Tom and Saundra are a married couple who spent part of their honeymoon on a World Endeavors volunteer program in Costa Rica.
Most people spend their honeymoons relaxing on a beach with a cool drink in hand. But not Tom and Saundra! In the spirit of coupling service with romance, Tom and Saundra spent the first two weeks of their four-week honeymoon volunteering for World Endeavors in Atenas, Costa Rica. “At this point in our lives,” wrote Saundra in her application, “we would be unhappy going to a developing country and not helping in some way.” Their plan was to work with children at a children’s home before embarking on some “luxury vacation fun” for the rest of the honeymoon.
Both Tom and Saundra were surprised at the degree of development in Costa Rica. “It was not what we were expecting,” said Tom.
Living with a host family, the couple found their arrangements to be very respectful. “We had our privacy,” said Saundra. “They even made us a cake with a little bride and groom wedding topper.”
Not that they had a lot of time to enjoy their privacy. Tom and Saundra worked at least four to five hours each day at the children’s home. Every other day they would work eight to nine hours. “On the short days, we would go sight-seeing in San Jose,” said Saundra. “On the long days, we could come home and have dinner with our host family.” The couple also took advantage of the dance classes that are included as a part of the program.
Saundra explained that their volunteer placement was less a traditional children’s home than a home for children who had been removed from their parents’ homes for one reason or another. “One kid was there because his mother tried to sell him into slavery,” said Saundra. During the time Tom and Saundra were there, the home housed about 20 children. There had recently been 30, but some, having recently reached the age limit of seven, had been moved to a home in another town.
Neither Tom nor Saundra spoke much Spanish when they arrived. But working with two- and three-year-olds released them a bit from the language concerns they may have faced in another placement. “My background in psychology and behavior modification was really effective,” said Saundra.
“I loved the kids,” said Tom. Teaching English to young children, Tom and Saundra even learned some rudimentary Spanish phrases themselves. (Sure, “Don’t put that in your mouth” may not work well in polite company, but when you’re working with kids, it’s a useful stock phrase.)
Graduates of Hofstra University, Tom and Saundra have both since enlisted in the Peace Corps. “All of our travel has been volunteer-based”, said Saundra. “It’s the best way to get to know the culture and the local customs.”