Emily Stern - Medicine & Healthcare in Costa Rica
Before my trip, I heard about Projects Abroad, but had never volunteered at one of their projects until July when I was so unbelievably lucky to be able to volunteer in Costa Rica for 20 days. This was set up through my school, so I was able to experience this trip with friends from school. We went as a group Medical based trip.
Arriving in Costa Rica
The moment I stepped out of the airport, I immediately knew that Costa Rica would be filled with incredible surprises. The hubbub of cars outside the airport, the crowds of people and the humid air were all contributors to the buzz that ran through my body. We met our Projects Abroad representative who took us to a bus and we whizzed off to our hotel. We only stay one night as the next day we journeyed to a town in the mountains called, Cinchona.
Cinchona is a town filled with people who expressed great compassion, love, and had a strong sense of community. The old town of Cinchona was one of the towns affected by a major earthquake back in 2008, where many houses, the school and community were destroyed.
We visited the old town, which I found to be very difficult as you saw both ruin and beauty as trees tended to grow through the abandoned houses, and flowers would trace the walls. For the week I stayed in Cinchona I learnt what it was like to live without Internet everyday (it sounds silly, I know, but I didn’t realise how reliant I was on the internet until it was gone) and with that, I was able to fully engage in my surroundings. I was able to enjoy the beauty of friendship as well as admire the beautiful scenery that I was immersed in.
Medicine project in Costa Rica
The first week was filled with both serious and creative work. We helped the community with health checks such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels, etc. We also helped the community by painting the area to liven up the place, and during the evenings we enjoyed the lively Latino dancing. This week passed too quickly, but I was happy that we were able to help so many people- and to see a community so strong and compassionate after the disaster shows how incredible people can be in times of need.
The second week we focused on Palliative care, which was probably the most emotional week of the 20 days I spent in Costa Rica, yet at the same time one of the most incredible weeks of my life. This is because we learnt how to approach patients who were terminally ill.
We were lucky enough to stay with a host family. This home environment definitely helped with the stress of the week because a loving family surrounded us in times when we weren’t feeling well. We met so many incredibly strong patients who remained unbelievably positive and showed strength in the darkest of times.
We focused on activities such as art therapy, singing, as well as building models of a child hood memory out of clay. I have never experienced emotions so raw, and those who came to speak to us showed truly how brave they are and how much life means to them.
Everyone who I met has truly inspired me to look at life in a different way, and appreciate times where there may not seem to be much light ahead. I will never forget what I learnt that week, and I will never forget the many faces, and the beautiful smiles of those who surrounded me that week.
Conservation work in Bara Honda
Honestly, I have to admit that conservation work isn’t for me. I am not fond on spiders or any type of bug. I was really tested those few days. There were tarantulas and scorpions in the forest and that made me anxious. Nevertheless, I had an incredible few days at the Conservation project in Bara Honda and I got to meet an amazing group of people who came from both England and America. They were so sweet and definitely helped me through my phobia of bugs. I will forever remember this experience!
On weekends we were able to explore Costa Rica a bit more. I have to say that the beaches in Costa Rica are extremely beautiful! One weekend I was lucky enough to go surfing. Here I found out that I am extremely horrible at surfing! However, all in all, I had an incredible time that I cannot thank everyone involved enough.