Tag Archives: GLA

Molly in Costa Rica #5




(The final blog post about Molly’s adventure to Costa Rica, written by Molly herself!)

My last day in Parismina consisted of a lot of fun! The day started with breakfast together (which normally was lots of fruit, eggs and toast. Yum!), picking the new leaders of the day and each personally getting ourselves ready for the day ahead.

DSCF0603 (2)

Today we had the amazing opportunity to help serve in the area of reforestation..

Which I personally loved!

I think I enjoyed it more then any other service project we did. I loved how hands-on the reforestation project was and that together we were able to make such a positive impact (planting around 100 coconut trees!) It was powerful to plant so many baby trees and know that we personally were giving those tree a chance of becoming something so much stronger. I loved that I was part of something bigger then myself. I really don’t have words to describe how much I loved this project and truly how happy this project made me!


In the afternoon we had a dance class together, which was a fun treat! I enjoy dancing so the idea of dancing to music and learning from a local woman from town was very cool! We learned different steps and followed along with the teacher to several songs. Then at the end we did the “cha-cha slide” together and that was a blast!


That night was our last night patrol. The youth all split into two groups of 10. Then the group that I was in headed one way up the beach while the other group headed in the other direction. My group had to walk on a steeper part of the sand, so we were debating whether to head into the woods and bypass that section of the beach, but our guide checked it out and said it was all good to travel that way. While walking that route we  heard rustling in the grass. The guide right away knew it to be a sea turtle! We had the amazing opportunity to watch as a Hawksbill Sea Turtle (very rare and endangered) dig a hole to lay many little white eggs and then proceeded to bury all of them and then head back into the ocean. It was amazing! What a joy and blessing it was to be able to see such a rare sight of nature and wildlife at its finest. I mean how many people can say that got to see a sea turtle lay eggs on a beach in Costa Rica? It was quite a treasure. The other group from GLA joined us a bit later and also got to see the turtle bury its eggs and leave for the ocean. After that the  guides collected the eggs and we moved them to a safer location down the beach. What a cool and memorable experience!


A few other awesome experiences I enjoyed while in Costa Rica include: 

Surfing!  I personally caught a few waves on my own. It was a really cool adventure having never surfed before. It required stepping out of my comfort zone,  but I loved it!

DSCF0433 (2)_DSC0417_DSC0368_DSC0246

I also ate termites.

Okay, so to explain that, I personally don’t go out of my way to eat bugs or try anything this far outside of my comfort zone but at that moment I chose to seek discomfort and be brave! So I ate a few very tiny termites! I was so proud of that brave moment!

I slept under a mosquito net each night which I thought was a very cool cultural experience!

I went to an art fair where lots of jewelry and homemade souvenirs were sold by people in town.

We played soccer and volley ball with the local children.

There was just so many neat things I got to experience and I feel like I grew so much from this experience. It was so out of my comfort zone, but those are the times we grow in character the most.

The next day was sadly our last day. It was filled with a lot of traveling. We had a 6 hour drive back to our hotel. in the city We all piled into a bus and enjoyed the beautiful sights outside, chatted among ourselves and sang along to Disney songs. Once at the hotel we relaxed, ate our last meal in Costa Rica and played an appreciation game. It involved giving shout-outs of characteristics and tapping each other on the shoulder. This was an interesting experience because we sometimes don’t see some of our best traits until pointed out by someone else. I really enjoyed this game because I got to share my gratitude and love for others, plus my love language is words of affirmation, so this was right up my alley. We finished up the night with hugs and good-byes.

DSCF0686 (2)DSCF0672DSCF0693


The following morning everyone left for the airport at different times. I left very early in the morning and the rest of my day was spent traveling on the airplane.

DSCF0761 (2)

Costa Rica to Houston, Texas and then home. I arrived back in Pittsburgh at 10:30 pm (I had a LONG 7 hour layover in Texas) and what a joy it was to have my family waiting inside the airport to welcome me home with a sign and hugs.

