A child exploring nature in Costa Rica
A child exploring nature in Costa Rica

Swimming Like Grandparents

Through KEEN Effect Youth Grants, we want to help build a future full of strong communities and a healthier planet—and we believe it starts with reconnecting children to the outdoors through recreation, education, and stewardship activities. So we were excited to get this update from one of our 2018 grantees, Osa Conservation, which provides hands-on ecology education, stream restoration & outdoor recreation for underserved rural schoolchildren in Costa Rica. 


 

Children represent the best of each culture. In them, you see the passion and love for nature that we should all have.

Meet Natalie. She is 8 years old and lives in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Her school was canceled for two weeks, and instead of sleeping in or watching TV, she came out in the field with us everyday at 7 a.m., always with a big smile and hug, to help plant native trees to reforest the river on her great-grandmother’s cattle farm. Her dream is to see the river healthy and clean again so she can swim and bathe in it, just like her grandmother did when she was a little girl.

When we first discussed with Doña Celedonia, Natalie’s great-grandmother, about restoring her river, her eyes filled with tears and hope. In the end, with motivation, love for nature, and support from the community, five generations of women in Natalie’s family were involved in helping plant 1,200 native trees, installing 1,000 meters of living fence on her property and hosting a festival on Costa Rican Tree Day in to celebrate the completion of the reforestation.

"With KEEN’s support, in 2018-2019 we were able to engage 301 local youth in river workshops and plant over 5,000 native trees and live fence posts in the community to restore four streams."

In addition to the reforestation, in August we all became kids on the property of Doña Celedonia, when we created 1,600 mud spheres that had been treated with effective microorganisms (EM) to restore the river through bioremediation. This project represents the power of community-based conservation and a great step for connecting forest patches in Latin America.

The idea to restore Doña Celedonia’s river came about because Osa Conservation has been working since 2014 with a dedicated group of local citizen scientists and schoolchildren to monitor river water quality. We love it when kids raise their hands with curious faces to learn more about the great diversity of wildlife that exists in the rivers, excitedly ruffle through river rocks and leaves to find insect larvae, or debate the results of a water pH analysis.

We decided it was time to take river monitoring to the next level: we wanted to take action. With KEEN’s support, in 2018-2019 we were able to engage 301 local youth in rivers workshops and plant over 5,000 native trees and live fence posts in the community to restore four streams.


Photo: Jo de Pauw

 

The process of restoring forests, rivers and changing mentalities in young Costa Ricans is just beginning. We hope to become a conservation virus, in the best sense of the word. Why virus? Because we need to spread our desire to take action and conserve our natural resources. Our best dispersers in space and time are young people.

In order to continue this initiative, more hands are always needed on the ground, and Osa Conservation’s biological station deep in the Costa Rican rainforest is always looking for eager volunteers to help plant trees and monitor river water quality.

We also encourage you to donate to our Healthy Rivers Program to enable us to rewild more Costa Rican rivers and to engage more local youth, like Natalie, in river restoration activities, to empower them to conserve our planet for future generations.


Since 2003, we’ve donated more than $19 million to nonprofit organizations and causes around the world through board service, shoe donations, and grants. Learn more about KEEN grant programs here.

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