École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville students Kevin Vossen, left, Matthew Beckman, Madison Bremault, Janessa Hill, Jeffrey Wright, teacher Nicole Schoenberger, Joanne Velasco, and Paulo Alves show off a new mural they painted at a school in San Jose, Costa Rica, as part of a volunteer trip earlier this month.
École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville students Kevin Vossen, left, Matthew Beckman, Madison Bremault, Janessa Hill, Jeffrey Wright, teacher Nicole Schoenberger, Joanne Velasco, and Paulo Alves show off a new mural they painted at a school in San Jose, Costa Rica, as part of a volunteer trip earlier this month.

QCOSTARICA – About 22 students Quebec (Canada) high school students have given some orphans in Costa Rica a better place to live.

The students of École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville (ESSMY), in St. Albert, were in Costa Rica for eight days to do volunteer work in San Jose, returning home on October 9.

The trip was part of the school’s regular efforts to get students involved in missionary work, said teacher Nicole Schoenberger, one of the trip’s organizers. The school has sent students to places such as New Orleans in previous years.

Students spent about 10 months preparing for the trip and raising some CA$35,000 to fund it, said student Kevin Vossen.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge. It wasn’t just a vacation.”

Grade 12 student Sarah Willette said she was eager to go on the trip, having seen two previous groups from the school go to New Orleans.

“I was really looking forward to doing mission work and answering God’s call.” The ESSMY students were in Costa Rica to help refurbish the Hogar Vista De Mar orphanage, some 40 minutes out of San Jose.

The orphanage is the oldest one in the country, established in 1887,  located in a mountainous area with lots of cows and dogs. And spotty cellular telephone reception.

The government supplies half of the orphanage’s funds – the rest comes from volunteers and donations. That means the orphanage often doesn’t have the cash needed for basic maintenance, according to Luis Liles, project co-ordinator with Volunteer BaseCamp. Some of its buildings haven’t been painted in 25 years.

The St. Albert students came in to repaint homes and the on-site school. They were also meant to give the local children exposure to a new culture.

“They don’t have cellphones and they don’t have iPads,” Liles said of the orphans. Some might get an hour of computer lessons a week.

There were about 80 children at the orphanage living in about eight tiny homes, Vossen said. “You could almost reach arms across and touch both walls (of the homes).”

The orphans played with broken toys in a concrete play area that would never be seen as acceptable here in Canada, yet were still extremely happy, Willette said.

“They were just bundles of energy.”

When they weren’t painting walls, the students got to play soccer and other games with the orphans. None of them knew Spanish, so language was sometimes an issue.

Willette remembered how some of the kids kept touching her and saying what sounded like, “Andan!” Eventually, she figured out that they wanted to play tag.

“Play doesn’t really have a language. It’s a universal thing,” she said.

When not working at the orphanage, the students also toured a coffee plantation and visited the Poás Volcano.

The students donated about six suitcases of toys and hygiene products to the orphanage and painted a mural depicting the region’s rainforests, children and volcanoes. Each has also “adopted” an orphan to care for through prayer.

Student Luke Sorensen said the trip was a real eye-opener for him.

“We realize our problems aren’t as bad as they are down there.”

And it was cool to see such happy children outside of our materialistic world, Willette said.

“Here, we think we’re happy with what we have, but having so much material possessions (is just) trying to fill an empty hole we’ll never be able to fill.”

She considers the trip a life-changing experience, and plans to do more volunteer trips abroad in the future.

“I’ve never felt as happy as I did in those seven days … I would totally love to experience that sort of happiness again.”

Source: Stalbertgazette.com, Hhsj.or.cr