I have always loved nature and wildlife. Before I could read and understand the content, I thumbed through old National Geographic magazines that my grandmother had accumulated over the years. It was in those magazines I learned of the country, Costa Rica. I dreamed of visiting a place like that someday
In 2014, after many years of wishing and saving, I planned my first trip to Costa Rica. I spent two weeks traversing the country. I was mesmerized by the beauty and nature in Costa Rica instantly. I was up before the sun each morning, not just because of the howler monkeys nearby, but because I could not wait to be immersed in the wonders the new day offered. Just when I thought it could get no better, I arrived at my last destination, Agujitas (Drake Bay).
I will never be able to describe in words the feelings I had that first time the boat exited the Sierpe River and headed out into the open water towards Drake Bay. It is an adventure for sure, but also brings a sense of peace. After exploring the area for a few days my heart and soul felt full and whole. As mentioned before, I love nature and wildlife so it is no wonder I instantly felt an immediate connection to Drake Bay. It is a heavenly place for someone looking for pristine places to birdwatch or explores the biodiversity the Osa Peninsula has to offer. There was something else though that took me a while to put a finger on, that allowed me to fall in love with the Osa Peninsula. Something more than the nature and wildlife I coveted so much. It is admittedly easy to overlook the things right in front of you in the flurry of excitement when discovering something new to you. When it finally hit me I was slightly embarrassed. The OSA Peninsula is a magical place, there is no question, but it is the people, not the place that makes it so. The interactions I had with the people in the area made as much of an impact on me as the splendid nature and wildlife found there. Genuine, friendly, welcoming, humble, considerate are a few, small words I would use to describe the people I had the pleasure to meet. While I will never profess to remember all the names of the people I met, I always remember the face of a kind and generous person and am forever touched by the impact they had on me. I was planning my return visit to Drake Bay before I left the first time. I did return, a few times in fact over the next few years. Never disappointed, always planning my next visit before I left.
In 2020, the world changed. We were all thrust into the grip of a global pandemic. We were all challenged with various hardships ranging from the extreme to minor. I did what I could here in my local community and quickly my thoughts turned to the place I love most. I know how isolated the Osa Peninsula is from the rest of Costa Rica. Getting resources to this area of the country can be challenging under the best of circumstances. I wanted to help but had no idea how. I quickly reached out to some contacts I had made over the years and was introduced to The Corcovado Foundation.
From the time I made my first donation, I began to learn about the various programs supported by the Foundation. Prior to the pandemic, The Corcovado Foundation was instrumental in providing environmental education in local communities, sea turtle conservation, and support to National Parks to name a few. The Foundation quickly switched gears in the midst of the pandemic and started delivery of essential goods (food, cleaning supplies, and pet food) to families struggling with little or no income while the tourism industry had been virtually shut down. They developed programs to maintain sustainable/regenerative agricultural programs in the local towns and organized castration (Spay/neuter) events for local cats and dogs in an effort to minimize the impacts of pets on the wild resources.
In April 2021, I was afforded the opportunity to see first-hand some of the programs funded and/or supported by The Corcovado Foundation. My adventure began with a small band of intrepid rangers tasked with monitoring the jaguar population in Corcovado National Park. It was some of the most intense hiking I have ever done. The terrain was slick and coming from New York where it was snowing and 33 degrees F (1 Celsius), the heat and humidity in Corcovado was challenging (as expected). My feet failed me on the first day of hiking and I developed severe blisters on both feet. Sounds like perfection, right? There were times I jokingly thought “If the Corcovado Foundation wants me to continue to provide support to the organization, why are they trying to kill me”? Just repeating those words makes me smile as they bring back a flood of some of the absolute best memories I have ever had. I had the luxury of sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the most amazing tract of rainforest I have ever seen. I watched deer, tamandua, coatis, white lipped peccaries, monkeys, and agoutis (to name only a few) going about their daily lives. I admit tears welled up in my eyes and I was rendered speechless the first time I saw a simple black and white photo of a jaguar from a trail camera we checked. I know better than to believe I will ever see one of these elusive creatures in person, but it has been life altering to know I walked the same path as one of these beauties. First and foremost I am reminded of the dedication of my traveling companions; Jason, Evelyn, “Champion” and Dani. This group makes treks like this multiple times a month across much of the Osa Peninsula looking for signs of jaguars and monitoring trail cameras along the way. It was an absolute honor to travel along with them on this particular journey of theirs. I will treasure this experience for eternity and yes, I would do it again, no question.
