Somehow the idea of kite flying seems relegated to popular literature and classic films. It conjures up images of small children in flat caps on a heath somewhere near London, ideally with a somewhat magical nanny lurking nearby, or possibly a Middle Eastern cityscape. You probably wouldn’t think of a tropical island community fundraising event. However, in El Cocal at least, that is exactly what kites mean. For a number of years now the school has run a kite related weekend to raise much needed funds for resources, structural improvements and generally to subsidise it’s meagre budget. Last year the event raised more money than the yearly budget itself, which gives an idea of why it is so important to the school and why they were so keen for us to be involved.
This being Costa Rica it wasn’t entirely clear what would be happening or exactly when. What we did know is that there would be kites. The Wednesday before the event saw the whole school day abandoned in favour of sitting in their outside area making kites from string, tissue paper and bamboo. The decoration was mostly left to the kids, whose artistic talent never ceases to amaze. For the next two days we had a regular stream of children from the school coming into the community centre and asking for help with their kites, be it help putting one together from scratch or simply repairing a small tear in the paper that was so lovingly placed over the frame. We even had a couple of people practising/showing off their kite flying ability.
With so much build up it would be difficult not to be excited for the weekend, and it did not disappoint. Saturday was race day and was organised by a group from Quepos. Although the kite festival has been happening for a while now the race is a new addition. I was very happy to see so many of the children from the school taking part in the junior event, and I was delighted to be able to run in the adult event – 8km along the beach in beautiful weather.
Sunday was a little less sunny but had a crucial breeze to get the kites going, and by the time we arrived the sky was literally full of kites. I have never seen so many outside of Mary Poppins or the Kite Runner, and it still seems quite miraculous that more people didn’t get their lines tangled in trees and other kites. I was helping to unhook a few lines while other GVI people were helping to judge the event and two of our volunteers had actually entered the competition. Unfortunately their kite tore almost as soon as it was airborne but there were no shortage of children around to help with flying or even extending the lines to get the kites even higher.
In all I would say it was a very successful event for a number of reasons. Firstly of course the money raised, which will go to much needed resources for the school, a process that we are hoping to be able to aid with GVI Charitable Trust money and construction/arts volunteers. Secondly it brought a community together in a place where people often don’t mingle and don’t interact as a whole. It was fantastic to see so many children there with family and friends, and so many people in general having a good time in such a simple and inclusive way.
The more that GVI can support its partners in their own ventures, and the more we can encourage community interaction, the closer we come to achieving our project goals of empowering local people to stand up and make things better for themselves.