Costa Rica in need of help after flooding, Eastern students come to their aid.

Few people would connect piles of snow to a spring break in a tropical climate. But a group of eight determined Eastern students found a way to do just that.

The snowy weekend of January 21 brought with it opportunity for first-years Gail Longernecker, Hannah Young and Peder Wiegner to raise money toward their trip to Costa Rica. The students went door-to-door, asking people to donate a few dollars in exchange for shoveling out their campus-parked cars.

This donation technique proved to be a bit of a let-down, however, when they found themselves working for what sometimes equaled a dollar an hour.

“It was really ironic, because the people who gave us $2, their cars were buried under snow,” Young said, while those who donated $5 or more tended to have the least amount of shoveling for the team to do.

Their motivation to continue working in spite of the small profit was more than just a tropical beach tan.

Longernecker, Young and Wiegner, along with five other friends, plan to spend most of their spring break providing relief for the victims of a week-long flood that almost drowned the town of Sixaola.

The crisis began January 10, but, according to Wiegner it was ignored by the press due to the focus on the tsunami. About 40 locals took refuge in the Sixaola Baptist Church. Within 48 hours of its start, the flood had reached a height of 14 feet.

“It got up to their necks on the second floor,” Wiegner said.

Wiegner’s parents are currently in their seventh year of missions work in San Juan, located inland, about three or four hours from the flooded Sixaola. While home over winter break, Wiegner was able to make tentative plans and schedules for the relief project.

“That’s the only reason the trip would work,” Young explained, “because his parents weren’t going to do it for us, so it was good that he was there.”

Wiegner spoke with church affiliates, including his parents, to gather the necessary information, such as the church’s list of needed supplies, and possible modes of transportation and housing for himself and his friends.The trip to Costa Rica did not originally require so much planning.

“At first, [the purpose of the trip] was just the whole vacation and hot climate,” said Wiegner’s friend, first-year Jon Falcone. “But then as time went on, I realized there should be more of a reason for going.”

Longernecker had this same realization from the beginning, and actually refused to join her friends unless she could do a service project. Young soon sided with her.

“I could hang out on a beach anywhere,” Young said. “We were in it for the service.”

No sooner had the timing of the flood changed the two guys’ minds, than the original group of four doubled in size.

With eight members, the team will have more hands to paint the church and host activities for the children who have been using the building since the schoolhouse was washed away. They will also be able to carry more supplies overseas.

Team members are paying for the $380 plane tickets out of their own pockets. Proceeds from group fundraisers will go toward the church’s needs, which include life vests and a spotlight for the church’s boat.

Sixoala Baptist is also seeking to give their pastor’s son, Alberto, a Red Cross license in order to perform rescue operations. The necessary supplies for the training, however, are not cheap.

For as much as they want to help, money is still an issue for the eight students, all of whom have taken missions trips before.

“That’s the hardest part about it, for me,” Young admitted. “In the past, it’s been me having fun serving people, but it hasn’t been me sacrificing every dollar I’ve earned,” she said in reference to other short-term mission trips. “It’s hard for me to be like ‘Yes! Costa Rica!'”

The team hopes to raise more money by cleaning campus suite bathrooms for $8-$10; a job that Young said would only take 20 minutes, “as opposed to cars taking two hours.”

While the shoveling fundraiser was long and strenuous and earned them little more than $50, none of them regret the work.

“Emotionally for me it totally paid off,” Young said. “It made me own [the trip] more.”

Longernecker agreed.

“Even though [the profit] feels like nothing compared to what we’re going to be paying, I would’ve done it again,” she said.

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