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Academic Disciplines Biological and Environmental Sciences
Education
Marine Biology

Costa Rica Conservation Service Learning Program

Contribute towards protecting the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica alongside local partners, such as Panthers and Coastal Jaguar Conservation.


Program Information

Live on a remote research station while partaking in our conservation focused service learning course. Learn about rainforest ecosystems while assisting with turtle, jaguar, bird, and forest conservation projects. Complete educational assignments which complement the on the ground experience.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

GVI’s Jalova base is a research station in the Tortuguero National Park, bordered by the Caribbean sea that’s home to one of the largest nesting colonies of Green Turtles in the world. The other three sides of the park are home to protected rain-forest. All transportation into the park is via canoe or motor boat along the canal and river systems. Students will spend their time surrounded by amazing scenery and wildlife in the canals, tropical rain-forest, and Caribbean beaches. The program will focus on gaining a better understanding of the local ecosystem in Jalova, Costa Rica, and preserving it’s biodiversity. Other elements that may be examined are water security, climate energy, and access to clean energy.



These projects range in content suitable for students studying academic disciplines such as:

- Education
- Biological & Environmental Sciences
- Marine Biology

Example project activities include:

- Learning species monitoring techniques
- Participating in turtle surveys
- Educational awareness workshops
- Marine species identification
- Invasive species investigation/removal

Program Details

ENQUIRY FORM

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Enquiry Details

   

Curriculum

This inter-disciplinary program introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development in content and practice, in Jalova. Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this program engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be led by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The program curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.

A GVI service-learning program provides students with the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, and to develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. By participating in this program, students will be prepared to contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development within a local community, and alongside an international team.

The Project

The objectives for each GVI project are based on specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Jalova, students will largely contribute to pre-established environmental monitoring and research initiatives by collecting and reporting critical data. Emphasis will also be placed on increasing awareness surrounding pertinent conservation issues and knowledge of the local environment.

Jalova's short, mid, and long-term objectives

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

 
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Jalova:


1. Increase scientific knowledge of Tortuguero National Park

2. Increase awareness of GVI Jalova projects and the ecological value of the Tortuguero National Park.

3. Build local capacity to support long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable community development in Costa Rica

4. Continue to minimize our environmental impact on TNP and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors

Itinerary

Example Itinerary:

This program varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week in-country program; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.

Pre-Departure

Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Jalova and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.

In-Country:

Day 1- Arrival at San Jose Airport and Transfer to Base

On arrival, the group will be met at San Jose’s International Airport by a GVI representative or staff member. Participants will be transferred to their hostel accommodation and given time to settle in and rest. There will be an initial welcome presentation and introduction to the GVI staff, history and background of the projects, as well as a health and safety breakdown.

Day 2- Arrival in Tortuguero

Accompanied by a GVI staff member or representative, the group will journey by bus 3.5 hours and then 45 minutes by boat to base. The group will meet for an afternoon orientation and welcome session where they will discuss the week’s logistics, duties and responsibilities, and receive an introduction from the local partners. Materials and tools will also be prepped to maximize productivity for the following days. In the evening a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.

Days 3-6- Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection

The exact project will be based on the requirements of our local partners at the time. The group can expect to be involved in a variety of environmental awareness activities, discussions, and lectures. This may include bird walks, biodiversity surveys, species identification, and rain-forest ecology.

All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.

Day 7- A Fond Farewell

GVI field staff will transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavor to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field and with particular reference to the projects students contributed to during their time in Costa Rica.

Post-Return

Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Costa Rica, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Jalova's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVICostaRicaJalova

Meet The Team - Senior Field Management

Cynthia Arochi Zendejas

Regional Director for Latin America
Meet Cynthia! She is GVI’s Regional Director for Latin America. Her journey with us started in 2006 as a National Scholar in Mexico on our National Scholar Program. She moved to Costa Rica three years agos and for her it has been a great experience, with the beauty of the country contributing to this!

