Volunteers work in either a living center, a boarding school or a local NGO for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Many children in Cartago suffer from problems typically associated with poverty conditions, such as domestic violence, neglect and abuse. Life for many senior citizens is also difficult. While the government and the church provide some support, caregiving institutions require constant resources and manpower to assist the most vulnerable. The caregiving projects support local organizations that provide disadvantaged children and senior citizens emotional, educational and social support.
Volunteers bring new energy and ideas, and provide positive stimulation through different activities. Volunteers live in Cartago and work in the city and surrounding areas.
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers work from five to seven hours a day in either a living center or a boarding school for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of the children, with ages ranging between 3 and 18, have been emotionally, physically and/or sexually abused, while others are in the middle of custody fights or fighting drug problems. Volunteers partake in a range of daily activities, which may include homework help, playing sports or organizing sport activities, and making art. Volunteers can also organize English tutoring activities when appropriate. As needed, volunteers also help the local staff with daily chores like administration and planning recreational activities.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Volunteers work with local teachers to help plan and lead classes for students ages 12 to 15, although there may be students who are older.
Volunteers work in local schools or community centers teaching English to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Volunteers can contribute to a variety of medical areas, mainly treatment of tropical infectious diseases.
Volunteers work under the direction of the local medical professionals who determine the level of responsibility delegated to volunteers.
Volunteers work with a local organization that supports poor girls in rural communities.
Volunteers assist a local human rights organization that helps working children to get back to school. Volunteers work with project staff four to six.