Volunteer Opportunities

Llano Grande School volunteers

These are just a very few of the opportunities available to help out in our area.
Qué Pasa is happy to list volunteer projects that need support.
Just send a brief article/paragraph along with a photo if possible to the Editor

My Mother's Angels - Meet Our Mentees

Gesela # is 6079-6904  people can contact her directly. If people are interested in purchases of shirts 6 mil or pesto 5 oz. 2 mil. they email me at johnwbrewer1929@gmail.com or call 8400-1929 no voice mail.  If people want to meet the women or become involved they can call me.

An opportunity for all of us

submitted by Aaron Aalborg

In our Costa Rican happiness, we are surrounded by silent suffering. Families go hungry. Children are deprived of love, comfort and opportunity. Mostly we see little of this, because we do not visit the deprived areas of the Central Valley. Some problems are hiding just off our own streets, in Sarchi, the ridges of Grecia and beyond. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow we could do something about it? If only we could share our own luck and happiness...

My neighbor, Charlie Strong, and I have a mutual interest and background in martial arts. He is a Black belt in Karate. This makes for convivial conversation at barbeques. From this, I became vaguely aware that he teaches local children and was involved in other charitable activities. Only after he invited me to see a Karate contest did the broader scope, success and the ambitions of his charity become clear. His is a story worth telling.

Charlie is from a modest background in south Texas. He explains that he was a rumbustious young fellow. He had dropped out of college and was wasting his life, partying. He drifted through various jobs. Like many of us, he was dissatisfied and did not know why. He was helped to find his life’s path by a local Methodist Church. For those who are not religious like me, please read on. He wanted to help young people to have a better chance in life, instead of the drugs and gangs which awaited many of them. To that end he resumed his education, became a minister and worked at various college campuses.

In 2003 he led a team that visited Costa Rica, to help 20 children with special education needs. The children had cerebral palsy or various other severe learning difficulties. Charlie and his team helped with IT support and teaching. One child desperately needed surgery and had no funding. Charlie raised the money in the US, returning alone that year to follow up and extend his activities. During his further visits he met his wife Angela. She has completed her business degree and has joined him working in the program for the past year.

Charlie founded what has become Strong Missions. Its vision is that all families in Latin America have the right to attain a dignified life. The mission is to develop Latin American communities through sustainable investment in order to break the cycle of poverty, end delinquent behavior and reduce social risk, thereby bringing about changes in global perspectives.  Since 2004 it has grown to be an officially recognized charity in the US and Costa Rica, with a supervisory board in both countries.

Strong Missions now has other staff and hundreds of help providers. The team works in a non-denominational and secular way.  It fulfills the above vision through four programs, to break the cycle of poverty.

The programs are:

Presently, Charlie has a hub facility in progress near Grecia. It will provide dormitories for volunteer workers, sports and teaching areas and much more. As my US friends would say, I am ‘blown away and stoked’ by what I have discovered.

So what can you do to help? Visit the website and Facebook page to learn more.




Office phone 2444 0321 (Monday through Friday-8am to 5 pm)

You can help by;

Charlie Strong is happy to talk to individuals and groups about these activities. He has moving examples of the differences his team has made to peoples’ lives.

Updated 7/16/2017

School Religious Statue.JPGA Ray of Hope in Grecia

by Sandra Fernandez-Lopez
There is a very well kept secret in Grecia, a veritable jewel of a place that is a hidden treasure!  A place where special students can thrive and flourish and come to nourish their minds, bodies and spirit.

There is a huge need for some very special students at a very special school in Grecia.  The Escuela de Ensenanza Especial de Grecia takes on the daily task of educating and caring for students with special needs since 1982.  

There are 117 students and only 14 teachers to handle their special needs.  The students range in age from a few months old to 18 years old, but the school will take them up to age 21.  The students all suffer from many challenges including cerebral palsy, autism, developmental retardation and many other developmental and physical diseases. Additionally, many come from homes with extreme poverty, and there is a huge lack of transportation to get these beautiful souls to this outstanding place that helps them gain some skills to survive in the world.  