IMG_1234 (2)IMG_1242 (2)IMG_1243 (2)

Although it was sad to leave Costa Rica and say good-bye to a beautiful country, what a blessing and joy the whole experience was!


Thanks GLA for an amazing experience! 

Love you Costa Rica…

I’m going to miss you!

Yours truly,



Molly in Costa Rica #4


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:

“This morning we woke up to clear skies, and had arrepas with syrup, and fresh fruit. Due to the good weather we finally had our boat tour.

DSCF0488 (2)DSCF0465DSCF0452

Throughout the tour we managed to see a caiman, multiple tropical birds, fresh water turtles, and the poisonous dart frog.

DSCF0498 (2)DSCF0499DSCF0497DSCF0490DSCF0469IMG_5450

Directly after we went to town and made empanadas and tortillas in a cooking class and we had the pleasure of eating them.

DSCF0520 (2)DSCF0532DSCF0518DSCF0531 (2)


We traveled to ASTOP and had lunch which was hamburgers and chips for the Fourth of July. We were able to purchase gifts and keepsakes at the local artisan fair as well as having our hair partially braided.

DSCF0539 (2)

After the fair, we walked over and joined the locals for games of volleyball and soccer, sad to say Costa Rica beat the U.S. 8-2.


We had the opportunity to meet the children of Parismina as well as practicing our Spanish with them.

_DSC1927DSCF0540 (2)DSCF0543 (2)

Sadly we had to leave, but enjoyed the truck ride back to home base.


We enjoyed a rose, bud, thorn exercise and talked about our day, we had a delicious dinner of pasta and garlic bread. Our Fourth of July wasn’t as traditional as normal but we had more fun celebrating the diversity and culture of Parismina.”

DSCF0565 (2)

Molly in Costa Rica #3


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:


“This morning we were all blessed to wake up to more mosquito bites and howler monkeys near our lodge. We enjoyed eggs, toast, and fresh fruit for breakfast. Our plan for the day consisted of a boat trip around Parismina, leadership activities, and reforestation, but because of the nonstop rain, we had to cancel our boat trip.

DSCF0285 (2)

Instead, we had a lot of spare time to bond and share stories and snacks. We also played activities such as human knot, shoe tower, and “walk a mile in my shoes”. For lunch we ate rice, beans, caramelized plantains, and vegetables. We didn’t let the rain stop our next adventure.

DSCF0587 (3)

GLA staff

As a group we walked on the rainforest trail and collected fallen coconuts that were sprouting small trees. With those, we walked the beach to bury the coconuts into the sand with our shovels. After about two hours, we counted a total of 109 planted coconut trees. We were all very proud of our hard work and team effort to make a positive impact on our environment.



There was an opportunity after the reforestation to take a dip in the ocean for a while.

DSCF0395 (2)DSCF0441 (2)


After showers and rinsing off, we had some free time to relax. For dinner, we enjoyed rice, mac and cheese, salad, and weenies. Since there was no night patrol tonight, we were able to have early bedtime. This will contribute to tomorrow’s next adventure.

Reforestation project–109 trees!
The winning Shoe Tower!
Planting a sprouted coconut
Human Knot

Molly in Costa Rica #2


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:

DSCF0404 (2)

“Today was day 2 in our expedition at Parismina lodge. After we woke up we were BLESSED with an amazing breakfast, especially fried dough that was the definition of comfort food (shoutout Julianna).

DSCF0291 (2)

Next we took a 45 minute walk through the rainforest and across an airplane runway into town.

DSCF0251 (2)DSCF0258 (2)

During the walk we had the opportunity to see multiple monkeys and a sloth.

DSCF0658 (2)DSCF0643 (2)

In the village we all got to eat ice cream and snow cones.

Then ASTOP gave a second presentation which went more into depth about the turtles.


It was pouring rain by the end of the presentation, so we caught a ride on the back of a truck to home base. It felt like Indiana Jones!


