Making arts and crafts, playing games, doing homework and learning to speak and read the English language are just a few of the many activities you might find children exploring during a visit to the Forjando Alas Youth Group.
The Forjando Alas Youth Group is all about the kids. The after school program is based in the Bahia Ballena community, offering up a safe space in which local children can spend time learning life skills that will help them do well in school, become active participants in the community, and steer clear of drugs and other potential threats to their well-being.
Connecting kids from the Bahia Bellena community with international students is another valued aspect of the program. The youth group brings together Costa Rican students and students from the United States to build connections that help to close the cultural gaps and ignite curiosities on both sides of the project.
And when the kids at Forjando Alas aren’t busy working on their homework, learning English, or a myriad of other activities provided at the center, you might just find them at the nearby beach!
The Bodhi Surf School
Surfing has long been a beloved pastime in Costa Rica, and the kids just love the thrill of catching a killer wave. The Forjando Alas Youth Group makes that possible for the local children they work with through a partnership with the Bodhi Surf School.
We here at the Volunteer Traveler Blog recently caught up with Travis Bays, the “Creator and Connector” of Bodhi Surf School, to discuss his ongoing involvement with the Forjando Alas Youth Group.
Bays revealed that it was the Peace Corps that initially brought him to Costa Rica back in 2005, and a passion for service to the country has kept him there ever since. Of course, the ongoing access to incredible surfing opportunities didn’t hurt, either!
As the founder of Bodhi Surf School, Bays found a way to combine his passion for surfing with his dedication to altruism and local community support. Not only is Bodhi a surf and yoga retreat, but Travis and his team also provide community-focused travel experiences to those who stay with them. Not to mention all the great work they do with Forjando Alas.
“Bodhi Surf School has always been invested in working with youth from the community since its inception,” Bays told us during an interview. “After Forjando Alas was created, we figured it was more strategic to work with a set group of kids over the long-term.”
Naturally, Bodhi provides surfing lessons to the kids at the Forjando Alas Youth Group. But their involvement also extends beyond surfing, too.
The Clean Streets, Clean Waters Project
“Bodhi Surf provides Forjando Alas with opportunities to participate in service projects such as Clean Streets, Clean Waters,” says Travis. “We also connect them with responsible travel organizations like GLA and Discover Corps.”
The Clean Streets, Clean Waters project teaches the kids of Forjando Alas about the damage that garbage is doing to their community’s ecosystem. As it says on the website, “Not only is the trash [in Bahía Ballena] unsightly in the natural environment, it affects the ecosystem in and around the town. After the rainfalls that are common in Costa Rica, trash follows the natural contours of the land and flows downhill along the streets and rivers making the short into the Marino Ballena National Park.”
The kids are given an active role in battling this issue by helping out with community-wide trash collecting sessions. Trash collection occurs in an organized manner: every 24 square meters falls under a specific GPS point location, and the trash collected in the region is sorted into 16 categories, ranging from batteries to plastic bags.
The info gathered tells the community who should take responsibility to mitigate the trash in Bahia and make their community– which is next to the first national marine park in Central America– a more beautiful and environmentally friendly place to live.
Travis Bays acknowledges that he has always had an entrepreneurial streak. He brings those skills to the Forjando Alas Youth Group by facilitating ideas and projects between the organization and Bodhi Surf, as well as by connecting them with other responsible businesses who can further the mission.
The role that the Forjando Alas Youth Group plays in the lives of these children is huge, and Bays has witnessed the long-term impact first-hand. “I’ve seen the love and respect the youth have for their director and mentors, and how that love transcends into loving themselves and their community,” he says.
Want to help?
Discover Corps’ Costa Rica trip, Discovering the Pacific, will introduce participants to the children of the Forjando Alas Youth Group, where they’ll work together to protect the beaches of Bahia Bellena.
Interested in learning more? Sign up to receive a full trip itinerary here.
You can also donate directly to the Forjando Alas Youth Group through Amigos of Costa Rica. A donation of just $20 will allow the group to run an after-school test preparation session for twelve students. It’s small price to pay for an investment in the future. -Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.