MCC Fellowship Costa Rica: Finding a Balance

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In 1994, John Elkington, founder of the British consultancy SustainAbility, argued that companies should formulate three different bottom lines; what he called “The Triple Bottom Line.” The first one is Profit, and is based on the traditional measure of corporate profit. The second is the People Account, which it shows how socially responsible an organization has been all through its operations. The last one, the Planet, measures how environmentally responsible a company or an organization has been[1]. This concept have been use not only for the measurement of a company’s responsibilities, but also in many schools across the world to show students the importance of having (and sharing) social/environmental consciousness.

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During the Costa Rica Experience class at MCC, our professor, Mike Cermak, methodically educated us about these three essential principles. For every class he taught, he made sure to incorporate each of them for our fully understanding and assimilation. For a period of two weeks, I, along with nine students and two advisers, were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to experience the triple bottom line, first hand. Although, it was particularly challenging for me to find a balance between profit and social account because we mostly worked with the environmental protection and edification. However, once I started feeling more familiarized with the culture, I was able to connect the dots to my career as well as my future plans.

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On May 30th, our Costa Rica’s journey started. We checked-in at the comfy Boutique Hotel Casa Las Orquideas in the hot city San Jose. After our early-dinner (one room-temperature salmon filet with mashed potatoes, salad, and a cup of juice), we decided to explore the town. From the moment we took two cabs, I realized that Costa Rica’s fares are more expensive than the United States. One way on a 7-passengers’ minivan cost ₡2,000 Colones[2] per person; which it was $4 dollars per the seven of us who took the taxi. No wonder why Costa Rica’s economy overall score has increased by 0.3 point from last year[3], if one of their main sources of money have been coming from tourists. According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, Costa Rica’s economic development has focused on orienting the economy to the global marketplace. “Costa Rica has one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment in Latin America, and the government’s limited economic presence has facilitated a business environment based on tourism, agriculture, and technology” (Heritage.org). However, when it came to comparing prices, the first social-place we visited demonstrated the opposite.

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El Pueblo (The Town) is an open-spaced mall surrounded by restaurants and multiple –cheap– bars from which one can easily have access; most of them, without a door fee. We arrived there around 8pm, trusting ourselves that it would have been a fair time to start our night. Every employee looked at each other’s with questions all over their expressions. It was more than obvious that we were one of their first customers, if not their only one at that time. Despite of our lack of information about the place, we wondered around the plaza and found a few very interesting places. For instance, we stopped at a tea-and-sweets shop whose owner was from France. He was telling us how he fell in love with Costa Rica, just as much as he did with his Moroccan wife (who was in the US). The French entrepreneur was very friendly and open to any question, as if he was a native of the country; he even gave us free samples of his Moroccan sweets and tea.  He was as polite as the other locals at El Pueblo. Next, we ate at a near little pizza place, where we met another friendly shop owner. The prices were affordable: ₡1500 for a very large slice of pizza with a soda; although, we opted to buy two large ones instead. We also went to two different bars and bought some “Chiliguaro” shots for ₡500 each –that was only a dollar each!

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Our night was going great. However, when the clock marked 11 pm, the environment was starting to feel unsafe due to the stampede of locals and some other tourists whom were arriving.  According to Heritage.org, “Corruption is lower than elsewhere in the region, and Costa Rica has avoided the infiltration of its state institutions by organized crime, but drug-related activity has increased in the past two years as Mexican cartels move into Central America.” Sometimes, these information can create some type of misconception and assumptions about a country/place. For that reason and for the way many of the new people were looking at my peers, I kept my eyes open until we decided to leave, just about 10 minutes after.

Fun Fact – My experience at El Pueblo reminds me of The Night Journey; a poem written by Rupert Brooke:

Hands and lit faces eddy to a line;

The dazed last minutes click; the clamour dies.

Beyond the great-swung arc o’ the roof, divine,

Night, smoky-scarv’d, with thousand coloured eyes

Glares the imperious mystery of the way.

