With her own two hands: The story of Esmeralda Chaves

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: March 24th, 2021

To build a house, one must first clear the land, dig the necessary holes and ditches, and lay the foundation. Then, the floor is installed, the walls are raised, and the roof is added. Esmeralda Chaves, with her own two hands, built the house in which she lives. She did it all by herself out of necessity – but also out of an understanding that anything is possible when you are driven to achieve it.

Portrait of Esmeralda

Portrait of Esmeralda

Chaves has been working at EARTH University for 11 years. She spent the first nine of those at EARTH’s Organic Farm, where she groomed pastures, cultivated cacao, and performed everyday maintenance. That experience taught her invaluable skills, including how to fix – and build – almost anything.

Currently, she works at EARTH’s Livestock Farm, where she manages to milk more than 60 large dairy cows and tend to 27 needy calves daily. She inspires other women to shatter stereotypes, transcend stigmas, and command respect in any space and at any task.

“Someone once told me that I have two hands, two eyes, and two legs just like any man. Maybe I don’t have the same physical strength, but I do have the same intelligence to solve challenges,” Chaves says. “I think we must encourage ourselves to learn to do everything and to do it well.”

Esmeralda works at EARTH’s Livestock Farm

Esmeralda works at EARTH’s Livestock Farm

Even as a child in metropolitan San José, Chaves dreamed of a life in the rural countryside. At 16, she saw her dream become reality when she and her family moved to Pocora, a community near EARTH’s Guácimo Campus. Since then, she has been working outdoors, connected to the land and to life.

Chaves says she is unable to imagine herself living anywhere else, doing anything else. Nothing would nourish her more than toiling in the field and making daily discoveries in the University’s multicultural environment. She works closely with EARTH students, with whom she enjoys opportunities for mutual learning and lively conversation.

Chaves exemplifies continuous self-improvement. Although she lacked the money to hire laborers to help with the construction, she always trusted her own abilities. Piece by piece, her house ended up taking four years to be built – during which she had to divide her time among several competing priorities.

As the students, she uses a bike to move around the campus

As the students, she uses a bike to move around the campus

“The house was a project of years of effort and sacrifice,” Chaves adds. “I worked at EARTH from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., then I dedicated three hours a day to home construction, and finally I attended night school classes.”

 Chaves also parents a teenage girl, to whom she seeks to give every opportunity to dream, be educated, and grow as a person.

During the month of March, in which the world commemorates women, their countless accomplishments, and their valiant struggles, we wish to thank Esmeralda for demonstrating devotion in every project, inspiring us to dream without limits, and teaching us that using one’s own two hands can make anything possible.


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