Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Journey to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation

It was a few weeks ago that my neighbor and friend Sara Gomez, a dental student at the University of Costa Rica, said that she had been home on vacation for only 5 days and she was bored already. I challenged her to journey to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation with the Mission Voz Que Clama and photograph the trip. This was an important journey, important to me because I can not make this trip, important to her because it expanded her world, her mind, and I knew she could do it. It is also important that you learn about our rural Indigenous. This was probably her most challenging adventure yet, I knew it would be pushing her envelope but I left that part out when sharing the opportunity with her.

The hike to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation is difficult and only the most athletic and physically fit are able to make the journey. There are no bridges, roads, or comfort, and it is mostly an up mountain climb. The roaring rivers must be crossed by sliding on a cable or fording the deep, cold, torrential river on foot. When you take a canopy tour you are secured in a harness with every safety precaution. Our Indigenous and volunteers sit in a sling, grasp on to their children and possessions while holding on for dear life and then advance hand over hand. At this moment Sara wanted to go back the same way she came, but that was not possible.

To this village the trip is 5 hours long on a good day. From my side of the reservation the trip is 8 hours long to the first village and often can not be made in one day due to weather and river conditions. The Indigenous walk those 8 hours to our farm for emergency help as our farm manager has a cell phone and there is no phone on the reservation. Recently he called 911 and a helicopter came and airlifted a very ill man from the reservation.

I read an article in We Love Costa Rica about Americans like me who move to a developing nation. It correctly said: "The influx of illegal immigrants from south of the border will continue until the economies of their homelands begin providing sufficient job opportunities. US emigrants help to create those jobs. They are America's most effective foreign aid program, but without the bureaucracy and waste. They share more than money. They share themselves. Taken together, they are helping to alleviate the root causes of illegal immigration. Americans bring their sorely needed money and wealth of professional expertise to the homelands of America's immigrants. That steady emigration from the US is thoroughly ignored, however, because relevant statistics are nearly impossible to find." My husband, a nurseryman, and I retired to Costa Rica to protect our rainforest that spawns and grows water. We grow bamboo, vetevier, and nitrogen fixing legumes as well as practice permaculture and biodynamics. We supply school materials to the rural poor and Indigenous children in our area. Currently we are looking for a volunteer teacher who will spend a year with us teaching English and how to read to the poor and Indigenous. We provide jobs to both Costa Ricans and Indigenous, sharing with them the skills that we know as they share with us their knowledge.

I know some of you know folks who have vacationed in Costa Rica and may have even stayed at our Marriott or other fine resorts or hotels and totally missed my part of our country. I have had Gringo's say to me, "I went to Costa Rica and I did not see any poor people." What a shame, those folks took a vacation and missed the best part of my country because they stayed at Disney World, but perhaps they did not know there was more to see. South of Turrialba, the Cordillera de Talamanca is one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets. The only thing south of us, more or less, is the Indigenous Reservation, La Amistad International Parque and then Panama.

What I am sharing with you is one part of the many parts of the real Costa Rica. This is the land the Indigenous protect, it is a water shed, consisting of cloud and rainforest. So beautiful and yet difficult, these areas produce the purist water on Earth. Not a lot of pure water left on planet Earth unfortunately. Our Indigenous leave the lightest footprint possible on this land. They live with no electricity and wash their clothing in a stream. The children see occasional visiting teachers, and most Indigenous speak little or no Spanish, they speak their Indigenous language. They look forward to visiting missionaries such as Hector and Daniel, both Costa Ricans, who led this adventure and who are the directors at the Mission Voz Que Clama, http://www.vqcmission.com/ .

I continue to feel an obligation to help the poor rural children, the Indigenous and the mission, although they ask for nothing. Our Indigenous have been ignored, they are the invisible people. I observe people walking around them when they come to town as if they were lepers. I can’t help looking at their beautiful brown faces and wonder their need and their story. They are mostly uneducated as we understand education and do not attend school because they do not speak Spanish and there is no school in their village. They are wise to the ways of the forest, its animals, medicinal plants, and how to survive. It is only in recent years have they been issued a Cedula, the national identity card (similar to a social security number). They now have free medical care, but little access to it. They often do not have bus fare after having walked down the mountain, as they do not trade in currency, for this is our way, not theirs. As our world continues to move forward encroaching on their lives, our Indigenous are left behind. We have two worlds going on, theirs and ours, they call us the others. Their world is a perfect one in the eyes of nature, not an easy life, but near perfect in many ways, and deficient in others. We are on this planet complicating their life with our greed, our need, and our affluence that sometimes allows us to run over everything in our way. As a global community we must all coexist and care for each other because if we do not, we will all suffer the consequences. So I will share my Wish List with you at the end of my story and ask that when you come to Costa Rica, please bring a suitcase of supplies for these people and their children. You can contact me ginnee@racsa.co.cr and we will arrange for pickup at the airport in San Jose, or direct you to a nearby drop off. You are always welcome to come to us (you can drive to the mission) and see the other, real Costa Rica in the South Central Mountains. Mission Voz Que Clama, distributes the donations, helps to educate the children, delivers supplies, builds shelters, saves lives and makes regular journeys to the reservation with volunteers. It has taken years to build a trusting relationship and to be able to communicate with the village. The mission has a 501c3 tax deductible US charitable designation.

Mission Voz Que Clama is located in Tuis de Turrialba. They allow the Indigenous who are traversing to stay at their facility when they come down from the mountain. They also take in the handicap Indigenous who were put out to die because it is believed they have a bad spirit. The Mission provides for all of their living and medical needs in this well run clean, loving, facility with 24/7 staffed care. This is partially funded through the proceeds earned from their Spanish Language School in Tuis http://www.cisacostarica.com/ If you would like to learn Spanish while on your vacation and have a cultural experience in the heart of rural Costa Rica's mountains and rivers, as well as providing the best kind of foreign aid, this is where your life changing journey begins.

Thank you for caring and understanding, thank you for your support.

Ginnee



Wish list:

Used lap top computers in working order
toothbrushes
tooth paste
Backpacks or small and medium duffle tote bags
chalk
twin or full blankets
battery-less flashlights (shakable)
pencils
notebooks
notebook paper
pencil sharpeners
colored pencils
scissors
pens
crayons
art paper
art supplies
craft paper
book bags
finger paints
powder craft paint
face paint
soccer balls
sweat shirts from the thrift store on 1/2 price day, sizes small and medium and children sizes These are small frame people. It is cold in the mountains.
good practical clothing, jeans, t-shirts, (small and medium sizes and children's sizes)
rain gear, umbrellas, rain coats, rain jackets
Baby clothes
Cloth diapers
gathered skirts for girls (they like skirts)
sneakers, children's sneakers, all sizes for children
good quality new socks
drum sticks ($2.00 a pair on the internet)
anything educational
flash cards
simple Spanish / English dictionaries
blow up beach ball globes of the world (they have never seen the world round, only flat)



Ginnee Hancock lives with her husband Felipe in Esperanza and Atirro de Turrialba, Costa Rica on their 1,270 acre rainforest farm.

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Stamati said...

"As a global community we must all coexist and care for each other because if we do not, we will all suffer the consequences."

I could not agree with you more!