Los Niños

 Posted by Natalie Gilbert at 8:40 am  Costa Rica
May 062015

“Los niños” in English, means the children. “Los niños” are the reason why I came to Costa Rica to volunteer in the first place.

The Tico children (“Tico” or “Tica” means a person from Costa Rica) are beautiful and silly and they are also everywhere!
FUN FACT: Costa Rica is the only Central American country that doesn’t have an army. This is because sometime in the past (I forget the exact year), two provinces in Costa Rica went to war with each other, and after that the country was in shambles. The government then decided to no longer have an army, and to use that money to further fund the education system and the children of Costa Rica. Because of this, Costa Rica is also the only Central American country in which there are no children begging for money in the streets.

So when I say the Tico children are everywhere, I mean there are families with children everywhere. I have yet to see children by themselves, unless they are in school or waiting at the bus stop to go to school.

I am volunteering in a place called Centro de Educación Especial de Atención Integral Goicoecha, which in English, roughly translates to the Center of Special Education and Integrated Attention in Guadalupe. It is a small school that helps children with physical developmental disabilities from the ages of 0 months to 21 years old. This center is filled with the sounds of the children and is covered with color from floor to ceiling. If you didn’t know that it was a center for Special Education, you would think it was a typical elementary school.

But the work that is being done here is the farthest thing from typical, the work here is amazing! The patience of the doctors and therapists that work individually with these children is unbelievable. Although I can’t understand every word that the therapists say to me, I can understand that they love their work.The children that are getting help at this center are very smart and very happy. I’ve only been working for a few days and I can already see progress in kids that I’ve seen more than once- I can’t imagine the progress you would see working here full-time!

Obviously there is a language barrier. None of the staff at this school speak English, so we mostly communicate with an elementary level of Spanish- the level I can understand and speak. We also use hand gestures and props, which they probably find taxing but what can you do! This brings me to my first lunch break with the women who work here. About half way through their shift, 5 or 6 women, plus me, get our lunch and sit outside at a picnic table. On my first day, I sat down not knowing what to expect from our “tiempo del almuerzo” (lunchtime). All of the sudden, the ladies started gabbing and gossiping so quickly that I’m pretty sure my head was actually spinning around its axis. I am pretty sure they were talking about dieting and the other doctors that work here, but I could be way off.

Imagine me sitting there, wide-eyed, with a dumb smile on my face, and nodding every once in while.

After lunch, the Occupational Therapist that I’m shadowing, Laura, apologized to me for her and her friends speaking so quickly. I laughed and then all of a sudden forgot how to say “It’s alright”…. “Es bien.” is what I was looking for.


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