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Strong Women (May we KNOW them, May we BE them, May we RAISE them)

Our Visit with the first Lady of Costa Rica was made possible by Andrea Santos Campos the owner of Faith Glamping Domes in Manzanillo, CR. She is my friend and someone who teaches me daily what it means to give from the heart, selflessly with nothing expected in return. This is the second time in only two short months when Andrea has opened her heart and her property to our students. The domes were the sight of our incredible field trip in July and on September 1st, we were fortunate enough to go back to this marvelous space and meet yet another inspiring woman, Mercedes Peñas Domingo, the first lady of Costa Rica. We received the news that the visit would happen off the record, even though she was not scheduled to travel from Límon to Puerto Viejo. As education and women are of primary concern to Mercedes, she took a personal interest in our group and was determined to come.

Andrea and I decided we needed a project she could actively participate with the girls during the visit and decided that a vision board or “Tablero de Sueños” was exactly the sort of co-creative event the day called for. A vision board, is a collage of sorts where the creator spends time thinking about her goals and dreams, and then uses magazines, glue, markers, and other supplies to put words and images to her desires. The girls prepared the days leading up to the visit cutting out photos from old magazines of what inspired them to dream. I coached the girls to not only think about personal desires, but how they might take part in creating a more loving, cleaner, and brighter future on a global level. (This is a pretty abstract concept for most 8 and 9 year olds.) So this was easier for some students then others but they were all able to think about what they wanted in the future. Subsequently, the results ranged from micro to macro; from such material desires as a mansion- to friendship and love world-wide. As we gathered our thoughts; Andrea prepared her space for the meeting.

Faith Glamping Domes are a gorgeous space on the edge of the crystal waters of the Gandoca Refuge in Manzanillo. The geodesic domes are not only lovely and comfortable but designed sacred geometry in mind. Andrea wanted guests at the domes to feel energetically cared for by the space and even went so far as to bury quartz crystal which symbolize self-love and care under the construction site. With details so attentive as these, its no wonder she makes such an excellent host. Giving from the heart is an art of authenticity which not all possess. However with her combination of care and grace; Andrea prepared her business to look even more remarkable for the event.

The day of our meeting the students, mothers, and I arrived early to the Domes to avoid traffic and prepare for the visit. When the first lady arrived, she brought along her 11 year old daughter Inez, a welcome addition as she was the same age as many of our girls. Mercedes was the kind of women who sat down on the floor with us and made a vision board without thinking twice about her comfort. She told the girls to believe in themselves and fight for their dreams. She wanted our girls and all girls in Costa Rica to know if you persevere you can reach your goals and that anything is possible. As the girls worked on their dream boards, so did Mercedes and Inez. They shared their hopes and dreams not only for themselves, but for our world. Inez shared her desire to eat healthy, to play sports, to continue to study, travel, and learn. Mercedes shared a love of travel; not only by plane or car but, by reading to learn about new places. She shared her love of other cultures and her belief that we all need to work to create more love and friendship in the world. She shared her love of music, specifically the late Prince.

The first lady of Costa Rica truly reminded me of former first lady Michelle Obama. She posed the amazing ability to seem both like your next-door neighbor and royalty. I was blown away by her genuine care and grace. She was unequivocally and authentically herself and it was a joy to witness such a natural leader.

I am so grateful for each and every person who gives the gift of time and love to these girls. Today I am proud and thankful to be part of a community of such strong and supporting woman. To me both Mercedes and Andrea exemplified the words of Maya Angelou:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

May we continue to encourage young girls to grow into strong women by being them ourselves. Thank you for the strong women who made this event and so many others possible.

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