Happy Birthday to us! Tropical Adventures just turned 8 years old in August. We have legally been a nonprofit public benefit charity since July of 2007, officially known as “The Casa Milagro Foundation” even though we started operations as Tropical Adventures back in 2005.
As the staff and trustees of the foundation met to discuss the future of our organization, we first decided to look in our past to see what we have accomplished. And we were truly amazed! I hope you’ll feel as proudly as I do, knowing that through the help of our more than 810 volunteers, donors, supporters, staff and interns, we have accomplished as much as an army! Please take some time to review our partial list of accomplishments at the end of this blog entry.
Each year we grow older and wiser and more experienced. When we started way back at the beginning teaching “Hello, my name is….” to elementary school children, I honestly could not have imagined the kind of impact we were going to make over the long haul. Nor did I know how many incredible – and incredibly talented – people were going to show up and offer to help.
One of the many valuable lessons we have learned was how to address key issues at a more core level, as opposed to putting band aids on problems. One example is how we worked to address severe economic issues in the indigenous community of Bambu in the Talamanca Region of Costa Rica. We sat down with the community members and helped them form some ideas about what could be done as a community to make things better.
They decided on the creation of an organic farmer’s market. So we got to work!
Not only were we able to provide jobs for 10 community members while the construction was taking place, but we were able to create a long-term, sustainable project where anyone in the community could participate. We brought in trainers of all sorts to help them learn about hydroponics, sustainable farming, alternatives to dangerous pesticides — and gave each person who wanted to participate seed money to get things rolling.
Two years later, the community is still running their organic farmer’s market and are better off economically than they were before.
Armed with more experience — and much more help than we’ve ever had before, we have some exciting new initiatives I’d like to introduce you to:
“Vecinos del Mundo”
Vecinos del Mundo (which means “Neighbors of the World”) was created to bring together cultures and people in the community Hojancha, Costa Rica in a collaborative effort to increase understanding between cultures, with an emphasis on community development, education, culture and conservation.
As this program develops with the collaboration of the community, we will continue to identify the activities we will be implementing. Right now we're looking at:
- A technology center
- Recycling Program
- Conservation Distance-learning: Providing online lessons to international students
- English & Spanish language exchange
- Community garden and community tool exchange
- Environmental conservation education for local community members
- Nutrition, cooking, dance classes
- Wellness classes (yoga, meditation)
- Youth activities & camps – especially for teens
- Weekend excursions to surrounding areas
- Community service projects
- Open Air Cinema
- Shared ride project
- Outdoor gym and physical education classes
- Due to our limited resources, we can not begin with everything at the same time, so we are beginning our focus in two main areas: Youth Activities and Language Exchange.
Youth / Distance Learning Program
In collaboration with teachers and students from the United States we are working on building a curriculum of educational yet engaging activities for the local youth in Hojancha. This will be an opportunity for local students to learn more about environmental conservation and science while also participating in cross-cultural exchange via the internet. It is our plan that this will include blogs, videos, and live interviews from Costa Rica with topics covering things from the basics of sea turtles to more advanced levels geology and natural sciences. This takes the old idea of “pen pal” to a whole new virtual level! This initiative will be aimed at helping the youth of Hojancha as well as classrooms in the United States but the impact will go beyond that if successful; we will train and hire local young adults in the technologies required, furthering their future employability. Over sixty classrooms have already signed up to participate in the planning.
These are one-on-one conversational sessions we are using to foster cross-cultural learning and collaboration, and to boost skills and confidence. If successful, this will provide an invaluable tool to help prepare individuals for jobs which they would not have qualified for before participating. We have initiated pre-evaluations and have set up a system for continued evaluation so that results will be able to be quantifiably measured.
Environmental Policy Advocacy Program
The Environmental Policy Advocacy Program was created to help strengthen the conservation laws in Costa Rica to further protect our rich & biodiverse land, waters and wildlife. We are currently working with the Ministry of the Environment and interested funding organizations to create a National Sea Turtle Strategy with the assistance of other NGOs and the Costa Rican government.
No-Charge Volunteer Participation
In the past we had no means of generating any kind of income to pay for our costs of running our programs. It has always “felt funny” asking people for volunteer help – and then charging them to participate. Of course, their tax-deductible payment was really a donation and was used to keep our programs running, however this mandatory financial obligation precluded many people from being able to participate.
