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* Helping hands


Family Plans a Mission to Costa Rica

When Kay Ostensen was a child, her family traveled down Africa’s Ogowe River in a boat rowed by residents of a leper colony. When they docked in Zaire, Albert Schweitzer lifted 9-year-old Kay from the boat and into his arms.

That trip, a volunteer mission for her obstetrician father, lives vividly in her memory, said Ostensen, now 44 and a counselor at Thurston Middle School in Laguna Beach.

Now she is shaping her own mission, one that she hopes will also be a memorable adventure for her three children.


The family will leave Monday for Costa Rica where they will stay for two weeks with a local family while working as volunteers for an orphanage.

“I always wished my kids could have just a piece of what it’s like to experience the beauty of another culture,” Ostensen said.

She hit on the idea of a family work trip last fall, eventually contacting a man she had met briefly who lives in Costa Rica. He invited Ostensen and her youngsters--Joy, 11, Derek, 14, and Justin, 17--to stay at his home and work at the orphanage.

Besides doing repairs, Ostensen expects to counsel child-care workers about dealing with abandoned children. She will present them with $600 collected by the Laguna Beach United Methodist Church.

Ostensen, who is using frequent-flyer miles to make the journey, characterizes the trip more as an opportunity for growth than as a good deed.

“I feel so humble about it,” she said. “It’s not really anything.”