February 21, 2017

The Gospel Need in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for a high level of education and freedom, among Latin American countries. Despite this fact, there are pockets of the population with lower education and little freedom. Some socio political and historical developmental facts play into this oddity, especially in coastal areas that were once controlled by the United Fruit Company. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religions of Costa Rica states Protestant Christians only account for 14% of the total population. While 69% self denominates as Roman Catholic. There are also Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses who have a marked presence in coastal areas and 12% of the population are atheists. Without Christ there is no real freedom, and in Costa Rica this fact has been aggravated by the sex trade.

Sex Trade in Costa Rica

The United Nations conservatively estimates that there are about 32 million victims of human trafficking across the globe at any given time. In 79 percent of human trafficking cases, the motive is sexual exploitation – forced prostitution or rape - with girls making up the majority of the victims.

As of 2011, the U.S. State department added Costa Rica to the tier-2 watch list. As a U.S. Embassy source explained, there has been a failure on behalf of the Costa Rican government to condemn or prosecute human traffickers. In addition there has been a failure to maintain specialized services and shelters for trafficking victims. These problems have paved the way for traffickers to enslave and exploit girls as young as 6 years of age, but most frequently between the ages of 12 and 17, with no ramifications for these actions. This has opened the door to a multimillion dollar industry where even the parents of some of these children have begun selling and exploiting their own children for additional income. (http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/)

"Sex Tourism in Costa Rica has been a consequence of the rapid growth of international tourism in the country, and the country is being promoted as a popular destination for sex tourism. Despite the government and industry efforts, child sex trade has been also a problem. A study estimated that "up to 10% of tourists who come to Costa Rica engage in sex tourism", with as many as 10,000 sex workers involved, many of whom are immigrants. Also it was reported that about 80% of the sex tourists are from the US. This is largely due because prostitution is not illegal. Recently, Interpol named Costa Rica the fastest-growing capital for sex tourism in Latin America. Americans are the majority of Costa Rica’s sex tourists, composing 80% of the total number of tourists". (Wikipedia 2013).

On Thursday, July 25, 2015, The United States lightly criticized Costa Rica for human rights abuses, including trafficking in persons, particularly sex trafficking of children. The report said that the government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that commercial sexual exploitation of children was a serious problem...The government identified child sex tourism as a serious problem, said the report, but it failed to give specifics or amplification. (http://www.amcostarica.com/morenews2.htm)

Quepos is one of the places in Costa Rica where education and freedom are in danger. Quepos is known for, a place where the rainforest meets the sea, and is on a tropical inlet about halfway down Costa Rica’s Pacific coast on the Puntarenas Province. The town gets its name from the Quepo Indian tribe, a subgroup of the Borucas, who inhabited the area at the time of the conquest. As a result of diseases brought by Europeans, warfare and other Indian groups, and slavery, there are no pure blooded Quepos left by the end of the 19th century.

Quepos first came to prominence as a banana exporting port. Due to disease, African palm oil replaced bananas as the local major crop and, because the finished produced is much less bulky than bananas, Quepos declined as a major shipping port. By the 1970’s the African Palm oil industry was prospering in Quepos, Costa Rica. Consequently, because palm oil is easily transported overland by tanker truck, Quepos declined as a major shipping port. In 1995, the local African Palm business was sold to private investors (Palma Tica) and thus a very influential period in the history of modern day Quepos, United Fruit Company era, came to an end. This transition requires people to think and act in a different than they have in the past century. Those stepping in and taking advantage of this transition time have further exploited the Quepoans.

There are several annual festivals, the biggest of which is Carnival. This ten days of music, dancing, cultural and sporting attracts a huge crowd during the festivities celebrated every February or March. The Virgin of the Sea Festival, in July, features a colourful fishing-boat regatta where fishermen honour the Virgin in hopes of another safe year at sea. Other carnival include, Festejos Populares held in November and boasts parades, music and carnivals.

The best way to give the Quepoans the gospel is through education and freedom. By Provision works alongside two Christian ministries in Quepos: El Puente Christian School and Seeds of Hope

El Puente Christian School

Equipped minds and nurtured hearts are academically prepared, Biblically discerning, and spiritually growing. Developed in the context of a comprehensive learning community and a spiritually enriching environment, students can to transform their community for Jesus Christ by living for Him, loving others, and serving others.

El Puente Christian School desires to impact the lives of children for God’s glory in Quepos by offering an excellent, bilingual, Christ-centered education. The goal is to bring up a generation of students that will be catalysts for change in their community. El Puente is reaching students who would normally never have the opportunity to attend a private school through their tuition assistance and scholarship program.

What does it take for the most well educated students in Quepos to be the ones who grow up hearing about Christ and learning about His love? El Puente needs to construct the facilities that will meet students’ needs and show them Christ’s love. A new facility will allow El Puente to serve more students, apply for national accreditation, and continue working to equip the next generation of students in Quepos to become leaders in their community.

El Puente was given property in the form of a trust by a local businesman. The plans and permits are approved for Phase One: elementary and preschool buildings. The new facility will have nine classrooms, an administrative space, and a library/computer lab. The expanded space will allow El Puente to grow to a capacity of 144 students.

El Puente currently has students from PreK to 6th grade. In Costa Rica, High School starts in 7th grade. Eighty percent of El Puente students receive financial assistance or their mothers help by cleaning the school or making jewellery to help offset tuition costs. El Puente will not be accredited until the current building meets the standards of the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. Many families who can afford to pay and who have shown great interest in the school are hesitant to put their children in until we receive accreditation from the government. Having a new facility will allow El Puente to become accredited, serve more students and become self-sustainable.

Seeds of Hope & Root of Hope

Seeds of Hope was created to address this growing problem, by helping girls to escape this tragic cycle of exploitation and abuse. The most successful way to reach these young ladies is opening up clubhouses in neighbourhoods where sexual exploitation of minors occurs and inviting all young ladies ages 12-17 to join. Seeds of Hope works hard to show them the true love of God, our Father, and give them education to have better futures.

Seeds of Hope is a member of a National Task Force called CONACOES made up of approximately 20 National Department Heads of agencies including Immigration, Child Protective Services, the Costa Rican FBI, and the Police Force. Seeds of Hope is considered to be a valuable solution to this epidemic and is working with us to educate and provide opportunities for our students to get the word out on how to "Break the Chain."

The vision is to provide safety, rehabilitation, and education for the girls. The program is designed so that each girl will receive healing and leave with an education, vocational abilities, a healthy lifestyle, and most of all freedom.

The Seeds of Hope program aims to teach young people to live a healthy, productive life, with a vocation that they are passionate about. The behaviour modification program rewards them for good behaviour such as class participation, being on time, showing responsibility, and good attendance. There is also a jewellery design program that provides weekly groceries to moms whose families are at risk. The leaders program teaches students to rise above the others as role models.

Seeds of Hope is expanding into Roots of Hope, a program for adolescent males in Costa Rica who are at risk of participating in the drug and sex trade.

By Provision

By Provision works alongside ministries El Puente Christian School, Seeds/Root of Hope to share the gospel, educate and free the sexually vulnerable and exploited. Volunteers can help disciple children and youth from one week to three months establishing and developing relationships as they teach English, do sports, assist classroom teachers, help with IT, do renovation and construction projects, and lead community outreach events.