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Community and Social Work Internships

San Jose, Costa Rica

Agency | GoEco

Gain practical experience in the field of social work by helping at-risk and impoverished youth and women.

While Costa Rica is known for its very high literacy rate and continually ranks on various top travel destination lists, it also has impoverished and at-risk communities. In and around the city of San José, we have selected several well-established programs for our interns that aim to uplift and provide support for these communities. Whether you want to empower women, improve conditions for low-income families or guide young girls, adults and senior citizens, this internship will provide you with a deeper understanding of underserved communities of Costa Rica.

About the location

Costa Rica is a country that is famous for its lush tropical rainforests and sprawling beaches.  It is a top destination for ecotourism and many flock to the country to discover its fascinating animal and plant life.  San José, the capital, is home to nearly half of the country’s population and an array of historical museums. The food, culture, customs and crafts found in Costa Rica are a reflection of the various influences from Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans.  

About the projects

Interns will have an opportunity to choose from several different placement options in the fields of community development, women’s issues or healthcare. Each of the placements will be very demanding, but the work and contribution that interns can make is invaluable. This internship is designed to provide interns with both the practical and professional experience needed for a career in social work or a related field.  To ensure the best possible experience, interns will have weekly meetings with their supervisors, as well as a final evaluation of the intern’s performance. 

Casa de Maria Auxiliadora: This non-profit was created with the aim of helping the less fortunate. This institution offers lodging, meals, education, health services and spiritual guidance. It is divided into five areas: a health and medical office, assistance for seniors, teenagers & young adults, education for dropouts, a boarding school for young girls, and a daycare.
Interns should be 4th year college students or college graduates.

Fundación RAHAB: This foundation focuses on offering a holistic rehabilitation and recovery program to women who have been part of the sex industry and are now looking to join the labor market.  Along with individual and group therapy, the women and their children can participate in literacy classes, elementary education, computer training and micro-enterprise administration. The women are also taught vocational skills, including sewing, quilting, baking, jewelry-making and cosmetology.  Additionally, the foundation offers support groups for girls and teens that are at a high-risk for entering the sex industry.
Interns should be 4th year college students or college graduates (only women are accepted to this project).

Home for the Elderly: This home is part of a group of 110 non profit institutions which form the National Federation of Elderly Protection. It receives funds from families and pensions of paying residents, from private donations and government assistance. It is accredited and supervised by the Ministry of Health. With the support of the government institution IMAS (Institute of Social Assistance) the project was able to provide day care and a home for elderly people of the community since 1990. This is a nursing home that cares for 55 peope. Services provided include geriatric services, recreational therapy, physiotherapy, nursing service, spiritual growth and comprehensive services of eldercare.

IOM- International Organization for Migration: IOM, established in 1951, is the main intergovernmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. It has 165 member states, 8 states enjoying observer status and offices in over 100 countries IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. This organization mainly accepts interns in the areas of communication, public/international relations and international policy, but internships in other fields can be requested and arranged. Basic understanding of international migration, and political-social implications on macro and micro levels is required.

Centro de Desarrollo Integral Barrio Mexico: this non profit community development organization works in coordination with NGOs and government institutions and provides different workshops and counseling for families, adolescents and children. It also offers educational, artistic and sports activities for the community Interns can work assisting director/social worker and other staff in workshops and community activities.

Orientation and Spanish Course (included)

The first week of this program consists of Spanish lessons (four days total) and cultural enrichment activities to facilitate communication at your project and help you acclimate to Costa Rica. During the Spanish course, you will learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and conversational skills.  Participation in the orientation week is mandatory.  
On the first day of your Spanish course, you will take an oral exam to determine your current language level. After you register and submit your application, you will also submit a written exam. Both the oral and written exam will be taken into consideration to determine which class you will placed in upon arrival.  During your orientation week, you'll also learn all about your designated project and you'll have a chance to visit the project's facilities. 

A typical day during orientation: Spanish class begins at 9am, with a one hour break for lunch at noon and then finishing for the day at about 3pm. You will then have the chance to join different cultural enrichment activities such as Latin dance classes, Costa Rican cooking courses, yoga lessons or informal Spanish conversation practice. After 5pm, you will have the evenings free to explore the area with fellow volunteers, study or relax at home.

If you speak basic or no Spanish, you'll need to enroll in extra Spanish lessons. Cost: US$380 per week. 

If you speak fluent Spanish before coming to the project, an exception may be made to waive the language course (though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience). Your fluency will be determined by your written exam and during your phone interview. Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.

Typical day

You can expect to take a public bus from your homestay to arrive at your project location at 8:00 am.  Your tasks will vary depending on your placement, so it is vital that you are flexible and willing to help the staff with whatever tasks need to be done. Generally you leave your project around 4:00 pm.

Details on Arrival

Holidays: Day care centers and soup kitchen projects close for a short break from Christmas to New Year. Community Development programs are open year round, including holidays.

Free-time activities

Costa Rica is a diverse country with activities to suit anyone’s interests. Visit one of the famous volcanoes, see the country’s wildlife in the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast, or the Tortuguero Canals on the Caribbean side, or enjoy a hike through the Costa Rican forests.  Adventure seekers will find plenty of activities to keep them busy including surfing, white water rafting, zip-lining through the treetops, and more.

Water Sports

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak Spanish (intermediate level)
Criminal Background Check
Education Requirements
Social Work at High school, Graduate or university level
Required Documents
CV/Resume: A detailed CV including educational background ; experience; skills; and current Spanish level; must be submitted and reviewed before acceptance to the program and A motivational letter indicating internship expectations
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You must have an intermediate level of Spanish. If not, you should be prepared to enroll in additional weeks of Spanish lessons.
Written Spanish exam must be completed and emailed prior to arrival (oral evaluation will be done on the first day of internship).
There will be a phone interview with each applicant.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Suitable for


Any questions? Just ask. We at GoEco are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation

Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by GoEco.
Services by GoEco

What's included:

  • Accommodation
  • Food: breakfast and dinner
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure day
  • Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
  • One-week orientation in San Jose including cultural enrichment activities and Spanish courses
  • Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support

Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaria International Airport

Airport transfer is provided on arrival and departure day


You will live with a host family in San José who will provide you with a comfortable, basic, private room in their home, which is a short bus ride away from the language school. Most families will have Internet at their homes and you are welcome to use the WiFi at the language school, which is open until 5:00 pm, during the entire length of your stay.

Guest Family
Food & Beverages

Your host family will provide breakfast and dinner every day.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica.
Costs (Prices in USD)
5 weeks (min. stay)
6 weeks
7 weeks
8 weeks
9 weeks
10 weeks
11 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in San Jose/Costa Rica between 5 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. GoEco will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Costa Rica.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with GoEco during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

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