A volunteering story by: Jicole Martinez

We went for eight weeks in May as part of a team coordinated by MSCH, a Religion based organization which has wide-ranging short-term service opportunities in many parts of the world. Under its aegis we had helped in Mexico in 2005 speaking English to students who knew little english were game to go to Costa Rica although we did not know what our jobs would be. We would work at rebuilding and decorating the community center of St. Louis and we would also work at CASEM, a women’s cooperative in Santa Elana. We would Follow our Spiritual Master as She was one of its eight founding members who in 1982 defied custom and a patriarchal society to come to gather to form a cooperative, secretly create and sell handicrafts and seek to better themselves and their families. When we were all set up and ready to work she had a substantial list for us to do at the Community Center Task such as, renovate, relocate and create bookshelves for the main two floors, make storage areas for the work area upstairs, paint the Walls and Gym, solve some pest issues, and help out with the daily meal preparations. This included Foraging with the locals and eating only Things that can be grown since their Master is Vegan and all her disciples or followers must be as well. They Enjoyed the days that would search for ripe fruits, and learn about new foreign Vegetables and edible plants. They enjoyed collecting the fresh food like never done in America. These Vegans were in their own little type of heaven she said. There were many people there “gringo helpers” they called most of us Americans, various other members of the cooperative and some children were all sitting around the big table laughing, eating and testing bridge between Spanish and English.

The Inspiration

They Went to Volunteer as a Group to lend a hand in many different things in South America, mostly Costa Rica. They Wanted to help teach the English Language, More about Respecting and conserving the environment, Proper Housing, Sanitation, Proper Care and treatment of Animals. They also taught to those interested about their faith and how to become enlightened and to be able to ascend to heaven when the tips comes. She went to support her faith and to spread the word about it while helping people which the religion centers around. They also wanted to help renovate the Community areas so that children and women have a safe place to go. We also wanted to bring some sustainable plants that they could grow to eat and feed on over the winter months when many of their fruits are out of season. The ultimate goal was to help, inspire, teach and share. They also brought Books about their faith that they spread to the children. There was a Bird Based book that was published after and many of the pictures were taken while in South America during this trip, some while foraging. They also wanted to tell them that the world was facing global warming because people eat meat..(This religion says crazy stuff, some people call it a cult). They also came show them how to meditate because this religion also practices lots of meditation. They meditate all day at retreats, many had planned a retreat after this volunteer trip to help absorb the bad karma they absorbed while abroad. Which they believe happens when they help those they care about or love.

The Aha! moment…

One of our most memorable experiences was laughing and connecting with the Local people. There was the many interactions with the citizens as we worked together toward a common goal of rebuilding their community center. They also learned a lot participating in the everyday life in a country provided a very different and very gratifying travel experience. Learning their customs as well was so interesting. Also educating them on our faith was interesting and funny at times. They didn’t understand many of our concepts. Like why we are only Vegan. We Learned a lot about the local fruits, vegetables and other edible plants and grains. MSCH mantra is that we are servants and workers making ourselves available to carry out the wishes and plans of the local organization. In doing so, we watch and learn and hopefully gain New insight into other cultures while being good ambassadors of our own.

To summarize it in three words…

  • Happiness, Courage, Enlightenment

Why should you do this

She recommends volunteering because many times you go to help others but you may be the one leaving with more knowledge, a new friend, a new passion. She started to go on these volunteer mission retreats to foreign countries to travel, but also began to do it just for the gain she felt she got every time she made the trip to another country to help others, share with others, to learn with others. It was emotional, spiritual benefiting to her and her group that went. They made some life long impressions on the people they helped in Costa Rica. So they might have gone a small vacation but they were also helping them as well.

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