El Cocal is a community located on a small peninsula a few minutes outside of Quepos. The community itself is an isolated and partially illegal settlement, home to Costa Ricans as well as many immigrant families from other Latin American countries, (Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama).
Many of these people have come to Costa Rica to benefit from the political and financial stability offered, but in such a tourist-rich area as Quepos, people can struggle to earn a living unless they are able to draw an income from the foreign visitors.
Male residents of El Cocal are commonly employed in the fishing industry, work in Manuel Antonio hotels, or get involved with illegal activities. Families often partake in a more short-term, day-by-day livelihood rather than focus on their long-term future.
The children growing up in this environment do not have an understanding towards preparing for the future. Partially fuelled by lack of education in the community and partially by the transient and semi-legal nature of the community (many of whose members are seasonally unemployed and affected by drug and alcohol abuse), their attitudes towards education and life in general are reflected by these offsets.
Therefore, together with the community, we have been working in designing a strategy to develop El Cocal.
One of the most important tasks has been to identify the needs of the community through its inhabitants. During the community development workshops, the people of Cocal have been able to understand the importance of being part of the process. It helps them to decide what they want for their inhabitants, how they would like to see their community in the future, and how they should participate.
During the process, it has been possible to empower people of the community. With workshops, working all together and helping each other, now the community can organize in better ways, and some of the women in Cocal are teaching each other how to sew.
Now Cristobalina is the best promoter with the people of the community that leaves far. She is working hard in make them participate and communicate all the things that are going on in the committees.
Another example of community empowerment are the people who participate in the English classes that GVI provides. It helps them learn another avenue of communication and in obtaining resources for their families. Now more and more people are attending the classes.
During these months, we’ve been working with different partners such as the Distance University of Costa Rica, ASOMACAO AC, the Municipality of Quepos, and the Local Theatre-COPAZA, SUNNY ERG, Comitiva Quepos, PANI.
Together we are looking to develop the social conditions in Cocal. Helping the community to discover their strengths and provide them with more tools for their personal growth.
Continuing with the results of the interviews last year and covering the interests and needs in the community. This year we work in planning and prioritization of projects for the community, self-esteem and leadership. In all of them there was a good participation, although it is still necessary for people from the farthest part of Cocal to get involved, however Cristobalina has become the spokesperson and the interest and participation of the community is advancing.
During the community development workshops, we worked on the strengths and opportunities of the community, as well as points of conflict or weakness. One of the purposes of the workshops was to identify the people who contribute to improving the community and the possible actors who can strengthen Cocal.
Other important workshop was carried out in Cocal, was related with identity and sense of belonging. We analyse together how the sense of community is built. It was very interesting to observe that in the theory people are very clear about what should be done, but in practice they find it difficult to break the barriers that have been created over time, so we decided to split the workshop in two sessions about building the identity of the Cocal and how to close the gaps between the inhabitants. The conclusions were very important, they determined communication strategies and a festival organized by the community was convened in order to be in contact with all and make sure to inform what are the next steps for Cocal.
Maintenance in the Community centre
Part of the funds requested are being used to purchase healthy snacks for the children. Due to the lack of resources in their families, children eat very unhealthily and develop bad nutritional habits.
We also use the funding for materials and supplies for the Childcare program. The activities we carry out during the program help the children to be out off the street, learn about new topics, and strengthen reading and writing. We are working hard to support the
school curriculum to strengthen the subjects related to science, math, reading and writing, since we still have children who are 12 years old who cannot read or write well.
Now we are receiving children who are smaller because they do not have teacher in kinder garden, with them we are spending more time, stimulating their creativity and motor skills.
Likewise, we are working together with the PANI to be able to give a workshop on the best education for parents and children of the Cocal considering non-violence and values.
Another part of the funding goes towards the maintenance of the Playground and Community Centre. This are where we carry out the activities for Childcare, the English classes , workshops, community events, and town hall meetings.
Lastly, this year we repaired the woods of the Playground, the slide, and the swings, is the only fun, open space that the children use on a frequent basis..Also we repaired part of the roof and renovated some the ceiling plates, because they were so rusty and due to the proximity next to the sea and the heavy rains, was necessary to do it by parts to continue having this safe space for the community.
What is next?
In continuing our work in Cocal, reinforcing the importance of being participative is essential. As we build more relationships and have more active members in the community, GVI’s Community Development program grows, resulting in progress of El Cocal at large.
We will to continue our focus on healthy eating. Having support in offering nutritional workshops, healthy cooking, and continue to provide healthy snacks for the children.
We would also like to address the interest in parent education workshops, first respondent, and create safe spaces for children and their families where they can express and learn.
One of our most significant emphasises is keeping our safe spaces for children and the rest of the community. That is why it is a necessity to repair the other part of the roof of the Community Centre
Thank you for your incredible generosity. It is greatly appreciated. The huge progress being made in the El Cocal community cannot occur without your kind support.