Interact Club helping Costa Rica

By Nicholas Elmes -

While many county students are enjoying spring break this week as a time to relax at home, eight West Stokes High School Interact Club students are serving as ambassadors from Stokes County in Central American country of Costa Rica.

The group will have a lot fun on the trip organized by club sponsor Michael Jenkins with plans to hike, go white water rafting, go kayaking on a volcanic lake and visit local historical sites, but they will also be bringing some badly needed supplies, donated and made by West Stokes students, to a small rural school in a very poor part of the country.

“As part of the Interact Club we are to complete a number of local and international projects each year,” said Jenkins. “Although all of Costa Rica is not in poverty, just like our country there are pockets of extreme poverty. So we decided the key to escaping poverty was education and talked about what we could do to further those children’s education.”

Students decided the best thing they could do during their 10-day trip was to bring school supplies.

“It became very popular here at the school,” said Jenkins, explaining that the club had set up boxes for any of the school’s students to donate supplies in. “I noticed that some kids in the school wanted to participate but maybe themselves did not have the money to go out an buy a pack of paper to donate so they had taken the paper out of their own notebook to donate.”

The school’s teen living class also got involved, making a number of pillowcase dresses to be donated as well.

“Part of their curriculum is learning how to sew, so this let them meet that while helping,” said Jenkins. “My co-advisor and another mother went in and bought flip-flops for everyone so they have matching shoes with their dresses.”

A pillow case dress may not seem like much, but Jenkins said it was hard to image the level of poverty in the Costa Rican community the donations were going to.

“When we think of poverty here, we think maybe of a run down house,” he said. “This poverty is sleeping in a cardboard house or a home made out of metal roofing. So anything we can do will help advance their possibility of escaping that cycle.”

The students will not be able to deliver the donations themselves because the school is closed for the holy week, but Jenkins called on retired West Stokes Spanish teacher Ines Piedra, a Costa Rican native, for help.

“She called a dear friend and they are going to pick up the school supplies from our hotel room and transport them to the school to deliver them,” he said.

Piedra said she grew up in a city not far form the San Ramon de cuidad Quesada school.

“It is a little school and very, very poor,” she said. “Most of the people who live in the area are very poor people who work on the farms. In those areas most of the time the teachers do not have the necessary materials, sometimes they don’t even have chalk to write on the board with.”

Jenkins said the agriculture similarity to Stokes County made the project even more special.

“It is kind of like we are helping people who are doing the same thing as in this community,” he said.

The students will share their experiences with oral reports and slide shows when they return to school.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes