Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Students' trip to Costa Rica builds character, homes

The Lantern (The student voice of Ohio State University)
By Veronica Walker

For 11 days of their summer 2005 vacation, a group of nine Ohio State students and three faculty advisers embarked on a service learning trip to San Ramon, Costa Rica, to help construct homes for families in need.

The group worked alongside members of the three families receiving help with newly constructed homes and Habitat International. They helped complete the foundations of three houses, dug huge holes for septic tanks, painted walls and helped with roofs and floors.

Before heading for San Ramon, the group took Family Resource Management 694 last spring quarter to teach them about the history, politics, economics, substandard housing and demographics of Costa Rica and other countries around the world.

Jason Wimmert, a senior in transportation logistics and marketing, formed the class along with Andrew Hong, director of international programs for the College of Human Ecology. Students received credit for taking the class. "As a group, we became much closer by taking the class," Wimmert said.

Wimmert is coordinator of the Global Village program, and was the Costa Rica trip leader. Through the Global Village program, this was the first international trip for the OSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity. He said they donated $4,200 to the affiliate in Costa Rica. "Most houses in Costa Rica cost about $4,500," he said.

Wimmert said he is working with the Office of International Education to incorporate the class and trips into OSU's curriculum. He said Global Village is planning three international trips for this year - to Argentina, Romania and Honduras - which he will be leading.

"When you look domestically at housing needs, conditions here in (the) U.S. don't even compare to those in other countries," he said.

He said people came back from the trip with a new interest and grander picture of life. "People know that they've been blessed and a lot of people were humbled by the experience," Wimmert said.

Katie Siros, a sophomore in exercise science, said she thought Costa Rica was beautiful and the people were extremely friendly. "I spoke some conversational Spanish. It comes to you so fast. It's exciting," she said. "It's such an amazing trip and it broadens your horizons."

Siros said it was impressive to see how hardworking the families were. She said some people who are not familiar with Habitat have the false belief that the organization gives houses away to people. "

The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to eliminate impoverished housing throughout the world," she said. Families in need go through a selection application process with Habitat for Humanity, and put in a certain amount of hours of help, known as "sweat equity." Siros said the families also pay money, which goes toward paying for materials for the house. " Habitat's motto is 'We give a hand up, not a hand out'," she said. Siros will be leading the trip to Argentina next summer.

Erin Hutfilz, a sophomore in dance, said she had been getting information about volunteer opportunities from Habitat for Humanity. She said she always wanted to be able to travel and work."It was really rewarding to get to work with the families. One of the mom's gave a speech and we all ended up in tears because she was so grateful," Hutfilz said. Hutfilz will be leading the international trip to Romania at the end of August 2006. "I'm very excited but nervous at the same time because it will be a lot of work," she said.She said she feels she will become totally prepared for the trip as time grows nearer. Britany

Hoeffer, a junior in social work and Spanish, said she has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since she was in high school. She is the volunteer coordinator for the OSU chapter."Habitat (for Humanity) is one of my favorite organizations and Spanish is my area of study, so I thought the trip to Costa Rica would be an awesome opportunity," Hoeffer said. She said her Spanish speaking skills helped her and the group get from place to place while they were in San Ramon.

"I have been studying Spanish for about eight years now. My Spanish skills allowed me to talk with the Habitat (for Humanity) families and I developed great friendships with some of the women. (Basically), everything needed a translation!"Hoeffer said she had the opportunity to speak with two students from the University of Costa Rica and translate a meeting between OSU professors and the head of the Department of Education at the university.

She said that during rest and relaxation times, the group saw an active volcano, hot springs and ate at authentic Latin American restaurants. Hoeffer said they went bungee jumping off a 300 foot high bridge, zip-lining through the rainforest, surfing and swimming in the Pacific Ocean by Punta Arenas and dancing to salsa, meringue and reggaeton music. "

I loved the people and their culture. These people are living in a third world country and are still extremely content with the little they have. They value and take pride in their family, hard work, dancing and music, authentic food and their beautiful environment more than anything else. This, to me, is amazing. The people reminded me of what is important in life, and I believe that is what I was supposed to take out of the trip," she said.

(Text: Veronica Walker / Photos: Habitat for Humanity) Pictures used for illustrative purposes only, individuals shown are not those involved in this article.
I have always praised and appreciated all these exchange programs that come to help Costa Rican people while forming the character of the students involved.

Thank you!

Uri R.

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