Costa Rica: from open-air dump to thriving oasis of life

During a visit to the heart of San José, Costa Rica, we met Maribel, an energetic 50-year-old who lives in a small community called La Guapil, a place that was once dedicated to garbage, but has now been reconverted into a thriving green living space.

The green transformation of the La Guapil neighborhood

On arrival, we discover a charming, lively park offering residents a haven of peace in a less affluent neighborhood. Maribel tells us that just a few years ago, the outskirts of this abandoned area were used as a dumping ground for household waste. This unsanitary and dangerous area not only attracted poverty and drug abuse, but also contaminated the river. The children were playing in the middle of the garbage due to the lack of appropriate facilities in the area. Maribel’s desire for change was inexhaustible:

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a deep connection with nature, and seeing the accumulation of waste over the years broke my heart. As I watched my neighborhood deteriorate, I felt a deep sadness for future generations. I couldn’t just sit at home with my arms crossed, which is when the revitalization project arrived like a gift from heaven.” shared Maribel, her voice tinged with emotion.

Thanks to the support of the municipality, international funding and Maribel’s leadership, the project to transform this space was completed within a year. Local residents joined forces to collect all the garbage in the park:
“During the cleanup, everyone pitched in. The children, who were too involved, had to be removed for safety reasons linked to the presence of dangerous waste such as syringes and broken glass.”

Photo credits: @rosanchezphoto

The work continued thanks to the unity and strength of the community. The children planted trees and integrated nature into their lives. Today, families frequent the park, and Maribel has assembled a small group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the area and keeping the project going. A community garden has also recently been created.

“The next step is to tackle the pollution of the Tiribi River and the contaminated water runoff. There’s still a lot to do that’s for sure, but for me it’s a huge achievement because today, butterflies and birds have returned, children can play safely and learn to love and care for nature.” Maribel testifies.

As well as being involved in the conversion of the premises, Maribel is also involved in creating environmental and recycling awareness workshops for young people in the community.

The story of La Guapil’s transformation is an inspiring success story of a community that decided to unite and take action. The metamorphosis of this site, from dump to oasis, symbolizes the hope and potential of community action. This story encourages us to believe that, despite the initial challenges, anything is possible when the collective will is set in motion, creating opportunities for significant transformation.

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