At home base we took a 2 hour siesta in our hammocks,

DSCF0284 (2)

Which was followed by a leadership activity on the beach.


After a quick dip in the water, we ate dinner. We were rudely interrupted by an 8-legged friend in our room 🙁 but Jason saved the day and got rid of the traveler spider. Last night we didn’t see any turtles, only their tracks, but hopefully tonight luck will be on our side and we’ll get to see some tonight.”

DSCF0395 (2)

Molly in Costa Rica #1




At the airport at 4:30 am.

DSCF0761 (2)

After braving the adventure of international travel, Molly arrived in Costa Rica.

DSCF0069 (2)

While transferring planes in Houston, Texas she was thrilled to see another young lady wearing the identifying t-shirt of the GLA and got to become acquainted with a fellow Sea Turtle Initiative participant before arriving in Costa Rica. Both girls were glad to see each other. Their seats weren’t together but upon departing they were able to navigate customs together, making the process a little less intimidating.

DSCF0061 (2)

Students trickled into the airport through the afternoon from all corners of the globe. Once everyone had arrived GLA staff helped everyone securely exchange their dollars into colones,


And then they headed to Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

DSCF0073 (2)DSCF0079 (2)

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

DSCF0077 (2)DSCF0117 (2)

Because the trip to home base involved a 6 hour trip via car then boat, the group spent the night at this local hotel and left for the remote village of Parismina the following morning.

DSCF0686 (2)

DSCF0138 (2)DSCF0128 (2)

Day 2 involved a long drive, followed by a boat ride to arrive at the organic fruit farm where they would live and work for the next 10 days.

DSCF0144 (2)

DSCF0630 (2)

Along the way there was a planned stop at the first adventure of the trip: Ziplining through the jungle of Costa Rica.


They also stopped at a village store to purchase munchies before heading into the wilds of Costa Rica.

DSCF0120 (2)DSCF0121 (2)

Located on the Caribbean coast the farm they were staying at was quite remote. Travel to the closest town involved a 45 minute walk through the jungle, but was only about 10 minutes from the beach.

DSCF0372 (2)

This beach is known for being the prime location for four species of sea turtles to nest.

DSCF0212 (2)

While in Costa Rica, as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative, Molly and the other participants spent their days helping protect and improve conditions for the sea turtles through night patrols with ASTOP (an anti-poaching organization,) beach clean-ups, surveying nesting sites, and raising community awareness.

DSCF0267 (2)
DSCF0266 (2)

After a long day of travel, the students and staff arrived at the eco-lodge Friday night and settled in for a week’s worth of adventures. As parents we were privy to some of their adventures through blogs written by the students and posted every few days on the GLA website. Since they can better express the experiences they enjoyed than I can retell, I will be posting their recaps of their days in Costa Rica. (Because internet access is spotty in the jungle there were not blogs posted every single day, but I will share what they shared.)

DSCF0145 (2)

Here is their first blog entry:

This morning we all woke up in our new rooms in our lodge here on Parismina. A lot of us learned an important lesson about tucking our mosquito nets into our beds, because we woke up with upward of ten bites.

DSCF0319 (2)

We then had some morning free time and many of us headed downstairs to rest in the hammocks.

DSCF0287 (2)

The “living room.” This open area, filled with hanging hammocks, was the gathering area of the home.


After our breakfast we got ready for our first walk of our organic farm tour led by our house leader Jason.

DSCF0223 (2)

The “dining room.” Molly said she loved the sand floor.

Here we saw various plants, fruits (some of which we got to taste!) and insects.

DSCF0150 (2)

The tour of the organic fruit farm.

DSCF0173 (2)

DSCF0168 (2)

The students got to taste many of the fruits grown on the farm.

DSCF0203 (2)DSCF0204 (2)
DSCF0310 (2)

DSCF0171 (2)

Molly sampling the fruits…

During our nature walk we got to see a sloth, some iguanas, grasshoppers, a ribbon snake, and a nest of biting fire ants.


