Pura Vida

Pura Vida: it’s kind of like the “aloha” of Costa Rica, it can mean anything from a hello to a goodbye, just a general phrase or literally the pure/ happy life. I think I found a deeper understand and meaning of this phrase with my time on the Shell Shock trip. Without cell phones, mirrors, technology and other obnoxious amounts of materialistic things we found out what it feels like to live the pure and happy life, a simple one and one we all need and should experience, especially at the speed of modernity right now. If people there in Costa Rica can be the happiest in the world without all of this then we can be too. They radiate genuine warmth for you and all those around them and carry actual conversations which reflects into the passion and respect they have for the environment and their work as well. We indeed left kind of as awkward strangers but came back as a laughing, smiling and educated family. If we take a step back from all this mental stimulation just for a moment when can become more conscientious and aware of what we do to the environment or how we can come to love it.

I didn’t really know what was happening to the turtles before this trip. I know the basics of what you hear about their disappearance and under-population but never understood the magnitude or its effects. Not only does the sea turtle affect the ecosystem but the people who live in their nesting communities. Who would have thought that the turtles are so important to the little town of Ostional whether it is for economic or cultural reasons. These little turtles and eggs and their endangerment cycles into a larger circle because each drastic and unnatural change to the turtles changes something else and it all snowballs into one problem. You might not think this little turtle or egg affects and it’s easy to hide in that mindset and philosophy but I think we learned that the world does not work this way.

The turtles were so majestic yet fragile and the people who worked with protecting them daily really seemed to be connected with them and I really respect that. Some worked almost as volunteers or could have retired but didn’t because it was just a love they deep in their inner core. I never really knew that the eggs were so valuable to poachers and how many obstacles as it is that the turtles have to overcome to actually get the water once they are born. If we work to eliminate the need for poaching and other obstacles such as garbage and overheating that we humans unnaturally created, then we could increase their populations to standard amounts. This trip made me realize so many things whether it was social justice related, personal or about Lafayette but it has been one of my best experiences so far and I will always reflect upon it. Pura vida y me encanta las tortugas y mi grupa y Costa Rica!!

Until Next Time?


Barbara here again. Sorry for the late post loyal followers of the ASB Hope Is Vital blog site, but due to a the forecast of snow, our team left on Friday night instead of Saturday morning, so we didn’t get a chance to blog. But have no fear. Here we go…

Friday was our last day at Community Servings. We all are humbled by how much the organization needs volunteers and how much we were able to help by being there. At the end of our four day service, our team managed to help prepare 2950 meals for the clients at Community Servings! That’s a big deal for me. I think what was even more inspiring is how many of the volunteers have been coming for years, 5 days a week, for 8 hours a day and are able to feed so many families. My team has the privilege of calling what we doing for 4 days ‘community service’, yet many of these volunteers have made Community Service a part of their lives. It’s no longer service for them, but just another day. Which is absolutely amazing and a place I hope everyone on my team, including me, gets to at some point in their lives.

Speaking of my team, I am amazed at how much my team was able to come together. We had a few hiccups along the way. We’ve had deep conversations in which we didn’t always see eye to eye, but we also had amazing inside jokes, stories, and a great time in Boston. We spoke about race, class, gender, sex, and so much more. I am proud that we felt comfortable enough with each other to ask deep questions and even comfortable enough to disagree. Our learning partner was imperative to how well this trip turned out and I just wanted to give a quick shout-out!

So, loyal readers, I’m sure you’re familiar with this part of the post. Here’s hashtag time:

#trollingforhipsters #Where’stheparty #thisisrealgold #notforfacebook #freeEmily #thatfalsettothough #whenindoubt #straddleitout #Frankieisapuppy #weonlyhave$313 #sobecareful #youdoyoudude #barbaraisafacist #justsayingisallI’msaying #vamanos #you’refired #Emilyisapanda #caseytheselfiequeen #everyoneissosassy #speakingtoFrenchdudes #thedishroomisnojoke #don’trunforthetrain #whereistamar #ASBBoston #hopeisvital #HostelingInternational #communityservings

Hoe you enjoyed reading!


Thank You!

