Society Spotlight: Aubrey Martin – “Service Learning Scholarship” Recipient
By B. Pasapane on Jul/18/2016
Congratulations to “Service Learning Scholarship” recipient Aubrey Martin, from the Society chapter at State University of New York College at Cortland.
Aubrey Martin, recent graduate from the State University of New York College at Cortland and former Chapter President, was selected as one of three Society Chapter Leaders to receive the “Service Learning Scholarship.” As you’re aware, The National Society of Leadership and Success partners with True Nature Education to offer service-based travel opportunities to Costa Rica. This past winter, the Society offered a scholarship, covering the full cost of tuition, to three of our top Chapter Leaders for this life-changing experience.
On June 11th, 2016, Aubrey, along with two other Society Chapter Leaders and National Office representative Malissa Myers, traveled to Costa Rica to participate in True Nature’s “Service and Adventure Program.” Over the next few weeks we will be sharing their stories and experiences with you.
Today we are happy to share with you Aubrey’s journey on her Costa Rican adventure.
“My Costa Rican Service and Learning Adventure”
By: Aubrey Martin
It is the night before I fly down to Costa Rica, my bags are almost packed and I’m gathering my final things. I can’t sleep because I know that when I wake up tomorrow morning my next eight days will be filled with the unexpected. I am nervous, but I am excited.
I arrived in Costa Rica at 8:00pm Saturday, June 12th, and entered the first hotel to see a large group of students gathered in the front desk/lounge area. We all introduced ourselves and were given our roommates and rooms for the evening.
The next morning at 7:00am, we all gathered in the dining area for breakfast. Everything on the table was fresh, containing no preservatives. The taste of the food was richer than anything I have ever eaten before. I watched the chefs make orange juice by squeezing the fresh oranges into a large container for our group to drink. I was immediately impressed by the healthy lifestyle.
About ten minutes later we gathered in a group introduction circle. This circle later became a daily custom. We would talk about what would be happening for the following day and share any thoughts or feelings about the present day’s activities that had already occurred.
This group circle was a great way to come together as a team. I was able to learn about each and every person sitting next to me. We would support each other through the hard days, laugh with each other about the fun days and naturally create a bond that I knew would extend beyond the trip.
The first day consisted of a lot of traveling. We headed down to Manuel Antonio where we would be staying for the next three nights. We arrived at Karahe Hotel and were given our rooms. Our first service project is tomorrow.
At 7:00am on Monday, we met down by the beach to have breakfast. In front of us were fresh eggs and fruit. I couldn’t have enjoyed the food any more. Everything was absolutely delicious. Fresh squeezed star fruit juice, fresh bread, eggs, rice and beans became my favorite way to start the day. As we were eating, our guide, who is a Costa Rican native, Jenny, told us she would be taking us through the next week and educating us about the life and culture of Costa Rica.
Our first project took place at an animal sanctuary. We cleaned a spider monkey’s cage to create a cleaner and happier environment for the animal. We had to take down all objects including tires, bamboo and ropes. We cleaned out the cage and got rid of all excess dirt, mud and old weeds. It was extremely humid but luckily there were 25 of us to get the job done.
Due to the fact that we are all leaders, we were able to accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently. Breaking down the hanging objects required multiple people and we had to lead one another step by step. I had to break a piece of wood in half by kicking it, because the sanctuary did not have the tools we needed. Two students held the wood for me as I kicked it in half. Two others students were ready to carry the wood out after it had been broken into pieces. Other students were waiting outside to clean and replenish the old wood. We had an organized system down pat and respected each other’s roles.
The Society gave us the skills to be aware of each other and the environment around us. Knowing each other’s personalities (whether someone was a C or an S) helped with dividing and conquering tasks.
