by Charlie Berghammer
On a recent visit to Chicago, a friend having just read all the details of the planned Matapalo Beach Community Center sat down with me next to the lake and ask me candidly “Charlie what motivates you to realize such an ambitious project?” My response was simple and to the point. I explained to my friend that I was simply paying back in whatever way I could for all those people who showed up on my lifes stage as miracles to show me my way on lifes journey.
I explained that my father had died of cancer when I was 15 years old and as well I had the challenge of dealing with my mother’s alcoholism which intensified after my father’s death. These set of circumstances left me on the streets looking for anything and everything to find my way…….unfortunately what I found were aquaintances that led me down the wrong road into drugs and alcohol abuse.
One day one of those aforementioned miracles showed up in front of me, her name was Diane Reeves. Her son had befriended me at Hawthorne High School in Southern California. Though the rest of the history of her involvement is too long to include here, the point I made to my friend was that in my life there had been a series of people who helped me find my way in life through gentle guidance and love.
More importantly was the lesson I learned so many years previous as a young man seeking understanding on those lonely streets of Southern California. Quite simply, that we are all the product of our experiences and those experiences are limited and directly related to our opportunities. My effort to create this Center in Matapalo was my way of paying life back for the opportunities that came my way which eventually brought me to where I am today.
Life can and is a challenge for people of all ages, in particular for youth growing up in a developing village in a developing country, Who hasn’t made mistakes, adults and kids alike?…It is in the end that which develops true character and understanding.
The key, however is not to believe that there is NO WAY back to ones own routing on life’s sometimes uncertain highway. Once recognition has occurred and a sincere desire cultivated within the individual, KIM STILWELL believes that through caring guidance and offering healthier social alternatives, these same lives can begin the process of reintegration into society as productive human beings.
For our first time readers to “Making a difference” allow me to review once again those 4 principal and governing factors which allow our multi cultural community to become engaged.
- Inspire Change. Provide information highlighting some of our communities biggest challenges, raise awareness and motivate others to take action.
- Build Community. Connect people with others who share the same vision for change and help them create networks to put plans into motion.
- Facilitate Action. Offer tools for community members and visitors to our area to make commitments to act and track their progress and results.
- Strengthen Engagement. Encourage citizen action throughout our local area and Costa Rica by the cultivation of partnerships with other world organizations like Sister Cities International to address our specific needs.
Here below are Kim Stilwell’s own words as he shares with us his philosophy of community involvement, his organizations current projects, and his overall outlook for the future of Aguirre canton.
When asked to write what we are all about I was not sure what to say. The idea of giving back is a Biblical one that my family and I practice. When we came to Costa Rica 7 years ago we knew there were problems in this community and we had to be involved in a community and make it a better place. As we saw many problems…..one stood out that we needed to address: drugs and the problems that go along with them. They destroy families, cities and the very reason to exist. A group of people here in Quepos agreed and we started addressing the possible solutions. That is when we started “Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios de Quepos“.
Our Goal: Serve and glorify our God, serve the greater community of Quepos/Manuel Antonio and serve the addicted and or homeless community here in this immediate area.
Our Purpose: To restore, to the extent possible, persons among this homeless population to their fruitful places in society – to begin again to be productive and healthy members of their families and their communities.
As the community became aware that we were doing something 5 churches came along side to help and so did several businesses. We saw the need for a rehab center here in Quepos so we started one with 5 guys. We have been operating now for three years with an average of 9 men and we have a house affectionately called “Casa de Amor” that feeds and works to restore lives to their families and to the community through service that makes the community a better place. Several graduates now live with their families. We do this by working. We have three counselors that organize and facilitate our daily work and restoration program.
Places you might see us cleaning the trash weekly are: the road to Manuel Antonio, Manuel Antonio beach, cemetery and the road leading to it behind the Catholic Church where “Casa de Amor” is located, road around Pali and Chamber of Commerce, Naomi Park, the front of Quepos…in the rocks…gardens….road….where ever there is trash. We also are involved in planting the gardens in the front of Quepos. It is our plan to maintain these areas with community support and donations of materials, supplies and money.
We work with the Chamber of Commerce and it’s members, Manuel Antonio Group and it’s members, ICT, The City and the Mayor and the city board, local businesses, IAFA and Ministario de Salud and the Quepos Hospital as well as churches and anyone who needs us to help clean or plant gardens or anything that can make Quepos a better place.
It is our desire to build a bigger facility because of the needs.
People come to us daily asking for help and we have to turn them away because of regulations and a lack of funds. We would like to purchase the property we are on and build a facility that will better restore lives in the community. We are working with International help and local help to make this a reality and invite you to come along with us in this. We believe this can be the best facility in all of Costa Rica with the your help. Come and see it for yourself and join us in this adventure of making Quepos and surrounding barrios a better place to live.
Thanks to Kim and his team of believers who engage themselves in a purpose higher than themselves. They and others like them are the miracle workers that show up on our lifes stage to help us all find our way. They are making a difference!