The Tico Times (San José, Costa Rica) March 3, 2001 Farm Links Austria and Costa Rica By Suzanna Starcevic Tico Times Staff AUSTRIA’S civil service requirement has become a Costa Rican co-operative farms gain. The international connection was born, when Andreas Rührnößl came across an article in an Austrian newspaper describing Finca Sonador, near San Isidro del General. The timing was perfect . In Austria, all 18-year-old men must serve in the military or in some form of civil service, although they can defer it until after university. Foreign-service at government-approved locations is an option for those who are agree to a longer commitment. WHEN Rührnößl came across the article, he was working for an organization that researches and finds civil service placements abroad and looking for a placement himself. The Finca seemed perfect. With a little patience and a lot of determination he made it happen. “I was looking for a position in a Spanish-speaking country”, Rührnößl remembers. “I tried to get the project approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It took 10 months, and usually it takes three.” On Dec. 1st Andreas Rührnößl, Andreas Dünser (who worked for the same organization) and Pascal Nußbaumer became the first three Austrians to fulfill their civil service working with Finca Sonador and its sister project, El Comedor, a shelter for children. IT’S hard to imagine anyone thinking twice about sending help to Finca Sonador. Roland Spendlingwimmer, founder of the farm, came to Costa Rica about 20 years ago to help refugees from Nicaragua and El Salvador. About 64 families (380 people), now most of them Nicaraguan and Costa Rican, rent land for a symbolic price. They grow sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, beans, corn and tend a few cattle. The children’s shelter is a new project. Recently Spendlingwimmer received a human-rights prize from his native province in Austria for his work in Costa Rica. Many helpful volunteers from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and other parts of the world, have passed through the farm. The advantage of the partnership with the Austrian government is that Rührnößl, Dünser and Nußbaumer will be at the farm longer than most volunteers – for 14 months, 40 hours per week. “IT’S a big help and we can expand our programs,” says Spendlingwimmer. “There’s time to learn the language and have seminars with teachers and psychologists to learn about the work with the children – it makes a big difference.” Nußbaumer lives on the farm. The other two live in San Isidro. For the first while, Rührnößl and Dünser delved into the daily challenge of working with children at the 10-bed shelter and drop-in center. They worked at building relationships and respect with the children. Future plans include crafts and providing help in English and math. Their project for the Christmas holidays was to visit nearby barrios personally, letting the people know what opportunities the shelter offers. Nußbaumer works on the farm and provides a few hours of English lessions to the families. His duties are wide an varied. “I helped build a house, ” he says, smiling. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done that.” Spendingwimmer hopes to broaden the link with the Austrian government. Plans for the future include 10-foreign-service placements, including three for the shelter, four for the farm.
- Date 5. July 2016
- Tags Pressearchiv 2001