Putting the finishing touches on a great summer of community volunteer projects
As summer in the US begins to wrap up, so does the “high season” of community volunteers here at CREAR. Our final three volunteer groups touched down in Samara at the end of July/beginning of August. Although summer was winding down, there was still plenty of work for the volunteers to take on and these kids did so with great enthusiasm.
One group of volunteers was assigned to the Samara Municipal Park where the weekly farmer’s market is held. Our contacts at the market told us that they wanted more benches built so people could sit and enjoy the buzz of the market while enjoying a cup of coffee or an empanada. Beatriz and Lucia from the market helped to connect us with someone who was selling wooden planks that we could use to build these benches. Before we were able to start building and installing the benches, there was a lot of cleanup that needed to take place. The ground was covered with fallen branches and coconuts that had not been disposed of properly. A large colony of biting ants did not discourage the brave volunteer group; they fearlessly took to the task and began removing the organic trash and splitting coconuts for the compost pile. When the volunteers went to relocate the fallen branches a rich patch of nutrient dense topsoil was revealed and we began thinking of how to use this in the project. By the end of day one the park was looking clean and the materials needed for the benches had been delivered.
Our hardworking volunteers came back on day two with a great attitude ready to continue working. Many hands make for fast work so the saying goes; and this group proved this to be true. After just 90 minutes or so, six benches had been constructed and set in the ground. Another crew of workers had constructed a small garden in front of the bathroom where the topsoil could go to use. The group had earned a break and they snacked on pineapple and watermelon before heading back to start painting the benches.
The pace at which this group was working made it difficult to keep them occupied. We would task one group with a job and by the time we returned to check on their progress the job would be finished. Our community projects foreman, Jose, worked hard to find tasks for the group, but their excellent effort made it tough to keep them busy for any longer than a few minutes. Of all the problems to have on a job site, workers who are too motivated is one of the better problems to come across! This group did great work at the Samara park and all market goers and vendors are thankful for their work.
The final two groups of the summer arrived in August and it was time to place the finishing touches on all the previous projects from earlier in the summer. Day 1 saw a large group of volunteers helping with projects here at CREAR. The fence which separates our space from the busy street needed a fresh coat of anti-corrosive paint so the group split itself into smaller teams to start working on that. Meanwhile, other volunteers started looking at potential ways to repair the long broken tire-swing. The tire-swing (graciously built for us by Travel for Teens volunteers in 2019) is a crowd favorite amongst our students at CREAR and their love for the swing was ultimately what proved to be its downfall. After countless ups and downs, and even more spinning, the rope which supported the swing had completely frayed through. Our volunteers found a way to hang a new rope and protect it with a rubber garden hose to extend the lifespan of the swing. In addition to the fence and the tire-swing, another group of volunteers was helping to clean the wall where we planned to create a mural with the families of our CREAR students. Armed with bleach spray and metal brushes, the volunteers put in a fair amount of elbow grease to get years of elemental wear off the wall.
After attacking day one, we split the groups on day two. One team ventured out to Matapalo park to add finishing touches to the project that was started in July. The other group stayed here at CREAR working on other tasks around our space. Our mural area was clean but it needed to be primed before our families could start painting so the volunteers began to add coats of primer to the wall. Meanwhile, other hands took to painting the recently repaired tire-swing so that it matched the rest of our classroom space. Things were going well at Matapalo as well and the group was able to install more tables and benches where families can relax while their kids play. Day two of this project was also a great success as we were able to wrap up the Matapalo project while also adding a splash of color to our CREAR space.
Day three saw our volunteers getting out into the community in a different way. Lucia, our programs manager, helped us out by hosting a chat about micro-plastics and marine debris. Following the chat, the volunteers broke into two groups and went out into the community to collect plastic trash and debris before it got to the ocean. The group returned to CREAR a few hours later with more than a half dozen bags full of recyclable debris and general trash. The Samara community is very thankful for this work and all the efforts to keep our neighborhood and ocean clean. In the afternoon the second volunteer group returned to CREAR and put a final coat of primer on the mural wall. They were able to finish their work early and spent the rest of the afternoon playing soccer and volleyball with our CREAR students. It’s always wonderful to see the cultural exchange that goes on when students get to play with one another. Even despite the language barrier, children are always able to communicate through the language of play.
Thanks to Travel for Teens for priming this wall! We were able to create a beautiful mural with our CREAR families.
Our community volunteer program has been a vital part of CREARs operations for many years now. The groups who come to help us do so much, not only for CREAR, but for the entire Samara community. If you would like to volunteer with CREAR, please consult our website and we would love to help you organize a memorable experience here in Playa Samara!
By Lucas C. Mozingo