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Alternative Spring Break Costa Rica Community Development

Take your spring break opportunity to a new level, instead of simply travelling spend your time giving back to a local community in Costa Rica.


Program Information

Experience a closer look at sustainable development projects, looking at what contributes to viable long term progress. Get involved in helping to develop the infrastructure and educational environments of Quepos, Costa Rica. In addition to volunteering spend time exploring the fascinating and diverse Pacific coast of the country.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Embark on an alternative spring break volunteer experience focused on learning about sustainable development and contributing towards vital development projects.

In the town of Quepos, a coastal community based at the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, partake in a variety of development programs dependent on the needs of the community at the time. Most programs will revolve around construction and restoration projects focused on community and educational centres.



In addition to contributing to a diverse range of projects you will also have time to explore the stunning area surrounding Quepos. The Pacific coast provides fantastic surf opportunities, the nearby jungles are full of incredible wildlife, and the surrounding towns provide a taste of typical Costa Rican culture.

In addition to educational opportunities to learn more about sustainable development there will also be organised reflection sessions where individuals will engage in critical conversations surrounding their involvement on the project, their perceived successes, and perceived areas for personal development.

Highlights

Live in and explore a typical Costa Rican town; one that is close to exciting adventure activities but not located right on the typical backpackers route.

Create connections with the local community that are typically hard to develop in only a week, getting the chance to better know individuals providing a unique glimpse into ‘Tico’ culture.

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

Program Details

Project Life

Your experience in Costa Rica will begin in the cultural capital of San Jose. This is where you will initially meet up with the rest of the group and begin with a comprehensive orientation covering essential elements for the upcoming week. You will review the projects that GVI is running in Costa Rica, a general cultural introduction to the country, as well as a beginning conversation surrounding what creates a successful development project.

Once in the town of Quepos you will jump into contributing to various development projects. You might find yourself building new shelves for the local library, jazzing up the local community centre with a fresh coat of paint, or working alongside locals to add to the expansion of the town’s communal garden. Additional activities might include partaking in teaching English classes to both children and adults and organising after school activities revolving around either athletics or the arts.

During the week’s hands on elements there will also be time to learn more about Costa Rican culture, successful sustainable development projects, and your individual reflections surrounding the spring break experience.

The weekend and evenings are for explorations and many activities will be on offer dependent on the interests of the group. Cultural classes might include local cooking or dance classes, side trips might include ventures into the jungle, to nearby towns, or even a mangrove tour!

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 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.


Country Exploration

Joining a GVI program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunity to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer. Many decide to travel before or after their GVI experience, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.


Our own long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.


Weekend Trips

Manuel Antonio National Park

The gorgeous National Park of Manuel Antonio is less than a ten-minute bus ride away. Here lush tropical rainforests coincide with the stunning beaches of the Pacific coast. The park is acclaimed as one of the most biodiverse on the planet. Hike the forest trails or zipline through the canopies spotting exotic species like the mantled howler monkeys and two-toed sloths. You can also book a white water rafting trip.


Surfing

Costa Rica is well-known as a surfing destination and the Pacific Coast town of Quepos features some incredibly beaches. You can also explore nearby like Jaco, Dominical, Punta Arenas, and Playa Hermosa known for their excellent surfing conditions.


Mangrove Tour

Mangrove wetlands are a fragile, yet vital ecosystem, providing shelter to precious species, protection from tropical storms along coastlines, and act as a carbon sink, draining excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Learn more about the importance of these systems by booking one of several mangrove tours in the Quepos area.


White-water Rafting

The coastal region of Quepos is dotted with rivers flanked with dense jungle. The powerful currents and diverse landscape make for excellent white-water river rafting.  


Kayaking and Canoeing

There are also many more peaceful rivers to explore on a kayak or canoe. The tranquil setting will allow you to spot local wildlife like monkeys and birds in the canopies above.


Canopy Tour

Fly through the rainforest like superman, walk gingerly across a suspended walkway, and rappel down jungle waterfalls, by booking on of the many canopy tours available.


Coffee Plantation Tour

Coffee connoisseurs can book a tour of one of the local coffee plantations. Costa Rica has a rich history of growing the crop, and you can learn about farming methods, both old and new, while sampling the local brew.


Further Travels

San Jose

Explore the capital of Costa Rica, for an insight into the country’s heritage and modern lifestyle. Learn about the country’s ancient cultures by visiting the Gold or Jade museums and visit restaurants to sample authentic Latin American fare.


Volcanoes

View the active volcanoes of Arenal and Poas from a safe distance and experience the beautiful natural habitats that flourish in the surrounding fertile soils.


National Parks

With one of the greatest biodiversities in the world and a commitment to preserving this unique natural heritage Costa Rica features many natural reserves that offer plenty of opportunities to spot one-of-a-kind wildlife.


Other Latin American Nations

There are plenty of opportunities for further exploration throughout Latin America. Travel South to Panama and then Colombia or North to Nicaragua and Honduras.


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.


Select a Start Date

  • 2019

Select a Duration

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Select Add-Ons

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+ £15
 

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.

live base 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

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.


As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.