Massage Today
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
September, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 09

Expedition Costa Rica a Rewarding Experience

By Gwen Coveny, BA, CMT

Expedition Costa Rica July 2003 was a volunteer project led by Elvis Mairena, a Costa Rican native and massage therapist currently practicing in New Jersey who uses his skills to provide healing touch to people in need.

Our group of massage therapists learned of the expedition through the International Massage Association and the Somerset School of Massage Therapy (SSMT), where Elvis just completed a year of training.

Amanda Whitehead; Jessica Kansiz; Gwen Coveny; Paula Suehiro; MaryAln Garcia; Rebecca Morse and Elvis Mairena. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Expedition Costa Rica volunteers (clockwise, from left) Amanda Whitehead; Jessica Kansiz; Gwen Coveny; Paula Suehiro; MaryAlyn Garcia; Rebecca Morse and Elvis Mairena. I helped coordinate the expedition, which included a total of seven volunteers, all of whom paid their own travel expenses. In addition to Elvis and myself, other volunteers were Paula Suyehiro, BS, CMT, from Marin County, Calif.; Jessica Kansiz, a massage therapist from New Brunswick, N.J.; SSMT students Amanda Whitehead and Rebecca Morse; and MaryAlyn Garcia, a friend from Arizona who assisted us with Spanish translation.

We spent our first day administering massage at Manos Abiertos ("Open Hands"), a convent for disabled children. These children were afflicted with Down syndrome; paralysis; blindness; and major deformities. Some of the children were on respirators. Most were mentally disadvantaged; many couldn't speak at all. Some children were confined to cribs and could only be lightly massaged or given energy through hand placement. It was emotionally difficult at times, but these children appreciated the touch.

We also worked in a children's clinic in Orotina, where we massaged disabled children and their parents, many of whom traveled from several hours away to experience massage. During the sessions, we worked with clothed individuals on massage tables; mats; regular chairs; and in wheelchairs, depending on their conditions.

We worked with elderly patients at a home called Albergue del Anciano ("Inn of the Ancients") in Quepos. This was particularly rewarding, as many of the patients told us about their lives, and expressed their happiness over having visitors. One man who had been paralyzed for years miraculously experienced some movement in his legs after a massage by Elvis and Amanda! Despite the disfiguring conditions of many patients, most were proud to be in their 80s and commented that they wanted to live longer.

Gwen Coveny, Rebecca Morse and MaryAlyn Garcia. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark (kneeling l to r) Gwen Coveny, Rebecca Morse and MaryAlyn Garcia with new friends at Albergue del Anciano. Most of the places where we worked were small, run-down clinics. There was a great deal of poverty, but the patients were clean and well-cared-for by the nurses and staff members, who showed a lot of love and dedication. The staff also seemed to appreciate the attention and touch we provided to their patients.

We learned so much and fought back many tears during this humbling experience. We found the Ticos (native Costa Ricans) to be very kind, humorous and generous people. We were often reminded of how fortunate we are to have our health, and of the relative wealth many of us enjoy in the United States. We learned how to use our massage skills to reach out in ways we hadn't known were possible - it was truly amazing.

Plans for future expeditions are already underway. If you would like more information, please contact Elvis Mairena at (732) 754-4963.

The following expedition volunteers can be contacted with comments and/or questions:

Paula Suyehiro
(415) 457-8465

Amanda Whitehead
(732) 398-8874

Rebecca Morse
(908) 537-9977

Jessica Kansiz
(732) 207-5651


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line