San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beach Hotel Gives Back to the Community

ISLITA, Guanacaste – Parents inthe town of Islita, on the Pacific side ofthe Nicoya Peninsula, have one less thingto worry about each morning as they getready for work.Anew daycare center – the first in theregion – built using funds donated by anon-profit foundation created by theowners of nearby Hotel Punta Islita isnow taking care of area children and givingthem a head start in their education.The center, inaugurated last month, isthe result of a joint effort by theVillafranca- Zürcher Foundation, whichwas founded by the hotel owners, and thegovernment’s Mixed Institute for SocialAid (IMAS).THE foundation provided the fundsto build the daycare center and equip itwith cots, cribs, books, videos and educationaltoys, while IMAS trained thethree women who are now in charge ofoperating the center.The center can accommodate 12 childrenbetween four monthsand four years of age,between 6:30 a.m. and4:30 p.m. The cost of thedaycare services is subsidized,so parents payaccording to their means.“It’s not often we findbusiness people who wantto collaborate with thecommunity in this way,”said Gladis Dávila, regionalmanager of IMAS forthe northwestern provinceof Guanacaste. “The Hotelhas contributed its grain of sand by helpingthe family’s communities.”EDUARDO Villafranca, generalmanager of Hotel Punta Islita and one ofthe founders of the foundation, sees thedaycare center as a way to give back tothe community.“The community is an important priorityfor us,” he explained. “The communityhas many needs, the most urgent ofwhich is education. After resolving thebasic issues, such as water, we beganworking on an integral education project.”The foundation is based on three principles– social assistance, caring for natureand fostering the arts, Villafranca said.As part of its social commitments, thefoundation is working on various projectsto improve local schools. It hasworked to improve preschool services inIslita and nearby communities, andhelped make it possible for local schoolsto provide much-needed English andcomputer science courses, he said.THE organization also plans to beginassisting the local high school in thenearby town of Coyote.The foundation plans to train teachersto teach tourism-related courses to students.That way, high-school graduates inthe region will have experience and trainingin an area where they can find workor start their own business.The foundation is also providingSteven Ruíz, a local resident who workedfor the hotel, with financial assistancethat makes it possible for him to live hislifelong dream of attendinguniversity in San Joséto study digital animation.“They’re helpingmany. They’ve come tohelp us and give us newopportunities,” Ruízexplained. “Everyone intown is grateful. Wedepend on them.”The community’senvironment is also welltaken care of. Last month,Islita’s beach was awardedthe Blue Flag, which commemoratesthe cleanliness of the beachand nearby ocean.AS part of the foundation’s commitmentto fostering the arts, acclaimed Ticopainter Ricardo Ávila was brought onboard to paint the outside of the daycarecenter.Ávila said he didn’t have to thinkmuch about how to paint the daycare center.He took most of his inspiration fromwhat he saw in Islita, he said.Hotel Punta Islita has promoted thearts in Islita for several years now. Most ofthe pueblo’s houses and commercial establishmentsare painted in bold primary colors.Sparkly signs in the shape of lollipops,half-moons and spirals line the bumpyroad that crosses the town and leads to theluxury hotel (TT, Dec. 6, 2002).“I found what the other artists hadpainted interesting,” Ávila said.Having found his inspiration, Ávilagot to work and unleashed his perspiration– he worked for two days straight in theoverpowering heat and humidity of Islita.“The best ideas happen when onedoesn’t think about them,” he explained.“I liked it because I didn’t have to thinkabout it. The true artist does things withoutthinking too much about them.”

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