Sustainable Me, Sustainable Us
The group’s Sustainable Me! programming exposes participants to sustainable tourism (a subject Alfred teaches at George Mason University) and earth sciences. Costa Rica travelers, for example, visit sustainable farms in the mountains of Heredia and learn about energy production at the Miravalles volcano, site of the largest developed geothermal field in Costa Rica. They also spend part of a day with a local host family, sharing a meal with them and joining them in normal family activities.
Tours also have a service component, such as working with ADE (Association for Development through Education) in Costa Rica to help rebuild the community of Vera Blanca after the devastating 2009 earthquake.
Engaging local partners is important to Alfred. This not only provides students a more authentic introduction to the countries they visit, but also embodies sustainable tourism by ensuring that the resources go directly to the country visited rather than an external company.
Service and exposure to the community is key to the goal of the program: to show participants other cultures and ways of life. One of the most eye-opening tour segments has been the visit to the San Blas Islands in Panama, known locally as Kuna Yala.
“It’s real immersion for our students,” Alfred explained. “There’s no running water, they sleep in huts and get to spend time with Kuna youth. It’s real immersion.”
Despite the rough conditions, the kids love the program. “The experience gives them perspective,” said Alfred. “They realize they have more back home than they thought.”
About the Author: Tara Campbell is a DC-based writer of crossover science fiction. She’s lived in Germany and Austria, but never in a hut or next to a volcano.