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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Naturally Enlightened

Morgan Steckler, 18, is a senior at Signature School. In June, she traveled with fellow members of Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana for an environmental service-learning opportunity to Costa Rica.

After a five-hour plane ride, I marched off the plane with eight other Girl Scouts and our chaperone Lucy Himstedt, Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana’s now-retired chief operating officer, into the surreal chaos of the beautifully different culture of Costa Rica.

We spent hours on a bus, rocketing through sweeping, green valleys and small towns. We dug our toes into black sand, darkened by the ash spewed from hidden volcanoes. Latched to ropes and metal gear, we zip-lined over canyons through the rainy-season mist and danced with smiling school kids in the pouring rain.

Together, we hunched beneath the beating sun and planted mangrove trees on the dying shores and wept for the fading population of the Maleku tribe, Costa Rica’s indigenous people whose reserve has shrunk over time. If being Girl Scouts taught us anything, it taught us to empathize and to love, greet the unknown world with open arms, and experience it.

For me, the mission wasn’t to travel and pretend to be enlightened by what I saw, and it certainly wasn’t to think I was doing Costa Rican people a rare service. My mission was to lend my ears and my eyes to the culture, grow from what I learned, and then apply the knowledge to my own life.

What I learned is what we’re given here in Evansville is a privilege often taken for granted. If Costa Ricans can drop two mere grocery-sized bags of trash on the curb to be picked up weekly, why can’t we? They’re people, satisfied by life, who don’t waste what they’re given.

The people of Costa Rica strive to keep themselves and the land around them healthy. The reason is economic, but also ethical. Do we not want our children to be healthy and clean, well off, and prepared?

After the trip, we applied what we learned to our own communities. In exchange for free travel to Costa Rica provided through a grant from Alcoa Foundation, six of us agreed to draft ideas for community gardens upon our return. The global opportunity to conserve Costa Rican land became an opportunity to make use of our land and promote healthy living in Evansville.

When we marched off the plane back home, we knew we’d made a difference not only in Costa Rica, but also in little ol’ Southern Indiana, too.

For more information about Morgan Steckler and her trip to Costa Rica, visit moblogging.wordpress.com. For more information about Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana, call 800-757-9348 or visit girlscouts-gssi.org.

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