On April 7, 2015, the young members of MOTH, Matter Observed Through Hombres, ventured out for five days on an adventure of a lifetime. Displaying courage and determination, MOTH traveled over five thousand miles to a remote location where nature still remains truly wild- the Osa Peninsula, a rainforest located in Costa Rica. They proved not only to themselves, but to members of the Paterson community that there is a whole world to explore outside the confines of the city.

An adventure’s value can only be measured by the participants and their experiences. For the members of MOTH, the humbling experience served as a launchpad for self-improvement, self-worth, and understanding the true meaning behind conservation efforts. MOTH member and high school freshman, Bryan Diaz, reflected on the trip stating,

I’ve learned the importance of school and about how my grades carry the power to shape my future to what I want…I’m more understanding of peoples differences and honestly, this group is the best thing that has happened to me mentally so far in my 15 years of living.

Fellow member and high school freshman, Kevin Caraballo, reflected saying,

The group gave me the best opportunity ever; gave the opportunity to go to Costa Rica and stay a whole week in the rainforest…It was an amazing and also a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Andres Uceda, an eighth grader, who also participated on the trip said,

We went to Costa Rica for a week and I have changed physically, mentally, and emotionally…this group gave me a chance to open myself and speak freely, which is something that I never tried.

As a facilitator, I was lucky enough to have the support of three amazing adult chaperones. With the support from Seiichi Villalona, Alejandra Roldan, and Eric Atempa, the trip was a success. Their inspiration and leadership with MOTH gave permission to the teens to have fun, bond, and grow. Every single person that participated was tested by the trip, whether it was by hiking through dense rainforest, kayaking, horseback riding, cleaning up a turtle hatchery site, enduring heat, playing soccer for hours, or night hiking, MOTH rose up to every challenge and succeeded. I’m truly grateful to lead MOTH and for the opportunity I was given to take them to Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

MOTH, funded by the Mel Merians Memorial Fund, was modeled after the young women’s enrichment group, GUFE (Girls United for the Earth), headed by Sarah Sterling-Laldee. GUFE has traveled internationally to provide service while exploring environmental justice and science careers.

Mario Benitez