UNTIL recently, to become a memberof the Asociación Canadiense de CostaRica, affectionately known as the CanadianClub, one had to come from somewherebetween the shores of the Pacific to thechilly harbors of Newfoundland.However, under a constitutional amendmentthe club passed last fall, anyone withties to Canada, the Canadian Club or simplyhas an interest in Canada is now eligible tojoin. Members of the Canadian Club cometogether here to help the local communitywhile forming one of their own.“So many make valuable contributionsand are good supporters of the club, but untilnow there was no way they could becomemembers,” said Club President PatCopeland. “We’re interested in all kinds ofdifferent people who want to become members,get involved and contribute.”He also says the club is reaching out toyounger Canadians by offering discountedmembership to full-time enrolled studentsand by recruiting younger professionals.TAKING part in numerous cultural andcommunity activities, the Canadian Clubworks year-round volunteering and planningevents, from helping Costa Rican childrenand their communities to celebrating CanadaDay thousands of kilometers from home.Perhaps the club’s most noteworthyquality is its strong alliances with theCanadian Embassy, the CanadianInternational Development Agency (CIDA)and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce,which help fund many of the club’s projects.“We’re probably the only group that hasthis relationship with our own embassy andagencies; together we’re making an impact,”says Lyn Statten, the chairwoman of theOutreach Committee.The group is most dedicated to its activeoutreach program, which primarily focuseson working with Costa Rican schools andchildren, such as purchasing uniforms, booksand shoes. They recently started helpingrebuild schools that have fallen into disrepair.ANNUALLY, the club takes part in 15to 18 activities that range in size from smaller$300 projects to larger ones that can costup to $8,000. The group tries to only engagein projects that they can complete in oneyear. If cases arise that involve a greatercommitment, the club tries to find a way thatthey can help within a year.“We’re very fortunate to have some dedicatedpeople who work with the municipalityand schools, do architectural drawings, purchasethe materials, monitor the work, etc. andsee it through until it’s done,” Statten said.Now even Canadian Club members outsideof the Central Valley have started projectsin their respective areas, with programsbeing run in the Caribbean town of Cahuitaand the central Pacific town of Matapalo.THE club raises money by participatingin several fundraisers throughout the year,including one with the Little Theater Groupand an annual garage sale.However, it also receives additionalfunding from club member donations andthrough several other organizations, includingspecial aid from the Canadian Embassy.Through matching funds with CIDA, theclub’s dollars stretch and sometimes even triple.The club has also worked closely with theWomen’s Club of Costa Rica, with whom theysponsor scholarships for 18 students. WithCIDA’s matching funds, this provides funds for36 children. The Canadian Club also supportsthe Salvation Army’s drug and alcohol rehabilitationprogram for teenagers.Aside from its outreach activities, the clubholds an annual Canada Day celebration – a tributeto its members’ native country. This year’sevent will be held June 27 and will featureCanadian food, drinks, entertainment and activitiesfor kids.THE celebrations are not limited toCanadian nationals. In fact, out of the more than400 people the festivities attracted last year,Copeland estimates 130 to 200 attendees werenot Canadian.The club’s Thanksgiving celebration inOctober also draws a crowd. Other events haveincluded a Novemberfest, a kids’ day and theclub’s monthly luncheons, which are usuallyheld the third Wednesday of the month.Serving as an unofficial assistance organizationfor Canadians moving to Costa Rica, thegroup also provides direction to newcomers orrefers them to someone who can help.“A lot of people arrive without knowledge,”said Copeland, who receives dozens of e-mailsfrom Canadians considering the move to thiscountry.“We’ve been here for a while and it’s sort ofpart of our life,” he said about the importance ofthe club. “I think it’s served a very useful purposefor people coming to feel at home.”For more information on the Canadian Club,see www.canadianclubcr.org or contact PatCopeland at 239-5370 or email@example.com.
Today in Costa Rica