Travel to Latin America and explore the lively towns of Playa del Carmen and Quepos on this multi country project! Contribute to valuable childcare initiatives in both regions with our partners Save the Children and the local community of Quepos with the aim to give disadvantaged children a safe place to learn, play and grow.
In Mexico, you will be volunteering in a children’s centre run by Save the Children. Your responsibilities will be extremely varied on this project, but will be focused on empowering young children to know and apply their rights and how to handle various situations.
In Costa Rica you will be placed in a local school in the nearby town of Quepos where your time will be spent giving English classes to children and other community members and organising art workshops, games and sports sessions. You may also get involved in music lessons, academic support and extra-curricular activities.
Through volunteering in both of these regions, you will experience an intimate look into the communities and their culture, while learning Spanish and improving the education and support available to local children.
If you do not speak Spanish, don’t worry! This programme provides you with an excellent opportunity to learn a new language and work with children at the same time. Speak to your coordinator about arranging Spanish lessons (extra to the program) that will fully prepare you for life on the program.
Please note travel between Mexico and Costa Rica is not included, but please speak to your Country Expert who will be able to advise you on your options and costs involved.
Contribute to valuable childcare initiatives in Latin American countries; live with volunteers from all over the world; explore ancient ruins, tropical rainforests and pristine beaches; contribute to dimensioning child violence and abuse; support disadvantaged children; make a sustainable impact on communities; practice your Spanish; get up close and personal with fantastic wildlife and take part in a myriad of optional side trips during your free time.
"Many GVI programs are great working vacations. They will provide you with skills you can use the rest of your life. You will have an amazing experience and meet people you will remember for the rest of your life. You will be working alongside people as young as college ages, to people between jobs and from all walks of life. The settings are often rustic, but turn out more comfortable than you expect."
What's Not Included
Throughout your time on the programme, you will be working from Monday to Friday helping the children with their homework, preparing posters, creating educational resources, keeping the centre clean and playing games with the children. A lot of the work will be focused around teaching the children their rights, making them aware of how to keep safe and teaching them how to identify different forms of violence.
Accommodation will be shared rooms with other volunteers in a house or apartment as well as shared bathroom and communal areas. On weekends you will be able to explore all that the Rivera Maya has to offer! Explore the Mayan ruins, snorkel in a cenote or simply relax on the pristine beaches of Playa del Carmen.
Your time volunteering in Costa Rica will be divided between the following:
Childcare and Teaching
Working in a local school, you will be planning and leading your own basic lessons in small groups and assisting teachers with their classes, both in Spanish and English. You should expect to get involved in arts and crafts classes, environmental education and educational games.
By assisting with sport activities you will be able to teach the children good values and encourage them to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, which will help to enhance their personal development. Volunteers should expect to be extremely active during this program and will be leading a wide variety of sport activities such as football, volleyball and active games for small children such as hide and seek
Accommodation will be shared with your fellow volunteers, with shared bathrooms and general communal areas. On weekends you are encouraged to explore the nearby area by taking part in one of the many optional side trips in order to make the most out of your time in Costa Rica.
If you would prefer to stay in private accommodation while on this project, these locations do offer upgrades. Contact us for more information, or mention to your Country Expert who will be able to assist you.
What's Not Included
Our project aims vary between countries, but are all focused around building a better future and support structure for these children.
In Mexico, our partner Save the Children, is absolutely committed to ensuring children are safe and know their rights. The majority of parents in Mexico have to work long hours in order to support their families, meaning young children are often left alone for large parts of the day. Others have been victims of aggression and are in need of support. The centres run by Save the Children creates a safe environment where these children are able to play and learn.
Our goals for our project in Costa Rica is to establish long-term sustainable educational programs; address the shortage of teachers in the Quepos community; ensure basic student needs are met so they can pursue enrolment and establishing other school activities to encourage students to finish their primary and secondary education.
Quepos and Playa del Carmen' s 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:
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
In Playa del Carmen:
1. Improve the quality of education at the Ludoteca, Contando con un amigo and Corazones
2. Raise awareness on animal welfare
3. Increase in-country capacity by providing training to local members of the community
4. Minimize the environmental impact on the Playa base and projects, and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and children in the projects
5. Increase the quality of the resources at the ludoteca, escuelita, Contando con un amigo, Corazones and Coco's
6. Improve the volunteer's experience in the projects.
How this project makes a difference
In Mexico, Save the Children figures indicate that 95% of children in Cancun suffer from some type of aggression either physical or verbal, 70% of the children in Quintana Roo suffer of abandonment, 43% of the children between 6 and 17 years old know a gang member and 25% of the children have seen drugs or know a child that sells them. The volunteering that you will be doing helps protect children who have been affected by abuse, abandonment or the drug trade, and equips others with the knowledge of how to be safe should they come into contact with these kinds of threats in the future.