School Students 1.JPGSchool Students 2.JPG THE NEEDS:  The school is in great need of repair and renovation.  There are only two bathrooms for the students, teachers and staff.  Additional classrooms and storage facilities are needed and the tiny kitchen where lunches are prepared is also in need of some updating.

In the case of bathroom necessities, there is only one handicapped bathroom which is located outside of the main building, and children in wheelchairs have to be wheeled out on a very rough hewn uncovered concrete pathway to get them there.  As you can imagine, in the rainy season, it is truly a challenge.  Additionally, the bathroom really needs to have a shower for times when that may be required.  

 Handicap Bathroom Path  Speech Therapy Room Lunchroom
School Bathroom Path.JPG IMG_1905.JPG School Lunchroom.JPG

DEDICATED, COMPASSIONATE TEACHERS:  The Teachers are doing a yeoman's job.  Most teachers handle up to seven students each.  They are required to change diapers as well as try to provide the students with some sort of training to assist them in the future to become adults with some sort of employable skills.   There are two Speech Therapists and one Physical Therapist to assist with the many students that require that therapy.

CALL TO ACTION:    We have looked at the repair and renovation needs and it is something that we feel can indeed be accomplished with the help of the community.  According to the Director of the school, Maria Isabel Salas Arrieta, the government has donated enough materials to accomplish a large portion of the renovation required to build an additional classroom.  This classroom is sorely needed as most of the classrooms are extremely small rooms which are not sufficient to handle the children in their wheelchairs.

Site of New Classroom Outdoor Storage Physical Therapy Area  
School New Classroom Area.JPG
School Outdoor Storage.JPG
School - PT area.JPG

WE NEED YOUR HELP!  If you can provide any sort of handyman skills.  Of course we need electrical, plumbing, cement work and carpentry, but there is plenty of work that requires less skills such as helping the skilled trades with running errands, bringing tools, clean up, handing them water, you know....the little things! 

!  Additionally there are many beautiful plants and flowers that have been donated, but we need gardening types to assist with planting them.  Even using this activity as a learning moment for the kids who can assist with the planting would be extremely beneficial to everyone.   

School Plants Donated.JPG    Donated Plants

For more information, contact John Brewer johnwbrewer1929@gmail.com or call 8400-1929 no voice mail, please.

2017 Sarchi Schools Appeal - Update

from Tiina Laara

Collecting money and putting the kids to school in Sarchi. Santa came early this year.

With the donations we have received we have been able to outfit:

18 Llano Grande kids,
11 from Sabanilla and
9 from Fernando Castro Sarchi Sur.

These children were all able to start school on February 6 with the rest of their classmates. We have all reason to be proud of ourself, investing in this (Costa Ricas) future !


Project coordinators with clothes and shoes,around 600 000 colones (US$1200) worth, purchased in Alajuela.

Thank you to our local community for really stepping up this year and coming through for these children! Please see article below for background.




Working Together for the Most-Needy Children in Our Local Schools

By Tiina Laara
So here we go again, trying to get our area's most-needy children uniforms and shoes so that they will be allowed into school for a chance at an education and also get them the most basic school materials. This is something where we expats can really make a difference. And like every year, it's just the poorest of kids that we are trying to support so that they get a chance for a better life than their parents. Sadly in Costa Rica, their guaranteed "free" education all depends on whether they have a uniform and shoes to be allowed admission to class.
In cooperation with the teachers and principals of the three schools, we are having a garage sale on Saturday, 11 February, at the Sarchi Norte school behind the "futbol" field in downtown Sarchi, and we are looking for your contributions.

We know that locals are very interested in buying kitchen appliances and kitchenware, toys, home decor items, rugs, and nice clothing that fits a tica, tico or a child. They can find cheap clothing in Ropa Americana outlet stores. So please, those kinds of donations are not needed.

