There were eight Irish teens total. Four were able-bodied. Four had disabilities. All had a taste for adventure, and they had been teamed up with each other for a trip to Costa Rica, where they learned to learn to surf, raft, canyoneer and rappel down a 200-foot waterfall.
They also agreed to be filmed for a reality show titled, “In Your Shoes,” for which Irish Public Television contracted the well-known Irish film director Alan Brenna and sponsored the team of eight to explore Costa Rica. How did it go?
“This was the adventure of a lifetime,” said Ruairi Meyler, an ambitious 16-year-old confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. “I never thought I’d ever go to such an amazing country and get to do so many things.”
For part of the trip, the teens were accompanied by Ocean Healing Group, a company based out of Santa Teresa and California that helped disabled people learn to surf. “I’ve worked with many young people with disabilities, but this group was extraordinary and very inspiring,” said Frank Bauer, one of the founders of Ocean Healing.
The teens’ disabilities ranged from blindness to amputated limbs to cerebral palsy and brain damage. And the able-bodied buddies who accompanied those with disabilities came from all different backgrounds. One was a farmer, one and athlete and one a musician, and each brought a fresh perspective on helping people with disabilities. “This trip was definitely an eye-opener for all of us,” said Ayobami Akinse, a Nigerian immigrant and a sports star in Ireland.
Later in the trip, the teens participated in rafting and canyoneering with my husband’s business, Desafío Adventure Company, in La Fortuna, San Carlos. “This was a great learning experience for our guides and staff,” said Suresh Krishnan, owner of Desafío Adventure Company. “In my 20 years of experience, these past few days we spent with these young people have been some of the most inspiring for all of us.”
When asked what their favorite experience during their stay in Costa Rica was, some of the kids replied “volunteering at the school with Desafío!” The teens also raised funds and donated a laptop and two cameras to a new school in the rural community of Cerro Alegre outside of La Fortuna.
“I can’t believe these young people did this for us,” said Grettel Mendéz, director of the Cerro Alegre school. “This computer was incredibly necessary and came at the perfect time.” Mendéz needed the computer to fulfill the requirements of the Education Ministry to open the school in a community that has many children of poor, Nicaraguan immigrants. “This was a blessing,” she said.
The teens also painted the school and took played soccer with a former member of the La Liga soccer team, Michael Robinson.
A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to La Casona Río Fortuna for a deliciously traditional Costa Rican meal, along with folk dancing. La Casona Río Fortuna was the country home of former Costa Rican President Rafael Iglesias around the turn of the century. “All the teens joined in and played soccer and sang and danced,” Robinson said. “It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip to Costa Rica with such incredible kids.”