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Costa Rica - Teaching and Social Work in San José

Get involved with the local communities of San José in beautiful Costa Rica by joining a social work project helping children or the elderly.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectSan José
Project LengthMin 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival AirportJuan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
Volunteer WorkTeaching or social work (orphanages, centers for disabled children, homes for the elderly)
Age18 - 80
Spanish required At least basic knowledge of Spanish (Contact your GoEco advisor to discuss option of additional Spanish classes if you are a complete beginner)
New program Help educate and empower at-risk women, victims of sex trade (an extra $70 fee for this assignment)

What's Included

AccommodationHome-stays with half-board in a private room
FoodBreakfast & dinner at home-stay
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersOn arrival and departure in San José
Spanish Course 1st week depending on fluency level (participant completes a placement test on first Monday)
Services Access to telephone, free internet, mail service
Orientation 1st week in San José includes cultural enrichment activities like cooking, dancing, etc.
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, visa (required depending on nationality), personal expenses, lunch, local transportation in San Jose (home-stay to project or language school and return, depending on project $1-2/day)


San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, is ringed by lush green mountains, cloud forests, smoldering volcanoes, and expansive valleys with tropical jungles.  The city itself, bustling with Latin spirit, holds many a sight to see.  From its variety of museums and historical sites to its happening night-life, San José has something for every traveler.

View of San José


About the Program

This program is composed of many social work related projects around San José.  Participants can choose from teaching at elementary schools, working with handicapped and disabled children, assisting at homes for abandoned children, and working with the elderly.

The elementary schools provide education to children ages 5 to 12 years old.  In these institutions, children are taught the regular school subjects (math, geography, and science). They also offer physical education, arts, music, and computer lessons.  In addition, they have their foreign language class which is English in most cases.

The schools for disabled children are dedicated to providing the necessary attention and care to the population with physical and/or emotional problems who cannot attend a standard school. These institutions assist autistic children, as well as kids with hearing problems, vision impairments, and Down Syndrome.

The homes for abandoned children give children (usually 0 to 7 years old) a temporary place to live if their parents cannot properly take care of them, many times due to substance abuse problems, family violence, or extreme povery. The idea of these homes is to give the children a family-like setting, instead of placing them directly into a government institution. These temporary homes provide children with necessary counseling, psychological assistance, and health services (doctors, dentists, therapies) in a home-like atmosphere. The homes are privately run by volunteers and operate with government support and donations.

The objective of the nursing homes for the elderly is to provide a family-like atmosphere of acceptance and respect. They try to fully address the needs of the elderly and take into consideration their skills to offer a better quality of life. Health and dental care, along with physical and recreational activities, are part of the services given to the residents.


Orientation and Spanish Course

The first week of this minimum two-week program consists of cultural enrichments and Spanish courses that facilitate acclimation into the Costa Rican culture. The course includes Spanish grammar with an emphasis on pronunciation for increased ease of conversation, and allows plenty of practice time for verbal and written Spanish. The goal of this program is to provide the student with basic language skills and functional fluency. Participation in the orientation week is mandatory as it acts as an important stepping stone into Costa Rican culture.  (If the participant speaks fluent Spanish before coming on the project, an exception may be made to waive the orientation, though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience.  Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.)

The first Monday, at 8am, the participants are asked to take a Spanish test in order to gauge their fluency level and correctly place them into appropriate classes.

Here is an example of an orientation week schedule:

9-12pm                                               Spanish classes
12-1pm                                               Lunch break
1-3pm                                                 Spanish classes
3-5pm  (Monday-Friday)                  Dance classes
4-5pm  (Wednesday)                      Costa Rican cooking classes
4-5pm  (Tuesday & Thursday)      Additional Conversation classes
4-5pm  (Monday)                             Orientation

The participants can choose to volunteer during the orientation week, or to delay volunteering until the orientation is complete.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Volunteer work in San José varies depending on the project chosen by the participant. It can include but is not limited to:

  • Teaching arts and crafts
  • Teaching languages, especially English
  • Teaching computer skills
  • Preparing extra materials for lessons
  • Organizing games and recreational activities
  • Playing sports and outdoor games
  • Helping out with light chores necessary for the day-to-day running of the homes
  • Helping in the improvement and embellishment of the facilities of the projects
  • Providing warm and caring attention to the home’s residents
  • Assisting the teachers and people in charge with different tasks
  • Volunteers are also encouraged to be creative and to bring any of their own personal skills; new ideas are always welcome

These institutions are usually flexible with schedules and will allow participants to work full time or part time. However, they require independent, proactive participants with initiative and creativity.

Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be the participants’ free days to spend as they wish and the language school can assist them in making exciting plans to explore the rest of the country.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: volunteers stay with a host family in San José. This is a great opportunity for participants to continue practicing Spanish while they immerse themselves in the Costa Rican culture.

Food: family hosts provide half-board - breakfast and dinner.


Services Provided

Participants working in San José will have easy access to the language school where orientation takes place and are welcome to continue using the facilities and services while they do their volunteer project.

Volunteers can take advantage of all the services at the language school such as free Internet access, use of telephones, mail service, and cultural activities including dancing and cooking lessons, and conversation sessions.

At the Volunteer Work Center, participants will receive all the necessary information about their projects and the program.  Volunteer work coordinators will be available to answer questions and provide any assistance throughout the week.


Minimum Requirements

  • Minimum age 18, maximum age 80
  • Basic knowledge of Spanish (courses offered during orientation) 
  • Open-minded and flexible attitude
  • Creative and highly independent


Here's an excerpt of Bailey's experience:

  "When my plane landed in San José, I was as nervous as I was excited. It was my first time traveling on my own, and I had no idea what to expect fro the. However, after five minutes of talking to the driver from the Teaching and Social Work program in San José, an incredibly friendly man full of stories about his city and himself, I forgot to be nervous.My host family matched his friendliness; my host mother was always willing to work with my level of Spanish..."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Kelsey's experience:


"The Costa Rica volunteer experience was nothing like I expected, and I had an amazing time. I met friends and worked with people from all over the world who were all doing amazing volunteer work across Latin America, and just had the right ideas about life... It was easy work but rewarding at the same time. All I did was art projects or play with the kids outside for 3 hrs a day or so, but I already felt touched by my experience and welcomed into the home"

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Check out our volunteer blog at www.blog.goeco

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