Thirsty for dark, you feel the long-limbed train

Throb, stretch, thrill motion, slide, pull out and sway,

Strain for the far, pause, draw to strength again.…

As a man, caught by some great hour, will rise,

Slow-limbed, to meet the light or find his love;

And, breathing long, with staring sightless eyes,

Hands out, head back, agape and silent, move

Sure as a flood, smooth as a vast wind blowing;

And, gathering power and purpose as he goes,

Unstumbling, unreluctant, strong, unknowing,

Borne by a will not his, that lifts, that grows,

Sweep out to darkness, triumphing in his goal,

Out of the fire, out of the little room.…

—There is an end appointed, O my soul!

Crimson and green the signals burn; the gloom

Is hung with steam’s far-blowing livid streamers.

Lost into God, as lights in light, we fly,

Grown one with will, end-drunken huddled dreamers.

The white lights roar. The sounds of the world die.

And lips and laughter are forgotten things.

Speed sharpens; grows. Into the night, and on,

The strength and splendour of our purpose swings.

The lamps fade; and the stars. We are alone.

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As the days went by, we visited La Paz Waterfalls Gardens; a magical and ecological paradise where we had our first encounter with nature. As we were exploring the amazing place, one of our tour-guides was telling us the owner have been rescuing exotic animals[4] from people who hunt or buy them for pleasure. Although La Paz only have 5 waterfalls, it was totally worthy to see them all. This place was a perfect example of their proudly 5% of earth’s biodiversity, which is a density that is unmatched anywhere else in the world[5].

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Another day that we had the opportunity to work with the environment occurred at the national park La Libertad. That was our first community service; which it made me feel like one of the locals instead of another tourist at CR. We worked with the reforestation of one section of the national park; place where it used to be a cement fabric few years ago. We planted trees, removed bad ones, collected dirt…even one of my friends was bitten by a bug! Two of the workers there were making fun at him, by saying that it was a scorpion; but they were so friendly and funny. Both of them came from Nicaragua. “Most of us are from there,” one of them told me. Which it surprised me once I talked with one of the female workers; she told me that Nicaraguan women are the one in those type of positions. That was contradicting one of our learnings; one of the three bottom lines: social responsibility. I knew the kind Nicaraguan lady could be bias, who wouldn’t be? Yet, I wanted to know more about this “discovery” of mine.

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According to the Tico Times[6], “In 2013, 287,766 Nicaraguans lived in Costa Rica, according to the Immigration Administration… Several sources…estimated that there could be many more Nicaraguans living and working in Costa Rica without residency or work permits, bringing the actual population to between 350,000 and 400,000.” In our class we learned about how Costa Rican women are very independent and hard workers. However, according to Envio.org[7], “Thousands of middle-class Costa Rican women entered the new job markets, largely thanks to the presence of thousands of Nicaraguan women who took over the work they had previously done in their homes.” The article claims that in Costa Rica, just as other countries with immigrants, “migrant workers take the worst-paying, riskiest and least-skilled jobs, even though many of them have more skills than are required by the labor market in which they participate.” The Nicaraguan lady was no mistaken.

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As our journey was coming to its end, I was a little sad that we didn’t have any community service based on the community itself. For instance, I wanted to work with some schools, and equally important, with women of strength. My career is moving towards that direction. It is my passion. Working with women from all over the world, showing them that they would be whatever they want to be as long as they continue to work hard and keep believing in themselves, is one of my goals… and I wanted to have a balance like that in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, I know that in the future, thanks to our experiences and our reflections, we will success for the better learning experience of our future students.

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References:

[1] The Economist Newspaper Limited 2015. http://www.economist.com/node/14301663

[2] Named after Christopher Columbus

[3] 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. Heritage. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/costarica

[4] Over 100 species according to their website.