Cynthia has a Masters in Environmental Science, which she completed in Sweden. Additionally, she is currently participating in an MBA with the aim to improve her management skills. In her life, Cynthia has had a variety of jobs and careers fueled by her love of languages and culture. Such jobs include teaching French, organising games, and working asing a Team Building Facilitator. Cynthia hopes to see you soon!

Eunice

Program Manager

This is Eunice, a Biologist from Spain. Eunice began working with GVI two and a half years ago as a Base Manager. Ironically Eunice loves cats, however is allergic to them… paw Eunice!

Meet The Team - In-Country Staff

Danny Guy

Jaguar Project Leader

This is Danny. He is originally from the UK and manages our Jaguar Projects in Jalova. Luckily for the Jaguars in Costa Rica Danny is allergic to red meat!

Emily Underhill

Turtle Project Leader

Introducing you to Emily, who is our Turtle Project Leader. Emily loves all turtles but her favourite would have to be the Leatherback.

Helen Young

Science Officer

Meet Helen Young. She is one of the Science Officers at GVI’s base in the jungles of Jalova, Costa Rica. Helen is originally from Australia and has been in the jungle for six months now. She has a Masters in Genetic Studies. Helen loves to camp and has spent the last 20 years as a member of the scouting movement. That sounds like a very “in-tents” experience!


Laura Dix-Bowler

Business & Systems Analyst
Laura is our very own Business and Systems Analysts and Data Protection Officer. Laura is originally from the USA, born in New Jersey. She completed a GVI expedition back in 2011, which consequently gives her an awesome insight into GVI from a participants perspective. Before working for GVI, Laura worked for the United Nation. She loves to cook and she loves cats, however, luckily she prefers not to combine the two!

Vix Hawkins

Forest Biodiversity Leader

Meet Vix! Her role as the Forest Biodiversity Leader means she is exposed to a number of fascinating creatures in the Costa Rican jungle, lucky her!

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Tortuguero National Park is a key area for many interlinked conservation efforts. It is a popular nesting area for vulnerable and endangered sea turtles. It is also a natural stronghold for jaguars and the only place where these cats are known to prey on sea turtles. It is also home to several insect, amphibian, reptile, mammal, and bird species identified as important or the health of the local ecosystem, global diversity, and international research by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications or MINAET.


Rainforest Biodiversity Surveys

We assist MINAET with conducting a Biological Assessment Survey or BAS of the four major habitat types around our area of Tortuguero Park. We note a wide range of species on our surveys which are of interest to MINAET including the Rain Frog, Red-eyed Treefrog, two species of Toucan, Baird’s Tapir, Spider Monkey, Mantled Howler Monkey, White-lipped Peccary, Eyelash Palm Pitviper. Staff and participants walk a several marked path in the forest noting sighting, tracks, and vocalisations. Only species identified with 100% certainty can be recorded. The data is sent to MINAET who use a standardised methodology to monitor the condition of each trail over time. This helps them to understand the health of the local environment and whether their current conservation efforts are working.


Sea Turtle Research

We also assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy, or STC, with sea turtle research and protection, by patrolling the Southern end of 18 mile stretch of Tortuguero National Park using internationally recognised protocols during turtle nesting and hatching season, from around March to December each year. The STC patrols the northern stretch.


Tortuguero has played a key part in the conservation of sea turtles worldwide. Archie Carr, the pioneering American conservationist, began his studies of green turtles in Tortuguero in 1954 and since 1958 the STC, has continued work on green turtles, which are currently endangered, and the other turtle species, like the critically endangered hawksbill, and vulnerable leatherback, who frequent this area.


From March to October, a team walks the beach each night looking for nesting sea turtles.


Depending on the time of year, it is possible to do several walks without seeing a turtle, or see multiple ones in one night. When a turtle is encountered, different kinds of research activities might be carried out, depending on what stage of the nesting process she is in from emerging from the sea, selecting a nest site, digging a body pit, and digging her egg chamber to laying her eggs, covering her egg chamber, disguising her nest, or returning back to sea. This might include, checking for distinctive markings to see if she has been to the beach before and make a note for future researchers if she returns, tagging her flippers, measuring her carapace, counting her eggs, marking her nest, or checking for abnormalities in the mother turtle or eggs.


