Staff Spotlight: Esteban Rojas Chacon

What is your role at ISV? What inspired you to join them?

Esteban: My role as Project Leader is to coordinate with the host organization the daily activities of the volunteers, also I do the same activities with the volunteers and I provide them discussions, learning opportunities and the reality of the country and the place where we are staying or we are visiting.

Above all my role is to facilitate the opportunity for the volunteers to have a life changing experience by helping communities or conservation projects while having a lot of fun.

My real inspiration for working with ISV was to work with volunteers in conservation projects in my country. After I joined ISV I realize the experience was life changing not just for the students but for myself as well.

Experiencing the real Costa Rican communities where we stay, sharing with volunteers from all over the world, and learning and helping through all kinds of projects is my inspiration to continue with ISV.

What do you enjoy most as far as your role?

Esteban: What I enjoy the most is get to know and share with people. There are volunteers from different countries with different backgrounds but who are open and willing to learn and to help out in a different country. Getting to know them, what they do, what they like, and why they come is really amazing.

There is individual sharing and also sharing as a group and this make the job really fun and worthwhile. Besides the volunteers, there are a lot of people from the communities, the host families and the host organization that have amazing stories. The job gives me the opportunity not just to know a lot of people but to make new friends.

What is your favorite story of a volunteer's experience with ISV in Costa Rica?

Esteban: We were working with sea turtles in the southern Pacific part of Costa Rica and the group was split in two. One of the groups was searching for turtles and the other one was working with construction in the rescue center for the turtles.

That day I went with the group that was looking for the turtles and while we were there we spotted a huge dorsal fin in the water, immediately we approach to discover a magnificent whale shark that was definitely the highlight. On the other group that stayed working with construction there was a marine biology student and her dream was to see a whale shark.

When the other group arrived and told her about the whale shark, she started crying. She felt really disappointed. The next day it was her turn to be with the turtles. We were extremely lucky, and we saw the whale shark again. Of course she was amazed and really happy.

The best part is that the whole group was really happy for the experience and she had the chance to accomplish one of her dreams. From that day on, the group was more united, and we had a great time.

What should every volunteer considering Costa Rica know?

Esteban: Costa Rica is a great place for volunteering abroad. There are great volunteer projects related with conservation and the protection and research of amazing wildlife including: sea turtles, whales, dolphins, monkeys, exotic birds or even better a whole tropical forest or mangrove ecosystem.

Also, there are community projects that aim to help really organized small communities to accomplish otherwise almost impossible goals. Every location gives the volunteers the possibility to know and share with the locals and to experience what the real rural or urban Costa Rica is.

It's a really safe place and has a friendly culture for foreigners especially if they are volunteers. The things you have to have to keep in mind are: always keep an eye on your belongings, always be careful with sunburns and the most important don't miss out on any of the nature, adventure and fun while you are here.

What tips/insights do you have for first-time volunteers abroad?

Esteban: Probably the best tip for first time volunteers is to be prepare to be out of your comfort zone and also to be prepare for culture shock. This does not mean to be prepared with a satellite cellphone so you don´t miss the internet. This means to be aware that there might be many different things than you are used to and that this may be one of the greatest aspects of volunteering abroad.

Maybe not all the new things are going to be great but if you put a positive attitude, you will learn valuable lessons for your life. I also can recommend first time travelers the following: take lots of pictures (and remember to be in your pictures), take the opportunity to get to know the people you are meeting, have a personal journal and bring home all the good things you learned abroad.