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Costa Rican Rainforest Exploration And Cultural Immersion Alternative Spring Break Program For Teens

Use your spring break wisely contributing to vital community development projects on Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific coast.


Program Information

Spend an entire week contributing to a range of projects in the Quepos community of Costa Rica. Jump into construction projects, educational support, and sports development initiatives. In your free time explore the stunning biodiversity of the region and the vibrant culture of Latin America.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Choose to turn your spring break into a truly unforgettable experience, by diving into a week far more involved than any holiday. Spend your time contributing to community development projects that are dependent on the needs of the community at the time.

You will work in the community of Quepos, a coastal community based at the entrance to Manuel Antonio National park. Days may be spent refurbishing furniture for local community centers, teaching English to students in after school programs, or painting classrooms to create more inviting environments.



In addition to contributing to a diverse range of projects you will also get ample time to explore the culture and surrounding area of Costa Rica. A place of surf waves, biodiverse jungles, and a general relaxed and friendly way of life.

Balanced between volunteer work, adventure activities, and cultural excursions. This trip is an excellent opportunity to experience everything a Latin American adventure should be, but one that also benefits the local community.

Highlights Include

Making a connection with the local community that is often hard to accomplish over a shorter period of time.

Live in and explore a typical Costa Rican town; one that is close to exciting adventure activities, but also isolated from the typical tourist route.

View a range of diverse wildlife; howler monkeys, toucans, and sloths in nearby Manuel Antonio National Park

Program Details

Project Life

The program will begin in San Jose, Costa Rica’s centrally located capital city. First up will be meeting with the group and going through a comprehensive introduction which will include; an introduction to the various GVI projects that are running in Costa Rica, a briefing of some of the particular community development issues that the area faces, and a welcome to the intricacies of Costa Rican culture.

The group will then be transported to the town of Quepos, which is about three hours away from San Jose, and will jump straight into the various volunteer projects. Day to day involvement will be completely dependent on the needs of the community at the time and previous projects that need added attention.

Volunteers will help to develop both the infrastructure and the quality of educational offerings in order to bring a better quality of life to local disadvantaged youth. Most work will revolve around construction, renovation, developing the community gardening projects, or helping with preparations for local community events. There may also be involvement with English teaching and running various after school activities in the community.

Of course time will also be spent exploring and enjoying the pacific coast of Costa Rica. Side projects will be planned for both your evening and weekends as well as a variety of different cultural activities. These will be based on the interests of the group and may include; dance classes, cooking classes, surf lessons, or explorations into the surrounding jungle!

Project Details

As with all GVI volunteer programs, our work is determined in collaboration with community members and will focus on current local needs. Your primary focus will be on assisting on a building or maintenance project.

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 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 fulfill 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

How this project makes a difference

Your presence as a spring break volunteer will aid in ensuring that the community of Quepos is progressing towards their personal goals while simultaneously contributing to overall worldwide sustainable development goals. All construction projects will contribute towards creating safer and more suitable community centres to ensure better opportunities for the future of Costa Rica’s youth.

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.


 


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.

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.


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 conduct, 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.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

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

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, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Upon arrival at the airport participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. Our minimum staff to participant ratio is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.


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.


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 the GVI experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your GVI 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.


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.


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.


Languages

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


Cooking

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


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.


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.


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.


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  • 2019

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Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, 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.
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.