Corps Group Builds Bridges in Community

March 26, 2004

BUILDING bridges is what the Rainforest Conservation Corps is all about. Recently it set to building some between cultures and over Costa Rica’s rainforest streams.

Conservation Corps programs have existed in the United States since the 1930s. Today, corps programs exist in 30 states and focus on providing job training and high school completion for youth considered to be “at-risk.”

The Rainforest Conservation Corps joined forces with Cooprena RL, a Costa Rican cooperative of small rural ecotourism ventures, to give these youth the opportunity to put their talents to work helping communities in Costa Rica develop their ecotourism infrastructure.

“Everyone was so welcoming – we were invited to participate in all of the community activities and really learned a lot about Costa Rican culture,” said Lizzy, a 17-year-old corps member from Vermont.

THE team included youth from all parts of the United States. Two were from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, two from the Serve Alaska Youth Corps, one from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and two from Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho Workforce program. A wilderness firefighter came from WashingtonState, and a Rotary scholar came from Seattle, Washington. The team built four 20-foot span bridges on a trail near the small town of El Silencio, near Quepos on the central Pacific coast.

“It was great to have a group of volunteers with the technical skills that were really needed in the communities; they built some great bridges that will help the communities develop sustainable income from tourism,” said Luisa Montijn from Cooprena RL.

PROJECT director Steve Boisvert said he was pleased with the results as well.

“The program opened opportunities for volunteering in Costa Rica to young people who have come from challenging situations in their own lives,” he said.

“Until now, international volunteer programs have served primarily middle and upper middle-class students who can afford to pay the fees associated with such programs. I am excited about developing future projects in Costa Rica.”

To learn more about the Rainforest Conservation Corps, see www. communitycollaborations.org.

 

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