DSCF0211 (2)DSCF0183 (2)

DSCF0166 (2)

A Sloth!

DSCF0158 (2)

Molly said this plant felt and smelled like soap.

DSCF0149 (2)

After some free time we got to see a presentation from ASTOP, an organization for the preservation of sea turtles. This group taught us the reasons poaching of sea turtles occurs here in Costa Rica and what they have been doing to stop poaching.

DSCF0269 (2)


This information got us very excited for our first night patrol. The very nice man left and then we were given time to go swim in the ocean.

DSCF0368 (2)

The ocean was gorgeous, and had black sand which many of us had not seen before.

DSCF0370 (2)

After we passed a swim test (which we all did AWESOME at) we got to swim.


About half-way through swimming, more and more people went off to go play in the sand. Some people were buried while others of us just relaxed on their towels. The heat of the day was wiped off of us while swimming.

DSCF0175 (2)DSCF0177

After that, we came back where we all rinsed off and then had some downtime to relax and talk with everybody. All in all we had a great day and are looking forward to hopefully seeing a turtle on our night patrol.


If not, at least it will be an awesome week!



Spread your Wings and Fly!


And she is off!


Last Thursday Molly embarked on a trip of a lifetime.

Her 3:00am arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport was a culmination of 6 months of prepping, planning and praying her way to this adventure. For the next two weeks she will be joining teens from all over the globe on a Global Leadership Adventure in Costa Rica where she will be working with Peace Corps volunteers as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative. This is an experience she sought out in hopes of “trying on” this field of work as a possible future calling. Driven by desire to serve she looked into opportunities offered to teens that mimic the Peace Corps experience in hopes that her experience will guide her future schooling and career decisions. She prayerfully approached this experience, petitioning the Lord to lead her to the program she was meant to pursue, and diligently setting aside funds to pay for this experience out of her Philly Pretzel Factory paychecks. After 6 months of eager anticipation she was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Below is an overview of the Sea Turtle Initiative program and all it entails as well as the first blog posting of her adventure with GLA. It is our prayer that Miss Molly might be a blessing to the people of Costa Rica and that this experience might be a blessing to her…


Highlights of Costa Rica’s Sea Turtle Initiative

  • Protect endangered nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings
  • Assist with night patrols and visit an animal rescue center
  • Spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds as you cruise through the mangroves
  • Soar through the rainforest canopy on a zipline adventure
  • Learn to surf the warm, mild waves of Costa Rica
  • Explore a small beach town and the local market

The population of Costa Rican sea turtles has declined by 90% since 1980. Sea turtles face a myriad of threats, including boat traffic, climate change, accidental catch by industrial fisheries and pollution in their ocean and beach habitats. As a volunteer, you’ll live and work on the coast of Costa Rica, assisting a turtle conservation organization with critical efforts to preserve the natural areas where this endangered species lives. Ensuring that the turtle population will thrive for generations depends largely on our ability to educate the local community and protect the places where turtles nest. With the right timing and luck, you might be rewarded with the sight of turtles hatching.

Community Service

Each year, leatherback and green turtles come to Costa Rica’s beaches to lay their eggs. Poachers steal the turtles and their eggs to sell on the black market for profit. Although this practice is illegal in Costa Rica—as it contributes to the depletion of the endangered sea turtle populations—it is hard to enforce without the help of the local community’s participation. You’ll be assisting on night patrols with a local nonprofit and anti-poaching organization started by a Peace Corps volunteer, to protect nesting animals and safeguard their eggs. During the day, you’ll participate in beach cleanups, survey nesting sites and raise community awareness of environmental challenges. Your projects will improve living conditions for turtle species hovering on the brink of extinction.


Hands-On Learning

You’ll be fully immersed in topics centered around the animal world. Learn how critical each species is to the health of all life in the ecosystem, including human. Hear local speakers’ and community members’ perspectives on sustainable conservation efforts, and begin to understand how competing interests of the civilized and natural worlds can intersect. Visit an organic farm and learn about growing and maintaining local fruit trees such as the cacao, vanilla, and banana.



