Last Updated: November 1st, 2012By

Growing up in the United States, I developed tunnel vision. I never really thought about different cultures or different ways of living. I was self centered and only thought about myself and my life. I just thought that everyone’s life was pretty easy, you wake up go to school and your parents go to work. Everything is just given to us and if you want something you can just go to the store to go and get it. However, my CULP trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to a whole other world.

 My name is Vanessa Cerda. I am twenty years old and I was born in Fontana, California. During the summers I live with my parents and my three sisters and during the school year I live on campus at the university I attend; California Baptist University. I am currently a senior, studying towards a Bachelors degree in sociology with a minor in Military Science. After graduation I will be a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve in the Adjutant General Corps.

During my trip to Costa Rica I performed humanitarian work at two very different placements.

The first placement was at a nursing home called Manos de Jesus. The second placement was at an orphanage called Pueblito. I spent two weeks at Manos de Jesus and my mission was to help improve the ground to reduce flooding as well as interact with residence helping their motor skills as well as converse with them and assisting them with basic needs such as feeding themselves and applying sunscreen.  In order to reduce flooding my team and I moved huge piles of dirt and broken up cement to another area of their year.

The equipment we used were shovels, picks, gloves. Moving the dirt and broken cement was a challenge not only because it was heavy and hot, but it was so irritating that there were easier ways to accomplish the task. For instance, in the U.S we could have used a skid loader to move all of the dirt and broken cement and we could have finished in a day or two.

However, we had to remember that we were not in the U.S and we had to play by their rules. At Pueblito our task was to chip off paint off of the homes. However, our equipment only consisted of scrapers, and eye protection which made the task impossible to finish in the one week we spent there. In the U.S we are fortunate to have technology such as electronic sanders to make jobs a lot easier, but again we were in a different country and we had to play by their rules, and do it with a smile on our faces.

There were many different people that we met during the three weeks we spent in Costa Rica. However there were a few people that made a huge impact on me personally.

The first person was Juan Carlos, a worker at the home base that we lived at. Juan went to our work site each day and truly made work easier and more enjoyable. Juan showed genuine care towards us and truly had our best interests at heart. The second person that impacted me was a resident at Manos de Jesus named Lily. Although I could not understand Lily when she talked due to the language barrier, she was extremely sweet and loved talking to each person on me team. Her smile when she saw us everyday made the hard work worthwhile. The third person that made an impact was an orphan at Pueblito named Kathleena. She loved everyone on my team and everyday came to greet up and watch us work. The last person that made an impact; the biggest impact, was Maj Jackson, my cadre for the trip.

Our experience in Costa Rica would have been completely different and not as enjoyable if it was spent with another cadre member besides Maj Jackson. Maj Jackson genuinely cared about the well being of each of his soldiers. We were able to experience wonderful excursions including, white water rafting, zip lining, sailing, and snorkeling. Maj Jackson encouraged us to do PT as well as trying and experiencing new things such as food and talking to Ticos (Costa Ricans) in Spanish.

Overall, I can honestly say that this trip has been a trip of a lifetime and I had the best time of my life. I will go home a better person because of all of the people I met and all of the experience I was able to have. CULPP is an awesome program and I recommend it to all ROTC cadets.