Valentine’s Day is about “friendship-love”.
This is what my four-year-old daughter tells me. She is learning at school that this day symbolizes all the love we have for our friends and family, and that it’s a chance to show your friendship-love for everyone we care about. “And that’s why we give out Valentines out mommy, to show people we care,” she says.
I thought about her and her sweet ideas about the meaning of Valentines for almost the entire Orientation Trip. Not least when we were volunteering with children, both in La Carpio and Golfito, which were incredibly enriching experiences that tugged at my heart strings so hard that I thought they may break. While in Golfito, I met a little girl the same age as my daughter, named Nicol.
Through the wonderful and passionate leadership of one of our Costa Rica partners on the ground, Gail Nystrom, and the important work she does through her Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, we got to spend time with kids who really appreciated our time.
You see, in Costa Rica, there is a need for volunteers to simply read, play, and hang-out with children. Either due to a lack of access to a good school, or a hard-working but often absent mother, or perhaps because of a father who is not even known to them, many Costa Rican kids we visited throughout our trip were craving attention.
They were looking for friendship-love.
On the day in Golfito we visited one of the CRHF’s after school programs and within minutes each and every volunteer was down on the floor playing and singing and reading. With a language barrier between their Spanish and our English, French, and little phrases (“Como se llama?”) – we somehow managed to enjoy each other’s company and give the kids a little bit of our time, something they received so gratefully that I wiped away tears a few times when the gravity of the moment struck me.
While there, Nicol made me a Valentine. In her picture we are holding hands and she spelled my name Yesi and it promptly went into my Aftermath book, not to be seen again until I got home and was unpacking, back with my own kids. The profound sense of gratitude I felt, looking at this little drawing with my own kids as I told them about the children in Costa Rica, is exactly what we are going to share and spread with Camp Aftermath.
Roto 0 participants will have the chance to connect as I did with these kids through the same volunteer activities we experienced during the Orientation Trip. They will have the opportunity to feel and cultivate that friendship-love; to fill themselves up with hope and purpose, and for a minute, to be some little person’s whole world.
If you or someone you know is looking to add or spread friendship-love this year, please give a small Valentine to our GoFundMe campaign and help us get one step closer to offering the chance to engage, activate that sense of purpose, and provide a way to manage the symptoms of PTSD for a deserving military veteran or first responder.
Happy Valentine’s Day.