In 2008, I had an opportunity to help build eco-rooms at a community cooperative in Bijagua, a small rural village in the Northwestern part of Costa Rica.
In Bijagua, it’s not unusual to see men on horseback herding cattle or plowing farms with oxen. There aren’t many “gringos” in this area – so I stuck out like a sore thumb particularly when I laced up my running shoes to jog through “town”. Bijagua’s quaint downtown has a dozen or so stores including a bank, a butcher, several markets, bakeries and clothing stores, as well as a motorcycle repair. There is a mesmerizingly beautiful Catholic church a block from the main square.
The Tenorio Volcano towers Bijagua and their lush rainforest trails play host to more than 300 types of birds including five species of toucans and 18 species of hummingbirds. Taking a nocturnal walk on the rainforest trails and suspension bridges is something that even the most seasoned traveler will not quickly forget.
Pip Kelly, the one-and-only teacher at Bijagua’s “Solo Good English” school is a breath of fresh air. She inspires the town’s children and a handful of adults to learn English, a marketable skill in this growing eco-community.
The tuition she collects barely covers the school’s expenses, including rent, books, materials and her very modest salary.
I think about Pip and her husband Donald quite often.They are pillars in their community and I am humbled by their selflessness. When I returned to Bijagua in 2009, I brought lots of goodies in tow, including a laptop, dozens of books and a PowerPoint projector. Tears of joy filled Pip’s eyes when she saw these treasures; I will forever be moved by her gratitude, knowing the good she could do with these items.
Jim & family playing games with some of Bijagua’s elementary school children
Want to see the impact your donation has on this school and community?!
Look what happened with the projector I donated:
Q. What do you get when you put a donated projector, a copy if Ice-Age three, 150 kids and two teachers together?
A. An incredibly successful cinema night in Bijagua – That’s what!
Yes, on September 21, the community gymnasium was transformed into a cinema for the local community to come and enjoy a screening of Ice-Age 3. Over 150 children turned up, with the US.50 cent voluntary entrance fee going to three local primary schools.
Our makeshift screen of four bed sheets hangs tort with rocks and rope over the soccer pitch!
The night was a complete success with rice with chicken for sale, along with pop-corn, rice pudding and homemade ice-cream.
We have visited Pip twice since this trip, each time bringing supplies – shoes, books and clothes – for the Heliconias community. Pip and Donald got married and had a beautiful baby girl in 2010. They are building a travel business to attract tourists to the beautiful rainforest trails at Heliconias and to the incredible Rio Celeste waterfall. Our family has “adopted” this community and hopefully we’re able to support them for years to come. We’re planning a return trip back during the spring of 2014.