Although COVID-19 may have halted Indiana University students from volunteering this spring in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, it didn’t stop Xylem Watermark and nonprofit organization, Costa Rica Makes Me Happy (CRMMH) from handing over a new home to Tatiana and her family as planned.
In a unique collaboration between Xylem Watermark and the Indiana University Alternative Break Program, students are given the opportunity to travel internationally and positively impact local communities. Students are paired with CRMMH, whose main purpose is to make everyone aware of the dire need to stop overconsumption of plastics in Costa Rica and around the world.
CRMMH builds sustainable houses, called Green Homes, in impoverished communities by creating Ecoblocks using the recycled material collected by volunteers during monthly beach cleanups. By utilizing a patented process, non-recyclable plastics of all kinds are repurposed into cement sand and used to create industry-standard concrete building blocks. Each concrete block utilizes up to 2 pounds of plastic while half a ton of repurposed plastic was used in the construction of Tatiana’s home.
Volunteers play a pivotal role in the Green Homes program by taking part in collecting recycling materials by participating in the beach cleanup, processing of Ecoblocks using the recycled waste, the construction of Green Homes and installation of Planet Water Foundation’s AquaHome system to provide solar energy and rain water filtration, and the facilitation of community-based recycling education programs to raise awareness.
Without the group of students there to volunteer their time, in addition to respecting the government orders for group-size gatherings due to the pandemic, it was quite a challenge to get the home completed. But with the efforts of CRMMH and a few local workers, they were able to complete the project and change the life of this young family.
Although the Indiana University students were not able to participate, they were missed and should take heart that the family was overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and now have a home of their own.