, ready to help in the last push before the finalexams in November. (In May we had a marvelous volunteer fromthe States who helped Gilberto. Elizabeth was with the childrenfor a month and it was a sad day when she said goodbye.)
July: The school board met and decided to spend themoney that was raised in May to hire a contractor with experienceand integrity. We have paid $280 to a man who only talkedabout fixing the toilet building. He worked only a few daysand then asked for money in advance to finish the structure.He disappeared, money in hand. The school board has pursuedhim to collect the funds but has learned a valuable lessonregarding prepayment.
We are very sad to learn of the leaving of Macho and Alice,the family who have been the driving force behind the communityand the importance of completing the school. The propertythey have been "guarding/working" has been soldto a Gringo. Wonder if the community will be made up of workersfor absent land owners. We made a temporary dining hall /kitchen, that is after the toilet building is finished. Thevote to finish the permanent dining hall was agreed upon aftermuch discussion by the board, balancing the pros and consof building the teacher's house first. Finished the fenceand again the same workers continue to come to cut grass,getting ready for the Global Volunteers. We were given a truckload of sand just in time for the new construction. More materialswere ordered and paid by our dwindling funds. We are readyfor the volunteers in spite of the fact the teachers are onstrike throughout the country, there is no school nor childrenin attendance. Gilberto has been helpful in getting the communityorganized and ready for the volunteers. We are thankful forthis teacher and the support of the supervisor who came lastweek with a pep talk for the parents. This support from Ticosoutside the community is priceless to this fragmented communitywho really are still in the learning stage about working together,pulling together for a common cause. "Harambe!"we learned in Kenya.
A concern, and confusion, I have is the difficulty enrollingour Gringo neighbors in the value of education for the localchildren and the community...seems the local parents who areday laborers are not being let off to attend afternoon schoolmeetings. (Can't meet at night because of darkness.) I mistakenlythink most educated people appreciate how they got to be wherethey are...
Aug.: The fourth Global Volunteers have arrived andare an enthusiastic group. There was a formal welcome on thepatio at the school where everyone introduced themselves andthe children did some bombas, or skits, for the group. Eduardo,the new carpenter was introduced. It is apparent that a headconstruction person, especially one who has already builtthe same type of school at Miramar (a neighboring community),will bring some stability to the ongoing building project.Hopefully the neighbors will use free time to come and assist.Patience.
Sept. - Dec.: The toilet building was completed (exceptfor doors, but who's looking!) and the lunchroom is well onits way to being completed. During the rainy months only Eduardo,and occasionally his son, were building. The school fund hasenough money to hire Eduardo and his presence keeps the spiritalive that the school is getting built. Unfortunately, mostof the neighbors are observers, not participants. The childrenare good in their attendance at the school, some familiesmore than others. As the time of the exams neared in earlyNovember some of the children from the mountains dropped outof school all together. Their presence will be missed. Theyhad failed to come on a regular basis so were not preparedto sit for the year-end exams. It has been such a bad rainyseason and they have said it has been too difficult for themto come to school. We hope to keep alive the vision of educationand the key it can play in their future. Their parents don'tquite see it that way. Their lives in the future will be fraughtwith more difficulties without education than merely a raincoated path; perhaps some face saving was going on when parentsrealized poor attendance plays into performance.
Dec.: A very strong Global Volunteer group moved inand got the teacher's house almost totally constructed beforetheir leave taking. Several of the neighbors participatedin the construction but there were numerous days the volunteerswere working alone. The school building was really the onlybuilding that ever "elicited support" for completion.This will be the last group of Global Volunteers due to thelack of community support. So many of the neighbors want theschool but are only willing to watch it happen. The realityof the school is a model for them to see that working hard- not quitting in spite of many set backs - brings positive