Today, we had the wonderful opportunity to take a group of boys and girls to the Irazú Volcano and Tapantí National Park. At 7am, we arrived at “Colochos”, a small supermarket in the bustling community of Los Guido, Desamparados. There, waiting for us, were 21 boisterous and excitable children. They had most likely not had a wink of sleep for the excitement of the day to come. I was a little worried about the weather, because after two days of heavy rains, the forecast was predicting more rain, which would lead to cloud in the volcano crater and in turn, a group of disappointed children who wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day out to the maximum. As it turned out however, we experienced the exact opposite. Our prayers to God had paid off because even though it was slightly cloudy when we reached the volcano’s summit, the views were incredible. The children’s eyes grew wide in disbelief at the scene in front of them as they enjoyed the volcano sand, making drawings and pictures and made echoes of their own voices bounce from wall to wall of the crater. We enjoyed lunch there too, with the company of a little coatimundi who managed to pilfer his easy meal for the day. We hopped back on the bus and headed towards the cloud forests of Tapantí – a real paradise in our land of contrast. When we arrived, we were the only visitors to the park. At the end of a jungle trail, the children had the opportunity to enjoy a quick dip in the freezing river, which flowed with crystal clear waters surrounded by mountainsides of greenery. It was such a shame that the day had to end, for after another snack, we started the descent back to San José.
Scenes such as this one are not the norm for these marginalised children who grow up in an inherited state of poverty that they did not ask to be born into. However, they are more common for us at Educación Plus after nearly 20 years of working in these areas. For us to see the happy faces of the children partaking in the activities is normal and incredibly satisfying, as well as the knowledge that will go home with a good story to tell their families.
Up until the drive home, everything had been like any other trip that we have done in the past. But this day in particular will stay in my mind for a long time. Why, you ask? One of the young boys who had come with us for the day lost his mother to cancer only two weeks ago. I cannot begin to explain how I felt at this moment, nor how I felt when I first heard the news. Most of the mothers were there at the supermarket waiting to pick their children up from their day out, or atleast a friend’s mother. However, for this little boy, his teenage sister was waiting there… He will not be able to tell his mum that he had seen a volcano for the first time, that he had shared his lunch with a coatimundi, that he had seen a white-tailed deer, that he had walked through the rainforest, that he had played in a river, that he had had the best day and that just for a few moments, he had forgotten his pain.
The one phrase he said that hit me most was “I would tell my mum but she’s dead”. This pained me greatly. I can go back to my house, kiss and hug my children and call my mother. This little boy cannot. This makes me immeasurably sad. What a difficult task it is for his teenage sister to have to take care of her little brother and what a challenge it is for us to try to protect them and to extend our hand to them to help them through this terrible time.
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