The last part of my trip took me back to where my love for the Osa Peninsula all began, Drake Bay. Here I met with Helena, the Environmental Education Director of the Corcovado Foundation. I learned much more about the programs and efforts to continue them during the pandemic. Remote\virtual learning for children across the globe has been a challenge. Imagine those same challenges in isolated area with less than ideal internet connectivity and fewer economic resources. In my opinion, instilling the virtues and ideals of sustaining our natural world and maintaining our natural resources to the young people around the world should be our top priority. They are the leaders of the future and the hope for us all. Programs like Junior Rangers and environmental workshops as well as virtual “environmental challenges” are critical pieces of the Corcovado Foundation’s work. After nice meal and great conversation, we took a quick drive to Los Planes to participate in one if the organization's programs to promote sustainable agriculture. Here I was introduced to several families who were harvesting and sharing seeds and plant cuttings that could be taken home and started in their own gardens. Once harvesting was completed the group moved to a pavilion where they discussed what the seeds were, when / how to plant and were provided a composting guide as well. We shared some amazing cookies, coffee and laughter. What a sense of community!
It took me full circle to the aforementioned reason the Osa Peninsula is so magical… it’s the people. It’s the rangers who spend countless nights away from family and friends in harsh conditions, in an effort to protect and monitor some of the most elusive, endangered creatures and ecosystems in world. It’s the volunteers and staff that make environmental learning programs exciting and engaging and shape our future leaders and protectors of our natural wonders. It’s the people in the community who come together to share resources and knowledge in an effort to make their community sustainable and more resilient during a global pandemic. It’s the organization that recognizes the immediate needs of the community’s most vulnerable members and mobilizes, quickly, to ensure they have the basic needs to survive. It’s the epitome of pura vida. It is what the Corcovado Foundation does and what they are made of.
The few programs that I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see in person merely scratch the surface of the work the Corcovado Foundation does not only on the Osa Peninsula, but across the country as well. It is the reason I do and will continue to support the good work the Foundation does.
With the sincerest gratitude for all you do,
Community organizations of Drake Bay contacted us concerned about the situation faced by the community youth and asking us for help to face this situation. The community has few alternatives for training and healthy recreation for young people. This leaves them few options to enjoy their free time and makes them vulnerable to succumbing to alcohol or drugs.
For this reason, in 2021, we contacted Corcovado National Park to form a youth group as Junior Park Rangers.
Nine young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen from Drake College are training in wildlife monitoring with a Corcovado National Park Ranger. They have already received two theoretical workshops on identifying mammal tracks and the placement of camera traps. In addition, they are learning about the different institutions that protect the environment.
In our last session, the Junior Park Rangers were placing three camera traps inside a path of the Corcovado National Park. The Junior Park Rangers will be in charge of collecting the images from these cameras and identifying the fauna that appears in them. One of our young people wrote to us impatiently asking when we could collect the photos from the camera traps that we had placed.
We will be sharing them with you in our next newsletter. Thank you for helping us maintain our environmental education and community development activities.
After the pause caused by the pandemic, tourism in Costa Rica gradually resumes its course. Before the health emergency, the Corcovado National Park received an average of 5,325 tourists per month, currently, it receives about 2,300; However, regardless of the number of visitors, the heroes of nature, the park rangers, remain vigilant to protect this natural treasure. Incidentally, with the decrease in tourism, environmental crimes increased.
