Create thriving, economically stable communities in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Empower individuals from rural/underserved communities in Guanacaste, Costa Rica to develop the skills they need to seize educational and economic opportunities for themselves and their families.
Our team is professional and dedicated. Our work is inspirational and effective. Our projects are truly grassroots and embedded in our communities. Our impact is lasting and cost effective.
Abriendo Mentes, which is Spanish for ‘Opening Minds’, was established in 2009 by founders Meradith Leebrick and Drew Ragland. The couple had been living in Potrero for several years and were asked by their Costa Rican neighbor if they could begin offering some English classes for his daughter and her cousins. What began as very informal tutoring sessions with no supplies, no resources, and no physical classroom space, grew steadily into a full-fledged after school program for dozens of local children.
Since 2009 the organization has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, with highlights including the addition of adult education programming, the donation of our computer lab leading to the establishment of our technology program, the creation of our women’s economic empowerment programs, the development of our international volunteer structure, and a formal program expansion to the neighboring community of Brasilito.
We have achieved many of our objectives over the last several years: we have delivered thousands of hours of classes and community development programs, more than 200 volunteers have joined our team and supported our work, and we have consistently met our ambitious fundraising goals. However, the communities where we work still face great challenges, and we continually strive to enhance our program offerings for the local population and future generations.
WHERE WE WORK
Local children attend school for only 3 hours a day
22% of students in Guanacaste drop out of high school
30% of Guanacastecos live in poverty
Region of Guanacaste
The province of Guanacaste is located in the northwest corner of Costa Rica, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and Nicaragua to the north. It is the most rural, least densely populated and one of the poorest regions in the country.
Playa Potrero is a small, coastal village with a population of approximately 500 residents. It is home to both Costa Ricans who have lived in this community for generations, as well as a large number of Nicaraguan immigrants and their children, who make up approximately 40% of the community. Potrero serves as Abriendo Mentes’ administrative headquarters and flagship program.
Located right on the beach next to the famous Playa Conchal, Brasilito is a tourist town with about 3,000 residents, many of whom are Nicaraguan immigrants. Brasilito is a community where many families live in extreme poverty, and many community members suffer from drug and alcohol addiction as well as domestic violence, putting many children at risk.
Abriendo Mentes Team
Rachael has been serving as Country Director since August 2016. She has been involved with Abriendo Mentes since 2012 when she first joined the team as a volunteer Communications Coordinator. In 2015, she took on the role of Potrero Site Director and led the creation and management of all programming activities. Rachael has several years fundraising experience for a nonprofit organization in her home city of Philadelphia in the US. She is looking forward to diversifing Abriendo Mentes' funding sources and continuing to develop high quality education and community development programs for communities in Guanacaste. Rachael holds a bachelors degree in Communications Studies from Eastern University. Contact Rachael
Potrero Site Director
Karen se unió a Abriendo Mentes como miembro del personal en Noviembre de 2016. Su primera experiencia con Abriendo Mentes fue en 2009, cuando fue voluntaria en los inicios de la organización. Cuando se volvió a unir al equipo en 2016, Karen asumió el rol de Director de Programas en Potrero. Karen lleva la creación, gestión y promoción de todas las actividades de la programación de Potrero, así como la contratación y supervisión de los miembros del equipo. Karen es Trabajadora Social de profesión y tiene más de 15 años de experiencia en el estudio de casos y familias en estado de vulnerabilidad y pobreza. Ella ha trabajado con ONGs en el tema de niñez y adolescencia, asi como en Transnacionales con la parte de responsabilidad social corporativa. Ha liderado programas de desarrollo comunitario en diferentes zonas de Costa Rica. Karen es costarricense de nacimiento y tiene un bachillerato en Trabajo Social de la Universidad de Costa Rica y una Licenciatura de la Universidad Libre de Costa Rica. Contact Karen
Brasilito Site Director
Kirsti joined Brasilito in 2015, taking over the leadership of this new project, which began a year earlier. In the last quarter, Kirsti has ensured a smooth transition and has maintained the extensive children’s programming available to the Brasilito community. She has also supported the expansion of activities available for the Brasilito’s women’s group, such as health and nutrition workshops. Kirsti looks forward to continuing to strengthen relationships with community members and local organizations. A focus on listening to the community’s needs and responding with appropriate programs will be her focus. Kirsti previously spent time in Costa Rica volunteering with a local NGO focused children’s human rights, and teaching English. In addition, Kirsti has several years of experience in community development program management in Canada, England and Kenya, and taught English for several years in Japan. Kirsti holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in International Development & Environmental Science from the University of Toronto, and a Masters of Science from the University of East London. She lives in Brasilito with her husband and dog. Contact Kirsti
Youth Classroom Aide
Technology Coordinator and Teacher, Brasilito
Youth Classroom Aide and Sports Coordinator
Youth Education Coordinator and Teacher, Potrero
Youth Education Coordinator and English Teacher, Brasilito
Youth Classroom Aide
Marcela Chavez Salazar
Technology Coordinator and Teacher, Potrero
Community Development Intern
Youth Classroom Aide and Sports Coordinator
Adult English Teacher
Meradith co‐Founded Abriendo Mentes in 2009 and directed the organization from inception until 2012 when Lindsay stepped in as Director. Meradith holds a Master of Business Administration from the George Washington University, where she was a Global Fellows Scholar, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently based in Mexico City and serves as the Health Financing Specialist for the organization IPPF based in Latin America and is responsible for analyzing the processes and investments involved in implementing the organization’s social enterprise strategy. Her work focuses on supporting large health NGOs in Latin America and the Caribbean in the design of sustainable business plans that support health service growth. Meradith has also worked as a Business Analyst with the Grameen Foundation, designing financial models to support the development of mobile agriculture projects in rural Africa.
As a co‐Founder of Abriendo Mentes, Drew helped to manage the organization from inception until 2012, when Meradith and he passed on the leadership of AM to Lindsay. Drew currently works in the clinical research field as a Clinical Research Associate. With a passion for education, prior to founding AM, Drew taught English in Guanacaste and the San Jose area. Drew received his BA in English and Communications from St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. Drew resides in Mexico City with his wife and enjoys traveling Latin America, birding, gardening and cycling.