About Costa Rica

The Global Volunteer Network gives you the chance to become involved in a variety of community and conservation projects in Costa Rica. With such a variety of projects this program has something to suit everyone.

You have the opportunity to contribute to turtle conservation, orphanage, teaching, construction, healthcare, and agricultural projects.

Costa Rica is one of the most exotic places on earth, offering unrivalled natural beauty, active volcanoes, rainforests and a wide range of national parks and eco-tourism opportunities.

For more information, please visit the Global Volunteer Network Costa Rica program page.

Recent Costa Rica Journals:

The Bachelorette Party

 Posted by Natalie Gilbert at 7:35 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on The Bachelorette Party
May 042015

The sounds and smells and sights of Costa Rica are like none I’ve ever experienced before. There is so much green here, so much you wouldn’t believe. It’s like every inch of the country was originally green and over time people have tried to squeeze color in. From the sky, this country looks like a green canvas with colorful blocks strewn about. And up close, it looks just about the same. It’s incredible. I knew the people here were unlike the people in the United States before I even got out of the San Jose airport. I forgot to write my accommodation address on a customs form, so I asked a man and his wife nearby if they had a pen I could borrow, the man handed me two, and said “Here is one, plus an extra, just in case” I’ve lived in the United States for almost 20 years, and not once have I experienced simple generosity like that from a stranger. Costa Rica is a compilation of hills and fast cars and carefree drivers. The difference between crazy drivers here and ones in the United States, however, is that drivers here are all relaxed. Every single of one them. I tried to explain road-rage to my host mother and she basically laughed in my face. Every person, animal, business, attitude in the fabric of this country is relaxed- that is the biggest culture shock so far. I’ve been in Costa Rica for less than a day, but I am already prepared to go back to the United States, shake every person I see, and ask them “What is the rush?” Glenda, the granddaughter of my host parents, came and picked me up from my house this afternoon and told me that we were going to a Bachelorette party. [click here to read more]

Before I Go

 Posted by Natalie Gilbert at 1:57 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Before I Go
Apr 212015

In just 12 days I will be on a plane to Houston TX, then on to San Jose, Costa Rica! This is a very surreal and scary moment- I feel like I am very unprepared and am forgetting about 26 things that I need. Although intimidating and overwhelming, volunteering abroad has been something that has been weighing on me for a very long time. Ever since I was a little girl, I was concerned with people and their lifestyles in other countries- how are they doing? What do their lives look like compared to mine? So. Before I go, there is something I want to take this time to say. Before I get to Costa Rica and am overwhelmed by new sights and smells and people and culture, I feel lucky to have this opportunity! Many people dream of going to another country and doing what they can to help, and I get three weeks to do just that! I want to embrace and remember this feeling of excitement and being anxious because before I know it, my time abroad will be over and I’ll just have memories to hold on to. Before I go, I want to say what an amazing chance I have here to make a difference. I am nowhere close to being ready to leave for my trip. I have to gather all the correct paperwork, I have to make another trip to the store, I have to check and double check that I have enough clothes packed, and probably at least 6 more things. However, even though I’m not ready, in a way, I’ve been ready for this experience for many years now. 12 days to go!

Adios ninos.

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 9:34 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Adios ninos.
Jul 262014

This is my last volunteer journal. I completed my 4 week placement at Madre Crea, Costa Rica yesterday. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry. I thought that I would, but I realised later that the reasons I didn’t cry are 3 fold: 1) I will stay in touch with the facility, so i will be updated on how the children are doing and they will have a lasting imprint on my memory. 2) I know that the children are in good hands. Most of the mothers at the facility are wonderful women who are trying desperately hard to kick their old habits, for their own sake and for their children. I have every faith in the abilities of the remaining women to abstain from the substances that brought them to Madre Crea in the first place. Plus Nurys, Rosita and Susan are all fantastic people, with excellent attitudes and I know they try their best every day to assist the mothers when they’re having a really hard time. 3) I think I cried all the tears I had for my favourite little boy and his sister when they were removed from the facility. I was truly heartbroken at the prospect of an innocent child being taken to a place with little interaction and genuine affection. I have thought long and hard whilst I have been here about the lasting impact that a volunteer has in these types of situations and through organisations such as GVN and Maximo Nivel. Are we merely babysitting for free, or are we providing a positive lasting impact? I think the truth for most lies somewhere in the middle. From the perspective of the volunteers, the volunteering organisations, the people to whom these volunteers are supporting and to the governments or local authorities who are dealing with these [click here to read more]

Ultimo semana con los ninos.

