I’m doubling back now to stories from the beginning of my trip…

In San Jose, there’s a guy named Ronald with a big heart. Every Wednesday he travels to impoverished and dangerous areas of the city giving out meals to anyone who comes with empty hands. He works with an outreach group called Christ for the City. From time to time, the Abraham Project works with this group.

On one of these trips, a bunch of us from the project volunteered to help out.

The morning of our volunteer day, we sat in folding chairs in a semi-circle at the Christ for the City headquarters. After some background about how the cycle of poverty has affected Costa Ricans, Ronald (through Caleb translating) told us what we should expect on the trip. He emphasized, especially to me, safety precautions we needed to take. These neighborhoods we’d be visiting were riddled with drug wars, prostitution and child exploitation. If the situation, for whatever reason, started to deteriorate, we had to pack up lightning fast and get the heck out of there.

Packing Up

Packing Up

Ronald told me that I could only use my tripod in the first neighborhood. All of the rest were too dangerous: using the tripod would make it too easy for someone to come and grab it from me. Brian, one of the interns from the project, came along with the sole mission to be my equipment bodyguard. At 6′ 3″, 200 lbs, he fit the bill. He hovered within a few feet of me at all times.

The rest of our group was assigned a job. Colleen was on salad, Laureen did rice, Mary scooped beans, and Julie poured juice. When all was done, we had served over 1,000 people that day.

Laureen & Mary serving food.

Laureen & Mary serving food.

Everyone getting in line.

Everyone getting in line.

Schoolgirls

Schoolgirls

Ticos care a great deal about their appearance. These girls above seem fairly decently dressed, right?

Image is so important that it often trumps hunger. The woman sitting next to you on the bus may have her hair done up and her nails both manicured and pedicured, but you can’t know for sure when her she’s eaten her last meal.

Seeing these people and kids in this kind of poverty was a definite first for me. This wasn’t your run of the mill group of Chicago homeless men or “South Side” bad area. This was like something out of Slumdog Millionaire. The corrugated metal-clad shacks tumbled over hills into the far distance. Stray dogs sidled in and around kids’ legs, straining for the smallest morsel. Gurgling brown water ran down the edges of the dirt roads, trash floating along in tow.

If only these kids could get a real education, have a mentor… anything. It was the kind of place that made you feel helpless. Made you think how silly it was to “have-to-have” those matching IKEA throw pillows. Made me want to persuade every single friend and family member to take their next vacation/trip to Costa Rica and help out at the Abraham project. These are the kind of children that the project is helping – kids from these terrible neighborhoods.

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If you went, I can guarantee that it would be one of the most unforgettable and wonderful experiences you’ll ever have.

See all of the photos from this day here.

The Crew

The Crew