Student Leadership Initiative in Costa Rica: Research in Action 2015

Twelve students in SMU’s Student Leadership Initiative (SLI), sponsored by the Embrey Human Rights Program, participated in a service-learning trip to Costa Rica Jan. 2-12, 2015. The SLI students were led by Dr. Howard J. Recinos, Professor of Church and Society at SMU Perkins School of Theology, and Dr. Joci Caldwell Ryan, a lecturer in the women’s and gender studies program of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

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Human rights, like a drive to the ferry

CostaAn update from Dominique, a sophomore majoring in biology and human rights:

As we left the cooler climate near the indigenous territory, I was looking forward to the ferry ride Dr. Recinos had promised. The morning of travel started off slightly late, but the uplifting energy of the group didn’t possess a single doubt that we could miss the beloved ferry at 11 AM. As we weaved through the lush mountains, I was wondering when the bold heights would flatten out to the beach coast. After several hours, we were finally beginning to see a contrast in environment. The view of a small beach town produced itself with a mountainous backdrop. Finally we were close!

The energy of the group was beginning to change like our terrain. The once calm, carefree faces changed to a more concerned, doubtful state. It was crunch time, with less than 10 minutes to go and no ferry in sight, and the fearful looks began to bounce from face to face like a ball in a pinball machine. This narrow road was the single obstacle that was preventing us from reaching the ferry. Unlike our journey before through the mountains, no one was enjoying the unique beach town of vibrant colors and easygoing vibes. We were so enthralled with the race to the ferry that we ceased to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime scenery just outside the window.

If I think about the situation now, there was only one driver to the bus, but about 10 other people who thought that their anxiety could change the circumstances. There were several uncontrollable factors that prevented us from being in the right spot at the right time. We failed to enjoy the journey because we were focusing on a hypothetical result. Our imaginary thoughts, focused on reaching the ferry gates, blinded us from seeing the reality around us.

In human rights we seem to easily envision the end result to a complex issue. Just as multiple factors caused our lateness to the 11 AM ferry, there are numerous factors that produce human rights violations. I have realized that rather than seeing only the perfect end resolution, we must look at the reality of the current times to create the correct result. We must tackle the controllable aspects of a situation, rather than waste time on hypothetical thoughts. In human rights we must focus on realities around the issue, not the realities we want to see.

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