Kumsa Maphalala, 18, hails from the Big Island of the Hawaiian archipelago, where she grew up on a sustainable, hectare-large family farm, surrounded by well-loved sheep, goats and cows. Her idyllic, earth-rooted upbringing formed her appreciation for organic agriculture and her desire to ‘pay it forward’ whenever possible.
During her final years in high school, Kumsa has been feverishly eager to give back to the global community through volunteering. Her mother – a partner in the socially responsible-investment firm Natural Investments LLC – recommended she seek suggestions from a contact at the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit certifying farmers who meet high environmental and social standards. (Editor’s note: EARTH bananas are Rainforest Alliance-certified.)
“(The representative) suggested I volunteer at EARTH because I would learn many lessons from its integrated systems, things that would be useful later on to organizations and the place I live,” Kumsa said.
With her mind made up, she hopped on a plane and traveled just shy of 5,000 miles (nearly 8,000 kilometers) to EARTH University in Costa Rica.
As do most interns, Kumsa lived in a student residence hall. She roomed with full-time EARTH student Deily Mora (’19, Costa Rica), also from a sustainable-farming family.
In addition to Kumsa’s official internship at the Integrated Organic Farm, she worked with livestock and took a few courses, including bean-to-bar chocolate processing.
By the end of her month at University, Kumsa discovered she identified so deeply with the EARTH way of life, that she applied for admission to the Class of 2019-2022.
“I was homeschooled since I was a kid, so I’ve always enjoyed an alternative, active way of learning. Growing up in a rural, sustainable community has been a huge part of who I am, and I feel like everything in my life has revolved around it. Applying to EARTH was a natural next step for me,” Kumsa added. “It would be so incredible to go there for college, learning with people from all over the world who share my passion.”
If you or someone you know would like to experience the robust multiculturalism, sustainable agriculture and pura vida way at EARTH, please contact our Study Abroad Office.