This morning I visited a whole new world inside of Community Servings! This special place is known to most as the dishwashing room. In our first couple of days I worked in the professional kitchen chopping onions and in the volunteer kitchen packing everthything from soup to dessert. But, now I found myself washing dishes along with two other volunteers, one of which was my group memeber Casey. I got to scrub chicken fat off of baking sheets using a paint scrapper, something that one of the ladies volunteering said “at least this will make your foremarms big and strong” which it definatly did. As bad as it may sound to be scrubing hard crystalized chicken fat off of a baking sheet, I don’t think it was too bad being that I only did it for a little while and once this entire week. I was especially understanding after I found out some information about Daniel, one of the workers in the dishwashing room. Daniel commutes about two hours everyday to work at Community Servings, inside of the dishwashing room, often by himself. So he gets to scrub chicken fat, pie crusts and dried gumbo off of pots and pans all day long, sometimes taking shifts with others. When asked about why he does this arduous work he replied that he does it because he knows that the work he is doing means the world to the clientele of Community Servings. One of the cooks admitted “the dishwashing room is the heart of Community Servings and without it the whole operation wouldn’t work”. Therefore, I would like to say thank you to Daniel and the others who work at Community Servings doing what has to be done to make sure Community Servings can operate as smoothly as it does and operate at all.

Hope is Vital – Serving is simply being human

As I am trying to summarize what I have been doing and feeling this week, an amazing quote by Gandhi comes to my mind. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”, he said. I have been soul searching a lot recently, and being a part of Hope is Vital team has been such a great experience! As you know, we are working with Community Servings to prepare food for the critically ill population around Boston area. We have already spent three days doing service, and although at the end of the day I often feel tired, I am glad that I get to make a difference in someone else’s life. To be able to help others is a privilege, and I would love to continue doing so. These days I have been thinking and learning a lot about larger issues such as poverty, race, identity, and the value of service. I am also one of the two people that facilitate the reflection every evening, and I am quite happy with the discussions we are having. Yesterday’s reflection particularly stood out to me because we talked about the reasons why different people do service. How do we determine the value of one’s service? Is it one’s intentions, outcomes, or an interplay of different factors? I have been pondering upon these questions in my free time, and I am realizing that we, human beings are all connected in ways that are invisible to the eye but recognizable to the heart. And maybe serving is nothing but simply being human. I have had a lot of feelings and revelations this week, and the one thing I hope for after getting back to Lafayette is to be able to maintain this attitude, curiosity, and desire for a positive social change. It is incredibly easy to go back to my bubble and become comfortably numb, but it is clear to me that service is a duty that I need to accept as a moral human being.
Tomorrow is our last day of being here. I am glad that we got to see Boston too, I enjoy the atmosphere of this city. I also like how I can spend the first half of the day in the kitchen and see the Museum of Fine Arts in the second half. Even physical tiredness is okay because I feel like I have a purpose now. You can be sure that I will be talking about ASB and the lessons I learned for a long time!

Service Day 3

Day three of service and the time spent at Community Servings is still flying by. It is hard to believe that we only have one more day to spend with these wonderful people who devote so much time, energy, and emotion to others in the most graceful of ways. The word “graceful” may not be the most common adjective used in association with community service, but for me, it has become a surprising prevalent theme for this trip.

The idea was first brought up by a volunteer at Community Servings. This person volunteers most days out of the week along with working professionally in a hospice. Surprisingly, what frustrates them the most are the assumptions made by others (patients, other volunteers, outsiders, etc.) that they only do what they do because it is their job. And I understood what they were trying to say.

The golden rule states “do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” In this context, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of those we are serving, which is exactly how we spent this evening’s reflection. We discussed our own agency (in brief: ability) and thought about what our lot would be if we were HIV positive. When placing myself in the shoes of someone who receives meals from Community Servings, I would not like to feel like a charity case, a burden on society.

And that is what the volunteer was telling me. We should serve with pure intentions; not out of pity or to build our own reputations, but because we genuinely want to help people have better lives. This mindset shows through the actions of many of the workers at Community Servings. They really put thought into everything they do and can be meticulous to the point of perfection.

I am sad that tomorrow is our last day here, but have appreciated every second.

Building Homes and Friendships

We have had a successful day four here in El Salvador! Yesterday, our team split up into two groups to work on the construction of two family homes. After another long day of hard work, both groups prevailed in completing their home a day early!  During the entire construction process, I could not help but notice the positive energy and attitude Team Land of the Free has brought to Central America. Even though the sun was beaming down in the afternoon and we all were tired from swinging our hammers, I never heard a single negative comment. Having such encouraging teammates made the construction process fun and enjoyable!

