Embrace the Journey: Adelphi's Charlotte Smith Visits Costa Rica to Promote Community Health

Embrace the Journey: Adelphi's Charlotte Smith Visits Costa Rica to Promote Community Health


Smith Spends January Intersession on Service Learning Trip. 

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - A leader on the field as a captain for the Adelphi field hockey team, senior Charlotte Smith hopes to be a leader in the field of public health after she graduates.

This winter, the native of Gorham, Maine, got a head start on doing just that.

Smith was among a group of 20 nursing students who traveled to Costa Rica for 10 days in January on a faculty-led, service learning trip through Adelphi's College of Nursing and Public Health, and the Center for International Education.

"Learning about a new culture and way of life was a very different yet rewarding way to spend my intersession," Smith said. "We were working in a very impoverished area, and we also toured hospitals and learned about how the Costa Rican health system is quite different than ours, but that many health disparities remain and some struggles even mirror what you can find in parts of the United States.

"Spending time with the kids was an unforgettable experience. I loved the fact that they were so open to us outsiders and were so willing to tell us about their lives and themselves. One of my classmates noted that even though many of us didn't speak Spanish, we were able to communicate with them in other ways other than language - and that was just another reminder of how similar we all are, no matter where we come from."

The group's goal was to learn about community health initiatives abroad at the grassroots level, which included promoting the importance of health education, nutrition and physical activity to children, touring both private and state-run hospitals, and interacting with the indigenous Cabecar people, who are protected by the government, through the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation.

In addition, Smith and the students engaged directly with Nicaraguan refugees living in La Carpio, a poverty-stricken community on the outskirts of San Jose, the capital of the country.

Over four days in the community, Adelphi students were immersed in the local culture, as they also assisted in mental and reproductive health education, toured a cacao plantation to learn about sustainability in agriculture and cooked meals with the people in La Carpio. 

"One of our assignments was to work in a group with kids ages 6-13, so my group got a chance to play some soccer with them. Their field was the middle of a road and their goals were set up with two trash bags to indicate the goal posts, but it was amazing how little the kids needed to have a good time. We just provided them with a new ball," Smith recalled. 

"One of the ways they are working to empower the children in this community is through an organized soccer team. Soccer teaches them importance of discipline and teamwork. When they leave their community and go to the high school in a different part of Costa Rica, soccer is one of the ways in which the community works to bring together students from different economic backgrounds, since the only thing you really need to play is a soccer ball.

"When it was time for us to leave, we provided each child with a 'goody bag' with items we had brought with us, which was anything from things like toothpaste and hygiene products, to stuffed animals and crayons. The kids lit up at the sight of their treats, but most importantly, I hope we provided an escape, if even for a minute, where they were able to just relax, be kids and have fun."

-Release provided by athletic communications staff at Adelphi-

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