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Costa Rica Community Development Experience

Support long-term initiatives in Costa Rica


Program Information

Travel to Costa Rica and contribute to our long term conservation and community projects while learning Spanish. Immerse yourself in authentic Costa Rican community living, eating and working with the local families all while enjoying life on the Pacific Ocean's coastal town of Manuel Antonio.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Overview

Immerse yourself in a Costa Rican community while supporting our long-term projects and experience a unique opportunity to live and work with local families. Your students will be contributing to both construction and sports education projects, working in the community of Quepos and living in picturesque Manuel Antonio.

Project Aims and Objectives

GVI has been operating in Costa Rica for almost 10 years. As well as community development work in Quepos, GVI focuses on wildlife conservation projects near Jalova and within the Torteguero National Park. In Quepos the teams are involved in construction, childcare, teaching English, sports and healthcare initiatives.

Our projects are well established and respected amongst the communities. GVI’s long-term involvement, capacity building and commitment to our projects, ensure that the service elements of your students’ trips are contributing to long-term sustainable projects helping to achieve our partners’ objectives. These local partnerships along with stakeholder discussions drive the service elements of our trips to ensure they are fully focussed on the most prevalent issues and produce the results required locally.

As a group, you have the opportunity of contributing to on-going construction projects. This may be in the form of mural painting, classroom maintenance and painting, playground maintenance, floor laying or building construction from scratch. The exact work will greatly depend on the needs of the childcare centres at the time. This is a great opportunity for students to work as a team in achieving an overall goal that will have long-lasting effects for the community members and local partners.

Highlights

Contribute to our long-term conservation and community projects while learning Spanish. Experience life in an authentic Costa Rican community living, eating and working with the local families all while enjoying life on the Pacific Ocean.

Location

Our projects are located in the beautiful town of Quepos, in the Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica. Quepos is about 157km south from the country’s capital city of San Jose and is known as the gateway to the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park. Surrounded by palm plantations and rainforest, the town contains an array of wildlife with monkeys and toucans in plain sight most days. In and around the national park, the whole area is famed for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails, making this location an exceptional place to visit and be a part of the Tico way of life.

Quepos' short, mid, and long-term objectives


All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.Upon arrival to

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
 Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Quepos:


1. Improve access to education and wellness to El Cocal community

2, Increase environmental awareness in the local community

3. Improve English literacy levels in Quepos community and surrounded areas

4. Ensure that GVI Quepos base provides volunteers and interns unique, safe, responsible travel experiences, exceptional training and career development opportunities, and facilitate the ability to make a real difference

 

 

Program Details

Program Type: Schools , University

Enquiry Form

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Enquiry Details

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Flights

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As GVI is providing this portal as a service we are not responsible for the accuracy of this site.

We are also not responsible for any loss, damage (including loss of profits or consequential damages), injury, illness, harm or death in relation to your flight and travel arrangements.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Manuel-Antonio's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVICostaRicaManuelAntonio

Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Cony Perez

Program Manager
Meet Cony, our Program Manager at GVI’s base in Quepos, Costa Rica. Cony was born in Mexico and holds a Masters in Environmental Education. She loves a wide variety of cool things including: working with people, biodiversity, music, and her dog!

Cynthia Arochi Zendejas

Regional Director for Latin America
Meet Cynthia! She is GVI’s Regional Director for Latin America. Her journey with us started in 2006 as a National Scholar in Mexico on our National Scholar Program. Cynthia has a Masters in Environmental Science, which she completed in Sweden. In her life, Cynthia has had a variety of jobs and careers fueled by her love of languages and culture. Such jobs include teaching French, organising games, and working asing a Team Building Facilitator.

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Julius Reyes

Assistant Program Manager
This is Julius, who is our Assistant Program Manager at GVI’s base in Quepos, Costa Rica. Julius grew up in a small seaside town in British Columbia before moving to Quepos! He has had the privilege of volunteering in a vast array of countries including Peru and Morocco.

Before coming to Quepos, Julius was a Hip-Hop dance instructor for 12 years, and so as you could imagine he loves a good boogie!

Luis Jimenez

Logistics Manager
Meet Luis! He is the Logistics Manager for our Quepos base in Costa Rica! Luis studied Art, History and Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resource Management. He has been with GVI for two years now. Luis likes both snakes and planes - but luckily, not at the same time!