San Pedrillo Operations Center is the site that welcomes visitors who come to the National Park, but it is also the permanent coordination site, where first response tasks are prepared and executed according to the different situations that come up in the national park. Due to the proximity of this center to the coast, the salinity causes that equipment gets damage more quickly.
Thanks to the funds collected through this project, we were able to change the wiring of the electrical system and its accessories, such as pipes, connectors, among others.
“At night we used light to illuminate ourselves at lunchtime, to move around the dining room, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Thanks to the improvements, we now have electricity in all these sectors, we are very grateful because they supplied us with the materials to repair the wiring and to be able to have electricity to carry out our night activities in the station" said Ocduber Cruz, park ranger of the Station.
With the pandemic, the government also made huge budget cuts, which do not help. With the budget cut for the protected area, it is very complex to be able to maintain the infrastructure and even more, to make repairs. For instance, the electrical system in the San Pedrillo Operational Station had not received maintenance for years and therefore it reached its useful life. The park rangers were left without electricity. In addition to the lack of electricity, there was the possibility of a short circuit that could cause a more serious problem in the sector. A fire would cause irreparable and unimaginable damage to the Station and to the national park itself, as the closest fire station is 80km away (about 3 hours driving and then 3 km walking).
“Thanks to the support of the Corcovado Foundation for the purchase of materials to repair the electrical wiring of the San Pedrillo operating center and the workforce of colleagues in the sector, it was possible to make the complete change of the installation, providing the park rangers of this station better conditions for their staying in the place” Stephanie Mory, Administrator of the National Park.
The Corcovado National Park still has many needs about maintenance of infrastructure, equipment for control and protection, materials, among others. Your support allows us to have a fund available to attend to emergencies and needs. We invite you to continue collaborating with this cause.
Albert Schweitzer said “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” –
You have been by our side supporting us with your financial contributions and your kind words since the beginning of the pandemic! And thanks to you we have been able to bring food to 50 families/individuals on 11 occasions, we have been able to help 25 families produce their own organic food, promoting food independence, we protected and liberated over 76,000 sea turtle hatchlings and so much more. Corcovado National Park opened its doors again. All thanks to you!
This Little By Little Campaign we raised $3745 USD for the COVID relief for the Elderly and $670 for environmental education and people are still donating.
The work of a nonprofit, especially a small one like ours is hard, we often find so much need in our communities and in our ecosystems. Our team, who many joined us as volunteers care passionately for our causes and the people we serve. I often get a plead here or there from one of them saying, this old man needs to be taken to the clinic, and he has nobody to do it for him; this family is hungry, the sea turtle population on this beach is being depleted by poachers and so much more.
With the pandemic, we have faced hard choices and hard times, harder times than ever, more pressure, more people in need, more pressure on wildlife than ever before and then it was the fact that they stole our only vehicle after we had put $7000 USD in repairs. Yet never have we experience such demonstrations of support and appreciation.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Because in this time of the pandemic, when there has been so much uncertainty and despair, you have been there for us shining bright. May you and your loved ones receive your kindness tenfold.
What we need in these times is more people like you bringing light to those in need, in need of a smile, a hand, a kind gesture.
Merry Christmas, and may 2021 bring all families in the world the peace, health, and prosperity we all long! This report is long because, although this year was challenging, we moved every program forward. With your help, we were able to accomplish more, serve more people, and be more impactful.
What a year this has been!
This year started with many changes; Steven stepped down as president of the foundation after more than two decades of leading it. As long-time members of the organization, Steven invited Jim and me to step on the board. I have served as president of this organization during these challenging times that have hit the world hard.
In mid-February, all the plans for the beginning of the year started to crumble, and in mid-March, everything changed. We had to suspend all in-person training and educational activities planned for the following months. Community park ranger workshops, consultant visits to community-based tourism projects, and meetings of environmental education groups were suspended.
To serve those that need us the most!
