McMaster alumnae travel to Costa Rica for volunteer work


The 13 volunteers spent their time in the cloud forest of Monteverde, supporting the conservation work at Santa Elena Reserva, as part of an alumni service trip.

In late March, a small but mighty group of McMaster alumnae traveled to Costa Rica for an alumni service trip – the third such trip run by the Alumni Association.

Kris Gadjanski from the Office of Alumni Advancement travelled with the group on behalf of McMaster. “I was so proud of our group,” she said. “Travelling isn’t always easy or comfortable — particularly as a group — but without exception our alumnae embodied integrity, inclusiveness and teamwork.”

The 13 volunteers spent their time in the cloud forest of Monteverde, supporting the conservation work at Santa Elena Reserva. The hard work of volunteering in a nature reserve included hauling gravel to repair trails, cleaning and painting to spruce up buildings on the reserve, and hiking into the forest to place animal tracking cameras.

“No matter how small the volunteer work seems, it can mean a lot to the people on the receiving end,” said one volunteer. Another noted that while many on the trip had to step out of their comfort zone, it was totally worth it.

There was one particularly special element to this trip. Previous alumni groups to do this trip had fundraised to purchase an animal tracking camera for the reserve, which couldn’t be mailed to the Santa Elena Reserve. The 2017 trip group carefully transported the camera with them on their journey and presented the camera to the staff, who helped the alumnae group install the camera in the forest.

The journey to Costa Rica was definitely not all work and no play! The group enjoyed exposure to many aspects of Costa Rican culture including learning how to make a home-made meal from scratch, a coffee tour, a beach day, and a free day exploring the capital city of San Jose.

When asked for a final reflection, one participant said: “I feel very empowered after this experience and wish I could have contributed more to the Monte Verde community… I was very nervous travelling as a solo traveler and am very happy I made relationships with other Alumni that made me much more comfortable travelling with new people. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone and would be interested in participating in similar opportunities in the future.”

The alumni service trip to Costa Rica’s Santa Elena Reserve runs every second year. Those interested in the 2019 trip can email for more details.