In Costa Rica you’ll be constantly surrounded by incredible natural wonders. Fly through the treetops of the nation’s lush inland as you go on a thrilling zipline adventure. On the coast, ride a boat through a local mangrove, where you can spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds. You’ll also connect with the strong cultural roots of Costa Rica’s coast by visiting the local market and taking workshops on traditional dance and cooking. Finally, learn Costa Rica’s soul sport—surfing—with a lesson on a calm beach.


COSTA RICA – The Sea Turtle Initiative – June 28 – July 7, 2018

Thursday June 28, 2018

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

It’s a lovely day in San Jose! Our local and international staff have excitedly been preparing for our newest GLA arrivals! FINALLY the big day is HERE!!!

Here is our staff from left to right: Local Director Jason, Mentor Brittany, International Director Adriana, Mentors Emily and Erin at the Green Gold Lodge in Parismina, Limon, Costa Rica.

Each student began their adventure by securely exchanging their dollars into colones with the help of a mentor, and arrived safely at Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

Tomorrow, we will depart for our beachside rainforest home base, but not before stopping in the cloud forest for a zipline excursion! We are so excited to share updates and photos of our trek to the Caribbean coast where students will call home.

We are so excited for Miss Molly and will continue to keep you updated as more GLA blogs and photos are posted.

Hold on Tight!


(Beware: Photo Dump!)

Life has been crazier than normal this last week as preparations for camp come to a head, while corresponding with basketball camp for Tyler and house preparations for a visit from CYS on Friday to clear us for overnight visits with Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon. I feel as though I have been moving at a clip comparable to a bullet train, holding onto my seat for dear life.

Next week the girls and I are off to camp for the week and I am looking forward to the slower pace, the quiet and the peace I always find at Girl’s Camp. But until Tuesday arrives we will keep on keeping on. Here is a look at some of the moments that have filled our days this week…

1.We always know when summer has arrived because the dining room begins filling up with camp supplies. In the weeks leading up to Girls Camp, stacks begin appearing on the table as I think of things to pack or finish projects that will be part of my 7th year girls’ experience at camp. There are camp store piles, craft supply piles, post office supply piles, pillow treats and free time activity supplies and we haven’t even begun packing our own personal gear for this week away.


2. In the midst of preparations for our CYS home inspection and girls camp preparations, I found myself on the run every afternoon this week, taking Tyler down to Monaca for a summer basketball camp at Central Valley High School. One of Tyler’s buddies from church is a CV student and extended an invitation to join him at camp for the week. I was surprised and delighted when Tyler showed interest because it is really a testament to how far we have come in the last year with his anxiety struggles. The fact he agreed and even looked forward to joining a large group of boys he didn’t know, to learn a sport he isn’t familiar with, made me sing songs of praise for the healing Tyler has found this past year.


The week was a success. Tyler learned that he really enjoys basketball and more importantly, he learned that he can stretch himself and do things that are scary and hard.

3. Grace has now been enjoying life as a Subway sandwich artist for almost two months. When she was hired the manager made it clear she wanted to hire Molly as well but had to wait until a few of their current employees left for school, freeing up spots for new hires. Well, last week Molly got the call she was hoping for and was told they were ready to begin training. This past week she began her new job with three evenings of training at our local Subway. Molly was thrilled to discover that for her first day of work at this new job she would get to train with Grace. We now how two sandwich artists in the house.


4. Speaking of Miss Molly…I don’t know if you have heard, but our sweet Molly is headed abroad in a couple weeks. She is preparing for an adventure to Costa Rica.


About 6 months ago Molly approached me. In some research she was doing about colleges and the Peace Corps, she stumbled across and opportunity offered  to teens. The program is Global Leadership Adventures and offers teens opportunities to travel to locations around the world and serve in remarkable ways. Molly felt called to look into the GLA further and began prayerfully exploring their different programs. She has often expressed a desire to serve in the Peace Corps when she is older and thought this would be an awesome way to try the experience on a smaller scale.

