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Impacts of Community Development on Costa Rica’s Environment

Be a part of Quepos’ most prominent community development project, as part of a 3-credit academic learning course that helps you put theory into action.


Program Information

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

Overview

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.

Program Details

Project Life

You'll leave for your chosen destination prepared for a unique and impactful experience abroad. GVI will meet you at the airport, transport you to our center, provide a comprehensive orientation and help you settle into your housing (single-sex dorm rooms). You'll have the chance to explore your surroundings, learning about GVI's work in Costa Rica and preparing for an action-packed two weeks that include hands-on work on a variety of projects, lectures and group discussions, cultural excursions and facilitated reflection sessions.

Throughout your time in Quepos, there will also be time to learn more about Costa Rican culture and other successful sustainable development projects that have had a positive impact on the local environment and inhabitants.

Upon returning home, you'll continue your online course for another 2 weeks, discussing your insights and experience abroad while also exploring ways to continue your involvement in addressing the UN SDG’s in your local community at home.

Project Details

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.

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.


Costa Rica was the first country in the world to make primary education both free and obligatory in 1869, funding the education program through the state’s share of the great coffee wealth. In those days only one in ten Costa Ricans could read and write.  By 1920, 50% of the population was literate. In 1948, the country abolished its national army and shifted the portion of its national budget allocated to armed forces to the education system. By the 1970s 89% were able to read and write. Costa Rica now boasts a literacy rate of 93% for those ten years or older. In addition, in 1994, a policy to place a computer in each of the nation’s 4,000 schools, plus obligatory English classes, was implemented.


Despite this, education is not readily available to everyone. Elementary and high schools can be found in every community, but many cannot afford the required uniforms, and rural schools often lack books for students. Children often spend as little as three hours in school as the class schedule is divided into two sessions in order to accommodate the number of students.


Quepos, home to our volunteer community project, is a small Pacific town just outside Manuel Antonio which is home to some of the best tourist attractions in the country hosts thousands of foreign and local visitors every year.


GVI has been working in local communities around Quepos since 2011 and aims to support those communities in developing themselves and particularly in developing the younger members of the community. GVI has focused mainly on the community of El Cocal, a partially illegal settlement, located on a small peninsula a few minutes outside of Quepos, home to Costa Ricans as well as many immigrant families from other Latin American countries, namely Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama. Many of these people have come to Costa Rica to benefit from the political and financial stability offered, but in such a tourist-rich area as Quepos people can struggle to make ends meet unless they are able to draw an income from the foreign visitors. The illegal status of many also restricts work opportunities.


Male residents of El Cocal are commonly employed in the fishing industry, which can be unreliable, so families get used to living in the moment and spending the money they have when they get it rather than saving up. Children growing up in this environment often do not have an understanding of preparing for the future and their attitudes towards education reflect this. This is partly fueled by lack of education in the community and partly by the transient and semi-legal nature of the community, many of whose members are seasonally unemployed.


In this region of Costa Rica, much of the local economy is built on tourism. In an effort to better serve the American and European traveller population, being able to speak and write in English is important. The number one request from the local school board for more English teachers. We also offer free individual English classes for children, teenagers, and adults. We provide English classes to adults in the local community of El Cocal, young people and adults in Quepos, and children as well. Construction projects, to improve community spaces and build communal gardens are also part of our work in Quepos.


We also work in partnership with the El Cocal school, offering a space for children to come after or before school hours to learn, reinforcing the value of education. In addition we work with adults, including women, in the community to improve professional skills.


In partnership with the UNPD, United Nations Development Programme, we also run a program aimed at reducing the amount of young people at risk, provide them with tools to prevent violence, and integrate themselves with the wider society. The program is called “Integral Security and Prevention of Violence Affecting Children, Adolescents and Young People in Costa Rica” and the role of GVI is to provide English language classes as a mean to improve the skill sets of young people to assist them with accessing additional academic and employment opportunities in the future.


As such, the main UN Sustainable Development Goals of this project include, #4, Quality Education, and #5, Gender Equality.


Project Objectives

 


GVI QUEPOS LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES:


1. Improve access to education and wellness to Quepos and surrounding areas specifically in El Cocal community.


2. Increase environmental awareness in the local community.


3. Improve English literacy levels in Quepos community and surrounded areas.


 


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.

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.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • 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
  • Instruction and grade report
  • 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
  • School of Record transcript
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

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, 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.


Safety

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. Our minimum staff to participant ratio 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.


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.


The Team

Hannah Watson

Education Officer
Meet Hannah, our happy education officer. Hannah joined the GVI staff after she decided to work abroad in the field, in a more face to face role. She has a degree in Spanish and English Literature, evidently making her a perfect fit for this role!

Hannah also has other impressive experience working abroad. "I worked in Spain for a year as a language assistant in a primary school. I then went to Colombia and I ran a conversation club in a University. When I returned from Colombia I got a job with World Challeng. In between all this I have nnterrailed around Europe, spent a summer volunteering in a hostel in Barcelona, helped to lead an expedition to Morocco, cycled around Cuba, hiked in Peru, rocked around the Galapagos and Ecuador, spied on Orangutans in Borneo and chased Penguins in the Falkland Islands!"

Luis Jimenez

Logistics Manager
Meet Luis, our well-travelled logistics manager! Luis studied Arts History and also has degree in Human Resources. His first contact with volunteer work was when he was studying at the University of Costa Rica and worked on a project to protect the sea turtles at Ostional beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Luis has a culturally diverse background as his stepfather was German and he had the opportunity to get to travel to some European, American and Latin American countries.

The chance to contribute to community development and help shape the children’s futures is what first attracted Luis to GVI. He loves getting to know and work with all the volunteers from around the world!

Eunice Jimenez

Base Manager
Meet Eunice, our experience base manager here in Quepos. Eunice is a Biologist with a Masters in high school education and has volunteer experience doing construction work in the middle of a forest in Germany, rebuilding some public areas in a small village in the north of Spain, and working with marine turtles in Costa Rica. She has also been lucky enough to have travelled around Europe, China, Canada and the USA.

Her internship as a Environmental Educator was what set her career into motion and now, years later, she is still pursuing her passion for the environment and teaching. She loves working for GVI as it gives her the opportunity to make a difference and to work with people from all around the world!

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

Cynthia Arochi Zendejas

Costa Rica Country Director
Meet Cynthia, our Country Director in Costa Rica. She started out with GVI as one of our National Scholarship Program participants in 2006 and later became our Programme Coordinator in Mexico. Her skills and enthusiasm just made it too hard to let her get away!

Cynthia is a certified Veterinarian, an EFR Instructor and holds a Master’s degree in International environmental Science. She is also a member of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, chapter Costa Rica.

The most interesting things she’s experienced during life in the field? “Watching the turtles hatching! Also finding jaguar tracks and being able to participate in community tours.” Apart from those, Cynthia also loves arranging and participating in the fun Charity Challenges with volunteers.

What does Cynthia think volunteers bring to the projects? Since our goal is to provide support to local organisations which don’t have the human or economic resources to achieve their conservation or sustainable development objectives, our volunteers play a key role by being the hands needed, or helping to fund raise for those projects.”

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  • 2019

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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.
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.