Costa Rica — Five Reflections

Aaron

Coming into this trip, I didn’t know what to expect. Two of my brothers have been on EDGE trips and I had heard stories from them, but this was a different place. I would like to think that this trip has helped me grow as a person. This trip in many ways has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Zip lining through the trees and free falling on Tarzan swings scared me a lot but I’m really happy that I did it. Seeing scorpions and dancing is also not something that I would usually do.

When first arriving at Bribripa, visiting our first Indigenous community, I discovered a new way of living. No phones, no social media, just people living life to their fullest. Everybody was happy and were so glad that we were there. Then we went to Longo Mai to start the service part of our trip. Longo Mai was a place full of refugees — mostly El Salvadorians trying to escape violence. Music was a big part of how they lived their lives. They didn’t have much, but all of them were happy. The next stop was AsoProLA, one of the poorest communities in Costa Rica. Seeing the mom cry as we helped her to fix her house really made me realize how much of an impact we are having on her and her family.

Living without my phone, sleeping with scorpions, and having cold showers every day really helped me grow as a person. Seeing these three communities has helped me realize that we should all appreciate what we have already. Coming on this trip, I have gained a new perspective and will hopefully apply it to my life. I also learnt that heatstroke sucks and I need to always bring enough water with me on hikes.

I’m so grateful to my parents for giving me so many opportunities and sending me to Shawnigan. I’m also grateful for everything that I have and hopefully I will apply the Costa Rican way of living to my life . . . Pura Vida.


Mikayla

Grade 8 was the first time I heard about EDGE. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was or what it entailed — all I knew was that I wanted to be a part of it. Costa Rica was not somewhere I imagined I would go. Not that I didn’t want to, but I never thought it would be in the cards for me. So to be able to come to Costa Rica while also being on an EDGE trip was surreal.

On this trip, I learned so much about an incredible culture I previously knew nothing about. I was constantly surprised by their ways of life. To be completely immersed in a place where everything is so different in comparison to what I’ve ever grown up with was a shock . . . but a good shock.

This EDGE trip has made me stretch beyond limits I didn’t know were possible. The six-hour hike was the first big challenge I faced when we were in Costa Rica. I never thought in a million years I would be able to do it, let alone enjoy it. On this excursion, many people realized that hiking wasn’t for them, but for me, I had the realization that hiking is a passion of mine that I have let go of in recent years. It is something that I want to get back into because it genuinely makes me so happy and helps give me a different kind of appreciation for the earth. Even though my fitness was in no way prepared for something like that, I would not have changed anything about that day.

The next time my limits were tested was when we were in AsoProLA. I became ill and the combination of heat and physical labour did not help my case. I found it very challenging to be myself because I was drained and had a constant mental block. One night I felt so awful that I started to cry in front of Ms. Cholack and Lozzy. Crying is something I hate doing — especially in front of others. I was taken to my room to lie down to try and rest my exhausted, sick body. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. I called my mom, who helped me refocus and push through the next couple of days. She reminded me why I was in Costa Rica: that I was there to help people who are less fortunate than myself and that everything we were doing is changing someone’s life. The next couple of days were still hard, but I knew nothing was going to stop me from doing as much as I possibly could because I was making and did make a difference.

This trip has helped me grow in ways that no other trip ever will. It has made me realize that giving to others, no matter what it is, the smallest or biggest things, is worth something so much more than what money can buy. While giving to others will be one of my main focuses for those around me, I’ve also realized that I should never give up on myself. Even if you feel like you can’t push through something, or if you’re in a slump, there’s a way to get through it and you will be a better person as a result. I truly believe that I will live the rest of my life differently because of this trip. I will try my best to never take anything for granted, while also praising anyone who has ever supported me in any way, because I am truly lucky for everything I have. I now can more easily identify my selfish tendencies, and I want to try to live my life as a better person who is not obsessed with material objects, but with the well-being of others.

When I was in Grade 8 I heard about EDGE, but I had no idea the impact it would have on my life and ultimately how it would change the course of my life. To finish, I want to give a huge thank you to the Shawnigan Parents Association for giving me the financial support that allowed me to be a part of something so life-changing, and to Ms.Cholack and Lozzy for choosing me as a new member of their family for 17 days and putting up with the ups and downs of 12 crazy teenagers. Finally, I want to thank my mom for providing me with the opportunity to go to Shawnigan, and on top of it, experience things that she’s never had the chance to. I will give back someday.


Taiki

I always knew that I was grateful — I never took things for granted and I felt blessed with the things I was given. When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a service trip, but I was more excited for the beaches and the relaxation. When we first arrived, I had to face the cold shower. I know it is a small thing, but in the back of my mind, I always took that for granted. When we arrived at the villages and the communities, I was surprised that even without the same living standards as I had at home, everyone lived completely fine and happily. Although some help was needed, all of the communities were grateful for everything they had.

At home, when bugs fly indoors, my family usually freaks out. But the family I homestayed with in Longo Mai were completely fine with the bugs and were entertained by my overreaction. Even the one-year-old baby, Derek, picked up bugs and played with them. Since they all grew up this way, they are used to it. I started to get used to it, but bugs flying in the shower bugged me.

I realized that the distance we drive at home is a walkable distance in some cases. The six-hour-hike we did showed us the crazy uphill and downhill road that farmers have to walk to get foods such as bananas — things that only cost us a few bucks in a grocery store. All of these little things gave me a whole new perspective on life, and gave me even more gratitude for everything that we rely on. A roof over a head is an obvious one, and living with a hard floor in the house was a first for me. When we were in AsoProLA and we put down cement floor in the house, the family’s appreciation really made my day, and made me realize that the physical demonstration to giving back is very important.

After the trip, I will be thankful for every warm shower I get, a roof over my head with no bugs, and everything we lacked on our service trip.


Moyra

This EDGE trip has been an experience of a lifetime, and I leave today feeling extremely grateful for this opportunity and memories that will remain with me forever. This trip has helped me grow as a person in numerous ways: it has expanded my cultural and environmental knowledge, engaged me with new people, pushed me through numerous comfort levels, given me new perspectives, strengthened my work ethic, and improved and altered my overall outlook on important things in life.

I am thankful to be taking back new friendships, connections, feelings and impactful moments from this two-week journey, and I am excited to be able to share this with family and friends back home so that they can have the opportunity to understand how greatly impactful this trip has been for me, the team, and the rest of people that we were able to meet and spend time with along the way. This trip has made me realize how lucky I am and how thankful I am for my family and friends that I have and have made. The impact it’s made on me will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m hoping I will be able to pass on and share this opportunity and impact with others and be able to keep the strength its given me in order to do even greater things.


Ella

It’s honestly difficult to find the words to express how grateful I am for the ways this trip has impacted me. Prior to departing for Costa Rica, I had been struggling a lot internally. Being new in grade 11, and struggling with constant anxiety over being “enough” — something I have struggled with my whole life — had left me questioning why I ever left behind my comfort zone in Victoria, where I had friends, family, and freedom to disengage whenever anything became too much. There were many days when going home — which is literally one hour away — seemed shinier than slogging out more days at Shawnigan.