As an organization, we feel very strongly that our volunteers – just by participating with us here in our programs – grow tremendously in a positive way. Thus our motto: “Self-Discovery through Exploration.” We do not want to limit the number of people who can participate, nor limit the number of people who could potentially experience this life-changing opportunity.
What we would like to move to now is a model whereby the volunteer does not pay to participate. They would, of course, have to cover their own costs of transportation, lodging, food, any tours they wished to participate in, and spending money.
HOW IS CASA MILAGRO/TROPICAL ADVENTURES GOING TO THRIVE???
YOUR SUPPORT! – this is where YOU come in!
We are looking for the perfect balance of income sources to provide us with the resources we will need to survive and thrive. These include, but are not limited to:
- Commissions paid to us by tour providers, hotels and transportation companies. We can offer all of the above to our volunteers and supporters for the same price they will get by going to the provider directly. But the provider will pay us up to 20% of the purchase price in commissions.
- Grantmakers. Other organizations who are aligned with our purpose and choose to assist us financially and..
- The generousity and support of kind, progressive thinking people like you!
Thank you so much in advance – your support really makes a difference!
WHAT OTHER WAYS CAN I HELP?
- Spread this message to as many of your friends and family members as possible by clicking on the link “Join this Campaign” on the upper-right part of this page and sharing it with all your Facebook and Email contacts!
- Post this link on your Facebook page.
- Tweet this link to your follower
- Consider signing up for an automatic monthly donatio
- Let us know if you can come down in person to help
- We’re doing a lot of great things here and we want to see these programs continue.
SOME OF OUR PROUD ACCOMPLISHMENTS MADE POSSIBLE WITH YOUR HELP. FEEL PROUD!
- Taught 8,968 hours of English to over 500 students in 5 different rural schools.
- Donated 10 computers and a printer to the elementary school in Cocles.
- Bought and installed ceiling fans for the students and teachers in the Cocles school.
- Donated 25% of the money necessary to build the beautiful new school in the extremely remote location of Alto Katsi.
- Donated the greater part of the money necessary to rebuild the entire roof, purchase and install ceiling fans, purchase a new water pump and rebuild the bathrooms at the elementary school in Hone Creek.
- Volunteered over 200 hours in the Hojancha CEN / CINAI where hundreds of families receive healthy, nutritional food from the government on a monthly basis and where their children learn about nutrition and healthy habits.
- Paid for and administered the treatment for 30 children in Alto Katsi who were suffering from leishmaniasis, which is a horribly disfiguring disease caused by skin-eating parasites.
- Volunteered over 19,000 hours working with sea turtles.
- Built over 20 cages for injured wild animals.
- Helped to provide treatment to over 50 injured animals.
- Helped build 2 sea turtle hatcheries.
- Donated $5,000 for the publication of hundreds of thousands of books distributed throughout Central and South America to help children learn about conservation.
- Helped build over 10 kilometers of trails and helped to maintain a countless number of others.
- Provided 550 hours of art instruction.
- Planted almost 4,000 trees.
- Volunteered nearly 200 hours to help care for endangered iguanas.
- Logged almost 200 hours of beach cleaning.
- Volunteered 11,508 hours working with community development projects, including our work in Bambu on the indigenous reservation in the Talamanca region.
- Built an organic farmer’s market in Bambu:
- Working with the local residents to find creative and sustainable ways to help them economically
- Employing 10 local residents to construct the buildings
- Providing training to residents if they wanted to learn new skills
- Providing seed money to each and every family who wanted to participate, but did not have the money to get started
- Built and maintained chicken cages to ensure residents of an underprivileged, rural nursing home have a sustainable food source.
- Added 40 children to the list of those families without income who receive monthly food baskets, and for whom funds are saved in case of some sort of disaster or emergency.
- Helped to build a training facility in Guanacaste for monkeys so they could learn which power lines and cables are life-threatening.
- Sponsored 10 holiday events for more than 1,200 kids.
- Sponsored a Summer Camp three different years for 300 kids.
- Provided emergency supplies to over 35 families affected by terrible floods.
- Painted a Church, a sea turtle volunteer lodge, an elementary school, and a high school.
- Provided a workshop to 20 community members to assess environmental, economic and social benefits/impacts in host communities (thanks to Auburn University, Georgia).
- Performed an in-depth, 6-month feasibility study for a community center in the town of Hojancha in Guanacaste. (Marie-Charlotte Guyot, 2009)
- Performed a study of the positive and negative influences of tourism on the livelihood of the Bribri tribe in Costa Rica (Sanne Buis, 2012)
… and this is just to name a few.