All of these words have been used to describe my recent journey to Costa Rica. Although it was by far the greatest discussion I've created in my adult life thus far, those words feel a little too strong for me. To put it more simply, I would label my Costa Rican adventure as a learning experience. It helped me to learn the power that one person can have if truly determined. I learned that people who make a small contribution could have a big impact on the world. I now know that it's not our job to search for our purpose in life, but to be patient, diligent, and humble enough to let it present itself to us. Never in my life did I think this two-month journey would pave a path for knowledge, self-discovery, and personal growth, but it did.
Due to this experience, I also learned to be mindful of your words. In a blog post prior to arriving in Costa Rica, I wrote about my expectations for the journey. I wanted to evoke a new thought process concerning those with disabilities, and because of my posts that was accomplished. International organizations, universities, and political leaders have now taken note of the issues concerning travelers with disabilities. However, I didn't expect any of that to happen so quickly, nor did I anticipate the responsibility that comes with such a huge expectation.
That responsibility is now something I feel charged with and have decided that it's time to work toward making a positive change in disadvantaged areas as I had originally promised.
An international network, Partners of the Americas, works to connect individuals, volunteers, institutions, businesses, and communities in order to change lives through lasting partnerships. Joining with the International Association for Volunteer Efforts and many other volunteer-centered organizations, Partners of the Americas host a World Youth Summit on volunteering. The summit brings together youth from around the world to learn best practices and to share collaborative ideas in the areas of social justice, economic development, entrepreneurship, and much more. One the categories most interesting to me focused on the social inclusion of people with disabilities. I was not only surprised to see disability as a topic of interest, but highly encouraged by it. Wanting to be more involved, I applied to be a presenter. If chosen, I will speak about international volunteerism and disability. I should hear back any day now, so keep your fingers crossed.
That day, I went to my mentor, started a local campaign, and scheduled meetings with city officials. Within one year, ATO raised $3000 through a single mailing push. Senator Dole and Vice Presidential hopeful, John Kerry, were both major financial supporters. Having a glimpse of what a few well-written words accompanied by a 42-cent stamp could do, I imagined what could be accomplished on a larger scale.
In next week’s blog, I'll take you back to Costa Rica and tell you all the other details of my trip.
Let's just say, this boy can dance...
Ps...Be sure to "Like" Impaired Travels on Facebook by clicking the like on the right of my blog!