Nicol Chinchilla Cordero ’16 says helping out was implicit when she was growing up in La Ribera, a village in Costa Rica.
As a junior at Earlham, Chinchilla is an environmental studies and business and nonprofit management double major busy with campus clubs and activities, while still helping out with her family’s 135-acre organic farm and a women’s organization back home.
“Everyone, from the smallest to the oldest, we all took an active part in helping our community,” she says. Community members fix and clean streets, prepare and care for the soccer field, help at schools and fundraise.
“It was never that we were forced to do these things,” she says. “It was implicit that everyone in the village worked to improve the community. If you are in a place, you have to work to make that place better. I really believe in this reciprocity as a way of living.”
She feels a similar sense of community at Earlham. Her academic training thus far has helped her to increase her involvement with and planning of her family’s farm, which she refers to as her project. The farm, which produces cattle, fruit, coffee, and various other crops and domestic animals, accepts five volunteers per day, which is only a fraction of the applicants. The farm offers experiential learning opportunities where volunteers learn about permaculture. Chinchilla spends about four hours each week screening the applicants.
“In almost every course that I am taking this semester I learn things that I apply to my project,” she says. “As I become more skilled, the more the project grows.”
Chinchilla spent much of the summer preparing a Strategic Plan.
“The idea is to make the farm more self-sustainable and to find and incorporate alternative and renewable energy sources,” she explains.
“When I was younger I thought I would become a lawyer because I wanted to help everyone in my family and in my village to resolve their problems,” she says. “Later I wanted to start my own business, and now I want to help grow my family’s farm.”
She plans to take a gap year between junior and senior year to participate in Semester at Sea, an independent travel experience that journeys across the globe beginning in San Diego and ending in London. The program offers two courses that she is especially interested in, The Sociology of Tourism and the Politics of Developing Areas.
After graduating from Earlham, Chinchilla hopes to seek a master’s degree in natural resources and sustainable development from the United Nations University of Peace in Costa Rica.
After completing the master’s, she may pursue a law degree.
On campus, Chinchilla helped implement the eco-reps program that works to model sustainable living practices in college residences, helped create a bike map of Richmond and a map of Earlham’s back campus. She has been involved in Earlham’s Energy Wars, a friendly competition between dorms to reduce water and energy usage. She also helped establish an Earlham chapter of the nonprofit Aynah, which focuses on community ownership and sustainable economic development. The Earlham chapter hopes to create a Community Center for a women’s organization, to which she belongs. Together with Aynah, Chinchilla has raised $14,000 of the $22,000 for the center, which she envisions as a hub for community empowering and a place where ideas will become actions.
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