We quickly regrouped and committed to staying positive, proactive, and supportive. We soon understood that our duty was to assist the communities we serve, which are highly vulnerable to tourism closure in the area. In Bahia Drake, at least 85% of the people survive directly or indirectly from tourism, mainly international. We decided to readjust and rethink ourselves so that we could help the communities, our members. We started to rethink how to use our platforms and networks to support those who need us the most. To do this, we started using our media to raise funds and buy food and cleaning supplies for the elderly population and the most impoverished families of Bahia Drake. At this point, we have raised USD 14,000, and we have delivered 450 food packages to 50 older adults and families living in poverty since the end of March.
We have managed to refocus some of the funds approved for activities such as workshops and field trips, which given the pandemic, will not happen, and we have used them to promote regenerative agriculture in the communities. Regenerative agriculture will help us promote food independence and, at the same time, encourage practices that allow soil restoration. The idea is to help communities plant their gardens in their homes or farms in a regenerative way to guarantee their sustainability and productivity. With the pandemic's arrival, we realized regenerative agriculture could help local families alleviate the family's economic situation, reduce the pressure on natural resources, and reduce the hunting of wild animals. Thanks to that, 24 families have completed their regenerative agriculture training after receiving five theoretical workshops and three practical visits. They have learned about soils, preparation of cultivation beds, organic fertilizers and repellants, extraction and conservation of seeds, and seedlings preparation. They have also received all the materials and supplies needed to produce their crops.
Virtual environmental education
Regarding our environmental education program, we have also reinvented ourselves. Our environmental educator has been creating videos for children, challenging them to practice, research, or do an environmental educational activity from home. They send us back their photos and videos doing it, thereby keeping the children at home interested, active, and motivated. For the longest time, our environmental education activities were the only extracurricular activities these kids had. Then once the schools closed due to the COVID19, our activities were the only educational activities available. We delivered fruit trees, endangered trees, and educational supplies to each kid in the groups. More than 40 kids in the communities received watercolors, markers, cardboard, pencils, among other things. This material will help the kids participate in the remote challenges from the safety of their homes. We have carried out more than seventeen environmental challenges, in which up to 27 children have participated per session.
Sea turtle conservation
This year, we did not have international volunteers. This was a challenge because we have been able to maintain the program through the support of volunteers who come to work on the beach and pay for their food, accommodation, and part of the cost of the project. However, instead of reducing our sea turtle project's impact and scope, we have expanded it and double its efforts. We are now working in two beaches: Punta Mala-Playa Hermosa on the Central Pacific and Rincón near Corcovado National Park.
We moved our sea turtle conservation program in Playa Rincón to Esteban's property. This local young man has spent several years working in turtle conservation and owns a beachfront property in the Rincon area. The results there have been excellent. We have been providing Esteban with the funds for his salary and to purchase food for his volunteers. He has managed to lead a group of local kids that have been very committed and successful at protecting the sea turtles. They had 17 volunteers and 102 nesting activities, of which 92 nests were relocated to the nursery and 7 nests were poached. 3800 baby turtles were released, which means a 95.1% hatching success.
In Punta Mala, we have had a team of 3 members, who with the support of 26 volunteers, mostly Costa Ricans, managed to take care of 924 nesting activities, including 490 nests that remained on the beach and were not depredated, 224 nests relocated in the nursery, 121 nests lost to predators, and 12 poached nests. This beach is crucial because of the massive amount of nesting, the pressure from predators and poachers, the eroded beaches, and other natural and human impacts on the sea turtle nesting activity.
Other community accomplishments!
After 10 years of waiting, and thanks to the leadership of our very own Mayra and our lawyer Estela, the Ministry of Education approved the land's purchase to build a proper high school for Drake Bay.
It has not been an easy year, but we have adapted and reinvented ourselves. We have been at the forefront of a series of initiatives, being among the first to move from doing face-to-face activities to online workshops, virtual environmental education activities, and fundraising to feed the most vulnerable. We are very grateful for your support. Everything we have achieved is thanks to you, who supported us and trusted us.
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