In partnership with the local community in Quepos, Costa Rica, the childcare project was established to help reduce teacher to student ratios and help provide additional support to keep students engaged. GVI Volunteers continue to help provide assistance to the community through after school programs, sports, English classes and more.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Mexico and Costa Rica!
Optional Side Trips
In this region you are spoilt for choice in the number of activities you can try out! Spend the day snorkelling with turtles of all sizes in Akumal Bay; explore the cenotes (underwater river systems); visit Cozumel, an island renowned for its world class wall dives; or for a full weekend adventure, try Isla Holbox, a small island off the north of the peninsula. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, great for a quiet weekend away. Whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) migrate up near the island from June to September and snorkelling alongside them while they filter feed is a truly breath-taking experience!
Alternatively, immerse yourself in the surviving Mayan culture of the area and visit remote and untouched Mayan archaeological sites, such as the famous and easily accessible sites of Tulum and Coba, or visit the beautiful and majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque in the Chiapas region. And finally, the colonial city of Mérida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and the local artisans of Izamal will be sure to offer you some souvenirs of your trip.
On weekends and downtime, the region around Manuel Antonio is excellent to keep yourself as busy or relaxed as possible! See the pristine beaches and hike the trails of the National Park to discover the diverse wildlife the region has to offer, including four types of monkey; go on a canopy and zip-lining tour through the treetops of the rainforest; visit the small souvenir shops at the beachfront or cafes along the way and watch the world go by; take surf lessons or surf some of the neighbouring breaks in this famous surf destination.
Further Travelling Opportunities
If you want to travel throughout the rest of Mexico either before or after your time with us, there is more than your fair share of interesting places that are well worth a visit. Take a trip to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and experience lowland tropical forests and have an opportunity to try and seek out threatened species; the island of Espíritu Santo offers kayaking with whale sharks (seasonal) and sea lions; if you are keen to try surfing, Puerto Escondido is rated as one of the world’s best surfing spots.
Oaxaca is a beautiful city to visit on the Pacific Coast, a colonial city with some of the nation’s most magnificent architecture, also offering several archaeological sites including the Zapotec ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further south, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, is definitely worth a visit. Colourful buildings, historical architecture, and impressive nearby ecological sites with fun activities will easily keep you entertained for days.
Costa Rica is an amazing country with an abundance of travel opportunities further afield with the following just a snapshot of the many possibilities!
Admire the world famous and active Volcan Arenal at a distance, and relax in the natural hot springs; explore the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park; for the advanced surfer, aim for Pavones, the second longest left break in the world; spot migratory raptor birds in the Talamanca Mountains and visit indigenous villages; go deep sea fishing in the Pacific Ocean; canoe or kayak along the waterways in the local area on organised river tours; visit the Caribbean coast, snorkel and go wildlife watching in Cahuita National Park; go white water rafting on the world famous Pacuare river – rapids classed III to IV; climb Volcan Irazu and visit coffee farms on the way back to San Jose; back in the capital, visit the Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, attend a play in one of the numerous theatres or take in the Latin American vibe with its lively nightlife.
Meet Daniela, our awesome base manager in Playa del Carmen. She is passionate about working with kids and being involved in education in Mexico, her home country. Daniela has a degree in psychology and obtained her Masters in psychoanalysis, which facilitates her with the interaction with kids and volunteers.
Her volunteering journey started out when she joined GVI on our National Scholarship Program and now she has returned to the field to continue making a difference. Daniela worked as a therapist with adolescents with addictions and as a teacher of a special need school and being with other human beings is her speciality. She has travelled to many places abroad and she also used to be a professional dancer for a few years of her life to pay for some of her studies. "I trained in a circus, from acrobats to juggling, I wasn’t really good but the family you get to know there is amazing."
Meet Olivia, our fantastic community officer in Playa, Mexico. She was a volunteer in a Animal Shelter in San Antonio, Texas. She then started working as a Intake Coordinator for the City.
She loves traveling, learning new things, being on the move and meeting new people. Her favourite part about working with GVI is helping others, making a difference in the world, meeting new people and the opportunity of traveling to another countries.
