Community Health Major Enjoys Volunteering Trip to Costa Rica
Anthony Castro wanted an adventure that would add meaning to his life and he recently found it in the Central American nation of Costa Rica, as a volunteer in a childcare center.
Castro, a senior majoring in Community Health Education, paid his own way to be of assistance to children as part of his desire to grow as a student and as a human being. He spent a week helping in a child care project called Rayito de Luz.
The center, according to Castro, provides housing, care, and food for working single mothers and their children. The children, ages 0 to 13 years – thrived on the added attention.
“They need your care, attention, and companionship while their mothers are working,” said Castro, who collected donations from local shops and was able to take coloring books, pottery for plants, first aid kits, and school supplies for the daycare.
Not surprisingly, he fell in love with his young charges, especially the six-month old boy with the bothersome malady.
“The caregivers told me that he had hiccups, which had him crying all day,” said Castro. “But when I arrived for my shift and picked him up his tears and hiccups went away.”
Castro added that the center tried everything to pacify the crying infant but he remained irritable.
“I felt that the baby just needed the presence of a father figure in his life,” he said. “As soon as I held him, and wiped his tears, he fell asleep on my chest to the lullaby of my heartbeat. I feel so honored to have been through this experience; because, just that little care and attention that I could give to these children really taught me to value life more.”
The experience reinforced Castro’s long-term goal. When he graduates from York he wants to pursue a Masters in Social Work (MSW) focusing on clinical practice with Individuals and Families.
“Every time I went to that daycare I thought about an old saying,” said Castro. “I kept thinking about it: 'A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty'”
The mild-mannered Castro, who is of Dominican background, says he kept very busy in Costa Rica. Every morning after breakfast he would board first one bus, then another, for the long up-hill trip to the job site where he would care for the children for hours then embark on the return trip of another hour and a half. He also enjoyed mingling with the locals.
“People in Costa Rica were so amazing and their different forms of Spanish dialect were amazing,” he said. “One thing they also say is, ‘PURA VIDA,’ which means, ‘enjoy life.’ They live a relaxed life at all times and everyone is family oriented.”
He so enjoyed “giving back” that Castro now plans to return to Costa Rica “for new endeavors.” He will be volunteering in an occupational training center for autistic adults next year. He will also be working with the local staff in arranging workshops on cooking, handcrafts and various other activities “to allow the participants to lead full and rewarding lives.”
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