“We wanted to do something unique; something that no-one else would have done otherwise,” explained one grade 12 student.  As the class mulled over a suitable Community Service project, they thought of Charlie, who had lost his house during October’s Tropical Storm Nate, and of the polluted river it had been swept into.

RiverCleanup4The class teamed up with Charlie’s co-workers from Valle Escondido preserve/hotel/pizzeria/permaculture site just downriver, and spent the morning pulling out over 30 bags of garbage. Valle Escondido owner Jonah noted, That impact we made today will outlast all of our lives.  It’s amazing how quickly the river turns a large piece of plastic into small pieces.”

Only a small percentage was from Charlie’s house (making students think again about larger issues of waste disposal and recycling in Monteverde).  But imagine his relief at not having his life strewn into the river that he has always staunchly protected, and at also managing to salvage such items as his fridge, a special carving, and blankets (presumably not the underwear in this photo…)  Charlie’s co-workers labored particularly hard to dig his fridge out of deep mud in the middle of the river and carry it up, where they found it miraculously can still be repaired.


Students found an old toy that reminded them of a game they used to play in Melody’s kingergarten class over a decade ago, launching them into a nostalgic mood.  They lamented, and at some level admired, the awesome power of Nate in littering the river with stumps, mud and debris – a river and waterfall they often come to in their days off.  Tara (our brave SAT writer…) recalled the driver who plummeted right over the waterfall and somehow survived, and students from our Gap Year and our Study Abroad programs even found and tasted wild ginger.

Study Abroad and Gap Year students in Monteverde discover wild Ginger.

Before loading up the pick-up truck (twice), students created a garbage-art Christmas scene (see photos below).  We then walked down to Valle Escondido to relax in their hammock garden, and hiked the trails to a different waterfall vista.  Taking full advantage of the beautiful location and sense of comaraderie following meaningful work together, we conducted our Sex Ed minicourse right there instead of back in the classroom – a deep discussion about the qualities of a healthy relationship in which students and we adults alike learned and shared new understandings.

After some well-deserved wood-fired pizza, we hiked back to school, crossing again over the bridge that had washed out, looking with satisfaction on a clean river, a clean start for Charlie, and the deep satisfaction of a Community Service Day that made a difference.