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.

Read more from Student Leadership Initiative in Costa Rica: Research in Action 2015

Our songs from Costa Rica

IMG_1526An update from Asia, a senior majoring in human rights, with a minor in women’s and gender studies and international relations:

I believe we all have a song. Our songs are our stories. All of our songs connect when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. In order to truly be vulnerable, we must be alive. There is nothing more beautiful than being alive. To be alive is to live life to its fullest.

I know I did that while I was in Costa Rica on the Southern Methodist University Embrey Human Rights Student Leadership Initiative. In Costa Rica, I lived life to its fullest because I allowed myself to connect with every individual I met on this trip, even with the language barrier. I listened to every person’s story with my heart, soul and mind. While doing those things, I gained a clearer sense of human rights. I believe that it is impossible to truly understand human rights without understanding the beauty of life and knowing that we are more alike than different.

I met some of the most beautiful faces and spirits on this trip. I believe we as people put so much focus on the academic side of human rights more than the soulful and spiritual side. I find that sad because there is so much connection we have with one another.

In Costa Rica, our group met with many NGOs and government organizations that fight locally for human rights. In one meeting, we had the opportunity to meet with sex workers who worked for an organization called La Sala. The goals for this organization were to improve the lives of sex workers and former sex workers and to legalize sex work.

While meeting the women from La Sala, I had the opportunity to connect with them through humor. I have never seen individuals live with so much joy as they do. I laughed so much with those women. They say laughter is good for the soul. Well, on that day my soul felt good. A life without laughter is a simply sad life. Despite the fact that sex work is a tough and dangerous job, the women found joy in their lives. They wanted to be seen as human beings and not judged by their job. Their objectives were to gain respect and human rights. I find it sad that they were asking to be seen as beautiful human beings. When in reality, they already are. The more I think about it, the more I see that I am more like them (I love laughing at silly humor and I feel pain) than different. I just lucked out.

I also learned that humility is the most beautiful quality a person can have. I saw that in the bus driver, Liebour, and the coordinator of the trip, Edwin. Edwin never had a frown on his face despite the fact that he lost many loved ones in gang violence. Liebour’s smile also never broke. I felt so bad because he had to lift my heavy suitcase almost every morning. Instead of frowning, he laughed at me. He and Dr. Recinos also joined us in karaoke. That was funny!

Both Liebour and Edwin did everything in their power to make us feel comfortable while we were on this trip. They were happy when we were happy. I have great admiration for them because they enjoyed serving other people. That is what human rights is all about.

I believe that so often people study human rights and forget to live it. That is not the way to understand human rights. In order to understand human rights, one has to fully connect to people. We can do this through serving and laughing with other people. Once one does that, one can understand the song we all create together. In reality, we are more alike than different. We all laugh, cry, serve, and love 🙂

DSCN7269

Share this story:

    About Sarah Hanan

    EA-PubAffairs(Periodicals)

    This entry was posted in Student Leadership Initiative in Costa Rica: Research in Action 2015. Bookmark the permalink.