Meet Mariel Feigen. Merely 27 years old, she is a powerhouse of spirit, strength, love, and resilience. Mariel volunteered with LLI in 2011-2013. Right now she lives, works and volunteers in Guanacaste, Costa Rica in two small beach towns called Potrero and Brasilito.
“I have been here for almost a year and a half,” says Mariel. ” I volunteer for a nonprofit called Abriendo Mentes, specifically in their Casa Brasilito Program. I taught youth English for a full year, I teach adult English, private tutor, fundraise through crazy events like running 30 miles in an ultramarathon around a volcano, help with events, community development, etc. Because this doesn´t quite pay the bills, I also work right now as an administrator in a residential sales office.”
After graduating from college in 2010, Mariel was an AmeriCorps volunteer for a year in Rhode Island, and wanted to travel and work in Central/South America after that.
About how she hooked up with LLI, she explains: I grew up in Costa Rica (from age 8 to 14), and had studied abroad in Ecuador for a semester. So, when I found LLI in Peru, it just seemed like perfect timing to head out on a new adventure! I was the House Manager for a full year, August 2011-August 2012, and then continued to volunteer with LLI for a few months, before moving back into the house around January to take on some House Manager duties again. I left the country in March. During my time with LLI, I taught various English classes, specifically in Zone Z, Los Alamos! and the Group C class in 232, I subbed for adult classes, I did a lot of private tutoring, I taught and ran the chess program (there is such thing as TOO MUCH CHESS. Oh man if I never have to play ajedrez again, I´d be ok with it :)), helped with field trips, etc. I also got to work closely with all the local staff, Queta, Dina, Tito, and Oscar, and they are by far the friends I miss the most from LLI!
LLI: Mariel, do you feel your experience with LLI has helped your professional development? If so, tell us how!
Mariel: LLI definitely shaped my career path and made me fall in love with the nonprofit world, specifically in Central/South America. I would say that everything I have done since LLI has been a direct consequence of the amazing experience I had there- it hurts my heart that I haven´t made it back to Huaycan to visit yet!
LLI: What’s your favorite memory from LLI days.
Mariel: I have a lot of memories from my year and a half in Peru with LLI. I used to climb up the steps on the hillside behind the house a few days a week, up and down 5-7 times, to see how fast I could do it as a workout. No one ever really wanted to do it with me though. Buying fruit from Dora at the fruits stand. So many adventures in combis and buses.
My first week in Huaycan the combi I was on going up to Alamos for chess somehow accidentally had its sliding door locked shut and there was no way to unlock it, so when we got to alamos I had to climb out one of the windows and then help the driver take the door off completely to put it back on. I was in a combi where the door got completely ripped off the side and went tumbling down the road behind us- this was before the road up to Zona Z was paved.
I also can´t think about LLI and Huaycan and Peru without thinking about the FOOD! I seriously gained so much happy weight living there eating Dina´s amazing cooking- tacu tacu, tallervin verde, papa rellenas, and so many good street snacks! empanadas de pollo, ceviche, aeropuerto, and chifa. I never got into Inka Cola though, too sweet for me.
LLI: Are you still in touch with any past LLI volunteers? Who?
I am still in touch with various of my former students, and of course with past volunteers. A close friend Jordan Urbanek and I have visited each other a handful of times. He even came to Costa Rica last year with his girlfriend! And this month another former volunteer, Denise Spears, is coming to CR to volunteer, and I am so excited to spend time with her again.
Mariel, we admire your journey, and feel privileged to have had you on our team. You’ll always be a special part of LLI family and if ever you feel like returning to Huaycan, LLI will always be your home. 🙂 Cheers from entire LLI family.