How Daniel Jimenez went from being a student at the small school built by Lapa Rios Ecolodge 25 years ago to becoming a housekeeping and maintenance manager.
Meet Daniel Jimenez. He is 38 years old and has been working at Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica for more than 20 years. He started as a maintenance worker, then moved up to housekeeping, and made it all the way to department leader both in housekeeping and maintenance.
He never expected to get as far in his life with just a couple of years of elementary school education. His parents never believed in sending him or his siblings to school. They thought it was a waste of time and that he should rather be working on the small farm they owned up the road from the Lapa Rios Private Rain Forest Reserve. Today, he is one of the pillars of the operations at Lapa Rios, one of National Geographic’s Unique Ecolodges of the World.
Karen Lewis, the co-founder of Lapa Rios was instrumental in this process. When she arrived in Costa Rica with her husband John Lewis to do a project in biodiversity conservation in 1992, it was clear to her, that conservation would not be successful in the long run without an educational component. So parallel to the building of the lodge, they hired a car and from Monday to Friday send the kids in the area to the Puerto Jimenez school that was about one hour away.
Crossing several rivers and bumpy roads to and from the school was a hassle and finally, John and Karen raised the funds to build the Carbonera School with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the local community. Daniel not only helped to build the school, he was also one of the first students. Unfortunately, this was only for a couple of years; his parents asked him to return to work at the farm.
His childhood experience is the reason that he insists that his eight year old son Jordi studies hard. His hope is that Jordi will one day want to attend university. His step-son Derian is currently working as a receptionist at the front desk in Lapa Rios. Daniel knows that to take the next step he needs to improve his English language skills. He would love to be a driver and have more contact with guests. He enjoys meeting people from other countries and learning about their lives. Stay tuned. Maybe during your next visit to Lapa Rios, he will receive you at the airstrip and take you up to the lodge.
Daniel does not only understands the value of conservation, but also of education. He has been able to buy a house for himself and his family and is very proud to be a long time staff member of Lapa Rios inspiring others to excel and give their best every day. What more would you want out of a successful ecotourism project?