The Power of Example

Language. Community. Action.

These are the three pillars of our social responsibility initiative: Idioma Cares.

The Idioma Cares leaders and staff volunteers conducted a park cleanup on Sunday, August 19th, 2018, with the mission of taking action in the community to make a positive difference. We chose “Parque de la Paz” in Desamparados as it is relatively close to our office and it is not provided with a private sanitation service like our local park, “Parque de la Sabana.”

Tim, our team leader, took care of the planning, supplies and logistics for the event. These preparations included scouting the location ahead of time and providing each of the Idioma Cares team members with a map of the park and a designated area to be cleaned that day, so as to cover the entire park and maximize our impact.

We numbered just over a dozen participants, including my two children (five-year-old and a seven-year-old) and a teacher’s partner who joined in the effort. First thing we did when we arrived was climb a steep hill in the center of the park with an incredible lookout point where we game-planned and surveyed the park. Tim passed out gloves, garbage bags, water  and maps while we got into teams of two, with one person taking a large bag for garbage and the other person taking a bag for recyclables.

We all set out to scour and clean our assigned areas of the park with an 11:00 am meet up time to throw the garbage in the park garbage bins for a later pick up (previously coordinated by Tim) and load the recyclables into our cars to haul off to a recycling center in neighboring Escazú.

By and large, it was a typical San José Sunday morning: beautiful weather, blue skies and lots of sunshine, billowy white clouds, scores of families and individuals bustling about the park. And there were some unanticipated, yet insightful  and positive moments to the day above the expected parts of just picking up trash and recyclables to clean up a city park.

The first element that stands out to me was the experience working alongside such a good-hearted team that took their personal time to make a difference in a place that is not their home country. That is so inspiring. Most of the Idioma Cares team is not from Costa Rica, yet their desire to serve and make a difference shows how compassion, support for others, and doing good goes beyond territorial and cultural borders. We were all volunteers joining together for a common cause of making a positive difference. It was pretty cool. And really fun.

The second element that sticks out is how proud I am of my children for participating wholeheartedly in the clean up efforts. This was an important lesson for them that I am really happy they got to experience in addition to their witnessing of the Idioma Cares team setting an example. It was great to see my children do something for others in order to make things better instead of playing, which is what they normally do on a Sunday. I hope this is something that they build upon for years to come as they make their way.

The third element that struck me was the impact we had on the locals. We all wore team shirts and that really made a difference, as we were highly visible while cleaning up the trash and separating it to recycle. Our good acts were noticed by a lot of people and many of them came up to us and thanked us for what we were doing. I didn’t know how to respond, as it was a little awkward. Here they are, thanking us for cleaning up their park, and you could tell they felt as ashamed as they were grateful. And for me, I didn’t know whether to say thank you or ask for them to do more themselves to help their own community. Just act, I thought. So I only said thank you and offered a smile.  

I couldn’t help thinking during the clean up that everything we were doing that day could have been avoided if everyone were responsible with their own trash and recyclables. Even though Costa Rica’s citizens have made monumental improvements over the years in terms of protecting the environment and not littering, there is still some work to be done. That is why the visual impact the Idioma Cares efforts had on the locals and the example we were setting give me confidence that if we continue to act in good will in a noticeable way in the community, that permanent positive change can be achieved. This is indeed the ‘Pura Vida’ vibe that can help move this wonderful country toward a brighter future.

 

Brian Logan – Founder