Take nothing, but pictures; Leave nothing, but footprints

By Alex Isa, Memorial University, Trip Participant, Pavones, Costa Rica, May 2016

I was asked to write a post about my experience in Costa Rica with SOS and try to put it into a small blog entry. This is probably one of the hardest things I have had to write and I’ll try to explain why:

I jumped into this project without really knowing what I was signing myself into. As far as I was concerned, I was flying to Costa Rica with some people from other universities and building a classroom for a primary school. The thing is that there was so much more to this trip that no amount of information sessions would have prepared me for. Before I left on this trip, I found the following quote by the Dalai Lama; (I’ll get back to it later) “We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”

Before we left, the community held a small ceremony to thank us for our work. The foreman tried to give a thank you speech and 5 words in, he started to cry. It was at this moment that I truly realized the impact of our work and that’s when I remembered the quote I read, it finally hit me; how something we might have taken for granted can affect so many people in so many positive ways. I went to Costa Rica with a group of strangers and I came back with a group of people I’d be happy to call my family. To me, SOS is not just about volunteering, it’s about life experiences and seeing what this world has to offer. Would I do this again? Definitely. To quote a fond friend of mine: “”Take nothing, but pictures; leave nothing, but footprints.” I can’t say I completely agree. I took away with me memories and friendships; I left behind ungratefulness and the old me.”

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