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While Costa Rica is known for its very high literacy rate and continually ranks on various top travel destination lists, it also has impoverished and at-risk communities.  In and around the city of San José, we have selected several well-established programs for our interns that aim to uplift and provide support for these communities. Whether you want to empower women, improve conditions for children coming from low-income homes, guide young girls, adults and senior citizens, or contribute to the public education system, this internship will provide you with a deeper understanding of underserved communities of Costa Rica.
Location of the Project:  San José, Costa Rica
Project length:  Min 5 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival Airport:  Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
Volunteer Work:  Social work for children and women
Age:  18 - 80
Number of Volunteers:  Up to 2 international volunteers per project
Important Note:  Spanish requirement: Intermediate level of Spanish (Contact your GoEco adviser to discuss option of additional Spanish classes if you are a beginner)

What's Included

Accommodations:  Homestay with half-board in a private room
Food:  Breakfast and dinner
Airport Transfers:  Included on arrival and departure day
Insurance:  Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
Orientation:  One-week orientation in San Jose including cultural enrichment activities and Spanish courses
Support:  Local in-country team and 24-hour emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, visa (if required), personal expenses, lunch, daily transportation from homestay to and from project or language school
Costa Rica is a country that is famous for its lush, tropical rainforests and sprawling beaches.  It is a top destination for ecotourism and many flock to the country to discover its fascinating animal and plant life.  San José, the capital, is home to nearly half of the country’s population and an array of historical museums. The food, culture, customs and crafts found in Costa Rica are a reflection of the various influences from Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans.  
Orientation and Spanish Course (included)
The first week of this minimum five-week program consists of Spanish lessons (four days total) and cultural enrichment activities to facilitate communication at your project and help you acclimate to Costa Rica. During the Spanish course, you will learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and conversational skills.  Participation in the orientation week is mandatory.  

After you register and submit your application, you will also submit a written exam. On the first day of your Spanish course, you will also take an oral exam to determine your current language level. Both the oral and written exam will be taken into consideration to determine which class you will placed in upon arrival.  During your orientation week, you'll also learn all about your designated project and you'll have a chance to visit the project's facilities. 

A typical day during orientation: Spanish class begins at 9am, with a one-hour break for lunch at noon and then finishing for the day at about 3pm. You will then have the chance to join different cultural enrichment activities such as Latin dance classes, Costa Rican cooking courses, yoga lessons or informal Spanish conversation practice. After 5pm, you will have the evenings free to explore the area with fellow volunteers, study or relax at home.

If you speak basic or no Spanish, you'll need to enroll in extra Spanish lessons at an additional cost.

If you speak fluent Spanish before coming to the project, an exception may be made to waive the language course (though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience). Your fluency will be determined by your written exam and during your phone interview. Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.

Interns will have an opportunity to choose from several different placement options in the fields of community development, child welfare, women’s issues, healthcare or education. Each of the placements will be very demanding, but the work and contribution that interns can make is invaluable. 

This internship is designed to provide interns with both the practical and professional experience needed for a career in social work or a related field.  To ensure the best possible experience, interns will have weekly meetings with their supervisors, as well as a final evaluation of the intern’s performance. 

Casa de los Niños:  Comedor de Tirrases: This project provides daily meals to children of low-income communities, while simultaneously offering much needed academic and psychological support to ensure that the children remain in school. The project also initiates community development activities and specialized workshops for the mothers in the community.  

Casa de Maria Auxiliadora: This non-profit was created with the aim of helping the less fortunate. This institution offers lodging, meals, education, health services and spiritual guidance. It is divided into five areas: a health and medical office, assistance for seniors, teenagers & young adults, education for dropouts, a boarding school for young girls, and a daycare.

Fundación Ana Frank:  This project functions as a daycare center for children that come from low-income families.  It also offers community development lectures and workshops for parents and community members.

Fundación RAHAB: This foundation focuses on offering a holistic rehabilitation and recovery program to women who have been part of the sex industry and are now looking to join the labor market.  Along with individual and group therapy, the women and their children can participate in literacy classes, elementary education, computer training and micro-enterprise administration. The women are also taught vocational skills, including sewing, quilting, baking, jewelry-making and cosmetology.  Additionally, the foundation offers support groups for girls and teens that are at a high-risk for entering the sex industry.