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 12:45 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Ultimo semana con los ninos.
Jul 212014

It is my last week with the children this week, although I have another week to see more of Costa Rica, as I’ve only had one weekend outside of San Jose since arriving in CR 4 weeks ago. Last week was a bit strange. Since the departure of the little boy and his sister, the eldest boy has returned to school. This only leaves 2 children older than 3. There are a couple of kids who are around the 2-2.5 year age and they’re pretty good fun, but most of the children now left are only babies. One new mother arrived last week and her baby is only 24 days old. There is another mother arriving on Wednesday or Thursday this week and her child is about 18 months old. It’s quite surreal for me to see this because on the one hand, the eldest boy clearly remembers his life before Madre Crea and is aware that his mother is undergoing some kind of “life change”. On the other hand, the kids of 18+ months haven’t seen or don’t remember a life outside of madre crea and I wonder how they will adjust if and when their mothers complete the programme. Both the mothers and the children obviously provide each other with a huge amount of support, both emotionally and intellectually. I also wonder how returning to “normality” will affect the mothers. In an everyday set of circumstances, when people feel emotionally challenged, they will have friends or family to lean on. Some of these mothers have no family and I imagine that part of the programme involves deterring the women from steering towards their old life, old friends and ultimately, old habits. So once finished, if they have no family and they stay away from old friends, I wonder where that emotional support comes from. [click here to read more]

Happier times

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 12:19 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Happier times
Jul 112014

The last couple of days at Madre Crea have been pretty good. I found out that the two children who were going to be taken to an orphanage are still being split up, but they are now being taken in by family, which is much nicer to hear. The two aunts (one maternal and one paternal) came to visit the facility and they appear to be nice people. I was under the impression that either the kids didn’t have any extended family, or the family wasn’t interested in them and that’s why they were being placed in an orphanage. I think though, it’s actually that the family has no interest in the mother and now she is out of the picture, so to speak, the family don’t want the kids to be taken into care. I’ve heard a lot about their mother in the last few days. Apparently, she wasn’t an alcoholic, she was a crack addict. I later found out that crack is the hard drug of choice in Costa Rica as it’s cheap and accessible. In addition, the mother has been taken into a women only rehab facility. She has one year to clean up her act and if she doesn’t, the children will be put up for adoption. Now that I know she’s a crack addict, I am less hopeful that she will be able to stay clean. The daughter was crying a lot yesterday and asking for her mum. That was quite heartbreaking to hear. Try as we might, non of us could console her for about an hour and it was that really horrible, distressed crying, not just crocodile tears. As is stands though, overall, this situation looks a lot better than it did a week ago. I’m pleased for the daughter too as she is missing [click here to read more]

The cakes? No bueno!

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 12:55 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on The cakes? No bueno!
Jul 082014

Yesterday, as a group we decided to make cakes with the children and I was El Capitan for the activity. I took a recipe for butterfly cakes from the famed BE-RO book, which as any British person knows, is a national institution. I translated it into Spanish, printed out a few copies with pictures and then went to buy the ingedients. Problemo uno – went to 3 supermarkets, none of which sold paper cases for cupcakes. Problemo dos – Apparently Latin America, nor Germany as I found out later, use self-raising flour. I can make this work, I cockily thought to myself. I bought plain flour and some sodium bicarb from one shop and managed to find small aluminium foil tins in another shop. Done! And so we made cakes. The activity was a roaring success and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Some of the mothers involved themselves too, which was nice. Everyone was smiling. The cakes went into the oven and the four older children stood by the oven watching the cakes bake. Unfortunately, my estimation of how much bicarb to use per batch was a little off. The cakes were rising, rising, rising and then suddenly, poof, they collapsed under their own weight. I have never been particularly good at baking. Cooking yes, but not baking. This had to be the worst endeavour yet though. Even worse than the time I tried to make vegan cupcakes. And so my cakes came out of the oven and they looked more like ring doughnuts. That wouldn’t have bothered me if they’d have tasted ok, but they tasted like a pack of ready salted crisps. Not what I was going for. The mothers, Nurys (the teacher), Rosita (the cook), Madlen (the other volunteer) and I laughed until we cried. I will now [click here to read more]

Vamos Costa Rica!

