As Old Westbury residents and students at the Wheatley School, Samuel Avila and Evan Gitlitz know their school is nicer than most in the world, they said.
The childhood friends are working to give students in Costa Rica the same kind of educational opportunities they’ve had by raising money to rebuild a school in Costa Rica through Project Brasilito, a charity Avila started last year.
“They don’t value educaiton as much when the school is shambles,” Avila said. “We just want to not only rebuild the school, but make it a positive environment.”
To do that, they’ve teamed up with Row45, a gym in Albertson, and with Gitlitz’s family to host events this month benefiting Project Brasilito, including one on Saturday.
Avila’s father was born in Chile and raised in Costa Rica, and he’s traveled there with his family about half a dozen times, he said.
On each trip, they visit a school in Brasilito, a town on the country’s western coast, that was severely damaged by a 2012 earthquake, he said.
The 150 students currently attend classes in a warehouse in half-day sessions, with 75 going in the morning and the other 75 going in the afternoon, Avila said.
The school, meanwhile, is locked and surrounded by cracked pavement and a fence, Avila said. The government has offered little help except for some repaving of nearby roads, he said.
“I know plenty of people that have visited Costa Rica and many of the tourists that go there, they don’t really see that side of the country,” Avila said.
Avila started Project Brasilito to raise the $10,000 to $20,000 necessary to fix the school.
He has so far raised about $1,000 and collected school supplies by hosting two events at the Wheatley School, he said.
Gitlitz, his friend of more than 10 years, joined him in the effort and hopes to visit Costa Rica later this year, he said.
Avila said he hopes the money will help make the school a place students want to go every day, encouraging them to eventually attend college and their parents to support their educational endeavors.
“We come from a privileged area and they don’t have the privilege that we have,” Gitlitz said.
Row45, a gym that specializes in rowing exercises that Avila’s mother attends, agreed to host a half-day of classes on Saturday with all proceeds going to Project Brasilito.
Gitlitz’s family will also host a Nov. 17 comedy show at their Old Westbury home to support the effort, he said.
Wheatley students have also been supportive, Avila said.
The Spanish club helped him sponsor a school supply drive and students gave about $800 during last year’s “Showdown,” a weeklong competition between the classes, he said.
Avila also hopes to partner with the New York City FC soccer team for a future fundraiser, he said.
“I was really surprised how many people wanted to help with this cause,” Avila said.
Rowing classes at Row45 run from 11:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Nov. 12 and cost $30 per person. Food and drinks will also be available, Gitlitz said.
The comedy show will start at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Gitlitz home at 108 I.U. Willets Road in Old Westbury. Tickets are $50. Anyone interested in attending can email [email protected] for more information.