In November 2017, the students at Middlewich High School were offered the opportunity of a lifetime- sixteen days on a volunteering expedition to Costa Rica. With only 15 places available there was going to be competition for places.
We all wrote letters showcasing our deserved placements on the expedition, and within a few weeks, the team was assembled by our World Challenge leaders. With £3200 to raise for the trip our next two years were soon filled with bag packs and cake sales and other paid employment. In hindsight, all that hard work seems well worth it.
Before we knew it, the 8th of July had arrived. Our two heavy bags were fully packed and as we were saying goodbye to our families we realised our adventure was finally beginning. After our twelve-hour flight, Costa Rica finally became a reality. Two years of planning had been leading up to this moment and we had never felt more prepared. As soon as we arrived we had to take charge of the accommodation, transport, budget and food. The challenge had begun!
After a nine-hour bus journey to Puerto Jimenez and an hour boat to Cacao, we had arrived at our conservation project located on an island called Zamia. Our volunteer work was based around a turtle sanctuary. We removed litter from the beach, made nets for local fishermen to collect plastic from the sea and restored paths by carrying bags of loose soil from the bottom of the uphill jungle track, to where the paths needed refurbishing. During our days there we cooked our meals ranging from porridge to spaghetti and rice with hot sauce. We realised our cooking wasn’t so brilliant when we were treated to an authentic Costa Rican cooking class. Our handmade Tamals and Bolitos de Cocos were so nice that even Pancho the pizote (a wild pig-like animal) who befriended us enjoyed them.
After leaving Cacao our dreaded trek phase began. We met Danny and Donny (our trek leaders) who briefed us on the following five days through the jungle. Carrying our full kit, the trek consisted of up to ten hours of hiking, with at least one steep uphill climb and several river crossings, each day. Every day was a new chance to admire the wildlife and biodiversity of Costa Rica which ranged from spider monkeys in the trees to crocodiles in the rivers we crossed. Each night in the jungle brought its new challenges from running out of water to poisonous toads in the toilets. The whole group struggled at one time or another, but with team-work and resilience we all made it through.
We arrived home fresh from the challenge with a new perspective on life outside Middlewich and an understanding of what we were all capable of. We were so proud of what we were able to achieve together.
Rebecca Edwards, Bronte Chan and the 2019 World Challenge Team