Recent Volunteer Abroad Programs
- Galapagos Islands Naturalist
- Arborist or Tree Surgeon
- Yoga Teacher & Receptionist
- River Turtle Conservation & Research
- Hospitality & Peace Programs
Recent Study Abroad Programs
Here are the latest experiences and reviews from previous volunteers on current and past projects. If you are interested in reading more volunteer reviews you can view the information on-screen by clicking on this link (PDF 283K): volunteer latin america reviews.
For the past four months, I have been living my dream working for Abriendo Mentes in Costa Rica. As a recent college graduate, who studied International Relations and Human Rights, I was eager to do some field work and to learn about small, grassroots NGOs. Volunteer Latin America helped me find the perfect position. I gave Stephen Knight my resume and filled out a short Q&A. In return, he sent me an extensive list of volunteer positions that seemed tailored to my interests. Ultimately, I decided to apply to Abriendo Mentes, an NGO focused on empowering individuals from underserved rural communities in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I like Abriendo Mentes because all their programs run at community request. No outsider is going into the villages and dictating what is best for the locals. Instead, the locals decide the Abriendo Mentes programs. In the past few decades, Guanacaste has changed dramatically. The influx of tourists and expatriates have turned the agricultural economy into a service based economy. Farmlands are being developed at accelerating rates leaving people without their livelihoods. Meanwhile, Costa Ricans from outside Guanacaste are swooping in to take advantage of the new jobs. This is because, though Costa Rica is focusing on education, indigenous and rural communities are being left behind. In our region, kids go to school an average of 3 hours per day, 85 days per year. The unemployment rate is a whopping 40% and the poverty rate is 29%. For this reason, the communities have asked Abriendo Mentes to supplement education and to specifically teach English and computation, two skills that are valuable in the new tourist based economy. Right now, Abriendo Mentes holds classes for English, computation, volleyball, zumba, lacrosse, and environmental science. However, I do not teach. Though I enjoy working with the students, my interests lie in the administrative side of the NGO. At Abriendo Mentes, I work as the Social Media Coordinator. I update all social media outlets, write monthly newsletters, lead communications campaigns, create and distribute marketing materials for the Abriendo Mentes community, and write for local Costa Rican publications. Because the organization is so small, I also get to act as a sort of Development Associate, sourcing and writing grants, helping to plan fundraisers, and communicating with donors. This position has been perfect for me. I was able to hit the ground running and gain skills necessary to move forward in my career. University taught me the complex sensitivities of international development work, but this position is teaching me how NGOs are run. I'm so grateful to Volunteer Latin America for helping me to find this position.
All my best
I just returned from my volunteer experience in Parismina, Costa Rica. I volunteered for 2 weeks (March 30 to April12) to help Leatherback Turtles to nest through the organization ASTOP. The experience was marvellous. Beach patrols would be conducted at night, in which a group of volunteers and 1 or 2 guides would walk along a survey route on the beaches of Parismina looking for turtles about to nest or nesting. When we found a nesting female, we would quietly wait for her to begin laying eggs before we moved closer to her. The turtles apparently enter a trance-like state as they lay eggs. Once they are doing so, we would move closer to her and collect the eggs, measure the turtle, record her tags or tag her. We would bring the collected eggs to a “hatchery,” a prepared part of the beach where ASTOP had arranged for 24 hour protection of the eggs. As I was leaving my 2 week volunteer effort, there were 15 nests of eggs being protected, approximately 1,200 eggs (at about 80 eggs per nest). The effort will continue through the nesting period of the Leatherback Turtle. Many thousands of eggs will be protected to help to ensure this endangered species’ survival into the future.
Before we went on our first patrol, we were trained regarding turtle biology and natural history, and techniques of turtle patrols. Everyone on a patrol had an opportunity to do each job from collecting the leathery eggs, to recoding data, making the “nest” in the hatchery, and burying the eggs in the new man-made “nest.” Many people also volunteered to serve as hatchery guards, ensuring that the eggs remain undisturbed from when the new “nest” is created until the eggs hatch and the young turtles leave for the ocean.
I chose the homestay program because I wanted to get to know the local people and to get to practice speaking Spanish. I enjoyed the homestay program immensely. My hostess, Evelyn Betencourt Herrara, and her three sons were friendly, thoughtful and considerate. Evelyn made a different classic Costa Rican for each lunch and dinner during my stay with her. She is an excellent cook and I truly believe that I experienced a great “tour” of the cuisine of Costa Rica. If you are considering volunteering in Parismina, I would highly recommend that you stay with Evelyn.