Charles – 19 years old at the time of volunteering – from the United States
I spent one month volunteering in Osa through Green Life Volunteers as part of my gap year. I wanted to go to Costa Rica to experience the wonderful biodiversity and warm weather while both giving back in some way and not paying too much money. GLV was very good for this. I found that the costs were very reasonable and affordable. I liked the fact that I was supporting a small-scale, non-profit organization genuinely interested in contributing to awesome eco-projects, especially in contrast with some of the other big, for-profit volunteering companies that are out there. Janina was very helpful in the organization of my trip. She provided recommendations for domestic airlines and hotels between my international and domestic flights, both of which worked out perfectly well. When I got there, I found she was super friendly and made sure I felt welcomed in my new environment. She provided regular check ins to make sure all was going smoothly at the various projects. You can tell she is very involved with the local community. On my last day, she even gave me a ride to the airport, which I greatly appreciate.
I spent two weeks at the Fundacion Neotropica biological research station. It is located right in the jungle, making it a great place to experience the rainforest. Andrea, the woman in charge of that program, was very nice and helpful, connecting me with different people to find things to do on my off time on the weekends. One time when we hiked out to a beautiful waterfall in the jungle to take a dip. The other staff members were also very nice and accommodating, even though we couldn’t verbally communicate too well because of my lack of Spanish ability. I spent most of my volunteering time there building a vegetable garden, which was good for me as I appreciate hard, active work. There was a range of other thing I did too, all of which were aligned with my interests and values. Some days I would take pictures while Andrea taught classes about climate change and migratory birds at local schools. I helped with a mangrove restoration project one day, and another I helped lay primer on a pier that local kids would paint and mural about the local ecology onto. To me this work was very rewarding and felt like it made a real difference. Much of my off time I spent reading and learning about plants in the library. Overall my time at Fundacion Neotropica was super interesting and rewarding. I would recommend this more to folks who speak Spanish, as the language barrier can be challenging at times. If you have an interest observing rainforest ecology first hand, this is a great place for it!
The latter two weeks of my trip to Costa Rica I spend helping at Osa Interactive Gardens and staying with a host family in Pueto Jimenez. OIG and their butterfly conservation project located in the woods just outside of town was such a wonderful place to volunteer. They converted an old diseased cacao plantation to a biologically diverse garden area complete with a protective butterfly enclosure and a classroom for teaching local students about ecology. Rayner and Colleen are very friendly and welcoming, and baby Lobo is super cute. Clair was very kind and helpful in showing me what I needed to do and answering any questions that came up. They only ask that you work mornings, but the atmosphere was so chill and positive that I always wanted to come back for the afternoons too. I was always made to feel appreciated for the work I did there.
Typically we would take care of caterpillars and pupae, deal with compost, or spread gravel along trails. I think the work they are doing there to promote conservation and education is great, and I was so happy to be a part of it. I stayed with Linda Saxe in Puerto Jimenez. Her and her son were very kind and accommodating. They both spoke English, which was very helpful given my lack of Spanish ability. They were very patient with me when I would make mistakes adjusting to different sorts of appliances I wasn’t used to. The food was delicious too! The guest room has everything you need, including privacy as it is separate from the rest of the house. It’s very conveniently located: right in town. There’s a beautiful beach within walking distance to spend down time at. There’s a lot to explore in the town, like many cool shops and places to grab a bite to eat in between meals. I definitely would recommend this to anyone with an interest conservation and a desire to experience Costa Rican culture.