However, the idea of EDGE and making an impact on someone else’s life gave me hope and something to look forward to. When I applied to this trip — full disclosure that I did not take it as seriously as I should have — it was a last-minute decision that consisted of me filling out my application the day it was due. With the experience now sadly behind me, I can say I would have done anything to have been selected as a part of this team.

I was nervous coming into this trip, as I was not super close with any of my teammates before the trip. Often, when I am thrown into a group of new people, I am super bubbly on the surface, but on the inside, I am ridden with anxiety and self-consciousness, analyzing my sentences multiple times before I speak. I was fearful this trip would go the same way. However, I am relieved to say that within the first 24 hours spent in Bribripa I felt relaxed, confident, and more myself than I have in a very long time. This can mostly be attributed to the people on this team, and I am so grateful for that.

At the beginning, I was skeptical of the selections and unsure how the dynamics would work, but I honestly can’t imagine anyone else being added to or removed from this team because everyone’s personality contributed to make us the team that we are and that I feel so lucky to be a part of. Even though it’s inevitable we will not be as close or spend as much time together, I hope we don’t forget the bonds we made or the inside jokes and the connection is still there.

I shared with Lozzie and Ms. Cholack that the work we did in AsoProLA I found so meaningful, obviously because through the physical work we did, we were able to transform the family’s home and consequentially make a monumental impact on their lives. However, I also felt that I could connect with the family on a personal level because the situation between the mother and father mirrored my family life at home. To imagine my own situation on a tremendously more tragic scale in extreme poverty inspired me to work harder and put in all the effort I could while working because I knew this family deserved way more than they had.

Returning from EDGE, I hope to bring newfound confidence and a reinvigorated sense of gratitude for all that I am blessed with. The poverty we witnessed in AsoProLA and Longo Mai was something I had never experienced — besides through a television screen — and gave me a new perspective.

I really hope to keep the bonds I have made and honestly clear my life of anything fake that doesn’t bring me genuine happiness. Through my experience in Costa Rica and meeting people like Manuel, Pedro, and Esteban and his family who radiated such generosity and passion for life, I have realized how blessed I am compared to those around the world. It would be selfish to waste time living in the 1% of the 1% worrying about things that don’t actually matter. Days during this trip working and laughing have honestly been some of the happiest and most life-changing days of my life. I hope upon returning to Shawnigan that I don’t lose this sense of freedom, gratitude, and genuine happiness. Lozzie and Mrs. Cholack: I want to thank you so much for choosing me to be a part of this team. It has genuinely been a life-changing 17 days for me and I am so sad it’s over.


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Costa Rica — AsoProLA and Shirley’s Story

Megan

On our final day with AsoProLA in Altamira, we travelled in the back of pickup trucks to see one of two hot springs found in Costa Rica. We got to have this adventure alongside Shirley and two of her sons, who we had spent the last two days working with to improve their living conditions.

At the end of our time at the hot springs, Katie and I had the opportunity to sit down with Shirley and hear her story. We went into talking with Shirley hoping to share her story, but after hearing the details, we realized that it was hers to share. It quickly became clear that through incredible hardship, she is a mom looking out for her kids. After more then ten years in and out of an abusive relationship, Shirley had the courage to take her four sons –now ages 25, 22, 17, and 10 — to a life without fear.

While this meant living in a home with a dirt floor, hole-filled roof, and foundation that became more crumbled daily, Shirley made it clear that as long as her family was together, they would be at home.

As a result of the conditions of their home, and a lack of ability to be employed, the community of Altamira identified Shirley’s family as the most in need of our help during our visit. We first added three inches of dirt to the floor, followed by a layer of cement. We also began the task of building a retaining wall for the home’s foundation so that it would no longer fall underfoot. Lastly, we provided the funds for a new roof. Our work days consisted of learning the best way to control wheelbarrows uphill, avoiding concrete splashes, comparing sunburns, and forcing Gustavo to take breaks.

Shirley joked that we should ask whether her sons were proud of her, as her eldest son Everley approached and said he was proud of her “1000 times over.”

After talking with Shirley, I could grasp the impact we were having on the family. Working beside my own family to rebuild another family’s home made me so grateful for what I had. Clara, my sister, turned to my mom at the end of the first work day and said “Mom, I am so lucky.”


Katie

We started our final day in AsoProLA going to the hot springs, riding in the back of a pickup truck for an hour and a half. After a wonderful calm day by the water, Megan and I had the great opportunity to interview Shirley, who talked to us about her heartbreaking past.

After being in an unhealthy and abusive relationship for years, Shirley decided to pack her things and move into a small house in AsoProLA that her parents had payed for. The house was almost unlivable: it had dirt floors, holes in the roof, holes in the wall, and almost not enough space for her and her four kids.

Our group had the incredible opportunity to help her and her family. We mixed concrete by hand so we could put in concrete floors and build a wall. I asked Shirley’s second oldest son who was helping us: “How long would this take if we were not here?” He told me that it would take about 5 or 6 days if he worked from morning to night. Words cannot explain how privileged I feel to have helped someone who the neighbourhood identified as the family who needed our help the most.

Connecting with the family and getting to know them better at our final dinner in AsoProLA was unlike anything I had ever experienced. While we were eating dinner, I sat with Shirley, her mother, and her youngest son, who has a disability. She explained that he is a ten-year-old boy but acts like he is a 6-year-old boy. After listening to Shirley’s story, my heart sunk. I asked how she gets up and is positive every day when she knows she can’t provide for her family as much as she wants to. Her response was: “I have God. Every morning I wake up and thank God for what I have because it was way worse before. I do it for my kids. All I want is for my kids to be happy.”


Costa Rica — 17 Days with Esteban

Alex

From Longo Mai to the very end of our trip, the EDGE team would have been a completely and utterly lost group of gringos in Costa Rica without the kind-hearted, compassionate, and exuberant Esteban. From diligently translating Spanish to English for us consistently — despite a hacking cough — to never failing to bring a positive attitude to our group discussions and check ins, Esteban has made a tremendous impact on every member of the group.

I believe that Costa Rica’s slogan, “Pura Vida” is lived to its fullest through Esteban. He has spent his life under the influence of his father, a hardworking and positive father of three boys and three girls. Esteban lives by his father’s belief that people should be modest and kind to all, as you will need people everywhere you go.

He grew up with no cellphone, so his favourite form of leisure was playing football with his mates in the rural area of Costa Rica where he grew up called Ciudad Colon. Esteban worked after high school in order to pay for his college tuition. He studied Customer Service, Human Resources, and Marketing. It was here that he met his good friend of ten years, Mr. Klassen.

