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Building peace with sweat

South Shore resident Joy Rothschild is waging the best type of international diplomacy — the person-to-person variety that diminishes differences and celebrates the human spirit.

In late July and early August, Rothschild packed jeans, work gloves and an open mind and headed south to Costa Rica where, for two weeks, she worked on a library project in the community of Santa Elena in northwestern Costa Rica.

“I was motivated to do it after Sept. 11,” said Rothschild, a child welfare and attendance specialist with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. “I’m glad I did. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. In fact, I’m doing it again next year.”



A center for ecotourism, Santa Elena is located at the doorstep of the renowned Monteverde cloud forest.

Rothschild was part of an 18-member Global Volunteers team of individuals from all over the United States who converged on Santa Elena to help renovate and organize its public high school library.




The group was an eclectic mix — including students, an attorney, a computer engineer and several teachers.

A nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minn., Global Volunteers offers short-term service opportunities in 19 countries.

By working shoulder-to-shoulder with local adults and high school students, the volunteers made new friends, recharged spiritual batteries and gained a unique, non-tourist perspective of this Central American country.

“This experience just confirmed my belief that we are all the same — no matter where we live, no matter how different we may seem on the outside,” Rothschild said.

The team, which ranged from 11 to 56 years in age, interacted with the children of Santa Elena.

“It warmed my heart when we took a taxi by a soccer field and there were two of our team members playing with the local youths,” Rothschild said.

During free time, the volunteers took time to enjoy the natural surroundings, hiking, swimming, hot springs, touring the cloud forests and visiting Mt. Arenal, an active volcano.

Several teams work in Santa Elena and other communities, as well as the Monteverde cloud forest several times a year.

Rothschild believes in Global Volunteers’ person-to-person philosophy of waging peace. “I would love to see world peace right now, this very moment,” she said. “But it doesn’t work that way. It takes time to break down the barriers, one person at a time.”

Global Volunteers programs ranging from teaching English to caring for children to building schools are available in Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Tanzania, Ghana, India, Vietnam, Cook Islands, Indonesia, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Jamaica, and the United States. For more information on the program, log onto the Global Volunteers Web site at http://www.globalvolunteers.org.


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