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This past week we traveled to the lowlands of the Pacific side of Costa Rica—an area that is new to the reforestation movement. Our group was assigned to reforest the farm of a landowner who owns most of the local area. During the very hot and sweaty work day, some of our members became concerned that the landowner may not have been concerned with reforestation as much as he was trying to improve the appearance and value of his land.

As a group, we held a meeting at the end of the day to discuss the implications of our work for this landowner. Many people felt that we had been taken advantage of since the landowner owns most of the town and certainly would have been able to pay for and plant his own trees. I was concerned that we were taking away employment from local people who he certainly could have paid. Twelve of us had planted in a day a week’s worth of work for three local workers.

Most of our group questioned his motives, but I was especially intrigued by one of our group members who suggested that had we not offered to provide and plant trees for free the landowner likely would not have planted trees at all. This completely changed some of our perspectives from feeling used to wondering if our work may have had an impact on an otherwise deforested area. I never would have thought of our day from this angle, and I am grateful that DukeEngage has allowed me to be in a group of people with different perspectives that change my ideas and outlook on experiences.