Outward Bound Costa Rica Puts Girl Scouts to Work Overseas

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Outward Bound Costa Rica provides Girl Scouts from all corners of the United States with the opportunity to participate in an impactful, multi-week service experience. Participants can choose from a variety of immersive programs, which range from wildlife conservation to the welfare of indigenous peoples. Program leaders ensure that every Girl Scout leaves with a better understanding of herself and her responsibilities to the global community.

Conservation Programs

Some Outward Bound programs offer an experiential foray into the world of wildlife conservation. Participants learn about the importance of protecting the biodiversity and natural resources of Costa Rica. In addition to engaging in hands-on service projects that center around the environment. On the Sea Turtle Retreat, participants help save endangered sea turtles at one of the world’s most important nesting sites. The girls patrol the beach at night and clean debris blocking the turtles’ access to the beach. They also collect data for research scientists working to bolster conservation efforts.

Outward Bound also integrates environmental activism with poverty-reduction efforts. When they are not working with sea turtles, participants help maintain community buildings and work with schoolchildren. In their free time, they visit artisan markets and support local entrepreneurs.

Cultural Connections and Exchange

Other programs focus explicitly on community service. In these programs, participants spend much of their time building playground equipment and helping students in their study of language. Additionally, they are meeting the needs of the indigenous Ngobe-Guaymi people and promoting additional development efforts.

Girl Scout alumna Emily Solomon traveled to Costa Rica and Panama in the summer of 2018. She told The Borgen Project that releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean was her favorite part of the program. However, she also felt the profound influence of its community-based action plan and capacity for cross-cultural exchange. Solomon reflected on her experience, saying, “It really helped me come out of my shell and be more confident with meeting new people and I made my first out-of-state friends and met people of different cultures.”

Solomon added that the trip transformed the career goals of a close friend, who now anticipates a lifetime dedicated to serving the world’s poor. Louise Crowe, another recent Girl Scout alumna, echoed this view on the transformative power of the trip. “Traveling made me realize how much I like working with people, particularly young people, and being able to support their development is the most rewarding thing in the world.” The testimonials of Solomon, Crowe and countless other Scouts indicate that the program has achieved its goal of inspiring young women to work together. All while doing their part in the fight against global poverty.

COVID-19 Adjustments

As the world has adapted to the threat of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so too has Outward Bound restructured its service opportunities. The volunteer experience will certainly look different this year, but Outward Bound is working hard to run its programs on schedule with the necessary precautions in place. Social distancing measures will allow Outward Bound programs to adopt a modified in-person model.

First, Outward Bound will reduce its contact with indigenous communities and host families. Volunteers will also avoid densely populated areas and must stay in private accommodations. In addition, the program will devote rigorous attention to hygiene and cleanliness. All staff and volunteers must undergo a thorough orientation program in health, safety, and sanitation before beginning their assignments. All staff will need to monitor participants’ temperatures throughout the program and maintain an intensive plate, cup, and utensil cleaning system.

Though they face a host of unprecedented challenges to their programming, Outward Bound coordinators seem optimistic that their innovative solutions will allow the organization to sustain its impact on the environment as well as the lives of Girl Scouts and Costa Rican citizens alike.

Pura Vida

Pura Vida — or “pure life” — is at the core of Outward Bound’s mission statement and overarching philosophy. As the organization states on its website, Pura Vida is “not just an expression but a way of looking at the day, the world, your life.”

Both Solomon and Crowe noted that while the experience can be difficult at times, volunteers learn to enact Pura Vida by recognizing their unique potential and learning firsthand what they can do to make the world a better place. Solomon expressed only one regret about the trip: “I wish I had known how to speak Spanish!”

But she insisted that everyone fostered a supportive environment, encouraging her to continue practicing her skills. She returned home invigorated by the task of breaking down language barriers and eager to keep striving for equity everywhere.

As more girls participate in Outward Bound, people have realized that Pura Vida encapsulates everything the organization values. It is teaching girls to embrace and adapt to an ever-changing world. All while cultivating in them the spirit of hard work, compassion and commitment to their fellow citizens of the world.

Katie Painter

Photo: Outward Bound

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