Delivering Supplies to a Little School in the Jungle

With GivingTuesday coming right up, we want to help our friends at Pack for a Purpose and share our story from when we brought school supplies to Costa Rica.

Now you don’t have to go anywhere to help communities all over the world by donating, just click this link!

Delivering school supplies in Costa Rica with Pack for a Purpose

During our stay at the Parador Resort in Costa Rica, we learned a great deal about their commitment to the surrounding area, not only environmentally but also as a member of their community.

In addition to being a leader in sustainable tourism, they are involved in several civic projects.

What we're giving through Pack for a Purpose

We discovered one of them, Pack For a Purpose, from the Parador website as we were preparing for our visit.

In a simple and effective way to lend a helping hand to schools, Pack For a Purpose asks that travelers make room in their luggage for needed supplies.

We were moved by the idea and happily stuffed pencils, pens, protractors, and other items listed on their website into our bags. click here to see more about Pack For a Purpose

Anita Primary School near Quepos, Costa Rica
The one-room schoolhouse we visited.

Upon our arrival at Parador we met one of the managers, Moises, who has taken a special interest in the program.

He offered to take us to Anita Primary School, one of the four schools they help out, for a firsthand look at the effect the program can have. We were honored to accept his offer.

Housing at the Palma Tica Plantation near Quepos, Costa Rica
Housing at a palm plantation

In Costa Rica, government education is well-funded, compulsory, free to all citizens, and highly regarded, but there are schools that are not a part that system.

The Anita School was built specifically for the children of immigrant workers on one of the sprawling palm plantations in the Quepos area.

A child does her schoolwork at a palm plantation school in Costa Rica

There is an interesting history to these schools, and the little villages that are home to them.

Early in the last century, the United Fruit Company set up shop in Costa Rica to grow bananas.

At the time, there was little-to-no infrastructure in the area, so everything had to be built from scratch – roads, bridges, trains and ports for shipping, and housing for workers. The housing consisted of little villages, each with a church, a pulpería (a small store with a little of everything), and a school – all surrounding a soccer field.

In the 1940s blight hit the bananas, so the company decided to plant African oil palms instead. The trees thrived, saving the plantations and these villages.

The new owner of the palm plantations, Palma Tica, continues to offer basic first-through-sixth grade education to the children of the workers. But, truth be told, these are spartan accommodations at best. Isolated and showing their age, these communities get by on the bare minimum, and the schools are no exception.

Palm plantation harvesters carry their poles and sharp scythes on bikes
Palm plantation harvesters carry their poles and sharp scythes on bicycles.

Palm plantation harvesters carry their poles and sharp scythes on bikes

Carts pulled by buffalo are used to transport palm oil fruit in Costa Rica
Carts are used to transport palm oil fruit Photo credit: Alejandro Marten

Mostly migrant workers from Nicaragua fill the difficult, low-wage jobs.

These jobs include cutting large clumps of dates from the extremely tall tree tops and hauling them off to the plant to be refined.

While the conditions may be better than what was left behind in Nicaragua, they are far from ideal.

We will carry this in our hearts forever…

Delivering school supplies in Costa Rica with Pack for a Purpose

Driving several miles down a dusty dirt road through the dense rows of palms, we reached a one-room schoolhouse.

Professor Marino welcomed us, gave us a brief overview of the little school and introduced us to his pupils.

Delivering school supplies in Costa Rica with Pack for a Purpose

He has been teaching at Anita School for twelve years and, though many of the students are only here briefly, Professor Marino can take pride that he has watched several go on to university with scholarships.

Math class was in session and, like the old frontier one-room schoolhouses, all grades are taught simultaneously with each child at their own grade level.

Delivering school supplies in Costa Rica with Pack for a Purpose

The folks at Parador had combined the contributions from many guests to make bags for each of the children, and their eyes really lit up as they dug in.

Like kids with Halloween goody bags, they dumped the contents out on their desks and excitedly examined their haul.

By far, the most popular item in each bag was the colorful soft rubber, solar-powered calculator that we’re sad to say we didn’t contribute.

Whoever packed the calculators in their suitcases brought real joy to this group of children – we wish you could have been there to see their happy faces.

Delivering school supplies in Costa Rica with Pack for a Purpose

Though the excited students no doubt enjoyed the distraction from their math duties (as any kid would – ugh math), we knew we needed to move on and allow their routine to resume so we reluctantly said our good-byes, thanked Professor Marino, and stepped outside.

The playground at a palm plantation school in Costa Rica

Moises explained to us that the commitment from Parador goes beyond school supplies.

Staff from the resort also perform routine maintenance, painting and fixing up as needed, and even built the children a playground. While he elaborated, it was plain to see his pride in this little school.

Most deservedly so, job well done.

David & Veronica,

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A HUGE gracias to Parador Resort and Spa for setting up our visit! As always, all opinions are our own.

See more about Pack For a Purpose
See more about Parador Resort and Spa

See all of our adventures in Costa Rica!

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12 thoughts on “Delivering Supplies to a Little School in the Jungle”

  1. I am headed to Costa Rica Thursday and would love to do this! Do you suggest I contact the resort to set something up? How many children should I anticipate will be there?
    Any suggestions you have are greatly appreciated!

    1. Yes, the resort set it up for us. There should be about 40-50 kids to plan on having supplies for. Have a great trip!

  2. I have had the pleasure of visiting and delivering school supplies to small schools in Guatemala, Thailand, Turkey and India. In each case the children light up with excitement at our arrival, anxious to see what treasures we will share with them. They proudly show off their few words of English, sing us a song, and have even returned a gift to us in the form of a painting or other art creation. I love the suggestion of the solar calculators and will be adding that to my list for any future visits. Thank you for sharing that gem!

  3. Terrific post and photos, ‘nesters! There are so many opportunities for travelers to help out if they just do a little research before they go. Sourcing items that don’t require batteries–like the solar calculators–is really the way to go. Even here in Grenada (where I’m writing from) where there is 94% literacy rate, certain schools and children’s homes can always use supplies.

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