SELAL Update Spring 2019

SELAL students and facilitators from the Uvita and Puerto Jimenez programs enjoying the first SELAL get together.

April 2019
SELAL continues to build connections
K. Dennis

We would like to thank our wonderful collaborators who provide talks, workshops, tours, funds, and supplies, so that our program can continue to impact youth in the region. A special thanks to the Puerto Jimenez Professional Technical High School, the Uvita High School, and Kabe International Academy for the use of their facilities. 

The SELAL team has gotten stronger with the inclusion of local assistant coordinators Marcela Sequeira (Uvita) and Alina Oporta (Puerto Jimenez). They did an outstanding job helping Erika Sibaja and Arlet Quiros (SELAL’s local coordinators) manage the programs and further build community connections! We also involved previous SELAL participants as interns/leaders. They took on many of the responsibilities previously held by Stanford interns, including providing talks and fun high-energy activities. These changes are part of the process to continue working towards institutionalizing SELAL, with our Costa Rican counterparts in greater leadership roles and having stronger community involvement. In the upcoming months we are also working on transferring programming to the SOMOS Foundation, a new nonprofit foundation based in Bahia Ballena - Uvita that will manage the SELAL programs while Stanford remains in an advisory role. 

During the intensive two-week program in January we also had our first SELAL get together! It was great to see everyone together! Participants from Uvita traveled to Puerto Jimenez for a day of fun activities, English practice, self-reflection, and skill-building. Arlet describes, “for the majority of participants, this was their favorite day. For them, it’s fundamental to partake in new experiences, conquer their fears of meeting new people, and see that others have similar obstacles and concerns.” We saw the students engage in constructive ways to cultivate friendships and exchange profound experiences with each other. We hope to have another get together this year in Uvita to build on these relationships among future community leaders! 

The two-week program in January was overall filled with a wide range of learning opportunities. Arlet says some of the highlights of the Puerto Jiménez program relate to community outreach activities. “In January, SELAL was filled with community-based activities; participants had the opportunity to carry out cleanup efforts in and around Puerto Jimenez, paint signs (about recycling) at the Community Center, spend time playing with senior citizens, visit the El Remanso Hotel, and even enjoy a talk by Osa Conservacion on conservation and reforestation. In Uvita, students were equally busy. Erika notes that, “The first days we explored tools for self-motivation and raised awareness on the ‘way of the hero’,” we worked on establishing goals and how each decision along the way matters when we are working towards achieving a goal. We evaluated the support resources available at both the community and the macro levels, as well as employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.”

These types of activities strengthen leadership skills, expose students to community needs and how to address them, and get them thinking critically about issues related to sustainability and ecotourism. In both locations, students practiced their English language skills daily with fun and real-world lessons led by Errett Pusey in Uvita and Allison Weiner in Puerto Jimenez. At the end of the two-week program students graduated “proud of their efforts and confident in the benefits to come,” said Erika.

During the school year, students in both communities will continue to participate in activities that provide them opportunities for personal growth and community engagement to, as Arlet states, “to leave the positive impact of their actions in the community.” We will also be in touch with the private sector in the districts where we work to share with them the opportunity to continue to support the program by donating their time, funds, and other resources to the youth involved in the program. 

We look forward to the next two-week intensive program in July!