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A beautiful way to learn about a country

   
 

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Mauricio (left), with a group of volunteers in Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica.

   

Mauricio Artiñano, from Costa Rica, is a self-proclaimed “fan” of volunteerism. His passion for expressing solidarity in action began when Artiñano was in high school, and his Social Studies teacher led his class on a unique field trip – a day volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity worksite.

Eager to continue to raise walls and hope for families in need, Artiñano has since volunteered in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica – always with Habitat.

To get to know a country, he explains, you have to go beyond the tourist attractions and beautiful scenery. “You have to go into the poor communities, learn about their needs, work side-by-side with families that desperately need shelter,” said Artiñano during his most recent volunteer adventure in his home country of Costa Rica. “This is the other Costa Rica, the one that Habitat invites you to meet while working in solidarity for a good cause.”

This year, Artiñano decided to celebrate his birthday volunteering with Habitat, and invited his friends to join him. Nineteen accepted, some of whom who had worked with Artiñano on previous Habitat builds, and others who would be embarking on their first construction adventure.

“It was really an amazing experience – to get your hands dirty for a cause as important as this leaves you with a tremendous sense of satisfaction,” said one. “Also, Habitat organized a meeting with the representatives of the community’s development association, who told us about the needs that exist in the community and the projects that they have accomplished so far. We went to visit several of these, and this was important for the team to see – because we learned more about our country through this experience.”

The visit also included a refreshing dip in the Peñas River, which helped to alleviate the physical effects of the day’s work.

Passion for volunteerism has also soaked into Artiñano’s professional life. He now works as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Association of Businesspeople for the Development of Costa Rica. Nevertheless, Artiñano affirms that every volunteer experience is different. Each experience provides a unique way of learning about the world – whatever country you’re in. “It teaches us that volunteerism does more than provide direct help to families and communities in need, it helps us to be more conscious of our surroundings and to find joy in getting our hands dirty to make our world a home.”