For months she researched the various service programs and the various countries available, knowing that she wanted to serve in an area with a focus on environmental protection and animal conservation. She finally decided on Costa Rica where she will spend 10 days working with the Sea Turtle conservation program. Once she received personal confirmation that this is where God was calling her to serve she began saving all her paychecks to pay for this GLA experience.

She is now just two weeks away from stepping onto a plane by herself and leaving the country for the first time…EEK!

She is over-the-moon excited and we are all thrilled to see her chasing her dreams in such a bold and brave way. She is one who is destined to change the world.

5. Tuesday night was Tyler’s last baseball game of the regular season. Tyler was very excited for this particular game because rather than taking place at the normal time slot of 6:00-8:00 pm, he was playing a late game from 8:00-10:00 pm. This meant he got to play ball under the lights. He was very excited, expressing that playing under the lights makes him feel like a professional baseball player.

IMG_0428 (2)IMG_0418 (2)

Mimi Joy was able to meet us at the ball field and we enjoyed watching Tyler team take the win. What started as a dark sky in the distance, eventually became a rain shower over our heads, but we didn’t let that dampen our fun.

IMG_0432 (2)IMG_0433 (2)

After the game we took Mimi Joy out for ice cream at Berry’s, ending a fun night in a sweet way!

IMG_0437 (2)IMG_0441 (2)IMG_0444 (2)

6. This week we also managed to fit in an afternoon of bowling with friends. A few months ago we has a school-planned field trip to Sim’s Bowling Lanes. It was a fun day with two other families from co-op, but because of miscommunication between the school and the bowling alley we were overcharged for the event. The result was a certificate for us to return another day for two hours of free bowling.

IMG_0465 (2)

Last Wednesday we met up with the McCready family and the Caylor family to use our bowling certificate. The girls were both working at Subway that day but the boys and I enjoyed meeting up with friends, visiting, and engaging in a little friendly competition at the bowling alley.

IMG_0446 (2)IMG_0452 (2)IMG_0455 (2)IMG_0471 (2)

7.  This week also entailed a trip to the orthodontist. Tyler has had his braces on for 6 weeks now and was due to go in to have his wire changed and things checked and tightened. I scheduled Ozzie for the same time to be evaluated for braces. While in Harborcreek he was seen by an orthodontist in Erie who recommended braces. We opted to put that recommendation on the back burner until he returned home so that he could be seen by someone closer. So, while Tyler was having his gear tightened and checked, Ozzie was seen by Dr. Spokane who agreed that Ozzie does in fact need braces as well…

So now we wait and see if his insurance agrees. We could have two “brace faces” in a few weeks.

8.  This past Friday we continued with our plan to meet our Family Based therapy team away from the home to see if that lessens the anxiety Ozzie is feeling about family based therapy. This week we met at Brady’s Run park for some fishing fun. All the kids were able to attend, although only four of them fished. Molly chose to watch. Her tender heart struggles with the idea of a hook piercing the fish’s mouth and it suffering at her hands.

IMG_0488 (2)

The other kids, however, had no such qualms and jumped right into the task of prepping their lines, choosing their bait, and casting out with hopes of catching a big one.

IMG_0481 (2)IMG_0480 (2)

Tyler ended up being the only one who had any success, catching a couple blue gill, but everyone had fun soaking up the sun, connecting as a family, and enjoying the beautiful views on a perfect summer morning.

IMG_0474 (2)IMG_0486 (2)IMG_0496 (2)

From our Family Based therapy appointment we headed home to meet with Washington County’s CYS to have our home checked and get approval to be able to pick up Brandon without a social worker supervising our visits and have him be able to stay for overnight visits.



After a crazy week of prepping for this inspection in the midst of A LOT of running it was good to close out this crazy week by passing our inspection and receiving approval to visit with Tyler’s biological brother without supervision.


What a week!