Friendship and keeping connections are extremely important to Esteban and he makes his best efforts to keep in touch with people he has crossed paths with. Currently, Esteban is a volunteer firefighter and is working at a university in Costa Rica. He lives with his wife and two children and has a business for volunteers.

Without Esteban, the EDGE trip would have been an entirely different experience. He showed us Costa Rica  and made us feel welcome and comfortable in a place we were not familiar with. 

Learn more about Esteban’s organization: Sustainability Education CR

Costa Rica — 17 Days with Manuel

Manuel, back row, second from the left and standing next to Ms. Cholack

Ella

I had the pleasure of speaking with Manuel on our last night spent in Manuel Antonio. Through our conversation I was able to learn more about the man behind the wheel of the vibrant red bus that kept us safe in a comfortable environment as we travelled through various communities in Costa Rica.

As the oldest of seven siblings, Manuel was forced to forgo his education and begin working in the corn fields at just 11 years of age in order to provide for his family. At the age of 24, he began driving a bus. As his family owned a car during his childhood, it was a quick transition into the profession.

In his career, Manuel has ventured on a 26-day driving trip from Toronto to Costa Rica. When I asked Manuel what his profession meant to him, he answered by saying that he took pride in his career as it has allowed him to provide the education he did not receive to his three children — all of whom now work as professionals.

Manuel and his family faced a mountain of tragedy when his first wife, with whom he shared two children, passed away from cancer when their children were just nine and eleven years old. Manuel has now been remarried for 29 years to his wife and mother of his youngest son.  

Manuel’s kind and friendly demeanour was a refreshing burst of positivity as we boarded the bus each morning. We are so thankful to have had him as a part our team, keeping us safe and stocked with aloe — our trip literally would not have been possible without him! 

Costa Rica – AsoProLA and Beach Days!

Mikayla

On our last full day in AsoProLA we had the amazing opportunity to go to some natural hot springs. We woke up bright and early and started our journey of an hour and a half to the hot springs. But we didn’t ride in a bus or a car… we rode in the back of two pickup trucks! Although many of us had different opinions on this mode of transportation, everyone willingly got in the trucks and held on for the ride. Three minutes in, I think all of our expectations were blown out of the park. We were surrounded by beautiful views, a warm breeze hitting our faces while the sun shone down on us. We watched the nature and wildlife all around us and even got to see a bird pick up a snake and fly away with it. When we got to the hot springs it was just as exciting. We took a quick walk through the forest and reached crystal clear springs next to a fast moving river. What made the experience even more incredible is that monkeys high above us were swinging in the trees — something I will never forget. We learned that we were actually at the edge of Costa Rica and were right beside the Panamanian boarder. This day was authentic fun and something that everybody will remember for a very long time. To finish off the day, Megan and Katie interviewed the family we helped — the most important part of the days.


Moyra

Today was our second official day of ‘R&R’ and also the day we left AsoProLA to move on to Manuel Antonio. The bus ride would be 4 hours, however we decided to stop halfway to go on a 2 hour boat tour of the National Park, as well as go snorkeling at the end of the boat ride. I was really excited for today because I’ve always loved going on boat rides with my family and I knew the view would be amazing and so would the snorkeling as the water was so blue (and it was my first time actually snorkeling). When we got there, we all slathered on sunscreen because the sun was going to be really strong out on the water and some of us, like me, were already burnt to a crisp from the day before. We then met the tour guide, ‘Boomer’, and after a few instructions walked through the shallow water onto the boat and began our trip. As I had predicted, it was extremely cool and really exciting. I saw dolphins for the first time up close, two sea turtles (one of them was very rare as it is near extinction),
a sea urchin, and touch starfish as I snorkled around. The boat tour was a success and a great way to spend the majority of our day. Finally, we finished off with the remainder of the bus ride that was left to get to Manuel Antonio, and I enjoyed it once again because I got to sleep and listen to music which I always love doing.


Bridget

Tuesday was our first (well needed) rest and relax day. The entirety of the day was spent relaxing on the beach, which led to a lot of burns. The first beach we went to, we spent hours playing in the blue water and renting snorkels/ paddle boards. On the second beach, many of us rented boogie boards and surf boards while others watched the sunset. We even got to try Costa Rican shaved ice! While the first rest and relax day needed lots of Aloe Vera, it was definitely a day to remember.


Costa Rica — Longo Mai, part 2 – March 10-14

Moyra

Leaving Bribripa was difficult. However, as we entered Longo Mai, we were immediately welcomed by the community people — the families who were so kind to have us, the local dogs, and even other volunteers that we were soon going to have the opportunity to work with. The first morning, we met at 6:00 am, ready to be introduced to the area in which we would complete our first project. We were to clear an area where we would then build garden boxes, a compost area, and a tidied space for a future music building/stage that we fundraised for before arriving.

Our work started off slow but steady, as we split off into two groups — one to collect and carry large sticks of bamboo, and the other to begin clearing wood, leaves, grass, and old tarp that lingered on the property. After the group all got together and into the groove of hard work, we finished off raking and shoveling the area to reveal even ground and dirt on the entire area.

Further along into the first day, we began to dig holes in the forest for fresh soil, while also collecting leaves to fill the first bamboo-supported garden box. I had the opportunity to do lots of shoveling as well as use the wheelbarrow for the first time. It was hard and sweaty work but it felt good to know that the progress we were rapidly making would make such a difference. The second day, we continued this same work and were this time able to bond with the other German volunteers that were there with us. As a result, we completed the three garden and compost boxes early, as well as bond as a team and with the community, and get a great feel for the work that is needed to impact other’s lives.


Mikayla

On March 11th, after a very early wake up and five very difficult hours of work in the hot sun, we got to do something most only dream of — chocolate making. We walked to a local woman’s home and began with a little bit of a background on how she learned this art. She learned when she was only five years old and has been doing it ever since.

We began by roasting what looked like over 250 dried cacao seeds (cocoa) on a stove outside at the back of her house. They had to be roasted for 10 minutes and then were taken to be deshelled. This process was fun and went by very quickly. Afterwards, we crushed and grinded the shelless cacao onto a plate. Tasting the cacao by itself was extremely bitter — like tasting 100% dark chocolate. She then proceeded to grind previously prepared lumps of sugar cane and finished off with adding some of the best coffee in the world. I was so excited to try the freshly made chocolate. I took a big bite of it thinking it would be super sweet, but to my surprise it still tasted ridiculously bitter. If I were to have eaten more I would’ve needed copious amounts of sugar cane to challenge the pure cacao. Chocolate making was a wonderful experience that I think we were all very thankful we had the opportunity to do.


Ella

Upon arriving in Costa Rica, we were welcomed by a tan, frizzy haired, goofy-grinned guide called Pedro, whose warmhearted personality was a great indicator of the standard of treatment we would receive while in Costa Rica. Pedro quickly transformed from a guide to an essential member of the EDGE Costa Rica team. He always knew exactly what we needed, such as the salty, oil-drenched, comforting flavour of McDonald’s french fries at 11:00 pm after a long day of travel.