Of course, cash donations and used school uniforms in good condition are also most welcome. And as always, we are prepared to use the proceeds to buy new uniforms, shoes, English books (or get copies made and bound) as well as pens and writing books for some of the children. My guess is that we have between 30-40 children in need of uniforms, shoes and/or school materials for the three schools with children from very poor families at Sarchi schools (Llano Grande, Sabanilla and Sarchi Sur). It's all a matter of how much money we can raise, as to how much we can help. We know many of you already supporting local causes, but these children can really use our help.

It's up to all of us who are better off and living here to do our share and to get involved in helping our local communities and their children.

We are also looking for volunteers with experience on how to organize the collection of money via a moneybox or secure can in stores and other public locations? Your help would be very much appreciated.

As always, thank you for your support. Please email or call Tiina Laara at: sthlmtina@gmail.com or 6286 9583 (also on WhatsApp) and we will arrange to come pick up your contribution.


Sarchi Schools Support - Update 2017

by Tiina Laara

All of you that have been helping us support the local schools should be proud.  We have had some great success over the years.

Costa Rica is a poor country with about 1,5 million Nicaraguan farm workers plus Costa Rican workers earning not even 1000 colones for each basket  of coffee they pick. Try living on that!

It is very difficult for poor families to provide the necessary uniform, shoes and supplies needed for their child or children to attend school.  This year the coffee production was not good and they will need to live on even less money.  Yes, some of the poorest people get an allowence from the government for school supplies.  But these poor families end up spending that money on staples much needed.

Today’s children are our future and it is our responsibility to make sure they get a good education. Because with education comes better opportunities and the chance to help the next generation prosper and grow.

Remember I wrote a couple years ago about the school kids in Llano Grande? They were eating their lunch out of bowls that once contained Axion-soap and had English lessons outside in the cold and wind.  Your donations greatly helped this tiny school.

We have been working hard putting on garage sales, selling food and collecting cash donations.  We made $200 on our last garage sale and fortunately got a large cash donation from a family in Naranjo. This year we were able to purchase 38 new uniforms with shoes and school supplies to children in need. It is a thrill to watch their little faces light up knowing they get to go to school and learn.

Unfortunately our work does not stop here.  We still need cash donations.  There are 2 schools in Sarchi Sur that deserately need repairs on things such as a leaking roof, classroom and playground repairs and a kitchen renovation. 

Finding enough money for these repairs is our goal for this year.

We need your donations and/or work?

Contact me, Tiina Laara, sthlmtina@gmail.com or

Karen and Don Temple Davis, editor@quepasagrecia.com

Thank you for your support! Very much appreciated.


Llano Grande School, Sarchi - 2016

by Tiina Laara
February 17, 2016

Photos from our Escuela Llano Grande school project in the hills of Sarchi where a lot of poor people - coffee plantation workers and sugar cane field worker´s kids - have their school. We now have an account number, in case anyone feels like donating some money via the bank. Below is a story about the project:

Llano Grande school photos

The beginning of school this year was a special hardship for families where the breadwinners went on strike for unpaid back wages and many lost jobs because of it. When school began, there were 11 children without uniforms and shoes not allowed to attend classes without these items and we were able to get all of them into class.

Roy, my friend and former English teacher at Llano Grande, spent all day Sunday checking prices and stock, and travelled to San Jose to speak with the manager of Econo there. Roy was able to get a boatload of what was needed at a huge discount. We are all speachless and appreciative beyond words..In addition, a lady standing in line behind him bought a pair of shoes and donated them on the spot. We picked up a few more things not purchased at Econo in San Pedro, and also got some of the items required donated by store personnel. It seems like Santa Claus came to us this year!

Thankfully, we've had a church provide the school with materials including pens and writing tablets. So, now we are primarily looking for cash for English books and copies similar to those copies we purchased last year. We will need, at least, $100 for that very soon.