My favorite part of the day was when the children of our home returned from school. The looks of excitement on their faces were priceless! I loved talking to each of them and seeing how thrilled they were picking out their rooms in the house. I also loved learning about their interests and personalities.

Not only have we built homes, but we have also developed relationships with the families. I will forever cherish the friends I have made in the community.

Making friends!

A note from Team Shell Shock!

Hi all,

We received word that some parents had called Outward Bound asking for updates about our trip. Everyone is safe and healthy (although maybe a little sunburned after a day at the beach). We landed in San Jose and made our way to base camp about an hour outside of the city. It was near the University of Costa Rica. The following morning we drove to the village, a town known for Olive Ridley turtle nests. Our days have included painting a community center and local church and learning about conservation efforts, including the obstacles turtles face trying to survive. Tonight we had the opportunity to watch turtles being released into the ocean. Tomorrow morning we will head back to base. We will spend our last day in Costa Rica ziplining and exploring the local culture. We have three Outward Bound guides and two faculty members with us at all times.

Everyone is having a fabulous time and we have formed many friendships throughout the week. We miss you and thank you immensely for allowing us to have this experience. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Pura Vida,

Team Shell Shock

P.S. We will not have Internet access after tonight

Like I Never Left

Hello everyone,

Barbara here. Today was our team’s first day of service at Community Servings. This is my second year working at this amazing organization and so far, nothing’s changed. And I mean this as a very high compliment. The chefs are still extremely talented and devoted to making nutritious and delicious food. The volunteers are still hopeful, excited, hospitable, and helpful. The mission is still the same: delivering nutritious and tasty meals to families living with chronic illnesses. I am so glad to be back!

We began our first day of service with the volunteer orientation. Our team learned how important washing our hands were as many of Community Servings clients have suppressed immune systems and so any contact with bacteria or germs could potentially result in a client’s hospitalization or death. We learned the importance an organization like Community Servings has in the community. Many of the volunteers Our team spent the entire day slicing, dicing, plating, scoping, packaging, washing, you name it! We realized just how much thought gets put into feeding these families. I was on the assembly line packaging a meal of chicken cacciatore, mashed potatoes, and vegetables and I remember that we would wipe the containers so that they were clean and aesthetically appealing, which reminded me that actual families are eating these meals and we should treat them with the respect they deserve.

Today reminded me a lot of cultural assumptions about those who receive free food or services and assumption that they will be glad to get ANYTHING (the sort of beggars can’t be choosers scenario). Community Servings reminded me that retaining the dignity of those we serve is fundamentally in service work. We should not come in with the attitude that those we serve should be appreciative of whatever we give them. Rather Community Servings helps me realize that I am working to benefit someone else, and I should think about their wants ad desires, not the other way around. I’m reminded of what serving the community means to me: understanding what the community needs and working to provide what community members need in tandem with the community. I am super excited about continuing to do just that with Community Servings for the next couple of days.

Till some other time!

Hope Is Vital: Day One at Community Servings

Today was the first day of our service here in Boston with our community partner, Community Servings. The organization works to feed individuals with life altering illnesses and their families in many parts of Massachusetts. We were welcomed the second we entered the Community Servings building, as our group is volunteering at a time during the year in which the organization is low on volunteers. After a short volunteer orientation explaining the rules of the kitchen and a little more about the organization, we were eager to get on our gloves, aprons, and hair nets to start our service in the kitchen.

Our team was split up into all sorts of tasks from cutting vegetables, to packaging salads, and assembling full meals to be deliver to people in Boston and neighboring areas. I feel that even in just one day, we were able to see the process of assembling ingredients into delicious meals to be sent out to thousands of clients in need. All of the work put into making these meals was very careful and I could definitely see that the workers truly enjoyed and cared about the final product. We were also able to have amazing conversations with various people who worked and volunteered at Community Servings. Each of the grouup members heard life stories about why they worked here or about their families. It was an amazing feeling having what were strangers at the beginning of the day open up to us so much. Our day wasn’t filled with constant seriousness and reflection, as we had many laughs with fellow volunteers and workers as if we had known each other for years.

I am very eager and excited to be waking up bright and early tomorrow morning to have another long, but fun day at Community Servings. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week unfolds.