One of my primary reasons for attending the Orientation Trip was my respect for Farid’s story and his passion for the Aftermath cause. He is an empowering, hilarious, and enthusiastic force to be reckoned with. Naturally, the rest of the trip attendees and volunteers were equally as inspiring. They were all open-minded, warm, and welcoming people; most of whom I had never met prior to Costa Rica.
Dr. Whelan and Farid did an excellent job facilitating open dialogue, making sure that each of us always had an opportunity to say our piece and share our thoughts. These conversations were crucial as they provided a platform for us to familiarize with one another and strengthen our group as a whole. A product of this was our ability to positively connect with each group member in one way or another. Even when faced with inevitable challenges, the opportunity to provide input, address issues, listen to one another, and laugh it off when we needed to, was invaluable.
Two volunteering experiences that will remain close to my heart were during our time spent with the kids in La Carpio and Golfito. With little to no Spanish, I knew the language barrier would be an obvious obstacle. However, what I underestimated was the existence of a universal language that transcends borders, cultures, age, race, and class: the language of play. During soccer we communicated through giggles, cheering, and high-fives; as we read books, there were no complaints about my horrendous Spanish pronunciation; and there was no need to explain to the little girls how to braid hair. I realized our presence there did not necessarily need to be transformational in order for us to have a positive impact. Quickly, I came to see that all these kids wanted was our time and undivided attention for a few hours of candid, uninhibited, and unbridled play-time. There was no room for ego or selfish agendas; we came to help in whatever way we could, and I truly believe that we did. It was a mutually beneficial experience in the most humbling of ways. I, for one, left Costa Rica knowing that we had contributed to something important.
This trip was profound in ways I did not expect it to be, specifically, encountering the power and simplicity of basic human interaction and how it allows us to connect and understand one another. Whether it be laughing and sharing stories within our group of volunteers, or playing with the children of La Carpio and Golfito. The Orientation Trip provided me with new insight into how positively these experiences can affect the veterans that will take part. I look forward to hearing the stories of future trip attendees as they experience the journey that is Camp Aftermath.
How you can help
There are currently many amazing programs that focus on helping veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD. If you believe in our cause, please help us make Roto 0, our first retreat, a success and consider donating to our campaign on Canada Helps.
We are a registered charity with Canada Revenue Agency. For more information, please visit our status page on the Canada Revenue Agency website.