Pedro was a man of many talents. Through talking with him I learned he was a professional musician and spent years as a pentathlete for the Costa Rican national team, devoting hours each week to training. This was mirrored in the devotion to our group by translating for us numerous times. However, Pedro’s greatest strength did not lie in his talents but in the generosity he showed towards our group. He was always quick to lend a hand, grab a bag, crack a joke, and lighten our load any way possible. Pedro played a prominent role in making our first few days in Costa Rica so memorable and I truly hope we will be able to see our bright-eyed, enthusiastic, passionate new friend again.


Bridget

The thought of staying with a family that speaks little to no English was horrifying to me, especially since Longo Mai is our longest stay of five nights. The first night I was kindly greeted in to the home along with Katie.

The small building with about four rooms total housed six children (most who under the age of ten.) The hardest challenge with being in the family is trying to communicate with the members. Thankfully, the family members have warmed up to us and we have made friends with some of the children. The youngest, Hannah, continuously pops her head in our small room and yells “BOO!” as loud as she can. Thankfully, Hannah is also an expert bug killer and can pick up massive bugs with her hand. She is now determined to teach us Spanish and points to every object in the house and says the Spanish name, which we must repeat. The other children practice the small amount of English (such as my name is) they learned in school with us. The father, who speaks good English, even told us that one of his older children plays for Costa Rica’s national team at 18.

Every day, we get to know our host family more and more. Seeing how they live very differently and minimalistically compared to our families is incredible, and the children have tried and gone out of their way to talk to us and make us feel at home. Since this was my first homestay, I am super impressed with what you can learn by observing others’ lives and am thankful for my host family’s kindness.


Aaron

Many people in Longo Mai have shared close and personal stories with us. Throughout the few days we have been here, we have learnt that most of the residents are refugees from El Salvador.

One of the people we were working with for on the flower beds was Carlos. He was a refugee from El Salvador trying to escape the violence. Carlos used to live with his parents and brother peacefully in their neighbourhood, but many gangs also lived there and trying to fight for land and drugs. One day, a gang member came up to their house telling them to be careful and beware. Not knowing what they were scared about, his family carried on with their lives. A few days later, he found out that they had killed his father. Terrified and scared, Carlos and his brother fled El Salvador to Longo Mai and their mother fled to Panama. Now, he is a happy resident here. He is really easy to talk to and is always smiling even though such a terrible incident happened to him. When we first came here and learned about the refugees, none of us knew that these are the kinds of things that happened to them. Listening to this story really opened our eyes to the pains of different people living in different countries.

Costa Rica — Longo Mai – March 10-14

Gustavo

How is it to be a local in Costa Rica? When visiting a country, the majority of people go to the areas where local people don’t usually go. But this trip has given us the perspective of its locals, showing us how Costa Ricans live and how they live off the land, their religion and passion for their land, as well as their work and ethical food.

It’s a view of Costa Rica that not many visitors see from the perspective of those who live here. Our hosts have shown us how take care of ourselves here — from bugs to taking care of oneself from the sun and it’s glazing heat. The community in Longo Mai has accepted us as their own. We are living amongst them, being considered part of their families, eating with their children, and working beside them from early mornings to late afternoons.

We are working to help the community by cutting and transporting bamboo, creating a compost station using the bamboo and the dirt from the forest, and providing a location which the community can use to sort their compost and garbage. This project could not be accomplished without the help of one of our guides, Clarita, and a few German and Prussian friends that we have made in the few days that we stayed here. Being here for more than 5 months, our friends are teaching us the skills that they have already learned. Like the Shawnigan way, we have been pushed out of our comfort zone to areas and situations where we could only rely on ourselves to surpass — from six-hour hikes in the scalding sun to transporting bamboo on our shoulders for a kilometer to the locations that needed it.  As this trip is progressing we are appreciating the company of each other and getting closer as we face challenges together. We have being pushed to the EDGE and we have been facing it with a smile. 


Bridget

Costa Rica has been incredible to experience (so far) and as a group we have learned so much about its people and culture.

Arriving in San Jose after a very long travel day, we had a lot of time to talk/bond. The next day we departed to Bribripa on a five-hour bus ride south which allowed us to see Costa Rica’s beauty.

If the long travel days didn’t allow us to bond, our rooms in Bribripa had open rooftops that allowed us to hear every conversation and made us a tighter group. If there is one word I could use to describe Bribripa, it would be exhausting. Many of our members pushed their comfort zone by going on daily hikes. One hike that impacted every member of the group was the six hour one through the steep slopes of the mountain to arrive at waterfalls. It taught us so much about what we can accomplish when we push our physical limits and how rewarding getting out of our comfort zones is.

The Bribri people also taught us so much about gratitude, food, the Bribri language, dances, and medical uses for plants. Another way we pushed our comfort zones was trying new foods that many people don’t like. For example, Katie pushed her comfort zone by eating foods she normally doesn’t, such as tomatoes, bananas, and beans. It is safe to say that we appreciate our comfort foods more than ever. The last lesson we learned in Bribripa is how to deal with massive scorpions and beetles (though we still have a lot to improve on when it comes to being scared of bugs.)

The past couple of days we have stayed in a new location called Longo Mai. In this location, all of our group members are split into pairs and stay with a local family. Most of the families speak absolutely no English so it has been a challenge trying to communicate with the members. As many of the host families have kids, our group members have grown incredibly attached to the children of Longo Mai and it will be heartbreaking to leave them. Seeing how the families live so differently from our own has been really eye-opening and different. We started a project of making a greenhouse, and many of us have felt super proud watching it go from nothing to a good start. Last night, we attended a dance class and made a fool of ourselves trying to dance like the locals. We learned how to do two different dances and felt accomplished when the class was over.

So far Costa Rica has been amazing and has taught every member of our group so much.


Nnenna

Longo Mai was a closed and tight community willing to accept and love everyone. One of the citizens was a refugee born in El Salvador, Donua Edie. She was welcomed by the community, learning quickly that Longo Mai was a welcoming community.

As a student that lives at Shawnigan, I quickly realized all the similarities between Longo Mai and our boarding school. The people would always smile and greet us, usually saying ‘ola’. Clara was one of our hosts, showing us the love of the community and touring us around. Clara would show us the family we would stay with for the next four days. My host mother was Quatalina. She was born in El Salvador but moved to Costa Rica thirty years ago with her husband and daughter, quickly learning the love of music in Longo Mai. Quatalina always made sure Ella and I ate food and before we would go to bed, she would give us a hug and a kiss on the forehead. I felt like I was at home, receiving love every day.

I was able to improve my Spanish in no time. I could finally say I’m excited to show off my Spanish-speaking skills at Shawnigan. We also had a chocolate workshop, browning the coca beans and using sugar cane to make the chocolate sweeter. While we had our chocolate workshop, I learned a valuable lesson. The lady that made us chocolate would charge $75 for 300 kg of coffee. I realized at that very moment that I have lived a fortunate life and that many of the people in the community had to sacrifice a lot to just get very little money. The simple word to describe the feeling was empathy.

