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Andover Youth Shoots – ‘In Touch with Nature’ project update

The Andover Youth Shoots are a group of 13-17-year-olds who regularly volunteer at a local environmental charity called Andover Trees United (ATU). Since 2020 the Andover Youth Shoots have been taking part in an exchange project run by ATU, alongside young people of similar age in Costa Rica from a partner charity called the Corcovado Foundation. The young people have been sharing information about their environments, animals, and cultures with each other, expanding their global environmental knowledge, and they hoped that one day they would visit each other in real life.
This year they (The Andover Youth Shoots) have been busy fundraising and reducing their carbon footprint before flying, and in July 2022 they embarked on an exciting expedition to the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica – said to be the most biodiverse place on earth – for an adventure of a lifetime. The aim of the trip was to volunteer in a range of activities with the Corcovado Foundation and to leave a positive impact. We hope you enjoy these highlights:
-On Tuesday 19th July, Nature In Harmony Exchange Project participants Grace, Maylis and Charley set off from Andover, alongside family members and ATU volunteer leaders Alex, Sarah and Harvey.
-After a long journey (including a rather exhilarating boat trip) , members of the NiH Exchange Project arrived at the Corcovado Foundation Biohostel.Fortunately, it wasn’t long before everyone settled in before starting their first day of volunteering!In the morning, everyone visited gardens belonging to local families and learned about regenerative agriculture. Tasks included digging trenches for pineapple plants and transporting mango juice for fermentation!While volunteering, Alex was able to spot two species of toucan and Sarah photographed an anole lizard.In the afternoon and evening there was some free time for everyone to relax and go swimming in the river next to the hostel, ready for another day of volunteering!
– Meeting the park rangers and planting seeds -Everyone spent the morning learning about conservation in Costa Rica with the Corcovado Park Rangers and Junior Park Rangers. There were plenty of opportunities for the group to find out about how they protect the amazing plant, bird, insect and animal species in what is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.In the afternoon there was plenty of time left to help plant seeds in the hostel grounds.It was a great chance for the exchange project members to learn about where their food comes from- cocoa beans were amongst the species planted!

– Learning about marine pollution and spotting wildlife – The group was given an interesting talk on marine pollution by a member of the Corcovado Foundation. This was followed by an opportunity to help staff with litter-picking while hiking around the national park.With the trail looking a lot better (and safer for wildlife), the group members spent some time birdwatching and had the chance to try some sugarcane!While taking in the amazing scenery, they managed to spot a sloth!

– Beach cleaning for sea turtles – Did you know that Costa Rica is home to four species of sea turtles? One of the days,the group headed to the coast to help with beach clean up efforts.This is critically important in Costa Rica as the majority of sea turtles are classified as endangered, being threatened by coastal degradation and plastic pollution.After clearing the beach of litter, the group was given the chance to visit a sea turtle hatchery site!While traveling back to the bio hostel, everyone was treated to the sight of a mother spider monkey with a baby in the trees above them. A fantastic end to a great day of volunteering!
– Monitoring trees and bio-fertiliser workshop -The 5:00am start was worthwhile when the group was treated to these views while helping to monitor the growth of native trees!These trees all consist of native species planted by junior park rangers to help reforest the area.In the afternoon, everyone got stuck-in with a bio fertiliser workshop run by Helena from the Corcovado Foundation.Ilaria and Maylis were also busy in the hostel kitchen, helping Chef Catalina prepare two types of salad as well as Escabeche. They also cooked rice, black beans and a beef stew for dinner.

– We spent a day touring the amazing Corcovado National Park

– Workshop with local children – After a day of exploration in the Corcovado National Park, the group members had a more relaxed morning at the biohostel.Activities included planning a nature-themed workshop for local children…In the afternoon, they did some crafting with the children and taught them about the wildlife found in Harmony Woods!
– Forest restoration -The Exchange Project members spent a day with Corcovado Foundation junior rangers and staff members planting native trees.With many threatened species residing in Costa Rica, reversing ecosystem loss is critical to protect biodiversity. The group members were able to draw parallels between this work and the forest restoration activities they have already carried out in Harmony Woods!While in the field, they were treated to freshly cooked food served in palm leaves! Harvey also discovered some cacao pods!
– Checking trail cameras – The group also traveled back into the jungle to check their trail cameras and search for wildlife. Can you spot the frog Grace found?
– A sad farewell to the team at the Corcovado Biohostel – After an amazing and educational few weeks at the Corcovado Biohostel, it was time for the group to depart on their journey back to Andover. Like on the way there, everyone had to get a boat back to Sierpe before catching a bus so San Jose. Fortunately, there were plenty of opportunities for whale watching! Thank you to the incredible team at The Corcovado Foundation for making the Exchange Project visit such a success! Thank you to the Nature in Harmony project leaders, Alex & Sarah, for making this year’s expedition happen. We will be looking forward to returning next year!
 
Next, they are hoping to raise enough funds to bring the Costa Rican youth group over to the UK!

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