From April to November a team patrols the beach during the day to look for nests that were marked previously to determine whether any of the nests have hatched, been eroded by the sea, been attacked by predators like jaguars, or been poached by humans. This information is used to investigate whether any areas of the beach are more susceptible to nest loss. Depending on the season, we also take note of mother turtle tracks from the previous night.


Between June and December, hatched nests are excavated to determine hatchling success and survival rates, reason for losses in egg development, and determine the actual status of the nests including whether or not they were partially or fully poached.


Throughout the year our teams carry out beach cleans to ensure a good nesting place for mother turtles and an uninterrupted passage for hatchlings to make their way to the sea.


Jaguar Population and Turtle Predation Research

The jaguar is the only member of the Panthera or ‘big cat’ genus found in the the Western Hemisphere. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, Red List has given the jaguar the status of being ‘near threatened’.


Tortuguero is a haven for jaguars, having possibly one of the highest populations in the world. This makes it an excellent location for studying jaguar behaviour. However, it also means there is a great responsibility on park authorities and the Costa Rican government to ensure that threats as a result of human activity like poaching, habitat and food source degradation do not threaten jaguar numbers in Tortuguero. Tortuguero is also one of the only places in the world where jaguars are known to feed on adult sea turtles. There has also been concern that the number of sea turtles preyed upon by jaguars has been increasing.


We assist MINAET with estimating the minimum number of jaguars using the coastal habitat inside Tortuguero National Park, identifying the availability of prey species in the area, noting any changes in jaguar feeding behaviour, and determining whether the predation of marine turtles by jaguars is having an impact on the marine turtle populations. This helps the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment develop well-rounded and consistent conservation policies. To improve and expand our research, we collaborate with Panthera and Coastal Jaguar Conservation.


Direct observations of jaguars can be very difficult to achieve because of their elusive nature. Several projects of elusive species worldwide have turned to remote observation techniques in order to estimate population sizes, for species in which individuals are identifiable by markings, or relative abundance, for those species in which individuals are not identifiable. Camera trapping projects have been used to estimate tiger density within national parks in India and ocelot densities in the Pantanal region of South America to name a few. Other projects in Costa Rica such as the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network, or TEAM Initiative from Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society, or WCS, Jaguar Project in Corcovado National Park have also had success with camera trapping of jaguars. We started our jaguar camera trap program in 2006 and it has been constantly evolving ever since as new, more effective methodologies continue to be developed.


From February to November, our team walks a 15-mile stretch of the beach starting in the early morning to note jaguar tracks and check on permanent camera traps set up to ID new or known jaguars in the area. Permanent cameras are set up in areas of known jaguar activity in the vegetation lining the beach. A scent station might be included to halt the jaguar in their progress so that a clearer picture of their rosette pattern markings can be taken for use in identification. We also collect jaguar scat or faeces for use in jaguar feeding behaviour and genetic studies.


During turtle nesting season, from March to October, we also monitor the number of sea turtles preyed upon by jaguars. When a predated turtle is found we note the species of turtle, assign an identification number, and check for tags. We also record the time and location, biometric data, and a description of the style of predation. Killcams are set up on predated turtles to witness jaguar behavior as they return to the kill. In addition, data is collected on weather and beach conditions at specific areas.


Aquatic Bird Research

We also monitor 30 aquatic bird species identified by MINAET as important indicators of the ecological health of the National Park as a whole. These include exotic ave species like the neotropic cormorant, the rufescent tiger-heron, the cattle egret, the green ibis, and the amazon kingfisher. Early morning surveys are conducted on canoe along five of Tortuguero’s canals and last approximately 3 hours. Species are identified and specifics such as their sex and breeding behaviour are noted. The aim of this project is to help researchers and governmental authorities understand when and where resident species migrate to. It is generally believed that seasonal migration takes place within Costa Rica but details are lacking. It also helps MINAET with developing an accurate management plan for Tortuguero National Park. In addition, we collect information on all incidental species seen on the canals. Sightings of megafauna like endangered manatees are extremely important to MINAET as they provide evidence towards justifying the boundaries of the National Park and whether to extend them.