While I was there, I made strong connections with the people in my team and the volunteers of the community. For instance, I was able to teach a German girl about the culture in Africa, making connections between Costa Rica and Africa.

Longo Mai is a place I will carry in my heart for a long time. The love of the river, culture, and music is something I will bring with me to not only Shawnigan but Canada. One of the most memorable nights was dancing with my partner and looking at all the people smile and laugh out of pure joy. Ella and Cameron were slowly learning the dance, but Cameron could not get the hang of it. Watching Mrs. Cholack and Mr. Lozzy dance was one of the highlights, especially with Mr. Lozzy’s dancing — it was something unique. But the best dancer and teacher was Issa. Teaching and translating everything, the group could not survive the dance night without Issa.

The most important part of the trip was building a compost pile and making a garden bed for the members of the community. It was vital that we could finish the project in time, and with sweat and teamwork we finally finished. Now I could tell Mr. Noble the importance of composting. Without composting, simple elements will go to waste. It is important that we mix even dead leaves with soil so that more food could grow.

But the last night in Longo Mai really was something I could never describe. The rich culture in the community through music was something wonderful. We all got together in one room and started to make music with instruments I have never seen before. Katie and the one bowl with beads all around it shaking her head until it was red was the highlight of the night.

The children smiling just because they can share a part of themselves to the EDGE team was just divine. Overall, Longo Mai was my favourite aspect of Costa Rica and I could finally say that I will visit my host family and I will come back to the community again. This trip is something I am truly thankful for and I could not choose a better EDGE team to travel with and share these experiences with.


Isa

The four days spent in Longo Mai are definitely ones that I will never forget. As we drove from Bribripa — the first community we worked with — to Longo Mai, I didn’t think that anything would be able to top the amazing three days we had spent there. I was also starting to get a little bit nervous about the whole homestay dynamic. Even though I am lucky to be the only one in the group to not have the language as a barrier, it is still a little scary to be staying at a complete stranger’s house for four days. However, after being at Bribripa, I knew that the people were probably going to be really sweet and welcoming.

When we finally arrived, Ms. Cholack told us who we were going to be rooming with for the next four days. I was extremely happy when I found out that Moyra and I would be staying together. As we walked towards our host family’s house, Moyra and I couldn’t stop talking about how nervous we were about this experience. Luckily, this feeling went away the second we walked inside our host family’s home. The 17-year old daughter, Kimberly, received us with a huge smile on her face and was extremely welcoming. She quickly showed us to our room and told us to get comfortable. That was how our amazing adventure in Longo Mai began.

After settling-in at our new homes, the group was taken on a quick tour around the community. Longo Mai is the cutest, most peaceful village I have ever been to. Everyone is so happy and they all share such a positive vibe and an amazing passion for life. During our first day there we got to go to the river. The river was so beautiful. The water was super cold at first but once you got in it felt nice and refreshing. There were vines hanging from trees over the water and it made it look like it had come straight out of a fairytale. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

During our stay in Longo Mai we also got to try out some dancing lessons. We learned bachata and merengue. It was definitely one of the most fun things we got to do. Cam and Ella were partners and neither of them have rhythm or could dance, so It was hilarious seeing them attempt to dance together. At first we were all a little bit shy and didn’t really feel comfortable dancing with each other, but once we got the hang of it it was so much fun and definitely an experience we will remember forever.

Our main project at Longo Mai was building garden beds out of bamboo and building a compost bin. During our first day working we all got to bond and work as a team. Some off us pulled branches and weeds, others carried wheelbarrows full of dirt, and some of us cut huge pieces of bamboos and carried them back to the work site. We all worked extremely hard and we manage to finish the project earlier than expected. The people from the community were so grateful to have had us help with the project — it was such a heartwarming experience. For our last night in this community, we got to listen and play with the the children’s local percussion orchestra. The kids were so excited to play their music for us and it was so cool to get to learn to play some of the instruments and play with them. At the end of the night, we gave them the envelope with the money we had raised for them at Shawnigan for them to build their new music room. They couldn’t believe how much money we had raised for them, and they were so thankful. It was truly a life-changing experience and I will always remember our amazing time in Longo Mai.


Alex

On the second night we stayed in Longo Mai, we were fortunate enough to be treated to dance lessons that are popular in Latin America. Some of these included bachata and merengue. Although the majority of the group found it difficult to keep up with the locals, every single person was smiling and laughing as we attempted the dances in partners. This night I discovered not only how atrocious my dancing skills are, but how these particular dances do a fantastic job of bringing people together and lifting everyone’s spirits. My dance partner, Taiki, did his best to guide me through the dance moves. However, it often ended in hysterical laughing and bruised feet from being trampled on. A fun workout and a spectacular experience, everyone left the dance class with smiles from cheek to cheek and new dances moves to impress their dates at spring fling.

Costa Rica — Bribripa, March 7-10

Gustavo

There is nothing more important to the Indigenous community of Bribripa than farming and taking care of the land. Their lives are dedicated to producing organic food and to teaching people who are willing to learn about the land. To their god, Sibö, the land was created from the body of a girl, Mirilia, and now lives in eternal life as the earth’s crust. To the Indigenous perspective, to take care of the land is to take care of Mirilia — a great honor to the name of Sibö. Their farm is based on the side of a mountain, where bananas and pineapples are growing. The farm showed us how innovative a community could be as they grow fish (tilapia) on the side of the mountain hundreds of feet above any source of water. Using that same water, they irrigate their fields — not wasting any resource they have. At the top of a mountain, where the hills are steep and the soil crumbles, the community of Bribripa continues to thrive.


Katie

The last night in Bribripa was full of culture and festivities. We first were introduced to learning some of the Bribri language. They taught us simple words like “how are you” as well as numbers from one to ten. After that, members from their community came to teach us a few of their traditional dances. The dances were performed to live music with Michael playing the guitar, Alberto playing the keyboard, and Pedro playing the bass. Also, the dances were danced in partners ranging from age twenty to six with set steps but no specific order to do the choreography. After showing us their cultural dances, they pulled us out of our seats and on to the dance floor. After they presented, we shared the Canadian national anthem, a line dance, and our school hymn. After we presented the line dance, we decided to teach everyone regardless of the language barrier. Lastly, we sang the first verse of our school hymn which was very important to us being on a school trip. All in all, the last night was filled with happiness, new experiences, and culture that we will keep with us throughout the trip.


Nnenna

Hiking on Saturday was both a dreadful but loving experience. Although my cardio is not the greatest and my fear of hiking was seeping into me, I was able to connect with the happy, joyful citizens of Bribripa.

