This year we focused our efforts in El Cocal, a community located on a small peninsula a few minutes outside of Quepos. Despite the proximity to the tourist centre of Quepos, it has a very different feel and the lifestyle of the community members is quite unique. The community itself is an isolated and partially illegal settlement, home to Costa Ricans as well as many immigrant families. Many of these people have come to Costa Rica to benefit from the political and financial stability offered, but people struggle to make ends meet unless they are able to draw an income from the foreign visitors.
The children from this community attend the school for only 4 hours a day and spend the rest of the day in the street, playing video games or watching TV. One of the aims of this project is to offer the kids a safe space where they can go to play safely and learn. Hence, we started by building a playground, then a community centre with enough space to have workshops, and space where children can play, learn about growing their own food and healthy eating habits.
At the beginning of the year, one of our volunteers, Kate, raised funds to build the first playground in El Cocal. It was completed over the course of 4 weekends and has been used non-stop since we opened it!
A Community Centre
Near the playground, we started erecting the roof for a community centre. We have been building the community centre in pieces, as funding becomes available. The roof was a key part as it provides a space to use during the rainy season. Kate also donated chairs and tables for the new space. So slowly it started coming together!
Later in the year, with the help of your donations, the El Cocal community and a group of hard working volunteers we were able to make huge progress on the community centre. A fence was put up, the ground was levelled, foundations were laid, walls were built and painted and a bathroom was fixed up.
The only access to the community is by sea. There is only one boat ramp that has been, little by little over the years, washed away by the sea. This makes it very hard for old people and people with disabilities to get up and down, especially when there is low tide. It is also very slippery and becomes dangerous for everyone. People from the community came together and rebuilt the lower part of the ramp, making it safer and increasing access!
How the projects impacted lives?
One of the biggest highlights of this year was working alongside the community and under their direction. The project was initiated by the community and they were involved in all aspects, from local fundraising to committing their time, expertise and labour to the tasks. The land where this community centre is built belongs to the community and the centre has been requested by them.
As well as GVI having access to the centre for our daily projects, the centre will also be used for weddings, meetings and festivals. It is a safe space in a healthy environment for everyone to enjoy. It also has a communal kitchen used to make and sell products. Likewise, the community centre has an outside bathroom which can be rented to the people visiting the beach. In addition, the community centre aims to also be an example of sustainable organic agriculture, starting by having a compost area, local products and then have the people replicating it in their backyards!
What’s on the cards for 2017?
We want to focus on using this centre to help members of the community to make a living. We aim to do this by improving the kitchen facilites, planting and nurturing an organic garden and renting out the bathroom to beach goers. We also want to get our healthy breakfast club off the ground for the local children.
We hope that you will continue to support our work and our commitment to the community of El Cocal in 2017.
Thank you for your incredible generosity in 2016. We would not have been able to make such huge progress without your kind support.
We wish you a happy festive season and a prosperous new year.