Welcome to the “Friends of Copey” Blog site. I am very excited to have this new Blog site as a way to communicate with you and others who have expressed a strong interest in being kept informed on the various initiatives supporting The Learning Center located in Copey, Costa Rica. I hope I have found an easy way to keep everyone up to date on the work being done. This Blog will also allow you to share your thoughts and views on the efforts being made and whenever you feel moved, you can jump in and help as well.
1. What is The Learning Center?
The Learning Center is a not for profit educational site located in the rural town of Copey, which is approximately a two hour drive from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. The population is estimated to be around 500 people. Both a high school and elementary school exist within the small community but The Learning Center provides an extended and more comprehensive educational opportunity for students to master the English language. English is currently taught in the public schools on a very limited basis in Copey and does not provide the level of mastery needed in speaking, reading, and writing English to prepare its students for success in its own country’s university or for emerging employment opportunities. The public school’s teaching of English also has little impact on the cycle of poverty and illiteracy which exists within the community.
2. How long has The Learning Center been operating?
The Learning Center is completing its fourth year of operation. It operates along the same schedule as the local schools and enrollment depends on the number of families and scholarships available to cover the $100 per year tuition for non-kindergarten students and $60 per year for kindergarten students. Enrollment levels are usually around 30-40 students.
3. How does The Learning Center obtain funding to operate?
Families with the financial means to pay the $100 annual tuition along with local fund raising events are the major sources of revenue. Also, donations for scholarships and teaching supplies are an important revenue source. The Learning Center during the first four years of operation has managed with an unpaid staff. Volunteers from various English speaking countries along with the Peace Corp have been essential to the financial stability of The Learning Center.
4. Is there any government funding provided to The Learning Center?
During the first years of operation, there has been no Costa Rican government funding support. The local municipality has recently indicated it would provide some level of funding as The Learning Center developes plans to relocate to a larger facility. Expectations are this funding will be limited to support the construction of the new facility and not the day to day operation of The Learning Center.
5. How is The Learning Center organized and managed?
The Learning Center has a Board of Directors elected from the Copey community. There is a Principal (staff leader) position who manages the day to day operations. The teachers are typically volunteers who are degreed and have English as their native language.
6. How can I learn more about The Learning Center and its Mission?
The Learning Center has both a web site and a Facebook page anyone can access.
7. How did the Author get involved with The Learning Center?
In 2011, I traveled to Costa Rica strictly for the purpose of deep sea fishing. During this trip I fell in love with the country and people due to their warmth and kind hospitality towards others, especially Americans. Upon returning home from the fishing trip, I sought ways to return to Costa Rica as a teacher volunteer. In 2013, I traveled to Costa Rica again and made a special trip to Copey where I met the Chair of the Board of Directors and staff of The Learning Center. I was very impressed with the mission of The Learning Center but shocked at the apparent lack of basic resources needed to realize its goals to the fullest. I departed the meeting committed to returning home and finding ways to assist and support the Learning Center’s efforts to provide a quality education for its local community.
8. Why is the Author involved?
There are a number of human needs in this world and many are right in my back yard. Some of them I am actively supporting in a variety of ways through a number of civic or community organizations. However, I believe many of those human needs I personally support have multiple agencies along with multiple layers of US government providing funding to support or address the need. In rural Costa Rica, this is not the case. The need in Copey is very obvious and lack of resources very evident. This small rural town and others similar to Copey do not have numerous community based organizations and there is typically no local, state, or federal funding system in place to support such efforts. Poverty is commonplace and the career path for most young people is a straight ride to the plantations for a life of labor under very harsh and substandard conditions. In many cases, the females are placed on a path of prostitution or become part of the underworld sex slave trade. There is no government red tape to work through and there is no political party involved. There is not some high level agency dictating or being paid to administer The Learning Center’s policies and procedures. The Learning Center is locally run and governed by the local community. Many of the “Friends of Copey” share my views and have expressed an interest in helping make a real difference in someone’s life… especially a young person’s life. I believe my time and money is well spent and directly benefits the education of young people in life changing ways. Also as a Kiwanian, I fully embrace its motto … “changing the world, one child, one community at a time.” It is a real joy and personal sense of fulfillment to see my efforts and others having a direct and immediate effect on kids and certainly the Copey community.
