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MREF’s Vision Trip to the Hogar Montiel Program

A team of volunteers from the marketing research industry went on an MREF Vision Trip in October 2023 to visit the Hogar Montiel Program and assist with projects. The program serves girls between the ages of five and 12 in Costa Rica who have high social risk, facing problems such as neglect, abandonment, and abuse. It is set up to support girls academically according to learning styles and individual needs, while also supporting their emotional well-being and development.

A grant from the Race Around the World for Education was sent to assist the Hogar Montiel Program in meeting the educational needs of the girls it serves, providing school supplies and tutoring classes in math, technology, or English.

Vision Trip participants included MREF Executive Board Member Brad Larson and MREF Board Members Jim Whaley, Joey Harmon, and Stephanie Vincent.

Transformative moments: A Vision Trip of service, compassion, and growth

When the group arrived, the girls greeted them with songs and were welcoming of the entire team. The volunteers took part in various activities with the girls including roller skating, crafts, soccer, games, and an educational outing to a nature preserve.

Spending time with the girls and learning their stories had a profound impact on the volunteers. “The Vision Trip hit me right in the heart – a mix of sadness and joy," said Harmon. "Spending time with the girls was heartwarming and eye-opening.”

The MREF volunteers also helped clean, prep, and install drainage grills, or sewer grates. The team assisted with 60-70 grates, ensuring the top mesh layer was cut, they were properly screwed in, and that they all had a final coat of paint.

“This was a physical endeavor, a financial investment, and it required my focus and commitment. This pushed me to operate at times outside my comfort zone. But the three days spent with these beautiful young people was nothing short of transformative." - Jim Whaley

The orphanage provides the girls with stability, and each has a set schedule, varying by age. They are up and dressed by 6 a.m., they attend school, do homework and chores, and assist with the meals and cleaning. “The nuns running the program are amazing,” said Larson. While the girls are taught responsibility, there is also time for fun and creativity as seen by their paintings hung on the walls.

"This trip was more than a mission; it was a realization. Witnessing the girls' happy faces as they received our undivided attention was beyond words. It's a reminder that love remains the most powerful force. These girls need to know there are adults they can trust, who will never hurt them. This mission wasn't just amazing; it was transformative." - Stephanie Vincent

The volunteers returned home energized and excited to continue making an impact with the MREF. “I’m all in to help however I can," said Harmon. "Small acts, big impact.”

Interested in volunteering? Visit to learn about upcoming opportunities, including the MREF’s 2024 Month of Service.


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