Bennet volunteered with us on the Butterfly Farm in February of 2020. This is his review. His parents also left us a review from their perspective, which we posted underneath Bennet’s review.

Right now, the Butterfly Farm unfortunately is no longer active.

I chose GLV because it’s a locally based organization that’s run by someone committed and connected to the projects around the country, and it’s nonprofit and more affordable than other options. It felt good knowing that my money was going to this system that supports projects that have a real impact, not to a corporation’s headquarters in another country. I found that Janina is really helpful with planning and communication. Despite my planning a lot of details shortly in advance of my trip, Janina was always quick to help with detailed info and travel recommendations, and figure out a project that was a good fit. I was lucky to be volunteering on the Osa Peninsula, because Janina could meet me in Puerto Jimenez. She was really helpful in showing me around, and throughout my time there, she was always happy to ask how it was going and give advice about travel logistics.

    I spent my first week in Costa Rica at the SEPA Spanish School in San Isidro del General. This is a great opportunity to get a really active immersion experience and develop your fluency right away, which will help wherever you’re going afterward. They make sure you stay with a family that just speaks just Spanish, and while the language barrier was a challenge at times, I always had chances to practice and my hosts were really welcoming and accommodating. I knew almost no Spanish when I arrived, and one week at the school and staying with a host family had motivated me to practice as much as I could. If your Spanish skills range somewhere between beginner and complete novice, as mine did, don’t let that deter you. It was often awkward and embarrassing, but it’s the only way to improve and people appreciate when you make an effort.

    I then worked for three weeks at Osa Interactive Gardens, the butterfly farm conservation project in Puerto Jimenez. OIG is on a property that had formerly been a diseased coffee plantation, until the owners, Colleen and Rayner, cut it down and have regrown and redeveloped it with plants that support incredible biodiversity. Their focus is on education for the local community, teaching local students and others about biology. I got to sit in on a class about how to identify and use different plant families native to Osa, which despite my patchy Spanish, I learned a lot from. If you’re interested in the biodiversity of the area, there are opportunities like this, and Rayner and Colleen are both really knowledgeable. This applies in general, too, as you’ll get plenty of chances to focus on your interests and do what you enjoy, whether that be in biology, gardening, art, etc. 

    One of the daily routines for the butterfly project is finding eggs and caterpillars, identifying and picking leaves for them, and putting them in an enclosed setting to grow, become pupae, and finally butterflies. The full butterfly enclosure is incredible, filled with wood viewing towers that are lined with information and pictures of different species of butterflies and plants, as well as wood carvings. One of my projects was painting these carvings, which is a great example of the more low-key, ongoing projects that are great for volunteers because it’s something relaxing you can continue or pause easily. There are some routine jobs that are done certain days, but for the most part, you just jump in on whatever needs doing. After a week or so, I had a sense of what the ongoing projects were, so you can be fairly self-directed. The main ongoing work was the butterfly project, gardening, composting, trail work, and making and installing signage, though there could be some cool building projects going on too. As someone who loves working outdoors and farming, I enjoyed all the work I was doing there. It was rewarding to have a part in developing this place because I could sense, in just three weeks, the impact it has on students and visitors. It’s amazing what they’ve done at OIG and it’s an ideal place for any volunteer who cares about conservation, maintaining biodiversity and wants to work outdoors and get their hands dirty.

A Parent’s Perspective:

Thank you, Janina, for all your work organizing and tending to the program details during our son’s stay there. He had a wonderful experience with Green Life Volunteers and we felt confident throughout his stay that he was in good hands. Given this was his first trip abroad and his first extended solo trip (at age 18), it helped greatly to have your detailed guidance ahead of time (and your communications – before his cell phone worked there – that he had made his travel connections and reached his homestay family!). 

Everything went so smoothly with the travel, homestays and volunteer work project, thanks to your careful planning and good communication. We will be spreading the word here about what a great opportunity GLV is!

You are doing such valuable work, and we’re grateful that our son had the chance to be a part of it.

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