Su Espacio – a Community Center in Atenas
by guest blogger Carole Connolly
Su Espacio, which means your space in Spanish, is a non-profit organization founded by Tina Newton, native Oklahoman, moved to Atenas in January of 2000. This adorable bundle of energy saw a need in her newly adopted town and put her extensive knowledge and expertise to work. And yours it is! There is something for everybody.
I clearly remember the first time I stumbled upon Su Espacio in July 2012. I saw a sign in the window advertising Zumba. I popped in to inquire, and there was Tina with an infectious smile, a warm welcome, and an invitation to join the class! She handed me a schedule of activities available at the community center. As I left the place, I felt invigorated as though I had just come from the fountain of youth. Her effervescence inspired me to make good on my promise to take the class.
Now, I not only take Zumba class, I take Dance-Fit, an invigorating hour of challenging dance moves from a variety of show tunes to today’s popular music, taught by Tina herself, in the dance studio complete with mirrors and a ballet barre. This takes me back to my native New York where I studied ballet from the age of five. It’s in my blood and something I thought I would have to live without when I moved to Atenas. I love seeing the little ballerinas dressed in their tutus performing for the community. We must keep the arts alive!
I love starting out the day with a morning class to get my adrenalin flowing and, then I eavesdrop on the group Spanish lesson that takes place in the class meeting room, and I always learn something new. Maybe it’s time to sign up for another class!
There are plenty from which to choose. Su Espacio rents space to teachers of all varieties at a reasonable fee which goes right back into the community center and goes to keeping the rent paid and the lights on. Some of the classes available in addition to those already mentioned are Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Latin Dance including salsa and merengue, English, and Italian. If you are a teacher with a skill to share stop in to see Tina at Su Espacio located on route 3 in Atenas centro across from the gas station.
In addition to all this, Tina organizes volunteers from the United States and Canada. She places over one hundred volunteers annually to help in areas such as children’s homes, schools, environmental projects, animal refuse, and coffee farms to mention a few. She will even make arrangements for Spanish lessons, home stays including meals, or private housing. There are a number of ways to participate, enrich your life while providing a valuable service to the community.
Under Tina’s leadership, the Festival of Dance takes place every October. The outpouring of community support for the more than fifteen groups that performed was apparent by the standing-room-only crowd that attended this past year. What a wonderful goal for the children to have, knowing their hard work in class, week after week will be appreciated and lauded by friends, family, expats and Ticos on performance day.
And then there is the Angel Project. Starting early in October, a Christmas tree is decorated and placed in the reception area of Su Espacio. On it are cut-out paper Angels with the name, age and size of an Atenas child who may not receive a gift for Christmas were it not for this project. It is a joy to see the Angels fly off the tree, and an even greater joy to see the children gather at the December party to receive their gifts. All of this takes planning, time, and lots of dedication. This is given freely by Tina Newton, the originator of this project. I have witnessed all of the components involved from the cutting out of each tree Angel, organizing the list of donors, making sure they are all delivered in a timely fashion, procuring refreshments for the party, to the clean-up after the event. Throughout the entire process, there is guidance and leadership with a smile from the real angel – Tina Newton!
Community is what you make it. In Atenas, we are grateful to have Su Espacio. It is a true example of “It’s better to give than receive.”
Carole Connolly, the writer of this blog, is an expat who lives in Atenas and writes awesome blogs about a variety of topics and is recommended as a Top Expat Blog Costa Rica by InterNations.