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Costa Rica was the first country in the world to make primary education both free and obligatory in 1869, funding the education program through the state’s share of the great coffee wealth. In those days only one in ten Costa Ricans could read and write.  By 1920, 50% of the population was literate. In 1948, the country abolished its national army and shifted the portion of its national budget allocated to armed forces to the education system. By the 1970s 89% were able to read and write. Costa Rica now boasts a literacy rate of 93% for those ten years or older. In addition, in 1994, a policy to place a computer in each of the nation’s 4,000 schools, plus obligatory English classes, was implemented.


Despite this, education is not readily available to everyone. Elementary and high schools can be found in every community, but many cannot afford the required uniforms, and rural schools often lack books for students. Children often spend as little as three hours in school as the class schedule is divided into two sessions in order to accommodate the number of students.


Quepos, home to our volunteer community project, is a small Pacific town just outside Manuel Antonio which is home to some of the best tourist attractions in the country hosts thousands of foreign and local visitors every year.


GVI has been working in local communities around Quepos since 2011 and aims to support those communities in developing themselves and particularly in developing the younger members of the community. GVI has focused mainly on the community of El Cocal, a partially illegal settlement, located on a small peninsula a few minutes outside of Quepos, home to Costa Ricans as well as many immigrant families from other Latin American countries, namely Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama. Many of these people have come to Costa Rica to benefit from the political and financial stability offered, but in such a tourist-rich area as Quepos people can struggle to make ends meet unless they are able to draw an income from the foreign visitors. The illegal status of many also restricts work opportunities.


Male residents of El Cocal are commonly employed in the fishing industry, which can be unreliable, so families get used to living in the moment and spending the money they have when they get it rather than saving up. Children growing up in this environment often do not have an understanding of preparing for the future and their attitudes towards education reflect this. This is partly fueled by lack of education in the community and partly by the transient and semi-legal nature of the community, many of whose members are seasonally unemployed.


In this region of Costa Rica, much of the local economy is built on tourism. In an effort to better serve the American and European traveller population, being able to speak and write in English is important. The number one request from the local school board for more English teachers. We also offer free individual English classes for children, teenagers, and adults. We provide English classes to adults in the local community of El Cocal, young people and adults in Quepos, and children as well. Construction projects, to improve community spaces and build communal gardens are also part of our work in Quepos.


We also work in partnership with the El Cocal school, offering a space for children to come after or before school hours to learn, reinforcing the value of education. In addition we work with adults, including women, in the community to improve professional skills.


In partnership with the UNPD, United Nations Development Programme, we also run a program aimed at reducing the amount of young people at risk, provide them with tools to prevent violence, and integrate themselves with the wider society. The program is called “Integral Security and Prevention of Violence Affecting Children, Adolescents and Young People in Costa Rica” and the role of GVI is to provide English language classes as a mean to improve the skill sets of young people to assist them with accessing additional academic and employment opportunities in the future.


As such, the main UN Sustainable Development Goals of this project include, #4, Quality Education, and #5, Gender Equality.


Project Objectives

 


GVI Quepos Long-term Objectives:


1. Improve access to education and wellness to Quepos and surrounding areas specifically in El Cocal community.


2. Increase environmental awareness in the local community.


3. Improve English literacy levels in Quepos community and surrounded areas.


 


Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Festivals

Costa Rican festival.


March to April: Easter is a popular holiday in Costa Rica and is celebrated with elaborate processions.


October: You can experience the city of Límon’s famous carnival in October.


December: A mostly Catholic country, the Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm.


Spirituality and Religion

Most of Costa Rica identifies with the Roman Catholic religion and there are many Christman festivals that are celebrated throughout the year.


Dancing

Dancing is part an integral part of Costa Rican culture. Locals learn to dance the fluid ballroom styles of cumbia, salsa, bolero and the merengue from a young age.


Cooking

Learn to cook dishes using uniquely Latin American ingredients like beans, rice, avocados, peppers, tomatoes, and corn from local community members.


Languages

Quepos is the perfect place to practice your Spanish as most inhabitants speak only Spanish.


El Cocal Community

El Cocal is an informal settlement home to a mostly immigrant community from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama. Working in this community learning participants to more traditional Latin American destinations.


Quepos

Quepos is a small Pacific town just outside Manuel Antonio which is home to some of the best tourist attractions in the country, hosting thousands of foreign and local visitors every year. Some come for the national park, considered one of the best in the country, and others for the beaches. The surfing both in this beautiful beach town and on other beaches just a couple of hours along the coast draws people from across the world.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Teacher Info

Additional Teacher Info

GVI runs curriculum, CAS and experience focussed service learning opportunities around the world on multi-award winning trips. With over 25,000 travellers since inception, GVI’s know how to ensure safe, life-changing challenges that make a real difference, fostering global citizenship and intercultural understanding. Staffed and resourced by GVI all year round, our projects offer unique opportunities to engage in long-term, high impact work, whilst experiencing deep cultural immersion and some adventure.

