Volunteers work at organizations devoted to raising awareness about environmental issues and rights among vulnerable populations.
Costa Rica is a pioneer in sustainable biodiversity, and has a well-deserved reputation as a global leader in environmental protection. However, Costa Rica still faces complex environmental challenges, including deficient waste management and meeting a growing demand for new clean energy sources. Part of the problem is also related to human behavior. In poverty-stricken communities across the country, socioeconomic needs are at odds with environmentally friendly practices.
Volunteers work at organizations devoted to raising awareness about
environmental issues and rights among vulnerable populations, and
instilling a sense of environmental citizenship.
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers generally work four to six hours a day in a botanical garden, which is part of a botanical center focused on the Neotropic ecozone, which is one of the eight ecozones on Earth. Volunteers help in the field with various tasks, including collecting seeds and identifying species, as well as general plant maintenance, for example watering, cutting and mulching. Volunteers also help with trail maintenance and, depending on local need, may have the incredible opportunity to work with the biologists and botanical professionals at the center.
There is no typical day :-)
Volunteering abroad is all about finding your role in local communities. Unlike a tourist, volunteers travel to serve instead of to be served.
Also, remember that you’re working in the developing world in very poor contexts—conditions are constantly changing. There is no script to follow and being adaptable is crucial. This is what makes international volunteering challenging and rewarding.
In general though, you’ll be working Monday through Friday. Weekends are off. Every project is different, so you want to read the detailed project descriptions.
Connecting with the locals and other volunteers is also a big part of the experience. You’ll have plenty of time after your work and on the weekends. Volunteers often check out tourist sites together, hang out in the evening, travel on the weekends, etc. It’s up to you, don’t worry you’ll have a lot of fun too :-)
Cartago is a very pleasant place to live. Cartago was a major colonial city that served as the capital of Costa Rica until 1823. You can feel the history in the heart of town when you visit the Basilica, the most important church in the country, and walk around the bustling city center and markets. Cartago also hosts the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, which brings a lot of life to the city. Volunteers love the small city feel and authenticity of Cartago’s daily life, but the also take advantage of the proximity of natural wonders like the Irazu Volcano and the breathtaking Orosi Valley, where you can hike mountains, practice adventure sports like rafting, and visit coffee plantations. On weekends, volunteers often venture outside to enjoy Costa Rica, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and a true eco-tourism paradise. You can also go to the beach, either on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts, some of which are conveniently accessible by bus from Cartago.
When you arrive at the Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose, a driver meets you and brings you to your accommodations in Cartago, which is about 30-45 minutes from the airport depending on traffic.
In Cartago, you have two excellent housing options:
Volunteer House: Volunteers live in a comfortable and welcoming Volunteer House that is part of a lively hostel. It is very well located in the city center. There’s restaurants, shops and lots of life in the area. Staff is available 24/7 at the house to assist volunteers with any needs that may arise.
You usually share a room with one to three other volunteers. Bathrooms are shared. Rooms and bathrooms are cleaned on a regular basis. Wireless internet is available, and there are nice common areas for people to relax and hang out. The community vibe of the Volunteer House is really special. Volunteers can wash their clothes on Saturdays using the Volunteer House machines, just note that you need to buy your own laundry detergent.
Host Family: Volunteers live with a local family in central Cartago. The families are very friendly and used to welcoming international visitors and making them feel at home. The homes are some of the most affluent in the city and feature all modern Western amenities, including internet. Volunteers generally share a bedroom and bathroom with other volunteers. Special accommodations for couples, families and older volunteers can be made with us during the application process. The houses are close to conveniences like grocery stores, shops and public transportation.
There are significantly more costs in running a Volunteer House. If you pick to live in the Volunteer House there is an extra cost of US$60 per week. So, for example, if you want to stay in the Volunteer House and volunteer for three weeks, then you would pay the cost listed under the “cost” tab above, as well as an extra US$60 X 3 weeks or US$180. This is still incredibly affordable and in line with UBELONG’s mission to offer volunteer programs at the most affordable cost.
Costa Rican cuisine is flavorful, yet quite mild and focused on highlighting the high quality of simple natural ingredients. Abundant with fresh vegetables and fruits, and usually accompanied by the traditional black beans and rice, you can expect to eat nutritious and tasty meals prepared either at the Volunteer House or by your family. Volunteers receive breakfast and dinner every day.