Student to Role Model
1. Today's Students, Tomorrow's Leaders
Alejandro is the oldest boy in the school program, now a young man.
Today Alejandro is a community leader and part of the next generation who will carry the Bribri people into the future.
There wasn't always such a clear vision for his future however.
When Alejandro first came to El Puente, he was with his parents who had just emerged from the jungle interior over a week's walk away.
The oldest child in his family, 7-year-old Alejandro spoke little to no Spanish with Bribri being his native tongue. He was the first child to sign up for the El Puente school program.
Alejandro worked hard throughout his education and went on to complete high school. He spent considerable time at El Puente over the years and still frequents the Steven's home to this day
As an adult Alejandro has been appointed a guardian of the Bribri culture and works with his community to protect the land, language, and way of life.
Speaking 5 languages, including 2 indigenous languages (Bribri, Cabecar, Spanish, English and French) Alejandro himself has become a bridge between his own people and the non-indigenous of Talamanca.
He also works daily both as a carpenter and multi-lingual tour-guide in the Puerto Viejo area.
If it wasn't for El Puente and its continued support over the years, Alejandro may never have found himself in the position of leadership he holds today.
To learn more about touring the canton of Talamanca with Alejandro as your personal multi-lingual guide, please contact us here.
“El Puente made a major difference in the lives of my mother, my father and myself. ”
2. Learning Skills to Participate in Local Commerce.
Hortencio is a Bribri man who lives with his wife Maria and son Angel on the edge of the jungle just inside the Bribri reserve.
Men of the Bribri culture have asked the question; " We have not had education for 5,000 years - why do we need it now?"
Having evolved from a hunter-gatherer society, knowing how to wield a machette can often be their only employable skill.
This being true for Hortencio, he found himself thinking of ways to learn skills and earn a better living.
A visiting volunteer to El Puente made a trip to the local hardware store and donated the money needed to buy power tools.
These tools, including a power saw are made available to members of our community to borrow and learn with.
Hortencio began to watch others use tools and decided to acquire new skills for himself.
He taught himself to work with tongue-in–groove wood, and continued to practice with spare materials.
Next he built a beautiful new table top for the people at El Puente.
We helped to spread the word about Hortencio's new-found skills and today he's working on a carpentry crew in nearby Punta Uva.
Sometimes it doesn't take much to make a huge difference in someone’s life.
3. Crossing Cultural Boundaries as an Indigenous Woman
Maria came to us as a young Bribri woman; reserved and unable to speak much Spanish with a baby on one hip and 4 more young children in tow.
Placed into a pre-arranged marriage at the age of 13, she became a mother in the months that followed. Maria was raised in the jungle without electricity in dirt-floor homes and did not go to school.
Through El Puente's school program, all 5 of Maria's children have successfully attended school.
Just as important, with the assistance of El-Puente Maria, has now mastered the Spanish language and also has a beginners grasp of the English language.
Her strong spirit and new-found communication skill helped Maria find her confidence. Today she is an active member of the Bribri community, and the greater Puerto Viejo community.
She speaks-out with a contingency of women who work for indigenous and women's rights. She has even spoken with the President of Costa Rica.
Years ago El Puente helped Maria acquire her own sewing machine and showed her how to use it. Through the years Maria's skill with the sewing machine has excelled.
Today, one of her mini negocios (businesses) is making these great over-the-shoulder bags the Bridge Kids use for school!