A teacher travels free with groups of ten or more students!

GVI provides 24/7 support from our experienced staff who are based full-time on the ground, as well as support from HQ. An experienced group leader will accompany the group, taking overall responsibility for the safety of the group.

Please note prices are subject to seasonal fluctuation and will vary depending upon the needs of the group.

**Optional extras include travel insurance and flight services




Example Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrival at San Jose Airport and Transfer to Base

On arrival, the group will be met at San Jose’s International Airport by a GVI representative or staff member. Students and accompanying teachers/chaperones will be transferred to their hostel accommodation and given time to settle in and rest before meeting in the afternoon for familiarisation with Emergency Action Plans and Health and Safety Risks as well as an overview of GVI and what our overall aims are globally as well as locally.

Day 2: Arrival in Quepos

Accompanied by a GVI staff member or representative, the group will journey by bus 3,5 hours to Quepos where the trip will be based. The group will meet for an afternoon orientation and welcome session. The week’s logistics, duties and responsibilities will be explained and the GVI staff and local partners introduced. Materials and tools will also be prepped so as to maximise productivity for the next 4 days.

Days 3-5: Construction based service and reflective learning

The exact construction project will be based on the requirements of our local partners at the time. The group can expect to be involved in building renovation and maintenance of a local school or community centre. The days are long and volunteers should expect to be working in a hot and humid climate. Don’t worry this is often interspersed with refreshing downpours! It is important to be flexible and adaptable to the changing nature of life in Costa Rica.

Each evening the students will come together for group and individual reflection work. This is time set aside for a discussion on the day’s achievements and how make the following day as constructive as possible.

Day 6: Presentation of work and a bit of fun

A special day for the group as they present their work to the local partners set to benefit from their time spent in the field. To celebrate the group will spend the afternoon enjoying the beautiful beaches of Manual Antonio National Park. The group may wish to take part in a surfing lesson or perhaps a trek through the rainforest for a chance to spot local fauna and flora.

Day 7: A Fond Farewell

GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavour to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field and with particular reference to the projects volunteers contributed to during their time in Costa Rica, through "GVI Live" on social media.

**Your trip can be extended to include additional side trips and / or further service work.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


Why Choose GVI?

There are many reasons why you should consider GVI for your group trip. Allow us to take you through some of the important points:

  • GVI has over 15 years of experience - Since we began in 1997, we have sent over 20,000 young people on trips all over the world. Most describe their experience with us as life-changing with a 95% approval rate from our customers



  • We are a ground operator - We run and staff our projects 24/7, all year round which means we understand and know the area you will be visiting enabling us to deliver a high quality level of support, safety and training at very competitive prices



  • Our variety of programs is unique and unrivalled - We offer language courses, community and conservation projects, leadership programs, cultural immersion, adventure activities and mountain trekking.



  • Peace of mind - You know that our projects make a real and positive impact on the local communities you visit. Since we started we have developed over 150 projects around the world.



  • Project ownership - We run our projects in partnership with local communities, according to the needs on the ground, so you know they are genuinely worthwhile



  • We are different from most other school providers - We already have projects and programs in place. We have been working in these countries for over 15 years and are working hand in hand with the host communities to ensure their needs are being met.



  • Teachers/Educators travel free



  • Safety is our priority - We have comprehensive safety and back up procedures in place.



  • Flexibility - Our trips are available all year round so you tell us when you want to travel.



  • The GVI Charitable Trust - Enables your school to stay involved with your program after you return home.



  • Students will automatically become GVI members, enabling them to benefit from discounts on any future GVI trips.



  • There are opportunities for students to be GVI Ambassadors – excellent for university and college applications.

What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • 24/7 back up and support
  • A dedicated trip co-ordinator
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Access to local medical facilities
  • Accommodation
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Comprehensive health and safety procedures (Emergency Action Plans and Risk Assessments)
  • First aid equipment
  • Flight booking service on request
  • Food and drinking water
  • Group leader
  • Highly experienced and well qualified GVI field staff
  • In-country support
  • In-country transport costs
  • Insurance on request
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Pre-departure information
  • Risk assessments
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Up-to-date safety and country information
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Additional spending money
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check
  • Vaccinations
  • Visa costs (where necessary)
  • Visas