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International Development Student Supports Costa Rican Communities During International Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Experience

Daisy Cortez has always been drawn to helping people in need.

“I’ve always felt compassion towards children who lacked access to basic necessities, like water, shelter, food, clothing, education, health care, etc.,” said Cortez.

“The African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ really resonates with me. It’s our job as a society to work together to provide a safe and healthy environment for children. When their basic needs are met, they can realize their true potential and prosper,” said Cortez.

Cortez was working towards a bachelor’s degree in medical physics. However, during her studies, Cortez realized that she wasn’t passionate about her current career path. Knowing that she still wanted to help people around the world, Cortez decided to enroll in Humber’s Bachelor of International Development degree program.

“It’s a very unique program,” said Cortez. “So far, my experience at Humber has been much better than my other program.”

During the third year of her program, Cortez received an email from her placement advisor about a work-integrated learning (WIL) experience in Costa Rica.

“I attended an information session and learned more about the people and culture of Costa Rica,” said Cortez. “Everything sounded great, so I decided to apply for this opportunity.”

Students in the Bachelor of International Development degree program must complete a 14-week work placement during their studies. These WIL experiences allow students to explore the field of international development and gain hands-on, real-world experience that employers value.

Since 2021, the Longo Faculty of Business has been placing students in international work placements through Costa Rica Global Learning Programs. This organization customizes reliable and authentic academic programs that leave a positive, transformative impact on program participants and local communities in Costa Rica.

“Costa Rica Global Learning Programs and Humber helped me find a work placement based on my interests,” said Cortez. “I started working with a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Asociación por la Sonrisa de los niños (ASONI).”

ASONI supports children from marginalized neighbourhoods and those socially vulnerable in Cristo Rey and Sagrada Familia neighbourhoods in the south of San José, Costa Rica, providing them with academic assistance, spiritual guidance, food and recreation, all for no cost to the individuals.

“With ASONI, I’ve had the opportunity to support children in impoverished neighbourhoods,” said Cortez. “I work in the educational department, and I teach English classes as well as provide assistance to teachers in the classroom.”

“I love helping the children with classroom activities, or sometimes even brushing their teeth! I also help the kitchen staff deliver food and drink to children during their mealtimes – I’m happy to help with whatever they need,” she said.

This experience has been eye-opening for Cortez, who has seen firsthand the hardships these families face.

“Their stories are heartbreaking, but the kids still want to laugh and have fun despite what they’ve been through,” said Cortez.

Cortez is grateful that she took the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and complete her WIL experience in person.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking to travel, but I’m happy with my decision,” said Cortez. “I thought it was important to gain firsthand experience in the development field.”

“Completing my work placement in Costa Rica allowed me to learn so much more about how an NGO functions, the type of people they try to help as well as the culture and people of Costa Rica,” she said.

Daisy Cortez

Daisy Cortez

Since working for ASONI, Cortez has learned the ins and outs of running an NGO. She has learned many lessons, but one stands out the most.

“You have to love what you do,” she said. “It’s demanding work.”

Upon graduation, Cortez hopes to continue working with marginalized and/or impoverished children.

“This WIL experience made me feel more confident about my career path,” said Cortez. “I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

In addition to gaining experience and clarity from her WIL experience, Cortez has taken a piece of Costa Rican culture with her.

“They have a saying in Costa Rica – Pura Vida – which translates to ‘pure life’ or ‘simple life,’” said Cortez. “Basically, it means you have to be grateful for what you have, and you can’t dwell on the negatives.”

“It’s their way of life and mindset that I’ll bring back to Canada,” she said.