Spanish & Volunteering
If you are interested in volunteering in Costa Rica, exploring Latin American culture and local communities, and spending some of your time abroad dedicated to helping others, then Intercultura Language School is your best choice.
Our projects focus on development, education, health, social work and the environment. We offer volunteer opportunities for adults, 18 years of age or older who can commit to at least 2 to 4 weeks of Spanish classes and at least another 2-4 weeks at the volunteer project. Time commitment and required Spanish level varies amongst the projects.
We invite you to participate in our programs and contribute to cultural understanding through global exchange, awareness, and social & environmental development in Latin America. Your experience will deepen your understanding of both your own and Costa Rican culture, and it will undoubtedly change the way you see the world and your place in it.
Remember, volunteering is often more about what the experience can teach you, than how much you will be able to help the local community. Making a difference for others requires time, dedication and/or specific skills, whereas making a difference in your own life can happen just by opening your eyes to the way other cultures work and live. Nevertheless, many volunteers really find their niche within the community and contribute in a very meaningful way. You won´t change the world in a week or two, but you might figure out how to start!
Did you know? Our volunteer program is a non-profit branch of our language school. The majority of student payments are used to help fund scholarships and materials for local schools, animal rescue projects, community development initiatives, and programs for at-risk children and youth.
We offer a volunteer program for all students who have completed a Spanish course with us. You can choose to do our city program in the Central Valley (our Heredia Campus), our beach campus on the Pacific Coast, or you can combine both locations. You can also choose to take your classes at one campus then switch to the other location for your volunteer project. At both campuses we offer cultural activities every day, which you can attend for free during your Spanish and volunteer program. You can work helping others and at the same time rely on the school's infrastructure, with our full-time, multilingual support staff and our volunteer coordinators as your primer contact person on-site.
...In this way you will experience two very different sides of Costa Rica, on the one hand the vibrant, multifaceted Heredia and on the other hand tranquil, laid-back Samara Beach. You can divide not only your Spanish course between both campuses and locations but also your volunteering, with two different projects.
- Local schools & Kindergarten: Assist and teach
- Orphanage & Day Care: Care, play, interact, do homework and teach English
- Drug Rehabilitation Center: Care, lead social activities, do homework and teach English
- Medical Clinics/Hospitals: Shadow and participate in basic procedures at a local clinic or hospital
- Retirement Centers: Care and interact with the elderly
- Women Support: Share knowledge, lead workshops, babysit and assist children for homework
- After School Program: collaborate with rural non-profIt for local children -- teaching assistant, library services, arts, web design & other positions available. During special kids programs volunteers have the opportunity to teach, dance, music, health, theatre, horticulture, woodwork, computer studies, English and local folklore.
A note aside: In addition to our regular volunteer program, Intercultura founded and supports the non-profit CREAR Foundation which started in 2005 at our beach campus and now serves around 200 local area children. CREAR's After School Program (ASP) is a creative supplementary learning project designed to offer local children new educational, sport and artistic opportunities, giving them the chance to explore and develop their talents in a variety of creative fields. Local students receive full scholarships for all courses. The program is funded by the efforts of our volunteer teaching staff and the program coordinators.
- National Parks: Assist with trail maintenance, construction, observing animals, beach patrol and administrative support in the national park
- Indigen Community: Maintain area, make labels and signals, translate animals and plants name and share the community life
- Turtle Protection: Beach patrol, nursery care and support services for turtle protection entities
- Toucan and Wildlife Ranch: Prepare food, feed animals, clean the cages and surroundings
- Dog and Cat Shelter: Prepare food, feed, play and walk animals
Don't have time to volunteer or looking for more ways to help?
Learn how to "onset" the carbon emissions of your trip by joining our Earth Deeds team. You can make a donation and even crowd fund to keep your trip carbon neutral. You'll be doing your part to save the planet while helping a local non-profit organization that teaches local kids about the importance of recycling, not littering, reducing the use of limited resources and reusing everyday articles in innovative ways. The CREAR association works with the children in several local schools and provides after-school programming as well as summer camps, completely free of charge. Check out our blog to learn more!
Minimum age: 18
It is important that students set realistic expectations for volunteer programs, and to realize that you will get just as much out of volunteering as the organization will from you. You need to be independent, capable of figuring things out for yourself, and willing to put yourself in situations outside of your normal comfort zone. Most importantly, you need to remember that a positive, outgoing, hands-on attitude is the best attribute you can bring to the job. This is not the program for you if you are just interested in meeting new friends and having an economical, fun holiday!
If you do decide to volunteer, there are several things which will help you have a more meaningful and rewarding experience, and increased interaction within your placement:
Your Spanish skills
The volunteers’ Spanish level is an essential factor to ensure a successful experience. To ensure the volunteers´ Spanish level is good enough to communicate and understand the instructions during the project a minimum number of weeks of classes must be taken. An Intermediate or Advanced Spanish level greatly facilitates training and interaction. At the very minimum, we require a high beginner level to start volunteering (which you can acquire after 4 weeks of classes if you start in our first level). Depending on the type of project you are going to do, we recommend a different length of your Spanish program.
In addition, before signing up, please reflect on the following considerations, such as:
The concrete and communicable skills you bring to the position that make you a valuable resource to the organization. For example: teaching certification or license, construction experience, advanced professional degrees, experience teaching technology, sports, arts & crafts, music, photography or other short-term skills, library management, community development experience, social media or web management, etc. If you do not have any concrete skills, you can of course still participate, but your expectations regarding what you will contribute should be adjusted accordingly.
Time commitment and engagement
The time commitment you can make... (the longer you can stay the better, as this helps justify the significant investment in time and human resources that is required to train volunteers). Your willingness to learn and work (hard!) in any and all areas that need help and the understanding that your ability to contribute is defined in large part by the above factors. Once you commit, you need to fulfil your obligations just as you would in a paid working position. If you leave early, you will have created more work for the organization, harming them rather than helping them, and that will reflect badly on you, your own culture and the volunteers that follow you.
Different country, different culture
Understand that you are interacting in a different culture and that your expectations are based on what you are used to seeing and experiencing in your own culture. Open-mindedness is key to developing a good relationship with the people in the placement. Do not expect constant supervision and direct instructions on what to do; this is not the norm in Costa Rican organizational culture. Remember you are here to learn and contribute, and that many organizations have scarce personnel resources. You will be expected to take the initiative often, devise your own activities if need be, and join in to work on whatever task is at hand, with a positive, upbeat attitude.
The volunteer has to fill out the application form and send the requested documents in order to check and validate the application. To join a social care program the volunteer has to sign a commitment contract upfront. Once the volunteer coordinator from Intercultura receives the documents, the volunteer program can be confirmed. PLEASE NOTE: Sometimes it takes time to provide the police record, in which case this document can be sent later on. However, should there be any annotations in the record, Intercultura reserves the right to cancel your participation in the volunteer program.