Volunteering in Indigenous Communities and Protecting Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

El Toro High School student Amberly B. was one of 26 girls selected from across the nation to participate in a Girl Scouts Destinations program in Costa Rica where she assisted community projects in remote indigenous villages and contributed to conservation efforts protecting endangered sea turtles along the Central Pacific Coast.

“My eyes were opened to a new culture and new experiences which helped me grow as a person,” Amberly states. “I learned that I am capable of more than I think I am.”

Sixteen-year-old Amberly a Girl Scout from Lake Forest, recently returned from Outward Bound Costa Rica’s Service Challenge Destination. On this 14-day course, the girls dedicated their time to two major service learning projects, focusing on both conservation and community-related efforts in Costa Rica. The group also challenged themselves through adventure, battling Class II and III rapids on the Pejibaye River and ziplining through the canopies.

One of Amberly’s favorite aspects of the experience was meeting her course mates, who were fellow Girl Scouts joining her from all parts of the United States, “I really enjoyed meeting and hanging out with all the girls. We all bonded through our desire to help others.”

Amberly and her group began their experience in Costa Rica by visiting Amubri, a small indigenous village in the region of Talamanca. There they worked on service projects that included painting a library with murals of natural landscapes and restoring an abandoned health clinic for future use. Throughout their time in Talamanca, the girls interacted and learned from the local elementary students and community, practicing their Spanish and learning a few words in Amubri’s local indigenous dialect, Bribri.

The girls’ second major project focused on sea turtle conservation at Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge, located on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast. Their efforts focused on preparing the new location for the refuge’s future hatchery. This hatchery will help protect the hawksbill and green sea turtle population, two endangered species native to the region.

Since 2006, Outward Bound Costa Rica has been partnered with Girls Scout of the USA to offer unique and exciting Girl Scouts Destinations trips in Costa Rica and Panama. These trips provide young girls the opportunity to see the world, meet fellow Girl Scouts from across the nation, and challenge themselves through adventure in unfamiliar settings.

 “I learned a lot,” Amberly says while reflecting on the Outward Bound experience. “The staff and [students] are very friendly and welcoming…You really do have a different experience than you would at home.”

Jim Rowe, Outward Bound Costa Rica’s Executive Director, explains the philosophy behind the Outward Bound educational model, “Outward Bound Costa Rica programs, like the one Amberly participated in, create environments that allow for personal and leadership development through challenges, group effort and cross-cultural understanding.” Rowe adds, “in these adventures, students are constantly exposed to new experiences, languages and physical environments, which are difficult to replicate in the classroom.''

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