Immersion in Costa Rican Communities

A part  of the Healthcare in Latin America program is that each person does work in the community once a week. All of the students in my group are split up and sent to different organizations or a hospital for their work in the community. Some of the people in my group work with developmentally disabled elderly, some teach health to students, some have an information stand at a hospital, and some do clinical rotations (if they have a higher level of speaking Spanish). I along with my friend, Alana, work at a Child’s center called “Centro Infantil Ardillitas Felices.”

“Centre Infantil Ardillitas Felices” is a state funded day care/ child center created to help families that are living in poverty. This center watches children from ages 0-12 during the week days for free so that their parents can go to work and know that their children are being taken care of in a safe environment. This center is part of a public network that the government started, with other centers like it in different parts of the country.

I have to say that my first day at the child center I was a little overwhelmed because of the language barrier. We are working with a lot of children, but none of them speak English, and they speak very fast since they’re little. This makes understanding them a little more difficult than understanding someone who knows we are learning a new language. On the first day we mostly learned about what the center does, their daily routine, and what kinds of activities we would be a part of in the upcoming weeks. That day I left feeling excited, nervous, and exhausted all at the same time.

Luckily, this feeling of nervousness has changed since my first day. I now feel more comfortable and ready to engage with the children, even though it is still a challenge. Each day that we go we work with babies (0-2 years old), toddlers (2-4 years old), or children 4-6 year olds, and sometimes we will work with multiple groups within a day. We often help with feeding the babies, and distributing the food to the children. If we plan an activity, it is usually with the 4-6 year old children. It’s been interesting to think about fun and educational activities for them, and a lot of fun spending time with them. Quickly, the students started to learn our names and that we would be there once a week. All of the students make our community work enjoyable; they are adorable and greet us with hugs and smiles each week. They’ve also started to realize that we are learning Spanish, so they speak more slowly and even try to teach us new words.

My favorite activity that we’ve done so far at “Centro Infantil Ardillitas Felices” has to be yoga. Watching 4-6 year olds do yoga poses makes your soul feel happy. It was a great way to get them physically active, which is something the center strives to do each day. I think that the community work is another part of learning about a new culture and being immersed. I still leave feeling exhausted because these kids are full of energy, and I think it is still a challenge because we are still in the process of learning the best way to do our work, but all of this is worth is. Each of us in this program are having different experiences with our community work, but all of us are learning more about the people in Costa Rica, which is something that is enriching our time here.

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