SAINT LEO, Fla. - A group of 11 Saint Leo students, three faculty members – including Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Sam Cibrone – and trip leader Chelsea Shoemaker traveled to ecotourism hotspot, Costa Rica during spring break as part of the Saint Leo University S.E.R.V.E mission trip.  This program challenged students to take a different view of spring break with aspirations of changing the world and helping people in need.  The focus of this mission trip was to serve and learn.

As part of S.E.R.V.E, an acronym for Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences, the group spent nine days in Costa Rica helping a local daycare remodel their facility and interacting with the children. The volunteers completely renovated the daycare facility and enhanced the children’s learning experience.  The team was able to clean up the school’s abandoned playground, fix the swing set, and restore the landscaping around the facility.

The trip also had cultural and educational components.  The cultural element came through playing with the children, teaching them games, and helping them prepare and perform a talent show.  The school children were charmed by their enthusiastic new friends.  Also, the challenge of living with a host family that spoke little English opened up language boundaries in new living conditions.

Although undertaken with a sincere mission, this trip was not all serious. The group also experienced an adventurous tour inside a volcano and planned a day of fun in the sun at the beach.

It’s easy to believe that nine days is not long enough to make a difference but this is not at all true in this case.  “It was a very humbling experience for our students,” Coach Cibrone recounts.  “I think coming back to our nice private school, the students got to see how fortunate they are. They realized experiences are what make us different. The difference between you and I are experiences.  What we’ve gone through and what we have seen. The S.E.R.V.E trip really enhanced their lives.  It allowed them to grow and appreciate other cultures.”

Forget t-shirt souvenirs, this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was shared with a group of genuine individuals knowing that the biggest change was taken place within themselves.  If you have the integrity and a willingness to work for a cause that you think is important, S.E.R.V.E will have a mission for you.