Lighting the Way Forward at San Francisco, Costa Rica
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Lighting the Way Forward at San Francisco, Costa Rica

Thanks to the generosity of our travelers, our microfarm at the San Francisco School reaches a special milestone

On July 22, Wolfgang Brunner, OAT's Regional General Manager of Central America, paid a special visit to the San Francisco School. With funds raised by our travelers through Grand Circle Foundation's Invest in a Village program, the farm's water supply and electrical system were finally complete—and Wolfgang was given a very special honor. "I got there in the afternoon," says Wolfgang, "in time to turn on the lights for the very first time."

The mood at the school was festive, with 20 families gathered to witness the occasion. The school principal, Eulin Chacon, was there, too. "She said the community had surprises for me," says Wolfgang. "I had no idea what she had in mind." After all, the progress at the farm was certainly rewarding enough—the culmination of months of planning and $13,000 worth of fundraising.

When the sun went down, Wolfgang flipped the switch. The entire farm—the entrance, the barns, and the perimeter—was bathed in light for the very first time. Not only does this improvement provide convenience for those wishing to work the farm in the early morning or evening hours, it also provides an added measure of security against intruders. For Wolfgang, who has been watching the farm grow since the very first seed was planted in 2006, it was a dream come true … but the community of San Francisco de Peñas Blancas still had something else to show him.

With its livestock supply continuously expanding, the farm had begun to run out of space in the barn. That evening, with the help of the newly installed lights, Wolfgang saw that space was no longer an issue. "They expanded the barn," Wolfgang says proudly. "And it wasn't even part of the Grand Circle Foundation grant—the community raised the money themselves." Using surplus food grown at the farm, the parents made lunches and held a fundraiser to sell them to people working nearby. They also hosted a community bingo night. In two months, they had raised the $4000 necessary to expand their barn—making room for the arrival of their fourth cow and (another surprise) 15 baby pigs. "The pigs weren't part of the grant money either," says Wolfgang. "They've all been donated by families."

The community of San Francisco received one more gift from Grand Circle Foundation, this one made possible by the generous donations of travelers. Every group that visits the San Francisco School is treated to a dance performance by some of the students—and all that practice recently served the sixth graders well. "They started dancing when we first began visiting the school six years ago," says Wolfgang, "and they recently won first prize in a national competition." A $1200 gift from our travelers purchased new costumes and dancing shoes for these talented students.

Now, one more milestone remains at the microfarm: the installation of a tilapia fish pond. "Fresh fish is good for the children," says Wolfgang, "and tilapia grows large enough to eat in a very short time."

Just $8000 remains to be raised—at which point the project will be complete, and Grand Circle Foundation can officially turn the microfarm over to the community.

It's a moment that Wolfgang has been looking forward to for five years now—and he knows the farm will be in good hands. "I love this community. They're amazing," he says. In fact, he's already thinking about which project to start next.

Want to help the microfarm reach its final milestone?

Or, read more about what's next for San Francisco in our latest fundraising update.