Consider for many of these children, their one school meal at lunch is the only decent meal they get in a day. For each child there is a daily allotment of 365 colones from the governmentfor a meal, It's hard to believe, isn't it? I haven't tried cooking anything on that small amount of cash....but they make miracles with that money plus generous donations from others amongst our ranks and, I think, the headmaster also puts some money in the kitty from his other accounts.

Little by little, we (Que Pasa subscribers, Blooms, the Sarchi Piscina group, a few individuals of Swedish and Canadian extraction plus other thoughtful folks) have together donated and worked to improve the situation at the school. It is a much better place for education than it was before we started last year. And, a richer environment for these poor kids.

As you can see, there is still much more to do. We have a list and ask you to continue to donate your $$$, time and/or energy to make it happen this school year. Please contact Tiina Laara (via FB) or Don Davis for ideas about how you can contribute. 

Please, if you can help in any way, large or small, let us know!

Read more about Llano Grande's journey here.

Volunteer Opportunities at Children's Home

Residencia de Vida   --  San Isidro de Grecia

Here is an opportunity to help out locally.  The children in this group home have many needs that we are asking for help in providing.  
Cherie McCullah, an American, is the founder of Residencia de Vida.  The RDV Director is Ericka Peters, also an American.  The children are helped by the Tico staff and by Expat volunteers.      
The RDV focus is to take in siblings or other children that are less likely to be adopted.  This means they remain in the system for years where adoption or a return to their family is rare.  As of October 2016 RDV has seven girls and two boys ranging in age from 7 to 15, several of them siblings.   
An application was submitted to open a second nearby facility in early 2017 for an additional ten new children.  This is part of a long range plan to open ten homes to take in a total of 100 children.  Cherie hopes to open more houses as there is a continued need for homes for children in our area.  RDV is looking to obtain furnishings, supplies, and everything it takes to make a home for children. 
A long term RDV goal is to ensure the children become functional in English and develop good school and work skills.  Part of the RDV plan is to allow the children a transition phase when they turn 18.  Normally they would leave a group home at 18; however, the Residencia de Vida vision is to allow the now young legal adult of just 18 an opportunity for continued support while they pursue college or other career options.  
We are asking the Expat community to volunteer and/or donate as they are able.
Possible ideas include baking for birthday celebrations, tutoring, assisting with outings, organizing fundraisers, assisting with purchasing/donating items for the children and the home, helping with construction and building and ground maintenance.  We would love ideas for a big annual fundraiser similar to the Atenas Chili Cook Off, so let us know if you are able to donate and/or volunteer.

The coming school break means the children will have more free time and we are looking for volunteers to help with outings and activities at the home.   
We are able to have people visit the home for a tour and see for themselves how Residencia de Vida provides for the children.
We can provide our list of needed items and services for those wishing to see more details of what we need.   
RDV is licensed by the Costa Rican Health Department and the National Child Welfare Agency, PANI (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia). 
Please contact Cherie at cheriemccullah@gmail.com or her cell at 8870 2939, or William Zastrow at william.zastrow.career@gmail.com, cell # 8305 6222 if you can help out.   

prayer flagsPrayer Flag Project

Prayer flags have been around since the 9th Century. They were strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside and later used in healing ceremonies.

Let's make prayer flags to give to children's hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly, disabled and friends who could use our blessings.

Those of you who think this is a good idea and would like to be a part of this project…please jump on board.

Initially, come to my shop/home in Fraijanes (close to Poas Volcano) so we can go over dimensions and criteria for the flags. Come as a group (4) or individually…we can pot luck and spend the day creating flags. The picture shows the type of flags we would be making. If you can cut fabric or iron or sew or have cheer leading skills, cook, clean up…all skills are welcome. Rita Ulloa of La Garrita, who has hosted the Xmas Bloom's meeting (an independent women's social group) for several years now has beautiful cotton fabrics for sale at her home/shop. 8778-9649.

Hope to hear from you soon! 2482-1138 Marilynn Pinney

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