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Henna Pithia and Nicola Freeman’s Costa Rica Service Project

Senior Henna Pithia and Junior Nicola Freeman started a service project that focuses on global sustainability and cultural immersion in Costa Rica. These campus celebrities are resident advisers at Mesa Court—Freeman for Lago and Pithia for Sierra. Therefore, it makes sense that these two RAs would build their nearly four-year friendship to a new extreme by leading sixteen students in a weeklong excursion in Costa Rica.

This program brought by Student Housing at UC Irvine and Tropical Adventures in Education will take students to learn more about global substantiality in a sense of working in national parks to focus on deforestation, food, water, and building. For cultural immersion, the participates will focus on cultural awareness and self awareness, showing empathy through alternative perspectives, displaying culture conflict management and much more to make the participants more culturally aware of themselves and others. To learn all about this, the participants will visit different parts of Costa Rica: Villas Mastatal, La Cangreja National Park, and Playa Palo Seco. These sites will give students firsthand experience of the beautiful country and its nature-filled wonders. In addition to visiting the national sites, participants will socialize with the citizens. One part of the trip is the Mastatal “Vivero” Project, which is part of the cultural aspect of the trip since the participants will be part of a housing project that has them live in a sustainability life style. They will live with local families for two days to soak in the rich culture. This weeklong excursion is filled with activities that will help students grow in their global and cultural sense.

So how did this all happen? Well, Freeman and Pithia have been brainstorming this idea since the Winter Holidays. However, they did not initiate their plans until they got back from winter break when they began making their dream into a reality by advertising it to students. Most of the students who are going are freshmen, since both work closely with that level but sophomore, juniors and seniors are also coming along. Pithia’s desire to travel helped make this trip to possible and her dream into a reality

Even though the girls’ dream did become a reality, they faced the challenge of funding. To overcome that, they had to attend meetings and write emails to receive funding from multiple sources at UCI. They eventually received help along the way from Jennifer Gamble, Complex Coordinator. Gamble helped the girls draft out a proposal for Student Housing and helped with the flow of the project.

To prepare for the trip, the girls held informational meetings. During these meetings, Pithia mentioned that she enjoyed seeing that the participants were developing relationships and growing. For one of the activities, they did cultural maps to learn more about each other. Freeman adds that the cultural maps helped her see the growth of the students and how they come from all different sorts of life to have their uniqueness shine.

The girls will be doing this weeklong excursion during Spring Break. Through teamwork and hard work, this week looks like a very exciting one.
During the trip, the girls will update their blog at http://costaricaprogram.wordpress.com/

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