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Walden Magazine // Jan 01, 2011

From the Field: Of Kitchens and Culture in Costa Rica

One graduate’s experience promoting positive social change abroad.

Walter McCollum

“Open-fire cooking is a way of life for the Bribri, the indigenous people of Cahuita, a small city on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. With good intentions, the local government built new homes with indoor cooking space, despite the fact that the Bribri prepare family meals in vented, open kitchens. We rebuilt two kitchens so that they better reflected the cultural standard.

“Our mission also included cultural exchange classes with this gentleman’s children and grandchildren. The family living room we’re in doubled as our classroom. Then the kids would go into the town and show friends their new notebooks, pencils, and books. Because of that, the class slowly grew in size as children from the town started coming to the lessons, hoping to receive their own school supplies. We learned as much from the locals as they did from us.

“This is a culture built on trust, unity, respect, and most of all, love.”

—Dr. Walter McCollum ’03, PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences (now PhD in Management), Senior Director of Organizational Development, Sodexo North America

Submit your photos from the field to [email protected].