Save the Hibiscus Volunteer Program

Yesterday, on October 5, 2017, Tropical Storm Nate assaulted my adoptive home of Costa Rica and destroyed all my material possessions. The personal loss is great, but I'm heartbroken by how this has impacted my dream for the Hibiscus Volunteer Home. That's why I'm asking for your help now.

What happened
The river flooded and overflowed to ravage the entire city below and many others along the Southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. The entire country is now  on red alert

I lost everything I've worked for, for the past 6 years. Everything I have slowly and painstakingly purchased over the years with personal loans, credit cards, help from my parents, and lots of debt.  Everything is gone--the refrigerator, bunk beds, mattresses, tv, plates, dishes, dining utensils, decorations, sheets, washing machine, dryer--everything to make the "perfect volunteer house" for my NGO Hibiscus Travels is gone. Six years of work gone in 24 hours.

Hibiscus Travels history
I started Hibiscus Travels in Puntarenas with our first project at the Children's Orphanage in 2011. I was working alone and it was a leap of faith. Since then, Hibiscus volunteers have worked in a variety of settings, including: elementary and high schools; medical clinics and hospitals; elderly homes; marine life, exotic animal, and environmental conservation; animal shelters; sea turtle preservation; sustainable tourism and agriculture; small local business development; and is supposed to begin working with the Brunca indigenous tribe this coming year.

Hibiscus Travel volunteers live in a group home, which I have always tried to provide as a decent, clean and comfortable place to relax and sleep at night after working so hard during the day. At the group volunteer home, we provide three meals daily, laundry, Spanish classes for volunteers, and free English classes for the community.

After moving from rental home to rental home for years, I recently relocated to Ciudad Cortes to construct and create a permanent home base for the volunteer program. I took out more personal and business loans to do so.  I purchased most of the building materials and storied them at a neighbor's house for easy acces.  Unfortunately, those building materials are completely gone now, spread out over the street or washed away into town with everything else.

The volunteer house I still hope to build will include a small community center which will:

- Work with local churches of different religious backgrounds to serve meals to the homeless. (Hibiscus does not have any religious affiliation and we accept everyone regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation.)

-Host social events and educational workshops for the elderly community. (Our city does not have an elderly home currently.)

-Teach free English classes to struggling students, single mothers, and adults in search of better employement.

-Host a "play date" group for special needs children and their families for fun handicrafts, educational workshops, and social activities.

-Provide shelter, food/water, love and care for foster animals until they find their forever homes.

Hibiscus has not only provided free classes, workshops, meals, help, donations, etc. to the community, but has also been an important source of jobs and income for locals. We provide jobs in sectors like transportation, Spanish teaching, assistant coordinating  in high season, tours, cooking, cleaning, and everything that comes along with the sustainable tourism industry.

Where we are today
I've lost so many personal items--pictures, important documents, clothes, shoes, purses, hygiene products, even my bed is gone. But my hope is not.

We come into this world with nothing and leave this world with nothing. I am thankful to be alive, thankful to have my dogs with me, thankful to have people I care about safe and alive.

We got to safety in Palmar Norte at 5:30am Thursday morning after realizing we were trapped and couldn't go north or south. Thankfully, we found a high-up hostel.. I'm exhausted from making trips back and forth bringing supplies to Ciudad Cortes and bringing people to higher ground in Palmar Norte, but I'm grateful to have a bed (even if it's not mine) to sleep in tonight at the hostel. 

I have so many thoughts and emotions going through me. I've been in this nightmare since 1am Wednesday morning when the Red Cross came to evacuate us, and I keep hoping that once I get to sleep I'll wake up and realize this was just a nightmare, but it's not.
My heart goes out to my neighbors. As long as we have our lives, we have hope, and as long as we have dedication, we can overcome this catastrophic set back. 

I feel lucky to be a part of this amazing community. The kind, hospitable, hopeful, and overall, decent, good hearted and hard-working people of this community deserve every chance to grow and develop and improve their lives. Until this point, no one has cared to do anything like this in Cortes. This is an important opportunity at development not only for Hibiscus, but also for this forgotten city. And then Nate arrived and threatened to destroy everything. 

I still have the one thing this natural disaster can't take from me, which is hope. And I have determination.

Please contribute what you can to help Hibiscus Travel rebuild our volunteer program and help the wonderful people of Costa Rica.

  • David Humphrey 
    • 600 $ 
    • 49 mos
  • Dennis Dunn 
    • 100 $ 
    • 49 mos
  • Jodi Ray Hallock 
    • 50 $ 
    • 49 mos
  • Jim Wenskus 
    • 250 $ 
    • 49 mos
  • Andita Newton 
    • 50 $ 
    • 49 mos
See all


Lauren Markey 
Plano, TX
  • #1 fundraising platform

    More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more

  • GoFundMe Guarantee

    In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more

  • Expert advice, 24/7

    Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more