Public Schools: Interns can work in a number of capacities at public schools, as well as special education schools. Depending on their skills, interns can opt to work directly with students, as assistant teachers, getting involved in various educational activities in and outside the classroom.

Home for the Elderly: This home is part of a group of 110 non profit institutions which form the National Federation of Elderly Protection. It receives funds from families and pensions of paying residents, from private donations and government assistance. It is accredited and supervised by the Ministry of Health. With the support of the government institution IMAS (Institute of Social Assistance) the project was able to provide day care and a home for elderly people of the community since 1990. This is a nursing home that cares for 55 peope. Services provided include geriatric services, recreational therapy, physiotherapy, nursing service, spiritual growth and comprehensive services of eldercare.

PANI (National Children´s Trust): The National Children’s Trust is the governing body responsible for policies for children and adolescents, implementing plans, programs and projects to promote and guarantee the rights and the integral development of minors and their families, as part of the doctrine of comprehensive protection, with the participation of state institutions and other social actors. Interns can work in a shelter for children or a shelter for teenaged girls, assisting social workers and other staff. 
Centro de Desarrollo Integral Barrio Mexico: this non profit community development organization works in coordination with NGOs and government institutions and provides different workshops and counseling for families, adolescents and children. It also offers educational, artistic and sports activities for the community Interns can work assisting director/social worker and other staff in workshops and community activities.
IOM- International Organization for Migration: IOM, established in 1951, is the main intergovernmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. It has 165 member states, 8 states enjoying observer status and offices in over 100 countries IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.

This organization mainly accepts interns in the areas of communication, public/international relations and international policy, but internships in other fields can be requested and arranged. Basic understanding of international migration, and political-social implications on macro and micro levels is required.

A typical day: You can expect to take a public bus from your homestay to arrive at your project location at 8:00 am.  Your tasks will vary depending on your placement, so it is vital that you are flexible and willing to help the staff with whatever tasks need to be done. Generally you leave your project around 4:00 pm.

Holidays: Day care centers and soup kitchen projects close for a short break from Christmas to New Year. Community Development programs are open year round, including holidays. School programs teaching English will be unavailable during the following school breaks in 2017:
  • July 3 - July 14
  • April 10 - April 14
  • Mid December - Mid February (exact dates to be confirmed before the start of the 2017-2018 school year)
School Holidays 2018: From July 2-23, and and mid-December to mid-Feburary, schools will be closed, however, volunteers will be placed in daycare centers and homes for abandoned children during this time.
Internet:  Most families will have Internet at their homes and you are welcome to use the WiFi at the language school, which is open until 5:00 pm, during the entire length of your stay.
Accommodations:  You will live with a host family in San José who will provide you with a comfortable, basic, private room in their home, which is a short bus ride away from the language school.
Food:  Your host family will provide breakfast and dinner every day.
Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:
  • You must have an intermediate level of Spanish.  If not, you should be prepared to enroll in additional weeks of Spanish lessons.
  • Casa de los Niños: Interns must be high school or college graduates with significant experience in social work.
  • Fundación Ana Frank: Interns must be high school or college graduates with significant experience in social work.
  • Fundación RAHAB: Interns should be 4th year college students or college graduates (only women are accepted to this project).
  • Casa de Maria Auxiliadora: Interns should be 4th year college students or college graduates
  • CV/Resume: A detailed CV, including educational background, experience, skills, and current Spanish level, must be submitted and reviewed before acceptance to the program.
  • A motivational letter indicating internship expectations. 
  • Phone interview.
  • Written Spanish exam must be completed and emailed prior to arrival (oral evaluation will be done on the first day of internship).
Costa Rica is a diverse country with activities to suit anyone’s interests. Visit one of the famous volcanoes, see the country’s wildlife in the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast, or the Tortuguero Canals on the Caribbean side, or enjoy a hike through the Costa Rican forests.  Adventure seekers will find plenty of activities to keep them busy including surfing, white water rafting, zip-lining through the treetops and more.

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