Volunteer service trumps vacation plans for EARTH students

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: May 10th, 2013

The week of May 6-12 is a quiet one on our tropical campus. The bike racks look lonely without their companions, and lunchtime at the cafeteria is an understated affair. It’s a rare week of vacation for the students, one of the six weeks of the year that they will not have to attend class. Many choose to spend time with family, relax at the beach or take advantage of the recreational spots on campus. Some students, however, choose to volunteer with local non-profit organizations and will spend their “free” time working and researching.

Aura Bolaños

First year student and scholar of The MasterCard Foundation Aura Bolanos (‘16, Colombia) is headed to the beach, but she won’t be sipping coconuts in the shade. Aura will be part of a group of 18 EARTH students who will participate in Ecology Project International’s (EPI) Leatherback Sea Turtle Program in the Pacuare Nature Reserve. Leatherback sea turtles are a critically endangered species, and a four-mile stretch of beach along the Costa Rican Caribbean coast is one of the most important nesting grounds in the world. The volunteers will work during the day measuring turtles and nests and counting eggs, and will walk miles of beach at night looking for hatchlings and protecting them on their journey to the ocean. Only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood, and Aura is excited to help the preservation of the species. “The truth is, I’ve never even seen a live sea turtle before, but they look adorable in pictures,” she laughs. “I know that it is going to be a lot of work and research, but I’m confident that with all the things I’ve learned so far this year that I can do a good job.” When she returns to EARTH University, she will give a presentation about her experience and hopefully inspire other students to lend a hand in the future.

Miles away from the coast, in the tiny mountain community of Orosi, EARTH student David Molina (‘15, Costa Rica) is organizing a volunteer project for Mandalas Mujeres de Accion (MMUA or Mandalas Women of Action in English). David has worked with the women of MMUA since its formation in 2010, when the non-profit organization was founded to help families displaced from their homes by Hurricane Thomas. The initial goal was to empower women by giving them training and education in the production of medicinal and organic plants, in the hopes it would lead to sustainable healthy food and a source of income. In the last three years alone, the women and volunteers of MMUA have transformed the community into a destination for eco-tourists both domestic and foreign. They come to see the organic gardens where ingredients for all natural shampoos, soaps and medicines are made from traditional folk recipes handed down through generations. Many of the plants at the MMUA site are grown using donated materials and peri-urban farming techniques directly from EARTH University and our students, who have shared their knowledge on how to grow plants in a small area while using a minimal amount of resources.

MMUA volunteer group

MMUA volunteer group

This week, 23 EARTH University students, all scholars of The MasterCard Foundation, have volunteered to travel to Orosi to help construct new plant beds to increase production capacity and to view first-hand how a small sustainable business can have a big impact on a community. The scholars’ efforts will help to further the MMUA’S goals for the future, which include expanding their line of natural products and obtaining an official trademark for the brand.

With your help, EARTH students can continue to have a positive impact on our environment and our communities. Make a gift to EARTH today.

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