Despite the rising incidence of COVID-19 around the globe, here in the Juluchuca watershed we are grateful to have had no confirmed cases. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still grappling with the consequences of the global pandemic.
Our own little corner of the world here on the Costa Grande has adopted new routines just like most other communities. So how are the residents of Juluchuca faring during these challenging times? And how is the staff at Playa Viva?
Thankfully, we have a lot of good news to share as we have adapted our social and environmental impact work given the constraints of COVID-19 and are adjusting plans for our education program in 2021.
Staying Healthy & Staying Safe Through the Holidays
Our tropical climate means that folks rarely gather indoors. Whether you are eating tacos in town or visiting your neighbor, more than likely you will be doing so outside. Over the holidays local travel did pick up, but COVID-19 cases did not appear. Instead, that travel provided a needed economic boost to the local coconut sweets factories and tiendas along the highway.
Extended families got together to celebrate in December and January. The annual Virgin of Guadalupe and Christmas celebrations, usually pueblo-wide events, were smaller this year to prevent large groups of people from coming together. While some residents lamented this change, most supported and understood the importance of respecting social distancing guidelines.
Thanks to Angelica, the owner of the local supermarket, we were still able to have a small Christmas posada (celebration) for the kids in Juluchuca, complete with cakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, piñatas and a raffle.
Our Playa Viva Family
Like Juluchuca, at Playa Viva we are also fortunate to have had no confirmed COVID-19 cases among guests or staff since the start of the pandemic. With all open air rooms and spaces, we spend the vast majority of our time outdoors with the salty ocean breeze constantly refreshing the air we breathe. That’s true whether we’re in the kitchen, common areas or yoga deck.
After our closure in the spring of 2020, our staff are thrilled to have visitors back again. We have seen a resurgence in onsite excursions and activities, such as the farm tour, sea turtle sanctuary visit, and boogie boarding and surfing. By wearing masks and sanitizing surfaces, we keep our guests, ourselves and our communities safe. We’re thrilled to welcome folks back to our small slice of paradise.
As our guests and visitors know well, Playa Viva is much more than just a hotel. We are a regenerative project that is constantly co-evolving with our environment and the local communities in our watershed. Because of the pandemic, we have had to make significant shifts in the social and environmental impact work we do in the four local communities where we operate.
As of January 2021, school remains out of session. Though classes are offered online, the reality in rural communities like ours is that students often don’t have enough access to internet, technological devices or family support to succeed in a virtual setting. To help fill the gap, our education work in 2020 focused on small group tutoring sessions to help students maintain the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. For the communities in the sierras, this is especially important; for many students in those remote villages, elementary school is the only formal education they receive.
With classes online and no resources to attend, many children are instead receiving a new type of education. They may go work with their parents in the mango orchards or learn to plant corn and tend to animals.
The pandemic has renewed our focus on resilient systems and this means that we are placing more emphasis on our environmental education work. Thanks to our fantastic team of volunteers, this past fall we welcomed several school groups to La Tortuga Viva to release turtles and learn about marine conservation.
On weekends we have been organizing trash cleanups around Juluchuca and at the lagoon and beach. On Wednesday afternoons, we offer the kids outdoor workshops that incorporate art and music to promote self-connection and environmental awareness.
Our youth soccer team is still thriving, and this past December we hosted an inter-pueblo tournament featuring players from all four communities in our watershed.
Next Steps in 2021
Our vision for 2021 is that these workshops, classes, cleanups and sports teams will strengthen the already existing web of community connections among youth and their families. Connections that are vital for healthy and resilient communities to thrive.
It is still unclear when students will be back to in-person school, but until then we are committed to continuing to work with youth in small groups in the safest way possible to ensure that they have the tools they need to thrive. Whether it’s learning math, creating art or planting trees, the plans for our education program in 2021 are focused on consistent engagement and co-evolution.