Third Graders Put Compassion into Action

By Elizabeth Ervin
From Panorama 2002 Volume 1, Number 1, page 2

We're changing Costa Rica one house at a time, working with children as young as the third grade! In early June 2001, Paul Klassen, a third-grade teacher at San José 's bilingual Country Day School, formed a Habitat brigade with his class and their parents.

Two weeks before construction, the students raised ¢17,000 (about US $50) selling homemade boli (Costa Rican popsicles). Then the brigade spent a Saturday building with their regional affiliate in Cartago. Twenty children and five parents put their compassion for their community into action. They sifted sand, filled cement blocks, helped mix cement, and learned how to level a lot by digging out excess dirt. The third graders worked hard all morning and into the afternoon alongside their teacher, parents, and the Habitat partner family, Xinia Fonseca Ortega and her husband José Antonio Valverde Leiva.

It is exciting to see third graders taking an active interest in not only their future, but also the future of less privileged members of their community. Kelly Sumner, an International Partner at the Costa Rica national office, compliments the group, saying, "I was amazed at the energy and the enthusiasm of the students, their parents, and the staff of Country Day School. Habitat values the work of our volunteers, big and small."

The Country Day School student group is representative of the diversity of Habitat and its great emphasis on volunteer service. HFH Costa Rica is using this group of third graders as inspiration to make its volunteer participation more diverse, placing more importance than ever before on students.
Last year, Costa Rica developed the country's first student chapter at Lincoln School, a bilingual group also working in conjunction with the Cartago affiliate. The national office is encouraging the initiation of three other school groups and is also attempting a greater presence on university campuses, involving our other four affiliates: Esparza, Monteverde, Nicoya, and San Ramón.

We hope the excitement that the third graders felt after their fundraising and building efforts will become contagious and supply new, young volunteers who will assist in Habitat for Humanity's mission of eradicating sub-standard housing conditions here in Costa Rica. Help spread the good word about what the Country Day students have begun here in Costa Rica. Let's continue to change the world through Habitat for Humanity-one house at a time!

Elizabeth ( is a long-term volunteer with HFH Costa Rica. She works with international teams and student groups and will help organize the Summer Youth Build 2002 in Costa Rica.