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 6:45 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Vamos Costa Rica!
Jul 052014

Costa Rica play the Netherlands in the World Cup in about 2 hours. Should be interesting. I imagine after the celebrations last weekend, that if, by some miracle CR win today, this might be the happiest country in the world for the next 24 hours. Ingrid and I are going to watch the game and then tomorrow I think we’re going to head to the beach. This week has been full of ups and downs. On the one hand, I have seen the amazing work done by Madre Crea to assist mothers on the road to recovery. On the other hand, I have seen what happens when mothers fail to make it through the program…..and it’s about to get worse next week. The ages of the children vary from newborn to six years old. Just because of the person I am, I seem to migrate towards the older kids. There is a boy here who is 3 or 4. He’s the most beautiful, loving, well behaved child I have ever met. He smiles all the time and loves everyone. He’s constantly dishing out cuddles to all of the mothers and all of the volunteers. I adore him. He is an absolute diamond. He has a younger sister, who is also wonderful, but because she is much younger, I haven’t developed the same relationship with her, although the volunteer with whom I work has. Unfortunately for these two children, their mother, when let out of the facility for good behaviour, regressed back to her alcoholic ways. Because she violated the rules of the facility, she has been removed from the program. This means that the children can no longer stay in the facility and have to be taken to an orphanage. As discussed in an earlier post, the orphanages here are [click here to read more]

Host mother, Ingrid and the project

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 4:59 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Host mother, Ingrid and the project
Jul 012014

So I moved in with my host ‘mom’ (spot the Americanism), Kattia, on Sunday afternoon, just in time to see Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shoot out. It was amazing in the streets after that. The people came running out of their houses into the streets. They were all cheering, hugging each other, dancing and waving flags. It was surreal. Then commenced the constant stream of cars, motor bikes and buses parading the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it my life. It was mental. And so on Saturday it begins again, though this time, Costa Rica will be playing the Netherlands, which is likely to end less happily. I live in hope though. Anyway, Kattia is amazing. She is 34 and lives alone, although her sisters live next door. She is an architect, but unfortunately finding proffessional work in Costa Rica is very difficult, so she doesn’t work as an architect, she works in an office with the ministry. At least I think that’s what she does – she doesn’t speak English and my Spanish is sub-optimal! She is really nice, cooks wonderful food and speaks slowly, which is good for me as it takes me about 3 hours to figure out what she says. Then there’s Ingrid, my new roomie. To describe Ingrid as ‘mental’ would be an understatement. She is fantastically good fun and has a crazy laugh which puts mine to shame. She is 35 and lives in the States (Seattle), although she was actually born in Romania and moved to the states when she was 4. She left a really good job in business to start a Medical degree and is volunteering in Costa Rica at an AIDS facility. She hopes to speacialise in infectious diseases once finished her degree. And so to my [click here to read more]

Heathrow terminal 5

 Posted by Claire Cochrane at 10:49 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Heathrow terminal 5
Jun 242014

It’s just after 11pm here in the UK and I’m sat in Terminal 5 waiting for the bag check to open…….at 04:00. Delerium is starting to set in through tiredness and the naf part of the journey hasn’t even begun yet. I love world destinations but i immensesly dislike the actual travelling part; trains with quiet coaches where there is always someone who doesn’t quite understand the concept, sterile airports that are never comfy wherever you are in the world and that’s before you even embark the peasant carrier where upon you’re squashed together like battery hens. However, i am all too aware that these are developed world, middle-class problems. And despite Heathrow’s insistance on putting immobile armrests between each seat, meaning i can’t power-nap, i know that the people with whom i’m about to volunteer have it much, much worse. If the orphans of San José, Costa Rica only had uncomfortable chairs to whinge about, i’m sure their life would be much sweeter and there would be no need for me…..at least not there anyway. Nope, unfortunately i know that these children do not have enough food, let alone the parental love and stability most of us (in the UK) take for granted. The strange thing is though, i imagine most of them do not whinge. I hope i can be of some use to these children and i hope from this experience, i become less sheltered and a better person.

terrapin station

 Posted by Kyle Johnson at 5:32 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on terrapin station
Jun 102014

sorry that I haven’t been keeping up with the journal this time around, I lost my login info. Costa rica and the turtle program have been nothing less than spectacular. The turtles I am dealing with are olive ridleys (lora), black turtle (negra), and leatherbacks (boara), although I have not seen any leatherbacks because they come during fall months. On a daily basis we clean the property that we are staying at, help with all meals, water the plants at gabriels house. He plants mangroves mostly, which are to help provide shade for the turtles. Palm trees line the beach but they are not native, they were brought here to give the beach a paradise feel. There roots occupy the nesting area of the turtles and provide very little shade. Also we change out the nests in the hatchery to keep them sanitary, the old nests might contain salminela. We also patrol every night  to look for the natural nests. Since I have been here I have learned to surf, wwent to a waterfall garden, seen numerous animals such as lizarrds, monkeys, crabs, big cats, and of course turtles. We release the turtles the same day at 530 pm I have met so many amazing people that really care about the environment. I love it down here so much that I’m probably going to live down here within the year. Pura vida everyone

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