Having always loved visiting and exploring new places, I knew what a treat I was in for when I was presented with the amazing opportunity to be a part of an international cooperation stay in Costa Rica,” says Emma Medjovic, an International Development and Globalization undergraduate student of the University of Ottawa. Indeed, this past March, Emma spent a short yet memorable week with Green Communities, an NGO that focuses on helping local communities as well as the environment.
“Prior to this stay, I wasn’t exactly the type of person to constantly think about the environment and how my daily actions affect the world around me. I had never been exposed to the reality of it,” confesses Emma. However, she attributes her new-found understanding to her experience in learning about environmental awareness in a small Costa Rican village, while at the same time volunteering in and contributing to helping a local community that prides itself in being eco-friendly.
Emma went on this stay as part of a group that included 20 other individuals with the same passion for local and global community engagement. “I would say that integrating with Costa Rican families played an immensely special role in the overall adventure we had. It gave us a brief glimpse into their lifestyle, which is so different from mine,” affirms Emma. “It was an incredible thing to have had the chance to help these same families with projects in their community, such as applying fertilizer on coffee farms that support sustainable development, and thus support their local economy, as well as building roads with cement we mixed ourselves.”
For Emma and her group, their actions may not have seemed like a lot, but it certainly had a big impact on the community. “On one of the volunteering days, we all worked together on an organic coffee farm to help fertilize the soil,” states Emma. “After a few hours of hard work, I remember our program leader telling us about how much this truly helps them. He said that on a regular day for them when there would normally have been only a small number of people working, which makes the job so much harder.” Emma couldn’t even imagine accomplishing the same amount of work without the other 20 students that she was with, let alone with fewer than a handful of other people. This certainly speaks volumes about how each group of volunteers genuinely helps in these communities.
Emma’s overwhelming desire to return, combined with the need to share her experience with others, is what led Emma to contact Green Communities about an ambassador position. She’s currently planning another international cooperation group trip in May 2018. And she’s convinced her next experience will be just as special as the first one. “This is why I’m here sharing my story,” she says, “in the hopes that others will read this and decide to take part in a truly life-altering experience of their own.”
It’s undeniable that Emma’s experience was a fulfilling and educational one, but, thinking back, she wonders what she can do differently the second time. “Personally, the trip was pretty perfect and I loved every second of it, but one thing I do wish I could have done is have more conversations with the Costa Ricans we had the pleasure of being with.” Although Emma is lucky to have been able to speak Spanish with a few people from the communities, she also wishes she had had more confidence when speaking in their language. That way, she could have learned more about their personal day-to-day lives and would have been able to hear more of the interesting stories these people have to share.
If you’d like more information on Green Communities or any of the programs they offer, visit the Green Communities website. If you’re interesting in being a part of the week-long trip in May 2018, please email Emma.