We had a lot to live up to after a great first trip last year in Cambodia, and our Costa Rica trip knocked it out of the park this week with a very impactful MC Gives Back experience. Partnering again with Young Life, we began working on this annual initiative in February, only to finally see the results of the planning become a reality this week. And what a week it was!
Prior to heading out to Costa Rica, a small group of us arrived early and worked with our video partner, 31Films, in Houston to record footage for an upcoming Maintenance Connection commercial. We met the rest of the team in Dallas on Friday the 21st eager to complete our travels to San Jose, Costa Rica so we could get to work. We all boarded the plane, waited on the ground for nearly an hour, then received an unwelcome announcement indicating the flight was being cancelled due to recent strikes by airline workers. The pilot did not show up for work that day. We then spent another three hours at the ticket counter trying to figure out how to transport 17 Americans to Costa Rica – not an easy task. We finally ended up shuttling to a nearby hotel red-eyed and distraught, but prepared for a very early morning flight to continue our travels. We chalked up day one to a “character building day”, and realized later in the week that these challenges would bring our team very close together.
The Saturday flight to Costa Rica was uneventful, but incredible to fly over amazing islands, oceans, and clouds to our final destination to meet our Young Life hosts. Randall and Sharon could not have been better hosts. We were greeted with warmth and welcomed into the country with quite a feast. Since we’d lost a day of work, we all wanted to make our way to the project site where we’d be working to replace a roof for a family in a barrio called Granadilla. This was one of the highlights of our trip listening to the Granados family tearfully share their gratitude for our willingness to spend the week with them and provide the resources to meet this important need in their lives. Little did we all know, we’d be the ones thanking them at the end of the week for so many lessons they taught us.
We met the Granados’ 13-year-old son, Christopher, when he joined Randall and Sharon picking us up from the airport. We made our best attempts in broken “Spanglish” to learn about him and his family, but quickly made a connection that would continue throughout the week. His name was lost in translation when they explained that they call him “topher”. However, members of our team heard “Delfin” (Spanish for dolphin), and that new nickname stuck for the remainder of the week. This was just the beginning of a great personal connection our team would make with the family.
The Grandos family recently learned that the father has late stage lung cancer. While doctor bills pile up, one of the oldest sons works to provide for the family and their humble home. The family of six lives in very close quarters in a home they have pieced together over 20 years from materials they have gathered from the neighborhood, and they take great pride in the little that they have. Delfin’s room is situated just above the bathroom with makeshift plywood flooring and walls, accessed by a wooden ladder. Not only that, but his room is smaller than a closet in most American homes. The walls and roof open to the wind and rain from above, and part of this project would be to make his living space a little more comfortable. This was incredibly eye opening for our team to see such happiness and warmth in the midst of an environment where most of us could not fathom living.
During the first part of the week, we all got our hands dirty working with two of the older Granados brothers to construct a new frame for their roof. It’s tricky to coordinate the timing of removing an old roof in the rain forest, since it rains every day. The back portion of the old roof was unfortunately pitched toward the neighbors causing the daily rain flow to pour directly toward and into their home. The neighbors were of course unhappy with this situation, but the Granados simply do not have the finances needed to make the repairs. The team worked together to clean and paint, remove old metal roof materials, and of course made time to watch a little futbol game with the Granados boys on the family’s 13″ television. Other neighborhood children couldn’t resist but to come by take a peek at the “Gringos” in their neighborhood, which then resulted in several impromptu football games (both American and Costa Rican) in the street with the MC Gives Back team. It was a lot of work, but also a ton of fun working and playing in the neighborhood of Granadilla. However, in the end, the project was completed, and the Granados family now has a roof over their heads that will last a lifetime. And Delfin now has a more comfortable place to sleep.
These trips are designed to serve a community, get our team out of their comfort zones, and use our time and talents to make a difference. We also like to take the opportunity to enjoy the country a bit, so the team was able to spend the remaining couple days at the beach, visiting the Poas Volcano, and swimming underneath a waterfall over 100 feet tall.
The trip was an amazing life experience for everyone, and helped stir up some good thoughts about how we can continue finding ways to give back when we get home. It is so easy to get used to the comforts we have in America, and sometimes it takes meeting and seeing people in another country to appreciate what we have.
On our final day, each person was able to record their thoughts about the impact of this trip. Stay tuned for a wrap-up video within the next few weeks, and enjoy the photos in the meantime. Unanimously, everyone would agree that we came with the plans to give back, but ended up leaving more blessed personally than we ever expected. After all – we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.