The Tico Times is proud to highlight individuals and organizations that are creating change in Costa Rica. Send us your stories: [email protected]
Today, we are featuring a reader story from Grace Bachmann, a campaign coordinator for Fondo Comunitario de Monteverde.
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Community alongside economy.
Costa Rican gems like Santa Elena and Monteverde must create spaces for the people in their communities, not just attractions for their tourists.
When I make my daily commute to Santa Elena’s center, wind gusts from tour buses and shuttles greet me as I stroll by the innumerable hotels, restaurants, and tour offices lining the roads toward the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Tourism, owing to the area’s world-class nature reserves, fuels the town’s growth. And we celebrate the opportunities that a tourism economy offers this community.
But as people who make this special place our home, we have an obligation to foster the advancement of our most precious assets—Santa Elena’s youth and the future generations who will safeguard the special character of this place. For them, we must leverage the opportunities that come with a prospering industry. Investing in them will help ensure Santa Elena retains its unique small-community nature.
Young people need places to grow their creativity, to enhance their social development, and sometimes just to bask in the joy of youthfulness. If you are a young person in Santa Elena your options for recreation are limited: there are two playgrounds nestled around town, and bus stop benches sprinkled throughout town offer places where some youth congregate. Of course, nature trails and strangler fig trees provide recreation and fun for many. But centrally located, public places dedicated to fostering educational resources and hosting youth gatherings and activities? They don’t exist. There is no public park or recreation center.
Fortunately, this can change.
The Monteverde Community Fund is one of our community’s vehicles for effecting change. So, when urban planning and well-meaning local governments fall short, locally-led initiatives like the Monteverde Community Fund hustle to fill the gaps. Ample organized groups with big ideas in Santa Elena and Monteverde have solutions but lack seed funding. The Monteverde Community Fund exists to help drive their ideas forward with funding, legal support, and capacity building.
One such local group is the Santa Elena Pro-Library Commission. They opened the area’s first public library in 2015. The Monteverde Community Fund works closely with them to make their vision a reality.
By appealing to tourists, private donors, local and global businesses, and international foundations for donations, the Monteverde Community Fund and the Pro-Library Commission have raised more than $170,000 since 2018. Those funds will secure a permanent space for the public library and for the Monteverde Community Fund. Together, they will help steward activities that Santa Elena youth are sorely missing. More is needed.
Creating opportunities for youth and purchasing a home for itself and the Public Library are just two current priorities of the Monteverde Community Fund. It is also supporting a women’s artisanal soap enterprise, an integrated and eco-friendly waste management system, bike transportation, and soil quality improvement, to name a few.
Not every Costa Rican town has a community foundation to lead the creation of civic spaces. But Santa Elena and Monteverde show what happens when neighbors take their town’s development into their own hands. One step at a time.
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