One hour into the hike we were close to separating into two groups — one group hiked for six hours, and the other group, my group, had Mrs. Cholack and her three lovely children: Clara, Owen, and Megan. Before we separated, I remember connecting with one of the citizens of Bribripa. He wanted to get to know me more. I told him about Nigeria and Mozambique, and he couldn’t help but tell me about his dream of visiting Africa. He said his dream was to see a giraffe, zebra, lion, hippopotamus and many more African animals.

Once we got up to the top, we separated into two groups and I went with the Cholack family. We hiked with one friendly couple named Andre and Juliet. They brought us to this small but comfortable house that was previously owned by Juliet’s grandfather, but now owned by her aunt. We could literally see all of Costa Rica and its tall mountains. We started to make our way down the waterfall, but while we were on our way, we stopped for a break to learn about one of the red flowers. Andre said it looked like the lips of a women ‘labios’ and then we saw where they washed their clothes and little tadpoles were swimming in the water. Owen was really ecstatic when he saw the tadpoles!

The most painful part though was the hike towards the waterfall. I was terrified of falling down the steep hill and at the same time I felt worried for Clara and Owen being the youngest children. Finally, we made it after a long and dangerous walk towards the waterfall. We got to get to know Andre and Juliet, learning that Juliet was going back to University of Costa Rica but they came back just to show us around. That showed that they were genuinely nice people wanting to teach foreigners about the Bribripa culture. We also played Uno, teaching Andre English and learning Spanish through the card game. Finally, we slowly made our way back, but we were unable to hike at first because the leaves made the hill slippery therefore we had to crawl up slowly while touching the trees around us. We all were scared of falling down and injuring ourselves. Luckily, we made it and our reward was lemonade, which according to Owen, is the best lemonade he has ever tasted. Overall, I got to connect with Mrs. Cholack and her children and they are one of the kindest and loving families I have ever met. Throughout the hike I felt like I was part of the family. This all ties into ‘Pura Vida’ which means pure life.


Isa

After spending our first night in San Jose, we woke up early the next morning and began our adventure in Costa Rica. We had breakfast at the hotel and then quickly hopped on the bus with all our stuff and began driving to a small town called Buenos Aires. After five hours of driving through long endless-looking highways surrounded by nothing but rainforests — and the occasional convenience store — we finally arrived in a little Indigenous community called Bribripa.

As we got off the bus, we were greeted by a man named Guillermo, and standing behind him, holding on to his leg, was his daughter. After he walked us around the community he showed us to our rooms, and told us that lunch was being served in the dining area. I was the first one to arrive to the dining area, and as I walked I saw Guillermo’s daughter sitting on a hammock. I approached her and introduced myself, and asked her what her name was and how old she was. Her name is Mariel and she is seven years old; she also has a second name in the Bribri Indigenous language which means moon. I asked her to tell me a little bit about herself. She told me about her family and about her two siblings. She talked to me about her small family farm and how they had many different animals, but her favorite were the pigs. She told me that when the pigs where little they would bite her feet and chase her around the house, and that sometimes they would have to kill the pigs to either sell them to make money or to eat them for food.

During our three days in Bribripa, Mariel and I got to spend some time together during our free time. Every time she saw me her face would immediately light up and she would immediately wave at me and run to give me a hug. I was very happy to be able to engage with one of the younger members of the community, and to learn a little bit more about how life is at Bribripa. As our time in Bribripa was ending, we began to say our goodbyes to the people that had welcomed us and worked with us through our time there. When I was about to get on the bus, Mariel ran out from her house and gave me a little handmade envelope. She then gave me a hug and told me she was going to miss me. I couldn’t believe it — it was such a heartwarming moment for me. On the bus, I opened the envelope and saw that she had drawn a picture for me and had made a little bracelet out of string. It was honestly one of the best feelings in the world and definitely one of the most eye-opening events in my life. To see how much you can impact someone’s life just by taking the time to talk to them and getting to know them was unbelievable. I will never forget Mariel and how much I learned about her community and her life.


Cameron

In Bribripa, we helped the community by filtering out rocks, sticks, and bugs out of dirt. Then we mixed the dirt with fertilizer to add to seeding bags. Entering the nursery where the seeding bags were was beautiful. Coming down from a semi-steep hill you could hear the sounds of the river below the nursery flowing. As we approached, we saw a variety of different plants under a black netted tarp. Zacharias told us about the food growing and plants they used for medicine. On top of this, he told us about how he teaches the children of the town how to prepare foods from the nursery. He tries to makes them eat for a healthy lifestyle, although he can’t force them to eat the food. After his talk, we began to filter dirt, mix dirt, and fill seeding bags. I was in charge of ordering the bags in rows of ten. Even though I was in a squat for thirty to forty minutes organizing seeding bags, it was a great experience and I am glad our EDGE team did this before leaving Bribripa.


Ella

Although this may be an unpopular opinion, I actually enjoyed our dreadful, painful, and exhausting six-hour vertical trek — I am not even completely sure where we went, or how we ended up in the middle of a jungle eating our lunch in front of a breathtaking waterfall. While my legs felt like lead, my lungs screamed for oxygen, and a sticky liquid called sweat coated every inch of my body, laughter still poured out my mouth while I was scrambling up and down cliffs and hills that felt like they stretched on for eternity. Although scary at times, especially since I am prone to falling — I think Katie and I counted about 50 times I tripped — I enjoyed using the six hours surrounded by trees and foreign lethal insects to connect with my teammates during a challenge that placed us all outside of our comfort zones. I had never been thrown so deep into the guts of nature but with Pedro as an incredible and hilarious guide I am glad to say we all survived with only a few mosquito bites and a newfound sense of accomplishment.

Costa Rica — Our first 48 hours

Here is what our EDGE team has been up to in their first 48 hours…

Aaron

The first 48 hours in Costa Rica were amazing. The air is nice, the people are nice, and the attitude of the country is like none other. People here are so calm and happy. Living with people I have never talked to at school in a country that I have never been before is one of the many things that is amazing about this trip so far. Taking a five-hour plane ride and a five-hour bus ride to a farm was definitely worth it. Throughout the bus ride I may have fallen asleep a couple of times but I really got to see how beautiful this country is and the rumours are indeed true. We are currently living in a 10-room hut with an open room — a once in a lifetime experience, especially with all the insects crawling around us while we are sleeping. Walking around the grounds of Bribripa, taking tours and hikes, I learned a lot about their lives here and how they live. Many of their activities here are usually done as a community and family. I really started to appreciate the importance of the sense of community. Every single one of these people are so passionate about what they do and I am really looking forward to all the things ahead.


Moyra

My first impression of Costa Rica is its nature. The rainforest, mountains and views have been stunning right from the bus ride, and we’ve had the amazing opportunity to hike, learn, listen, and even watch one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen from the top of the windiest mountain I’ve ever been on. Not only this, but the people that have been hosting us have been extremely kind and fun, and have opened my mind up about their inspiring culture and beliefs. One of the things I’ll be working on to overcome during this trip is my surprising and extreme fear of insects. I never really realized how afraid I was of them until I entered a room full of giant bugs I’d never seen before, and the risk of encountering a scorpion. However, I cannot even fathom how much I’ve learned already this trip, how much I’ve gotten to experience in just 48 hours, and how much more of this there is to come. The group of us get along so well and so far it’s been unforgettable. I am grateful and excited and ready for everything else that awaits us on this trip.


