Helping Rural Schools in Costa Rica: Sabalo near Manuel Antonio

This blog was submitted to us by Michelle Libby, Director of Earth Equilibrium, a public, non profit organization that has been supported by the Cayuga Collection Hotels and its guest for over 4 years.  

It is midday, bright hot, and drippy humid.   The van makes its dizzying way through a maze of palms.   We start to think we’re lost, and suddenly the palms disappear, the road begins to climb, and the view is open rolling hills sprinkled with tree blooms in yellows and pinks.   The van stops and we climb out, lathering sun-block, to walk the last kilometer down a steep, rocky road that takes us to Sabalo School; a single classroom, with 20 students, grades one to six and one teacher.
The road to Sabalo crosses African Palm Plantations near Manuel Antonio

Most children walk several miles each day to get to school, none of the children have textbooks and few have basic supplies.   The community of Sabalo is approximately 30 minutes from the central pacific coastal town of Quepos and 45 minutes from the popular beach and national park destination of Manuel Antonio.   Sabalo is a beautiful mix of pastoral farmland and tropical forest, and it is a fairly young community as most of its 300 inhabitants have been living in that area since 1997 when the government created and distributed parcels of land for farming.

The children are thrilled to see us, we are thrilled to be there, instantly grateful to be inside, under the shade.   The excitement is twinkling in their eyes but all twenty children sit still at their desks as we tell them a little about who we are.   They know already, since we’ve been supporting them for a year, but it’s just good practice.
Pure Joy – New School supplies from Equilibrium and Arenas del Mar Resort


Who are we?   We are a 501c3 nonprofit, Earth Equilibrium, engaging schools, communities, and organizations in transformative educational projects to advance sustainable ways of living with our Planet. At the beginning of the school year we provide impoverished children with the textbooks and uniforms they need to attend school. We also provide school supplies for the classroom.   This is part of our program Building for the Future which aims to improve the educational experience of poor rural schools.

We take turns handing out textbooks and uniforms, and each parcel we hand out is received with a big smile and a resounding thank you.   It’s hard to describe the joy that each child has as they open their packages, try on shoes, and sift through pages in their textbooks.   They are excited to have books they can make their own; they are proud, knowing they will soon sport a brand new uniform.  

Our work this year with Sabalo will bring in a small library, 300 books, with all the basic books required by the Ministry of Education plus other classics that previously were only available in English and have now been translated into Spanish.   We will build a small recycling storage space for the community and will teach them about proper waste managment. Our most fun endeavor will be the environmental education program, planned for 12 weeks every Friday starting in May.   We have similar programs with other schools around the country.   Our aim in five years is to have built 25 libraries, 10 computer labs, consistently have helped 1200 students with their texts and supplies; be implementing the environmental program in 20 schools, and have created an environmental education curriculum that is adopted by the Ministry of Education and implemented across the public school system.
Delivering school supplies donated by guests of Arenas del Mar to Sabalo School kids

We finish handing out packages, the children clap and smile, and smile some more.  In a flutter of giggles and jokes, they share stories about their cool books and new uniforms.   Unexpectedly, a little girl, around ten, comes up to me and says: ” since the textbooks last year, and the new dining hall, and the soccer balls and hula hoops I have decided to study more English better so that when I am big I can get a good job at the Arenas del Mar hotel“,  (our partner organization in this undertaking with Sabalo).

Right then and there I know that our work, although still in its infant stages, is working its magic.

We eat a yummy lunch prepared by the school and then venture off to see a community project that we would like to support in the near future.  The children stroll home, their backpacks weighted down with goodies; some will hike half a kilometer others up to four. We walk some more, the sun never letting up.  We hear about plans to bring in potable water and the needs they have to make this happen.   We eat chunks of sugarcane, sip coffee and enjoy home-baked breads.   Afternoon comes and we say our goodbyes.   On the ride home, twisting through the maze of palms, my colleague remarks, ” incredible, what a few hours immersed in gratitude can do.”

All of us that day — staff, guests that came, children, teachers, and community members had given and received. And as my colleague pondered, we could all feel that there is great gratitude in receiving and even greater in giving.

If you are interested in learning more about the sustainability efforts of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, contact us at  To contact the 501c3 non profit Equilibrium Organization, contact
Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio. Partner of Equilibrium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *