HomeProgramsImpacts of Community Development on Costa Rica’s Environment
Earn 3 credits while studying theories of development, service and ethical community engagement. Key learnings from the work done towards the promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are an integral part of the course, as is the opportunity to put theory into practice by immersing yourself in the culture of the local community in Costa Rica.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Contribute specifically to these United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
GVI's detailed health, safety and support protocols.
All GVI study abroad programs have a 6 week duration, but students will only be in country conducting field work on community or conservation projects for 2 weeks.
Your Study Abroad program begins 2 weeks prior to departure, when you'll participate in an online course, getting to know your instructor, GVI international field staff and your classmates, all of whom may come from many different institutions across the U.S. and around the world. A majority of your time abroad will be spent outside the classroom, as you work alongside our staff and community partners to address various challenges in the region that you have discussed during the pre-departure sessions.
Costa Rica is famous for its natural beauty, diverse environment and protective national policies yet it is also host to many efforts aimed at impacting relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. During your GVI course, you will study critical issues like plastic use, pollution, effects of tourism and palm oil production, immigration, sea debris, beach litter, garbage pollution and overfishing. All of these have an impact on the environment and will form the cornerstone of your six week program. There is also a lot to be learned from studying mangroves and their ability to reduce the impact of hurricanes, for example, yet tourism and development have led to the reduction (and destruction) of some mangroves, thereby putting local inhabitants at great risk.
This program also focuses on the tension between conserving natural resources and the issue of food security in the region. You will be directly involved in the creation of sustainable vegetable gardens, working alongside community members to establish a new resource for tackling food scarcity in the area.
Cancel anytime and receive a full refund minus your deposit.
Health and Hygiene
For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.
The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.
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.
Meet the team - Senior Field Management
Meet Cony, our Program Manager at GVI’s base in Quepos, Costa Rica. Cony was born in Mexico and holds a Masters in Environmental Education. She loves a wide variety of cool things including: working with people, biodiversity, music, and her dog!
Meet the team - In-Country Staff
Assistant Program Manager
This is Julius, who is our Assistant Program Manager at GVI’s base in Quepos, Costa Rica. Julius grew up in a small seaside town in British Columbia before moving to Quepos! He has had the privilege of volunteering in a vast array of countries including Peru and Morocco.
Before coming to Quepos, Julius was a Hip-Hop dance instructor for 12 years, and so as you could imagine he loves a good boogie!
Luis Jimenez Ramirez
Meet Luis! He is the Logistics Manager for our Quepos base in Costa Rica! Luis studied Art, History and Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resource Management. He has been with GVI for two years now. Luis likes both snakes and planes - but luckily, not at the same time!
All of GVI’s 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 comprehensive manner, measuring upon which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution. The experiential component of your course is designed to advance GVI’s existing project work and will help our local partners achieve the goals they have set for their communities and enable GVI to continue making a positive and measuring our contribution to the UN SDGs.
Our goal is to educate you about local and global issues, so that you continue to act as an active global citizen after your course is completed, helping to fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
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.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
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.
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.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, 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.
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.
NO ENTERTAINMENT-BASED ACTIVITIES
We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos
NO ORPHANED ANIMAL SANCTUARIES
We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases
GUIDELINES FOR TOUCHING OR MOVEMENT RESTRICTION
When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
ANIMAL WELFARE GUIDELINES
We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.
LOCAL COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.
Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.
LOCAL EMPLOYEES REMAIN EMPLOYED
Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.
LOCAL EMPLOYEES REMAIN FOCUSED
Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.
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.
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 festivals that are celebrated throughout the year.
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.
Learn to cook dishes using uniquely Latin American ingredients like beans, rice, avocados, peppers, tomatoes, and corn from local community members.
Quepos is the perfect place to practice your Spanish as most inhabitants speak only Spanish.
Cimarrones has historically been a rural farming community. The town is located along the El Camino de Costa Rica, a trail that stretches from one side of Costa Rica, on the Caribbean Coast, to the other side, on the Pacific Ocean. The area surrounding Cimarrones is home to some of Costa Rica’s finest coffee bean farms. Places of interest in the province include Irazú Volcano National Park, Tapantí National Park, Guayabo National Monument, Turrialba Volcano National Park, Death’s Hill, Lankester Botanical Gardens, and the Orosi Valley and Cachí Reservoir and Dam.
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, 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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures are in place throughout each GVI program. Learn more.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
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.
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.
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.
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.