Helping others is a way to keep the aging mind sharp, too

After reading the article about the benefits to aging minds that retiring in Costa Rica brings, I decided to check my own mind-saving activities, if I had any.

I just put the final piece in a 1,500 piece puzzle which was a collage of six different Van Gogh paintings, including his self portrait.  I prefer puzzles of paintings to photos.

Because most of my Tico friends are bilingual, my Spanish conversation consists of talking with myempleada and taxistas.  I learn a lot about the caja and politics in Costa Rica from both of them, and they correct my Spanish.  I have to admit that my comprehension and fluency in Spanish was much greater in Spain and Mexico than in Costa Rica.  I have trouble with both the speed with which Costa Ricans speak and the slang or idioms used here.

I keep up with the news of the world, concentrating on that in my home country of United States and Costa Rica via Internet and TV, neither of which, of course is dependent upon my living in Costa Rica. The fact that I can afford a maid and taxis in Costa Rica makes it possible to spend more time following world news, which may in part lead to depression, which I am told older people are prone.

I also try to get to the feria each weekend.  Here I learn the Spanish names of vegetables and fruits I have never seen or tried before, and get exercise on the hills that are the Pavas feria.  And here I must acknowledge that I received two emails in strong defense of the Santa Ana feria.  Both writers get to the feria early in the morning where they tell me they mix with Ticos, not gringos and where the produce is fresh and lovely.  So I concede.

And finally, I have my column to write each week.  This involves my dictionary, Google, my Atlas, Roget’s thesaurus, and very often help from my friends.

In this case, Martha Rollins.  We both belong to the same book club, but that is not all Martha has been doing since she and her husband moved to Costa Rica.  It all started when she went to Namu to ask for a mask for a Women’s Club auction that would benefit books and scholarships for children.  She learned that the Cabécar children in a small school on Río Pacuare were in desperate need of books in Spanish.  That was in 2009 and The Cabécar Project was born.  Others joined and have been taking books and food, gardening tools and other help to the children and their families since then.

There the trips to Alto Quetzal involve going to Turrialba, La Suiza, Tuis and Bajo Pacuare to begin with, first: by car, then horse and then on foot carrying supplies.  To my mind, it would challenge a triathlon contestant.  Once there, she often stays overnight in a sleeping bag on the floor of the school and prepares breakfast on a propane stove in the school kitchen.

Out of this project began the Educational Project, supported by the Ministry of Educación Pública and local corporations and social and humanitarian groups.  The purpose of the pilot is to “develop future leaders who are proud of their own culture while respecting that of others.”  Partner schools help with this goal.  This October they celebrated the end of the first phase of the project, naturally, with music and singing, and food. Also in attendance were the students of the non-indigenous school in Orosi that was partnering with them.

Martha’s work is dependent upon the kindness of others, of course.  And she told me that contrary to what she had been warned, “There are no bad guys” in the ministries and corporations where she appealed for help.  When the top management is presented with a good idea and kept informed, they are happy to help.  Learning that Kolbi is a Cabécar word for a little frog that goes to the top of the tree and sings, she went to Insituto Costarricense de Electricidad that uses the frog and word as a trademark with a suggestion the firm might want to get involved.  They did.

Martha is still working with the original school, and last week the current director, Albin Mayora, asked if she could donate food for the activity they are planning  Nov. 13 and 14 with three schools along the river. All of them are extremely poor. (There is a hint in here somewhere.)

There is much planned for the future. Next year they will concentrate on science and technology using the NASA/Omar Dengo Globe program.

I cannot possibly enumerate all Martha is doing.  I just know she and other volunteers are bringing education, understanding and good will to a small part of a world that sorely needs it. For anyone interested in more information or who would like to donate expertise or money to this project, please contact Martha or cell phone 8667-8623.

And that, my friends, is another way to keep your mind alert and working.

This entry was posted in Friday Column. Bookmark the permalink.