Executive Director and Co-Founder of LaAsociacion CREAR
Andrea Keith is in her happy place. As executive director and co-founder of La Asociacion CREAR in Samara Playa, Costa Rica, she’s found the beautiful balance of helping young people develop—and living on the beach.
“I was not a very adventurous kid,” Andrea said. “I was terrified before my first JanTerm trip to Costa Rica in 2006. Then something magical happened, and I arrived here and I wasn’t homesick; I was just in awe of how beautiful this place is. I remember thinking, why would I wake up and look at a polluted city, when I could look at this natural beauty?”
She decided to return for a study abroad semester at the National University of Costa Rica in Heredia in fall 2006. She stayed through that term, extended into JanTerm … was approved to remain for the spring term … and then, she stayed for the summer. She was essentially home.
“Costa Rica just works for me. I am in love with being able to speak the language I worked so hard to learn. At first I was young and making all kinds of mistakes—but learning from them. It all has contributed to making me who I am now. “
“I have a busy mind so I need the slower-paced lifestyle. I need that quality of life where I work super hard and then I find time to relax and enjoy,” Andrea said. “My main goal is to be happy, and Costa Rica just makes me really happy all the time.”
She “works super hard” at La Asociacion CREAR, a nonprofit organization serving the communities around Playa Samara and Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Costa Rican children are in public school only three hours a day, 87 days a year. CREAR fills many hours with instruction in English, art, and technology. A recently developed Girls Empowerment program teaches girls skills that lead to confidence and build their worldview.
“Life in a rural town in Central America is challenging in a number of ways,” Andrea said. “We don’t have access to Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby—so we really have to think outside the box when it comes to creating activities for the kids. We have to be flexible and open-minded, and understand that things are different here. We never seem to have everything we need, so we are always problem solving and looking at things from a different angle. It’s what I sort of love and hate about my job. My friends and I always remind ourselves that it isn’t life or death, so there really isn’t any need to stress too much.”
It may not be life or death, but to the young people she is teaching how to learn, how to break down barriers, and how to express themselves creatively, it comes close. High school graduation rates in Samara Playa have risen as a result of Andrea’s team leadership and organization of visiting volunteers.
The Universidad Latina recently presented Andrea the 2015 Premio Yo Creo (I Believe) Award in recognition of young social entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. The application included a rigorous selection process with a presentation to a panel of five judges from Costa Rica. Upon winning, Keith received $2,500 for her organization, membership in Youth Action Net, and a trip to Honduras for professional development.