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For almost 10 years, Global Travel Alliance student groups have been building houses in Costa Rica through the company's Service Scholars program, which enables students to travel the world and serve people in need.

It was a natural fit for staff to take on a similar project earlier this year.

Each January, Global Travel Alliance staff members meet to prepare for trip season with safety training. This year, they were able to add a service component to their gathering in San Jose, Costa Rica.

"The staff at Global Travel Alliance are like family," said Vice President Steve Maehl. "We all believe strongly in the mission of student travel and making a difference—and work very well together. We decided to build a house together to learn to work closer as a team—and give back together as a team."

travel-builds-a-foundation-web1Working with their partner organization Global Doing Good, staff members came together to help build a house for Antonio and Lorena Solis and their three teenagers: Maria, Fabia and Joselyn.

Antonio deals salvage and produce at a local market, but after health problems and mechanical issues with his truck, his already small earnings began to shrink. The safety, security and comfort of a suitable home would help him and his family get back on their feet.

Members of the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) completed the first half of the homebuilding project during the biannual SYTA Summit in San Jose, January 17 – 21, 2018.

With the foundation laid and the frame up, it was Global Travel Alliance's job to finish. They hired a local contractor for major work, like building a roof, and an electrician for wiring. Staff spent four days painting walls, mixing cement for a small patio and sidewalk, and more.

After the house was complete, the group helped the family move in—and then joined hands to circle the house and say a blessing before saying goodbye.

"We're a group of people coming here to help another group of people who really need it," shared Special Projects Coordinator Brian Mathis. "This gives them a step up they could probably never get on their own."

Global Travel Alliance staff believe that travel in itself is a life-changing experience, but having the ability to learn about—and help—other people takes travel to a fundamental level.

"We believe service components on trips are vital to creating responsible citizens and future leaders," said Maehl.

Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.

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