A Time of Transformation (Feb 2021)



This year has brought exciting developments for the Girls For Success English Center. As you may know, GFS was started by Peace Through Yoga Foundation nearly 15 years ago. It is now time for a Costa Rican board to run the project, while PTYF will continue to raise funds and offer annual trips. Now there are two organizations partnered in the work of empowering girls.


As of December, the legal work was completed to incorporate Girls For Success as a Costa Rican non-profit foundation. The benefits of this change include augmented opportunities for fundraising and the ability to enhance recognition of the program in the surrounding communities. As a Costa Rican non-profit, Girls for Success must support the local economy and hire only Costa Rican citizens. With this in mind, we have hired a new teacher for 2021, Catalina. You will learn more about her below.


For a number of years, Michigan State University has offered a course where Engineering and Arts & Humanities students work together to improve conditions at the Girls for Success English Center. This has been an invaluable partnership for GFS. This past semester, the Michigan State University (MSU) students, working closely with their professors and GFS staff, developed technology solutions for the students and for the school. The timing was perfect, as the COVID pandemic had highlighted the difficulties of online learning in such a rural community. Through this partnership with MSU, brand new Samsung tablets have been purchased for each student and we will soon have dependable internet at the center. Students can download lessons, assignments and supplementary educational materials at the school and then utilize them at home, even without an internet connection. Indeed, many of the local families do not have computers or WiFi at home. Thank you Professors Delgado and Hines! We are so excited to see the growth that results from this new technology.


Meet Our New Teacher


My name is Catalina Valladares. I am so happy to be joining Girls For Success as the new English teacher! I am originally from Cartago, which is in the central valley of Costa Rica. Two weeks ago, I moved to Hone Creek on the Caribbean coast to be close to the GFS English Center. My new apartment is just steps away from the school! I love this area of Costa Rica for many reasons. Hone Creek and Puerto Viejo have a vibrant culture with a Jamaican vibe. This community is filled with wonderful people and is overflowing with nature's beauty. I am also passionate about this area since my father was born on the Caribbean coast in Limon. Thanks to my heritage, I feel a special connection to this locale.


I am passionate about English and about teaching. I fell in love with the English language when I was young. In high school, I had the opportunity to be an exchange student in the USA. I lived with a family in Oregon for 1 year. This gave me a chance to practice my English and to learn about a different culture, greatly enriching my life. When I returned to Costa Rica, I decided to become an English teacher. I realized the value of speaking English in my country, which has a thriving tourism business. I wanted to give this tool to students to expand their future options. I was also motivated by my grandmother, who was an English teacher... extra inspiration from my heritage. Finally, I know that teaching will be a two-way street. As I teach, I will learn from my students as well.


Certainly, my heart is filled to be part of this program and to have the opportunity to enhance the education of the participating girls and young women.


¡Vamos a la playa!


Though we are in close proximity to the beach in Hone Creek, going to the beach is not a normal occurrence for the girls. Some families do not have a car or money for transportation. Other families have small children or jobs that do not give much freedom for time at the beach. For our first trip of 2021, we decided to take the girls to Playa Chiquita, a quiet, beautiful beach known for tide pools and coral reefs.


For most of the girls, this was their first time at this beach and they were ecstatic to explore it! Around us was a walking path, tide pools, and a lot of nature! The girls saw a sloth, heard the roar of howler monkeys, and watched as wild horses ate the fruit they left on their towels. The girls showed off their smiles, photography skills, and yoga poses as we soaked up the sun. It was so lovely to create this memory and share such a special day together.



Opening New Doors

They say time flies when you are having fun. That is certainly what I experienced this past year while teaching at Girls for Success. From glamping sleepovers to virtual lessons to craft projects at the center, we have made the best of this year and enjoyed every second of it. I am so grateful for my opportunity to be a teacher to these lovely girls. I am honored to say I will remain connected to the program, as I have been offered and accepted the role of Vice President of the Peace Through Yoga Foundation. I will function as the liaison between Girls For Success and PTYF and will continue to be a supportive role model for the girls as they progress through and graduate from the program. The girls in this program are truly special. I am excited to see what the future has in store for them. This incredible experience is something I will carry with me throughout my life. ~Carla Cunningham