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My unusual first day at El Cocal

By Matt Brigham 4 years ago
Categories Quepos

Looking out at the ocean as it floods the homes.

Hi, I’m Matt and I’m one of the latest volunteers to arrive at the GVI project in Quepos, Costa Rica. I’m here for four weeks at the end of my gap year because I wanted to do some more volunteering to help others while I have the time, whilst also being introduced to a very different part of the world and getting to practice my Spanish.

So last Tuesday (5th May) was my first time out in the schools, since Mondays are planning day, and I was going to Cocal that day. Normally the school day would have been three hours of English, arts and sports with our students, followed by a seperate class of English for adults. However on this day there was no school, as the school was host to about 40 people who’shomes had been destroyed or damaged by the rough waves and unusually high tides from the sea. To explain why this had been so destructive, let me just give you a bit of background: Cocal is basically a squatter settlement, so nobody owns their own land and therefore there are a lot of poorly built houses, very close to the sea. This hadn’t been a problem before, but with the combination of unusually high tides and rough waves, some of the houses had been reached by the sea.


The furious waves coming up over the beach and into the house in El Cocal

In fact later that day we (Louvisa, Iñes and I) were shown around some of the damaged houses, and some were almost totally destroyed. Their aluminium walls had been pushed aside and the contents of the houses were broken and scattered, one house even had a boat smashed into one side. These houses were so close to the sea, I was amazed it hadn’t happened before. It was clear to us that these houses were totally inhabitable now.

So we went that day mainly to entertain the kids who were stuck in the school with their families, we took games, a football and drawing things. When we arrived we were immediately greeted by some excited kids, taking things out of our box to play with. Then we set ourselves down on the main area and started getting more games out while the other kids began to join us. Connect 4 was a big hit, along with the ball and the drawing stuff, I ended up playing a random card game wih a group of young boys that consisted of something along the lines of play a card and see if anyone else had it, but they loved it. So we stayed there playing various games for a few hours and it felt really good to help them and the families out like that, they were all so sad when we left.

Although we weren’t teaching that day, we all felt useful because we saw how much the kids had enjoyed our company, and they needed the distraction, because some of the families had left their houses so quickly that all they had was the clothes they were wearing. For me it was not what I was expecting for my introduction to teaching, but it was certainly very eye-opening to the problems of this community, and I really enjoyed helping them out.


One of the many homes destroyed by the tides in El Cocal

So what GVI have now been doing for El Cocal, is being a collection hub for people to pass on any donations to the affected families. Already we have been around Quepos and have met some very kind locals who have generously given us food and clothes which we delivered to those who needed them. And now we have set up a donation page where you are able to donate whatever you want which will go to the affected families who have been left without homes and with little or no belongings. Thank you very much for reading this blog and thank you in advance for any kind donations to the El Cocal community.