As many of our Instagram and Facebook subscribers probably know, Soy Niña is the first organization we have been able to partner with. At Outbound Abroad we have a goal and a mission to give back everywhere we go. Sometimes that may be purely financial. Sometimes it may take a more physical shape through our time spent assisting in whatever the cause may be. For Soy Niña it was a little of both, and the experience equally tore and filled our hearts.
So what is Soy Niña? For anyone who has not heard of the organization, it is a small non-profit based in San José, Costa Rica. Soy Niña operates as a very small team who volunteers to enter dangerous and extremely impoverished areas to provide positive growth activities and group sessions with the young girls in those areas.
These young girls grow up in very poor conditions. Most are without a father, some also without a mother. One girl in particular was found in a basket after being abandoned on the street at two months old. Their families, neighbors, and friends are sometimes involved in gang activities, drugs, or prostitution, and without a guiding hand, these young girls are destined to follow the same path.
Soy Niña's efforts have already begun to show drastic differences in these girls lives in the short time the organization has been in operation. Ana Laura, one of Soy Niña's founders and our close friend, works tirelessly to enrich these young girls lives by providing a positive image as a role model, and educating them on the rights and privileges they have as people. These rights, most of us take for granted, but for many of these girls, they never even knew they had them.
On our way into Desamperados Ana Laura, Karen (a Soy Niña volunteer), and Juan (Ana Laura's friend) explained to Courtney and I that the area was divided into seven districts. The districts increase in danger as you travel further into the area, and at the fifth district emergency personnel will not respond to any emergencies due to the danger of the area. In places like these, the gangs are the law and there is no-one else around to say other wise. It's the kind of place someone could go missing and never be found. These thoughts ran through my head as we traveled deeper into the area.
Our final destination was a small dirt lot with a wooden play set within district four. It was a sad sight to say the least. I think most of us have seen the videos on National Geographic or Discovery featuring the Favelas of Brazil or the slums in many impoverished nations. The images within those shows describe perfectly the scene we found ourselves in.
Amongst this tragic space however, we found a group of happy young kids, eager to play and make new friends. As we unpacked the car with several toys we picked up on the way, the girls of Soy Niña and several of their siblings emerged from the houses and greeted us with a warm and excited welcome. We played and had a great time getting to know these girls.
Afterwards, we walked with several of the young girls back to their homes and our eyes were opened even wider. I wish I could have filmed this experience to share, however with the gang members and drug dealers around, I felt using camera equipment in this area might end up being a poor decision. We made sure the girls got home safe and brought one some clothes.
As we left one of the gang members stopped our car to exchange some words with Ana Laura. Courtney and I had a hard time understanding, but Ana Laura told us he made some comments about us and said that she is welcome to come back but that he is in charge and has to give permission for anything that happens around that area.
The whole situation seemed so surreal. To go from a comfy home in a rather safe area of the United States to an area so poverty stricken and oppressed was difficult. Leaving however, was nearly as challenging. In the short time Courtney and I spent with these fifteen or so girls we were moved beyond words at their kindness and positivity given their situation. We don't know when we will be able to get back to San José to visit these girls, but we do know it's something we need to do.
Nearing the end of our trip and looking toward the future it's become evident our partnership with Soy Niña cannot end with this trip, but rather is the beginning of what we hope to be a continuous effort towards helping these girls rise to a better future.
During our initial fundraiser for Soy Niña we started a Go Fund Me and sold T-shirts promoting our trip. We were able to raise around $700 for these young girls which has and will continue to go a long way to help them. The money raised goes towards providing empowering programs, constructive group sessions, and educational opportunities to the young girls reached through the Soy Niña organization. Soy Niña currently reaches around forty girls but is looking to expand to nearly one hundred this coming year. If you or anyone you may know feels lead to assist in helping these girls, we are keeping the fundraiser open, and will transfer the balance to Soy Niña periodically. If you would like to make a donation, please click here.