[5] Anywhere Costa Rica. http://www.anywherecostarica.com/flora-fauna

[6] Nicaraguan migrants don’t follow other Central Americans to US, choosing Costa Rica instead. ZACH DYER AUGUST 27, 2014. http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/08/27/nicaraguan-migrants-dont-follow-other-central-americans-to-us-choosing-costa-rica-instead

[7] Nicaragua’s Indispensable Migrants and Costa Rica’s Unconscionable New Law. Envio.org. http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3253

Ironstone Farm: Spirit of Giving Gala – Dallas 2014

Yeehaw! On November 15, more than 400 people enjoyed the Spirit of Giving Gala at Andover Country Club to benefit Ironstone Farm and Challenge Unlimited, (place a comma after the word Unlimited) which provides therapy horses and a working farm environment for the disabled.

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Ironstone Farm Executive Director Deedee O’Brien introduced the night by saying, “The horse will do a lot of things for a lot of people, and we’re discovering every day what that can do. And you are making that possible.”

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With “Dallas: Bring your Bling” as its theme, the gala featured a mechanical bull, chuck wagons fully loaded with candies, popcorn and nuts, buffets with Texas food, country music from the Houston Bernard Band, a Texas hold‘em table and other gambling games provided by Boston Charity Casinos. Most the invitees wore hats and boots, big hair and bling, among other Texas-style clothing. WBZ-TV sportscaster Bob Lobel, dressed in western gear, hosted a live auction for several vacation packages, while many other items were featured at a silent auction.

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The event honored benefactors Doug and Diana Berthiaume, members of the Ironstone Farm Leadership Committee. According to the Andover Townsman Online, the couple offered a matching donation to launch the farm’s five-year capital campaign to further improve its nonprofit programs and facilities.

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Normand Deschene, CEO of Circle Health and Lowell General Hospital, was also honored for his three decades of service at the hospital.

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Thank to the support and contributions made during that night, Megan Loughney, associate executive director at Ironstone Farm, announced that the Spirit of Giving Gala raised over $350,000

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About Ironstone Farm

Ironstone Farm was founded in 1960 by Richard Donovan as a breeding, training, and rehabilitative facility for thoroughbred performance horses. The nonprofit Challenge Unlimited was created out of the Donovan family’s desire to share Ironstone Farm with people whose lives have been challenged by disability. Located on more than 18 acres in Andover, the property consists of pasture, woodland, ponds, and is home to about 35 horses, donkeys, and a variety of wildlife (IronstoneFarm.org).

“Therapeutic riding uses the horse to deliver traditional physical, occupational, and speech therapy in a unique way – providing integration of fine motor, gross motor, speech and sensory integration in one experience,” said Peter Raffalli, a child neurological physician at Children’s Hospital.

“My personal observation is that children with low muscle tone and children with autism spectrum disorder seem to do very well with therapeutic riding. Their parents quite commonly see improvements in truncal tone and endurance, as well as interactions with staff and with their environment,” the doctor said.

To make a donation to Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm through Guidestarclick here.

 

 

 

Other Sources: Megan Donovan ( http://ironstonefarm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SOG-14-press-release.pdf )

Pictures and videos by: Diana Santana

Mary-Jo’s Tips on How to Dress for Success

Finally! You have the opportunity to be interviewed for that dream job that you have always wanted. You know that you have the charisma and a great personality to become part of that prestigious company; however, you certainly know that it’s all about that first impression. “What should I do?” you start panicking. Don’t worry! The Director of Paul Sullivan Leadership Institute, Mary-Jo Griffin, held an extraordinary presentation on how to dress for success. And here are 10 of her tips that you should follow before heading to your interview:

  • Ladies:

Q: Is it okay to wear pants to an interview, or should I stick to a dress?
A: “Wear your A-Game!” says Mary-Jo. Either pants or skirt suits are okay, with a color preference of grey, black, or navy. She recommends that the skirt-length should not be shorter than your knee or longer than just beneath your knee. Neutral-colored Pantyhose: a must!

Q: I love vibrant colors; thus, is it okay to wear a splash of color?
A: She suggests wearing a harmonized blouse with no vibrant colors or designs. In the same way, your nails have to be painted with neutral or pastel colors. Try to avoid plastic or extravagant jewelry, and limit yourself by wearing one ring per hand.

Q: How about my makeup?
A:  It’s okay to wear makeup! Just be careful not to use too much; it should be light or neutral. Moreover, don’t let your hair go all over your face, pull it back! You might not want any distraction during your big day.

