We know that now is one of the hardest times ever for retreats, teachers, and staff. It’s been a challenging time for all small businesses.
We are always happy to see when the retreats we promote can give back to their community despite their own struggling. We are very impressed by a Generous Retreat we have listed on our site. Amatierra Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica has made sure that their employees are able to get by during this hard time. We asked the owners Jill and Bob Ruttenberg to write a short article about their help and support for their employees and local people.
“I promise you….as long as we are involved in your lives, NOBODY here will go hungry.” I choked back tears as I spoke, in my best incorrect Spanish to our group of nine AmaTierra employees on a hot day at the end of March. I felt their fear and worry. They have kids to feed, rent to pay. They were used to a fairly comfortable living, given their simple lives and modest salaries–pretty generous tips from the guests split among all, enough work hours…and now this. A worldwide pandemic that threatened the very ground beneath them. The Costa Rica government had promised around $230 per month to people who’d lost their jobs or were suspended. We went through all the hoops that a bureaucratic country set up, paid the lawyers to help us, but when we checked on the status of this relief money our hearts sank: We were number 5,000 on the list. What? How would these gentle, hard-working people survive?
That’s when I decided to use my white privilege to call on former guests, friends, family, whomever I felt would respond and start a GoFundMe for my employees. And the response was heart-warming. Truly. We raised over $6,000 which paid them a salary to work a few hours per week and bought around $200 worth of groceries to split up between them: Rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh foods, toothpaste, soap, most of the necessities to help them get by. And our staff’s own generosity is spreading to their neighbors who might have less. We help them, too, when we can.
We’ve had to let 2 people go permanently at this point as we’re 5 months into being closed with no income, but Costa Rica is a place that mandates severance pay, and we are still including them in our food purchasing. That was another tearful meeting, looking out over the green tropical valley at that same long table, this time with masks and distance between us. “I repeat,” I said. “As long as I am here with you NOBODY will go hungry.” And I mean it. To this date, some of our staff have received one relief check, others two, and things are moving slowly here. Luckily, there’s still enough money to feed the chickens, and everyone gets 15 eggs per week, and it looks like our Center will survive for (we hope) several more months until people travel again. And we feel such gratitude to all who have donated, each time we shop and divide up supplies and know our families at least are not worrying about having enough to eat.
We hope other retreat centers are doing whatever they can for their staffs, and if anyone wants to know more about how to set up a GoFundMe, or to donate to ours, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Soon we will open to guests for month-long stays and for our wellness packages. Until we do, we hope you and your families all stay well, safe, and peaceful.
Jill Ruttenberg, RH, AHG Owner & Wellness Director at AmaTierra in Costa Rica www.amatierra.com