Ella

The people of Costa Rica have been as sunny and warm as the weather since we arrived two days ago. The community of Bribripa has been extremely welcoming. They are taking wonderful care of us: sharing openly about their culture, enlightening us with many anecdotes, and serving us delicious meals consisting of rice, beans, salad, potatoes, and the sweetest, juiciest fruit I have ever tasted. I have been so grateful to learn about the connection between Costa Rican culture and the stunning environment that surrounds it. The emphasis they place on the value of nature is the key factor to why Costa Rica is such an environmentally conscious and sustainable country. Being immersed in such a humble culture where all the people radiate positivity and gratitude has inspired me to introduce more sustainable and eco-friendly practices upon returning home. One thing I found daunting prior to embarking on our trip to Costa Rica was spending two weeks with some people who I haven’t spoken more than two sentences to before. Although I am an extremely social person, I often have difficulty feeling confident in myself around unfamiliar faces. However, I can happily say that I have established genuine connections with every member of the EDGE team and I am so grateful to get to spend the next 15 days getting to know, bond, and serve with them further.


Mikayla

The first 48 hours in Costa Rica has been a wild ride. We’ve done so many things that I would have never imagined. We’re sleeping in an open-roofed building, meaning bugs are around every corner. Although the dark nights in a new country are intimidating, the warm air and kind people around me have made a soothing time. I have loved being completely immersed in the nature and the forests, taking everything in, because this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Being just out of range to talk to my family is one thing that has made me slightly anxious, but I am calmed when I talk with all my teammates and friends. It has been a great couple of days and I am excited for what’s to come.


Nnenna

Costa Rica in my opinion is like Africa. The second I arrived I noticed a lot of similarities between Mozambique and Costa Rica. First, the people are welcoming and happy, willing to smile when you pass by the street, or when you look out the window. Today I encountered a lady who gladly just said “hello” in English. I could not help but greet her back. Honestly, I am so happy I decided to travel all the way to Central America without my loving family. It was also really hard because I have a fear of hiking — I just despise seeing creatures or bugs when I hike. But mom and dad… I did it! I hiked two times already and the view was spectacular — I felt like I was on top of the world! I cannot wait to share more of this experience in Costa Rica… we have fifteen more days!


Cameron

My first two days in Costa Rica have been great. The food is great, people are so kind and passionate, and the wildlife and scenery is amazing. Landing in Costa Rica I honestly didn’t really know what to expect. Since I’ve been here, I can already say that Costa Rica is going to be an experience I’ll never forget. Within my first two days here we’ve learned so much about the culture of the community we’re staying with currently, such as their beliefs, lifestyle, their irrigation systems and much more. We’ve had the opportunity to go on spectacular hikes, learn about the early stages of preparing foods such as separating rice from unwanted leaves, etc. On top of this, we got to hear a lot about their culture and beliefs that is represented in a wooden hut where we heard about what they think, how people should be treated, what happens in the afterlife, and lots more. The one irritating thing about this trip is showering in cold water, but I’ve been on trips where I don’t know when I’m going to shower next, so it’s not anything to new to me. I’m also extremely thankful that it’s warm here in Costa Rica.

Alex

Interacting with locals from the area allowed me to have a new insight on different cultures, beliefs, and practices. The Bri Bri are strong believers in the equal importance of men and woman. This belief is prevalent in their cultural practices, as well as being physically represented in the inner structure of a wooden and straw hut, a structure that is unique and important to their culture. Having toured around nearby rainforests and farms, it is clear that another aspect of the locals’ day-to-day lives that they value deeply includes the harvesting of various plants that are grown and cared for by each family. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories that were shared during one of the hikes, especially because the man who shared them showed immense passion for passing on stories to us that are important to his life and history.

Taiki

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions. With Bamfield and constant school work, I didn’t get any rest for a week. Although I was exhausted, I was delighted when we finally landed in Costa Rica, seeing cultural differences on the streets (and McDonald’s). The view outside of the window was amazing, with a landscape I wasn’t used to seeing before. I was happy to see a mountain without snow on top. Something I wasn’t used to was the cold shower. Showering is usually my favorite place to relax and clean myself, but that doesn’t apply when the water is cold. I just decided to get it over with by showering really fast, but that took me a while to do. Also, the food took some time to get used to. I don’t really eat beans much, but after a eating it constantly, I kind of got used to the taste. What surprised me the most is how the people live in Bri Bri Pa. With a completely different living standard, they still managed to do the same basics things we do. It made me think twice about the advantages we have and a different perspective of living.

Bridget

The first 48 hours of Costa Rica have been busy but great. The flight felt smooth since I slept through the first five hours to Toronto. Our first hotel was beautiful with an outdoor garden and umbrellas hanging. There was some hesitation on drinking the tap water, but we soon gave up on buying plastic. The next day we did a four-to-five-hour bus ride south of San Jose to Bribri in Buenos Aires (no, not Argentina!) Since it is a small town and I look very Swedish, people look at me as if they had never seen blonde hair before (which is possible). So far in 48 hours, we have spent 4-5 hours hiking and are doing a 6-hour hike tomorrow. Also, our rooms are filled with scorpions and big bugs, our showers/toilets do not work, and the roof is open so everyone can hear each other. This has brought our group a lot closer together. So far, I am one of the only members to have not been sunburned (surprise, surprise.) I love it here because of how peaceful and not destroyed by Westernized culture it is. All is well, healthy, and sunscreened from Costa Rica!

Katie

My first 48 hours in Costa Rica have been jam packed — full of travelling, learning and culture. After arriving in a small village in Bribripa on day two, most of the group were pushed out of their comfort zones. We have never been in a place like this but we soon settled in and went with the flow. The first eye-opening experience I had was watching the man from our agricultural tour in the rainforest climb up a huge tree to pick out about 20 mangoes for the whole group. It was amazing to hear how grateful he was to have us here and how captivating and passionate he was about his field of work. One thing that pushes me out of my comfort zone is trying new food. Being in a foreign place like Bribripa has made me want to try new foods because I would not voluntarily eat them. I tried beans for the first time as well as a banana dessert. Another eye-opening experience for me was meditating for a few minutes in the rainforest after we swam in the river. It really made me appreciate all my surroundings as well as take a minute of pure calmness and nature during our busy trip. I’m very excited for the upcoming two weeks and am ready to endure all the challenges we come across.