As such, the specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal we work on in Tortuguero park is #15, Life On Land.


Our Partners In Latin America

Project Objectives

 


GVI Jalova’s Long-term Objectives:



  1. Increase scientific knowledge of Tortuguero National Park.

  2. Increase awareness of GVI Jalova projects and the ecological value of the Tortuguero National Park.

  3. Build local capacity to support long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable community development in Costa Rica.

  4. Continue to minimize our environmental impact on Tortuguero National Park and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors.


Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Festivals


  • January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the largely Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. Traditionally Christmastime presents are open on this day.

  • April: The traditionally Catholic holidays of Holy Week and Easter are honoured with parades through the streets, attending mass at the local cathedral, and quiet meals with family.

  • May: On the fifth of May, Mexico celebrates its independence day, Cinco de Mayo. Parades and feasts featuring national favourites like the Jarabe Tapatío dance and black bean tamales with mole sauce are popular.

  • November: The iconic Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on the 2nd of November. While this is considered a Catholic holiday it incorporates indigenous customs that are much older.

  • December: As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare throughout Mexico. For nine nights up until Christmas Day children travel door-to-door singly a traditional song. The activity and song is known as posadas and represents the story of the parents of the Christ asking for shelter. Nativity scenes are more popular than Christmas trees in Mexico.


Music

Probably the most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the Mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is actually more unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guadalajara, and only evolved later in the 18th century. It is difficult to separate out the colonialist influences from the indigenous influences, but what is known is that Mayan cultures did have bands featuring among other instruments, drums, trumpets, and maracas. There are many usually opportunities to watch Mariachi bands perform during your time in Mexico.


Dances

The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. The dance is performed by a male and female partner. At one point during the dance, the male partner, drops his hat and the couple dances around the hat. This has earned the dance the name ‘the Mexican hat dance’ in English-speaking regions. Other Mexican dances include La Bamba and Polka Norteno. A popular dance in the Yucatan region is the Jarana. GVI programs in Mexico allow you can participate in dance classes in evenings or during weekends.


Cuisine

Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, avocados, and cocoa beans, are indigenous Mexican crops that spread to other cultures as result of colonialism. By traveling to Mexico you can sample these flavours through the eyes of the cultures that first discovered them. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas — while these are household names and most of us have tried them before, both Mexican nationals and international visitors would agree, they are best enjoyed within the borders of  Mexico itself.


Religion and Local Customs

Most of Mexico’s population ascribe to the Catholic religion, also due to colonialism. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to the most visited site of religious significance for Catholics around the world, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that predate the colonialist era.


Languages

As a result of colonialism, Spanish is overwhelmingly the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, visiting Mexico is a great opportunity for learning Spanish and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish on our community development programs. You can even book extra Spanish language lessons for an additional fee. The indigenous languages of Mexico number over five dozen, however, they are not widely spoken, and are considered ‘endangered languages.’


Festivals

January: In Cusco, The Adoration of the Kings, or honouring of the birth of the Christ child by the three kings, is celebrated with great fanfare.


April: Easter is celebrated for an entire week in Cusco and the local plaza fills up with celebrants.


May: Taking place in late May and early June, Quyllurit’i, celebrates the beginning of harvest season. Thousands of pilgrims arrive to watch the sun rise.


June: The Catholic festival of Corpus Christi is celebrated in June as well as the traditional Incan festival of Inti Raymi in honour of the sun god Inti.


July: The festival of the Virgin of Carmen, is celebrated for four day with traditional costumes and dances in mid July. Late July is when Peru celebrates their independence from the Spanish government.


August: The first day of August is Andean New Year, and is celebrate by building and burning altars of traditional foods.


September: In early September Catholics celebrate the birth of the mother of Jesus with Peru. The festival of Lord Huanca honours a local saint and a local Andean ceremony acts as an initiation ceremony for boys from the local community.


November: On the first few days of November, Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead to honour their ancestors.


December: The Selling of the Saints, is a Christmas festivity unique to Cusco. On the day of Christmas Eve, a massive market of local goods is held in the local plaza.