Meet Friso, our sensational science officer in Pez Maya, Mexico. He has backpacked through Australia for 6 months, travelled in South-East Asia for a total of about 3 months. He's spent 5 months on Curacao, Dutch Antilles, and 3 months in Indonesia (Sulawesi and Borneo) for research projects. He Lived and studied in New-Zealand for 6 months and spent another month as a volunteer in a resort in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
He has a Bachelor degree in Earth Sciences and Master degree Limnology & Oceanography at the University of Amsterdam. He is also a PADI Divemaster and thus member of PADI Pro’s.
What he loves the most about GVI is firstly, the people, who he works with at the moment and secondly, practically living on a beach and having an amazing coral reef right on his doorstep is pretty great!
Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.
When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!
Community Field Staff
Meet Kopa, our Kenyan born Community Field Staff Member in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This ambitious African studied Community Health and Development at the African Institute of Research and Development studies. It was GVI’s objectives and sustainable projects that first attracted him to join our team.
Kopa joined GVI in 2012 as a valued staff member in Kenya. Here he put his skills and knowledge to work and managed to upgrade a new health project to a standing one. Kopa, or Doctor as his friends call him, also worked with PSI (Population Services International) for 15 months and with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health for 4 years.
Kopa is crazy about Zanzibar’s golden beaches and apparently he is quite the multitasker - he can make sounds from his mouth and whistle at the same time! Living in Mexico, he is having the time of his life, meeting different people with different cultures from all parts of the world!
Meet Kerry, our IDC Staff Instructor in Pez Maya, Mexico! Kerry's diving adventure began in 2008 in Coffs Harbour, Australia, where she managed a hostel with an onsite dive shop. After attempting a 9-5 lifestyle, Kerry decided the ocean was calling and joined our Divemaster Internship in Mexico. She completed her work placement at XTC, which led onto her completing her Instructor Development Course as well!
Kerry went on to use her qualifications to work as an instructor at a PADI Career Development Centre in Vietnam, where she progressed to an IDC Staff Instructor whilst managing two of their dive centres.
Since leaving GVI it was always Kerry's aim to return as a staff member and we are thrilled to have her back! "I am excited to see many new Divemasters and Instructors as a result of these internships and see them on the road towards an exciting and rewarding career path."
Meet James, a certified Dive master, EFR Instructor and a graduate in Environmental Science. James is our base manager and a very skilled boat driver, teacher and maintenance guy at our Marine conservation program in Pez Maya, Mexico!
Before joining GVI James worked with various NGO’s around the World and has even lived in Madagascar! “It’s such a massive country! There’s so much to do and see and the biodiversity on land and in the ocean is incredible!”
What’s James’s favourite aspect of his job? “The point when volunteers have been here for a few weeks and start to remember the names of things in the sea, seeing that extra bit of excitement when they see something and can name it – that’s when I know I’m doing my job right.” The most interesting discovery up to date was when he found an anchor which they have lost a few months previously, with a fairly large octopus attached underneath.
Random fact about our James, he can sing All The Countries of The World by the Animaniacs! Make sure you request a rendition when you visit our Pez Maya hub!
Meet Alejandro, our logistics coordinator in Playa del Carmen. He started out with GVI as one of our National Scholarship Program participants in 2007. With a degree in Tourism Management and a passionate commitment to improving our world, we just had to keep him!
Alejandro’s favourite aspect of his job? Our Partners. “The opportunity to partner with organisations that share our goal to make the world better is amazing, also seeing the way volunteers connect with the children and the huge effect they have on their development, even over a short period of time. They’re a great resource for the children’s education.”
When he’s not working, Alejandro likes to explore the local area, visiting the Mayan ruins and national parks, or relaxing at the beach.
Meet Lluvia, our Country Director for Mexico. With a history in environmental education, she initially joined GVI as a participant in our National Scholarship Programme, and we just couldn’t let her go!
Lluvia is a qualified Dive Master and Biologist, who she spent 3 years working as field staff and base manager in Pez Maya.
Her favourite experience since she joined GVI? Diving with dolphins. ”We were on our way to a dive site when a pod of dolphins came along and started jumping in and out of the water alongside the boat. They stayed with us for the entyre dive, getting really close and were looking at us. It was of course, my best dive ever!”
What does Lluvia think volunteers contribute to the projects? “The work that the volunteers do is extremely important; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to run the projects. The different activities they do like collecting data on the reef, delivering environmental education lessons, helping out running the toy libraries, all help our partners to achieve their goals.”