Q: What else should I bring with me?
A: You should carry a purse or a briefcase with your portfolio (if it applies). Don’t forget to bring a pen and notebook, as well as your presentation cards. Make sure all your information is updated and written correctly.

Q: How about my shoes?
A: DO NOT wear open-toed shoes or athletic shoes. Platform shoes are okay. High-heels are recommended, but don’t use the same ones that you usually use to go dancing or meeting your girlfriends.

  • Gentlemen:

Q: What color should I wear and what should I bring to the interview?
A: You should wear a conservative suit of solid colors like black, gray, brown or navy. Don’t forget to bring your briefcase and/or portfolio along with pen and notebook, and your updated presentation cards.

Q: What color my shirt should be? Can I wear short sleeves?
A: It is preferable to wear a white or light blue long-sleeved shirt with sleeves that cover one-quarter inch beyond your suit jacket. It’s okay to wear a coat, especially during New England’s cold winter.

Q: What about my socks; should I matched with my shirt or my suit? How about my tie?
A: Griffin advises men to wear socks in a color that balances the suit. Yet, please don’t wear athletic socks. And your tie should have a traditional pattern and color to match the suit.

PS: If you don’t know how to tie your tie, here’s a helpful easy-steps video:

Q: I don’t think I should shave my beard; should I?
A: She suggests that men should consider the idea of shaving or trimming their beard, for an immaculate appearance. Believe it or not, Griffin explains that although your appearance may not be the main reason why someone won’t hire you, “40 percent of employers’ criteria of choosing their employee” is based upon this particular issue.

Q: My earrings are part of my personality; thus, should I leave them on?
A: You should remove any visible piercings for the same reason mentioned previously. And, if you have long hair, you should wear a ponytail.

“You will never have a second chance to make that first impression,” Griffin says. She says that, when going to an interview, we should dress like we are applying for a position two steps up instead of the one we are looking for at the moment. Remember, you ought to “dress for success!”

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Eugene Trivizas, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig: Book Review

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What would happen if we take a classic bedtime story and make a little funny twist of its plot and characters?

In contrast with the classic story Three Little Pigs, Eugene Trivizas’ The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig is a more complex, highly entertaining, and well-illustrated twist of this word-known story. Although both stories have the same moral, in Trivizas’ story we see how the wolves work as a team, are not afraid to socialize with strangers, and, like people, have fears to battle.

With dramatic and comical expressions on the wolves’ faces, the stunning illustrations by Helen Oxenbury also show how the wolves work together as a team. As expressed in Kirkus Reviews, “Oxenbury’s splendid watercolors and drawings perfectly evoke both landscape and the members of the questing family; a handsome edition of an old favorite.”

The story begins with the three little wolves at their mother’s house; she tells them they need to build a house for themselves, so they do. They are able to construct four beautiful houses in sequence, first of brick, then concrete, then barbed-wire with metal-bars and armor-plates, and the last one of lovely scented flowers. The wolves are very strong; the story tells how they play lots of sports together, and how they are unafraid to ask strangers for help when needed.

The brothers are afraid of the big bad pig. Thus, each time the pig destroys their houses, the little wolves have to make another one with the help of some strangers. They got the red and yellow bricks for the first house from a female kangaroo that was passing their way. They got the concrete for their second house from a beaver.

They ask a rhinoceros for help for their strongest house, which is made of barbed wire, armor plates, and a metal padlock. Finally, the wolves meet a flamingo who gives them flowers to build the last house made.

The story does not mentioned if the wolves had met those friendly animals before. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to teach the readers to ask for help, no matter whether we know who the helper could be. Even adults could learn from this twisted classic written by Eugene Trivizas.

Like human beings, the little wolves could have felt fear, and run away from it as fast as a shooting star. Instead you would be surprised of finding out how they discover a great way to defeat their fears, and how the angriest, biggest, and worst pig in their town became…well, you will see.

Trivizas, Eugene. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. NY: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. 1993. Print.