Spirituality and Religion

Peru has a mostly Catholic population. However, Quechua communities still hold certain beliefs of the Inca religion. They honour the earth mother as well as local spirits.


Weaving and Pottery

The art of pottery and textile making is central to Quechua culture. Pottery and textiles are not only functional, everyday items, but are imbued with meaning by their makers. Learn about pottery and textile making at the foot of the masters, the women of the local community.


Cooking

The Inca had many unique ways of preserving and cooking food. Quechua communities still preserve some of these methods like cooking in an earth oven and freeze drying meat. You can learn more about these cooking methods by assisting locals with preparing lunch for participants and the community.


Farming

The community we work in grows their own food and farm alpacas using methods that date back to the time of the Inca. Here you can learn about how native crops, like potatoes and corn, are grown organically and used for food, medicine, and as dye for textiles. You can get involved in the process of planting, harvesting, and preparing food as well as the entire alpaca wool shearing and dye harvesting process.


Languages

There will be plenty of opportunities to learn and practice your Spanish language skills You can also learn about Quechua, the language of the Incas, by engaging with people in the local community.


Cusco

Once the capital of the Incan empire, Cusco was taken over by Spanish colonists in the 16th century, but much of the city’s Incan heritage is still visible. Many buildings are still supported by the one-of-a-kind sculpted stones unique to Incan architecture. Explore the city’s Incan heritage by visiting sites like the 12-angled stone, the Santo Domingo Convent built on the remains of the Inca Sun temple, the Plaza del Arms, and the Museo Inca.


Quechua Community

Since you will be working in a rural traditional community outside Cusco, it is also important that you learn about some of the local customs and what is culturally appropriate. Upon arrival, we will start with a presentation about local Quechua culture, appropriate dress sense, and topics of conversation.


Tortuguero National Park

The name ‘Tortuguero’ can be translated as ‘land of the turtles’. The park is most well-known for its green turtle population, but leatherbacks, hawksbills, and even the occasional loggerhead frequent its beaches. Despite being incredibly remote, Tortuguero is one of the most frequently visited in Costa Rica and it isn’t difficult to understand why. It has an incredibly high density of jaguars and is one of the only locations in the world where jaguars are known to prey on sea turtles. Its wide range of habitats including rainforests, beaches, and mangrove wetlands also allow many other species to flourish like the endangered great green macaw and even manatees.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica is wildlife lover’s paradise, featuring one the highest biodiversities in the world, approximately four percent of the total species on the planet. There are literally hundreds of species which can only be found here. More bird species call this nation home than the entire North America, the United States and Canada combined. Researchers attribute this natural wealth to the country’s plethora of habitats and its location between the South and North American continent.


Festivals

Costa Rican festival.


March to April: Easter is a popular holiday in Costa Rica and is celebrated with elaborate processions.


October: You can experience the city of Límon’s famous carnival in October.


December: A mostly Catholic country, the Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm.


Spirituality and Religion

Most of Costa Rica identifies with the Roman Catholic religion and there are many Christman festivals that are celebrated throughout the year.


Dancing

Dancing is part an integral part of Costa Rican culture. Locals learn to dance the fluid ballroom styles of cumbia, salsa, bolero and the merengue from a young age.


Cooking

Learn to cook dishes using uniquely Latin American ingredients like beans, rice, avocados, peppers, tomatoes, and corn from local community members.


Languages

Quepos is the perfect place to practice your Spanish as most inhabitants speak only Spanish.


El Cocal Community

El Cocal is an informal settlement home to a mostly immigrant community from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama. Working in this community learning participants to more traditional Latin American destinations.


Quepos

Quepos is a small Pacific town just outside Manuel Antonio which is home to some of the best tourist attractions in the country, hosting thousands of foreign and local visitors every year. Some come for the national park, considered one of the best in the country, and others for the beaches. The surfing both in this beautiful beach town and on other beaches just a couple of hours along the coast draws people from across the world.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conduct, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • A dedicated course co-ordinator
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Flight bookings service on request
  • In-country transport costs
  • Insurance on request
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)