 

Get to know this year’s EDGE team

The EDGE Costa Rica team outside San Jose on their way to Bribripa

The EDGE Costa Rica team have arrived! They partnered up to get to know each other better as they start their adventure together. Get to know this year’s EDGE students, in their own words:

Hi, I am Gustavo and today is Day 1 for the Costa Rica EDGE trip. The day had an early start as all the EDGE members had to be at the bus at 3:00 am. After that we embarked into the adventure that is EDGE. As the day went by I had the opportunity to talk to a personal level with one of the other students on this trip, Taiki. I, personally, did not know him before this trip, but his great sense of humor and charisma made him be an “easy approachable” kinda of guy.  He was born in Japan and moved to Hong Kong when a child before coming to Shawnigan. Though he comes from a different continent, from a different country, he still wants to see the world from a different perspective. With new eyes, he signed on to the EDGE Costa Rica trip. Although his adventurous personality leads him to new frontiers, he sees himself afraid to lose his friends. That distancing himself from the known and stepping into the unknown would make him see new opportunities and new experiences, but that could also push away the friendships he treasures. This Taiki lives in a dilemma. To explore life from many angles or to maintain the bounds of his friendship in his local life.


My partner is Gustavo. One thing that makes him unique that he has 3 other brothers, and he is the youngest out of all and it taught him to learn how to wrestle, build treehouses. All of his brothers went to an EDGE trip and it was an memorable experience for all of them, which inspired him to sign up himself. Not having a future and not getting accepted to university is his greatest fear since he does not want to disappoint his parents. He is a rower, and rowing changed him mentally and physically since he started in grade 10, and it gives him motivation to push harder and not give up. The concept of goal is important and even with failure, he believes to push himself to the limit.


My partner, Mikayla, is 16 years old born in Ottawa but now lives in Duncan, British Columbia. She has 6 people in her family, 3 brothers, one older and two younger. She has been playing rugby since grade 7 and her favourite position is flank. As well as rugby, she also rows and she’s been rowing since grade 7. She has been at Shawnigan since grade 8 and and always wanted to do an EDGE trip. When she first got to the school her goal by the time she graduated was to do an EDGE trip and finally got the chance to this year. Her biggest fear is the dark because no matter what anything could be in the dark which makes her nervous. Something that makes Mikayla unique is that she has really bad sight in her left eye but her right eye is completely normal. She doesn’t wear contacts or glasses because she’s too lazy. Also, she has only been out of North America twice — once to Hong Kong and once to the United Kingdom.


My partner is Ella. Ella was born raised in Victoria, BC, Canada. One thing that makes Ella stands out is that she’s double jointed everywhere but her pinky fingers 😮 and she’s an only child. Ella signed up for the EDGE because she wants to challenge herself by getting out of her comfort zone and because she wants help out the less fortunate. Ella’s biggest fear is wasps and losing her wallet. “It was the worst thing ever.” Ella is also electrifying on the basketball court.


Katie was born in Victoria and has one older brother who previously attended Shawnigan. Although her brother wanted to come, she was not as willing. Before coming to Shawnigan, she danced everyday and spent about 31 hours of dancing a week. So it has been a hugggeee change coming to Shawnigan from such a competitive program. She also plays soccer for fun. Katie’s biggest fear is being trapped in a room with water and drowning ( like in divergent) and she  is also very afraid of something like the purge happening. She signed up for EDGE because it has always been a goal of hers since she came to Shawnigan. What makes her unique is how she finds it easy to talk, get along and relate with most people.


Bridget was born and raised in Saratoga, California – a small town close to San Francisco – where she lived her entire life until she decided to come to Shawnigan in grade 8. She has one sister who is seven years older than her. They are really close. However, sometimes its hard to get along due to the large age difference. Her dad was born in a small town in Sweden and because of that she has had the opportunity to travel all around Europe with her family. She loves experiencing new things and meeting different people. This is one of the main reasons why she signed up for EDGE, she wants to “get to know the unknown”, she likes to keep things different and try new things, otherwise she gets board. She has an irrational fear of puke! She hates everything about it: the smell, the feeling, the thought, everything. She is really excited to be able to bond with our EDGE team, and to be able to have a once-in-a-lifetime service trip experience.


Aaron is trilingual, speaking English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. He has four brothers, plays competitive squash on a national level and was born in Hong Kong and raised in Shanghai. He is an ex-badminton player and ranked 5th in Shanghai in his age category. Aaron first chose to sign himself up for the EDGE program under the recommendation of his two older brothers (former Shawnigan students) who volunteered for the edge program themselves. His brothers described the EDGE program as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a good opportunity to meet and bond with new people. Aaron does not enjoy public speaking, a fear that developed from an involuntary sign up for drama class when he was 13. Aaron is interested in pursuing a career in engineering and strives to attend USC.


Alex was born in Hong Kong, moved to Singapore, then Australia, and is currently calls Whistler her home. She enjoys skiing and studio art. She also likes creative writing and reading. She has traveled to numerous amounts of developing countries but has never had the opportunity to give back to the people that may not be able to afford certain necessities and luxuries. Learning about the EDGE program and what it entails do, she wanted to do the same and help those in need. She is very claustrophobic and terrified of heights.


One thing that makes Moyra unique is that she is well-rounded in all aspects: piano, running, school, and a passion for art and dance. Moyra applied to the Shawnigan EDGE program, because she wanted to gain the experience and go to a different country, not just for vacation but to actually make an in-depth connection with different people, help people, and most of all make a positive impact. Moyra’s greatest fear is not being able to give back to her parents when she grows up… and a fear of insects. If Moyra did not get into the EDGE trip she would apply for the EDGE Zimbabwe trip next year, or volunteer outside of school. One thing she will get out of the EDGE Costa Rica trip is respect for people, perspective, knowledge and last but not least, impactful connections.


My partner is Isa. One thing that makes her unique is how many places she’s traveled in the world, and her love for hotels (especially luxurious hotels and room service). She signed up for the EDGE program because growing up privileged in a developing country (Mexico) made her want to help people more. Her greatest fear is being forgotten, not just by her future family, but by the world when she dies. She really wants to make an unforgettable impact on people. Isa is close with her older sister Caro because they are only 1.5 years apart. Isa’s roommate is Olivia. Isa’s favourite TV show is Friends.


The partner I chose to get to know better is Nnenna. Nnenna’s unique quality is her background as her father is from Nigeria, and her Mom is from Mozambique, as well as being part Indian and Greek. She can also speak Portuguese and one of her favourite things to do is to cook and write her own recipes – specifically for Portuguese food. The reason Nnenna signed up for this EDGE trip is because she’s always been into volunteering — she was a part of the ‘MeToWe’ club at her old school — and took this as the opportunity to broaden her knowledge and experience while also making an impact on the world as that’s one of her goals as a person overall. One of Nnenna’s greatest fears is going on a hike and encountering a snake. Overall, she believes that Shawnigan has helped her grow and brought her new perspectives, and wants to expand on this with her interest in pursuing in politics bringing equality and impact to the world.

A Thursday night hike to watch the sunset in Bribripa