That same day at the sanctuary, some of the workers needed help moving rocks to fill any paths that may have been muddy or slippery due to the excessive rain (rain season has just begun). A few girls and I volunteered because moving a few rocks from point A to point B couldn't be so bad right? We walked toward the rocks, up a very steep hill that was far away from where the rocks needed to be placed. We were all thinking…what did we just get ourselves into?
We had to dig into the pile of rocks, fill up the buckets and wheelbarrows and carry them down to the muddy paths. Each trip took about 20-30 minutes. Our arms were extremely sore, our legs were about to give out and to top it off—it started pouring. We all wanted to go back to the hotel and lay in our beds. We went down to drop the rocks, thinking it was the last trip, and one of the workers said we needed about four more trips worth for all of the muddy paths to be completely filled.
Once we approached the bottom of hill, the workers immediately had huge smiles on their faces. They couldn’t believe we were still helping them despite the rain and how tired our bodies were. After experiencing the workers day-to-day tasks and seeing how happy they were, we immediately were motivated to finish the job. We ran right back up the hill without a single complaint. They even asked for a picture of us to keep because they were so impressed!
The workers at the sanctuary do these jobs every single day for a living. It is mentally and physically exhausting. What took us 2-3 hours to do, would have taken them an entire day. I’ve never felt so satisfied in my life. We had smiles ear-to-ear knowing that our hard work was appreciated.
The next morning I woke up tremendously sore, but happy nonetheless. I was excited that it was only Tuesday and that we had a full week ahead of us. I got my fresh breakfast that I looked forward to every morning and the day’s agenda. That day, we walked to Manuel Antonio National Park and went parasailing. We were able to experience the Costa Rican wildlife and clean up the beach on the way walking there!
Costa Ricans take priority when it comes to caring for the environment and wildlife. They encourage tourists to remain distant from the animals so that they do not become accustomed to living off humans and can sustain on their own. We were able to see several different types of animals including sloths, crabs, bats, birds and insects.
After the National Park tour, we were able to experience one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, Manuel Antonio Beach. The air was fresh, the water was clear and it was a refreshing change from the beaches in New York. It was inspiring to see how much the natives truly care for their land.
On Wednesday, we were transitioning from Manuel Antonio to La Fortuna. Due to the rain and slight traffic our five-hour trip turned into about a seven-hour trip. We were able to unwind and take in the past two days.
We arrived at La Fortuna, which was a completely different world from Manuel Antonio. La Fortuna is in the middle of the rainforest, hours away from the beach. It was a different type of beautiful that we would be living in until it was time to travel back to the states.
On Thursday, we took off to paint houses for two different families. The first family lived in a small house with no air conditioning and had very little space. They had a large chicken coop in the back house that they used to harvest eggs that they exported. The expressions of happiness on the family’s face showed how thankful they were for our help.
The second house we painted was half the size of the first house. It did not have closed windows or screens. This family did not have much nor did we see them, however, it felt good to do a job that would have taken them days in just one short hour. As a group, we were a strong team and were able to accomplish a lot of work together.
This was our final service project, the week flew by but we were able to get in a full day every single day. We accomplished more than I had ever imagined and problem solving together drew us extremely close as a group. In one short week it felt like I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. We all share the same benefit of having the Society as a major part of our lives and were able to take our skills and put them into our volunteer work.
Coming to Costa Rica has taught me that I haven’t quite lived yet. I’ve never seen the world from another perspective and it was the most meaningful trip I have ever experienced. I have never had that feeling of pure happiness. The first world problems that “we experience” here in the U.S. are meaningless. We take everything for granted and expect so much of one another. I couldn’t quite capture my emotions in words or in pictures so I have created a video that brings my Costa Rican experience to life. The Society and True Nature have given me the opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more thankful for this trip. This is only the beginning of my travel journeys. I hope to impact people around the world in the same way that I was able to help the Costa Ricans.
Thank you again to the Society and True Nature for giving me something that some people will never experience in their entire lives. Check out the video below, which sums up the trip, and highlights the incredible experiences we shared together, that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.