9. Who are the “Friends of Copey”?
Since my return home last January with the intention to help The Learning Center, I have shared my experiences with many people. In most cases, I have found people sincerely interested in the overall effort being made to make a difference in Copey. I coined the name “Friends of Copey” because of the growing list of those who have expressed an interest to be kept informed. The purpose of the “Friends of Copy” Blog is to provide a means for keeping people informed and aware of the work being done. If you are following this Blog, you are regarded to be among these friends. However, being a friend does not obligate you to do anything. There are no dues or any other financial requirements to be involved. You will of course learn about the various projects we have undertaken and if you feel inclined to be more active, you can participate in whatever way you decide. The Leaning Center is already impressed with our efforts and they are amazed there is a growing number of regular everyday people keenly focused on their community and the educational needs of their young people.
10. Has there been any direct efforts made to support The Learning Center to date and what are the initiatives being undertaken by the “Friends of Copey”?
With less than a year of involvement, several initiatives have been developed and some of these have been accomplished.
a. The Student Information Exchange Program has been implemented allowing selected students from a Pasco, Washington elementary school to correspond and exchange information with selected elementary students attending The Learning Center. ( A student Pen Pal Program that brings together both students and teachers in two countries working together)
b. Commitment to donate 100 Children’s Books to The Learning Center has to date resulted in the delivery 50-75 Children’s Books.
c. Volunteer Teacher Service resulted in a local elementary school teacher traveling to The Learning Center and completing a 90 day volunteer assignment.
d. Additional Initiatives include:
• The implementation of an on-line English Language Teaching Program which is expected to significantly improve the quality of English education at The Learning Center.
• The establishment of the Anne G. Broady Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of my mother who passed away in late 2013. This scholarship fund is intended to cover the tuition cost for local students and families unable to pay the tuition.
• Contributing monetarily to The Learning Center’s need for basic school supplies and students’ educational needs.
• Developing a coalition between a San Jose, Costa Rican Kiwanis Club and a local Kiwanis Club to establish an international Kiwanis effort to address the life conditions of children.
• Establishing a partnership with a small Liberal Arts college to open the door of opportunity for college students to go to The Learning Center to fulfill their international teaching requirements, provide a site for missionary service, and encourage The Learning Center students to attend college.
11. Are there any current or immediate actions needed support by the “Friends of Copey”?
From the beginning, most assistance has been voluntary and our emerging motto seems to be “if many will do just a little…a lot will get done.” The needs of The Learning Center are very basic and most anything done is greatly appreciated by the staff and community. Today, we are attempting to raise some funds to assure there will be several scholarships available for students when school resumes in February. There are commitments for seven scholarships as of mid-December. Any level of donation will be accepted and used to sponsor a student. The donation will be registered under the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made by PayPal and submitted under the name of Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund so we can track and keep record of both the recipient and the donation. Additional information on the background of the Fund and alternative ways to donate will be featured in an upcoming post.
Be reminded that being among the “Friends of Copey” does not entail giving anything. I am convinced within the growing population of this group, some will have the means and inclination to give…be it time, advice and counsel, or money. Those cheering on the effort are as essential as those with the means to donate.
12. If I prefer not to be included how do I remove myself from the Friends list or if I want to recommend others to become a part of this effort, what should I do?
As mentioned earlier, the “Friends of Copey” is simply a group of friends who requested I keep them informed on how this project is moving along. The Blog will be the main source of future information. If you do not go to the Blog to view periodic updates on our progress, then you have basically removed yourself from any involvement. Emails from the Author will be rare and will be likely a response to an inquiry or comment. Please feel free to share the Blog with any friend or family member.
In closing, I am very excited about starting this Blog. I am a rookie of course using this form of social media and hope you will afford me some patience. This is a learning process and I am sure you will see improvements in my use of the Blog and its appearance over time. I plan to be open and available to all who are interested in being “Friends of Copey” and look forward to hearing from you. Thank you all!