'Pura vida time': Duluth couple spends honeymoon volunteering in Costa Rica
Instead of wedding gifts, Shelley and Lindzi Campbell-Rorvick asked their loved ones to help send them to Costa Rica — and it wasn't just to honeymoon.
The Duluth couple sandwiched their post-wedding travels with a week serving alongside local students as part of the Minnesota-based nonprofit Global Volunteers.
Shelley, who had been on a service trip like this before, wanted to share the experience with her new bride.
While Lindzi had volunteered locally, she hadn't yet served internationally.
"I heard many great things about Costa Rica going into the trip," she said. "I was just excited to try something different."
The couple went in March and are spreading the word about their positive experience ahead of a June 26 presentation at 104 W. Superior St.
The Campbell-Rorvicks were part of a group of 17 working with seventh- to 12th-graders at a school located near woods, trails and a large soccer field in the small town of Santa Elena. Each day, volunteers picked from four or five projects, with the main goal to build a butterfly garden on campus.
This project was aimed at helping students, who are required to identify different species and plants, Shelley said. In Costa Rica, a main source of income is tourism, which is a focus of the school's curriculum. Also, partnering with English-speaking volunteers gives students an opportunity to practice those skills.
The multiple benefits of the butterfly garden were no accident.
"We work on projects that our community partners have designated as important," Maggie Bjorklund, Ecuador & Costa Rica Country Manager for Global Volunteers, said by email. "We do not decide what a community needs."
"It's not an imperialistic way," Lindzi said. "We have to be a partner with them and work side by side." This working relationship was one the Campbell-Rorvicks wanted in their volunteer experience.
The couple helped prepare compost, sowed seeds, filled bags with soil and planted seedlings. They built planter boxes, and repaired and repainted signs for the garden, but what stuck out was the shared layers of communication.
Volunteer hours ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There were no strict timelines, and several breaks throughout the day. Lindzi noticed an internal shift from task-oriented to a mindful way of working. "At first, I was like, 'We're here to work,' " she said. "It took me a couple of days to slow down."
But it's "pura vida" time, which means "pure life," she said. That's the country's unofficial mantra, and it has several uses, the Campbell-Rorvicks said. It's about being in the moment, and it's used as a greeting, and an expression of gratitude. It symbolizes, 'It's all good."
Lindzi also noted an appreciation for the environment, plants and bugs. "Don't kill anything," she said. "It was really inspiring."
By the end of the week, the laid-back structure of the day was relaxing, Lindzi said. "It was actually pretty cool because we don't work like that here."
"That's the Latina mindset," said Shelley, who has lived in Ecuador and speaks fluent Spanish.
"No one's going to get upset that you didn't fill enough trash bags," she added. The focus isn't necessarily about getting the job done, it's to get people conversing and sharing that cross-cultural experience.
'Peace through service'
The community members they worked with were accepting and curious, Lindzi said. The students asked the couple and a volunteer who is transgender about their experiences coming out to their families, and stories were shared.
This open attitude was key for the couple in exploring international volunteer work because some countries that host volunteers have laws banning homosexuality. "In Tanzania, it's illegal to be gay, and you can be stoned to death," Lindzi said.
Safety was a factor in choosing to serve in Costa Rica and partnering with Global Volunteers — one of their closest friends is an employee, and the organization has an LGBT-specific program.
"Our goal is to wage peace through service," the organization's co-founder Michele Gran said by phone. Gran also spent her honeymoon in international service before launching the St. Paul-based nonprofit in 1984.
Another goal is "to promote justice in the world," said Bjorklund, who is originally from St. Paul, but now lives in Quito, Ecuador.
"It has been very satisfying for me in my job to see how people's prejudices or fear of LGBT people have dissipated through conversations and getting to know each other while working side by side," she said.
"This is what our work in the world is all about."
From their Aug. 29, 2015, wedding, the Campbell-Rorvicks raised about $2,500, which was about half the cost for them to travel to Costa Rica. The money went to program costs, which covered seeds, dirt and some of the tools for the butterfly garden.
They also went to Costa Rica with a suitcase filled with goods the school asked for: sleeping bags, work gloves, binoculars, an anatomy book. It all was added to their group's donation to the school.
While service was at the heart of their trip, the pair did find time to explore Costa Rica for their honeymoon.
They went to the beach and went whitewater rafting. They saw sloths, baby monkeys and a sleeping hummingbird during a night tour. There were nature walks, a Tarzan swing and a funny anecdote about finding an Airbnb host. Shelley and Lindzi had fun — and they made a difference.
"It was very rewarding," Lindzi said.
"For us to be able to go and share this experience as a honeymoon, it was perfect," Shelley said.
If you go:
If you want to learn more about their trip to
• What: Global Volunteers informational session and Q&A
• When: 6-7 p.m. June 26
• Where: 104 W. Superior St. (downstairs)
• More info: Shelley Campbell-Rorvick at (218) 727-7353, ext. 102, or go to globalvolunteers.org