Student makes a difference in Costa Rica

September 2, 2011 Feature Print Print
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Akash Patel sits on a bench in the courtyard of the Main Building. Patel spent his time helping others in Costa Rica for the summer. Photo provided.

While some twenty-year-olds in college are spending more time trying to decide on how they are going to split up their time between partying and studying, some are actually trying to make a positive impact on the world.

This summer, instead of hitting up beaches for some serious fun in the sun, Akash Patel chose to go help those in need.

Patel recently embarked on a trip to Costa Rica in order to help children and to assist in helping wildlife at Ostional Wildlife Refuge.

Patel helped tag and harvest sea turtles during the arribada — an event where thousands of female turtles converge to lay their eggs simultaneously.

Patel said the local people are benefited because of the arribada.

“Every year the locals are given approximately two hundred eggs each and they can do what they want with them, whether it is selling them or using them for food,” he said.

When Patel wasn’t working with the wildlife, he voluteered with local non-profits, working with orphaned children, some of whom had been abandoned and thrown out in the streets. He said he spent much of his time at the orphanages teaching English, Spanish and some biblical teachings.

Many of the children Patel worked with are born to poor mothers, and to fathers who have left them and their mothers.

“I felt bad when I was leaving because many of the children and mothers did not want me to go because they were looking at me as a father figure … they understandably became very attached to me because I am a male,” he said.

Patel said some of the children are disabled in some form.

“Many of the kids we took care of were of special needs. They didn’t have hands, arms or legs and some of them had been burned,” he said.

Patel offered advice for those who want to volunteer in different areas of the world.

“It is best to go through the government rather than going through private organizations to volunteer to avoid getting ripped off,” he said.

Patel said he paid $20 a day for room and board through the government program he wworked with.

“It’s a goverment program but you get the best meals and the best lodging, and unlimited Wi-fi use,” he said.

Patel said he hopes he has inspired students in Oklahoma.

“We need to impact the future of animals and the future of planet Earth,” he said.

For more information, visit costaricanationalparks.com.

To contact Christy Johnson, email staffwriter1@occc.edu.

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