Cross-Cultural Solutions: Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica

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About

More than 1.1 million Costa Ricans live in poverty - that’s 1 in every 5 individuals - and the population living in extreme poverty increased last year. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, and Costa Ricans living in poverty are more likely to live in a single-parent home with a higher-than-average number of children under 5 years. With more than 77% of this population working in the informal sector, a lack of employment security and fewer years of education are pressing concerns.

Join CCS as a volunteer in Costa Rica to fight for equal and complete education for children. With more than 12% of all children not completing primary school, CCS is determined to prepare students for success through early childhood preparation, and through support to mothers in the community working tirelessly to provide for their families.

In Costa Rica, CCS has been working for the past 15 years as leaders in early childhood education with the support of international volunteers.

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Questions & Answers

Cross-Cultural Solutions has been supporting families of all types for 22 years in creating meaningful and memorable international volunteer experiences. You can learn about our programs for families and read stories from CCS volunteer families at https://www.crossculturalsolutions.org/family-volunteer-abroad.
In my personal experience, I found it easy to communicate in Spanish. You would get weekly Spanish lessons with a personal teacher, and you can ask the staff to speak in Spanish and help you out ---They are incredibly helpful in that aspect, so they will be a big help--- Then, apart from that, it also depends on your placement. I was placed at the school and surrounded by children for most of the...

Reviews

93%
based on 27 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 27
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Jennifer
10/10

awesome

Loved the experience and the culture of Costa Rica. It is a great place to go for anyone. The cross cultural solutions staff are very knowledgeable and if you dont know much spanish they have very helpful spanish professor come to the home base to teach everyone. The country is beautiful and it is a must see.The natives there are very friendly and make you feel like your at home and as if you are among family that you have known for years!

How can this program be improved?
there should be available student rates for those who dont have as much money but have the enthusiastic need to travel and volunteer abroad.
Yes, I recommend
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Tevis
9/10

My Time in Costa Rica-- CCS

I had an absolutely amazing time in Costa Rica. Not only was the country beautiful, but the locals were hospitable and respectful to volunteers travelling abroad. To top it all off, the staff was absolutely amazing at making sure everyone was comfortable. I got the opportunity to travel the country-- both with CCS staff--and with the local friends I made. For me, everything was perfect.

If you do get the chance to visit, make sure you are prepared for some adventures such as zip lining or repelling off waterfalls. However, one of my favorite vacations was the 3-day relaxing time at Manuel Antonio beach. It is something I'd recommend to anyone going--just watch out for the monkeys.

How can this program be improved?
More accommodations for personal desires. I'm sure everyone that visits has something that they would want to see, or do. While the staff help accommodates you, sometimes it is ultimately up to you to take the bus or to find your own way there and back.
Yes, I recommend
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Elizabeth
10/10

Traveling Outside my Comfort Zone with CCS

Never having traveled with CCS before, I was unsure of what to expect. I do not regret, for one moment, volunteering in Costa Rica with CCS. While volunteering in a daycare, I had to learn to adapt to different situations quickly. While I could speak a bit of Spanish, I still encountered a language barrier and was in an unfamiliar country. I found out very quickly that none of that mattered. The children I worked with were eager to help me learn, and more interested in what activities we were going to do for the day than my imperfect Spanish.

During our free time, we volunteers got to experience the culture in hands-on activities and excursions. We got to dance, cook, improve our Spanish, and see more of the amazing country. We got to interact with the staff, hear stories and share experiences. On weekends, we traveled as a group. There is nothing quite like rappelling down a waterfall in Manuel Antonio, relaxing in hot springs in La Fortuna, ziplining with a spectacular view of Lake Arenal or looking outside the window of your hotel room to see a volcano.

In the short time I was in Costa Rica, I met some great people and was forced outside my comfort zone in the best possible way. I highly recommend the Cross Cultural Solutions program in Cartago, Costa Rica.

Yes, I recommend
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Laura
10/10

Life-Changing Experience

I traveled to Costa Rica the summer after my Sophomore year of college. It was hands down, undoubtably, the most life-changing experience I have ever had. Being immersed into such a beautiful culture while being able to serve and make a difference amongst vulnerable populations all played a roll in this. The support and encouragement from the country staff coupled with the relationships formed with other travelers made for lasting memories. I cannot wait to travel with Cross Cultural Solutions again soon and Costa Rica will always hold a special place in my heart.

Yes, I recommend
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Jen
10/10

San Carlos, Costa Rica

I participated in this program for 9 weeks in 2006. It completely changed my life and gave me a new focus on how I wanted to live. Since this program I've traved to Rwanda and South Africa and am 6 months away from completing my PhD in sociology. I loved every minute of my time working in the orphanage, and am still friends with volunteers from my program.

My favorite memory was witnessing Ale, a little girl at the Oreo, walk for the first time.

Yes, I recommend
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Anna
9/10

wonderful "volunteer vacation" progam

I had an amazing volunteer vacation experience in Costa Rica with CCS.

The program director and staff were wonderful, friendly, and had all kinds of activities organized outside the volunteering (e.g. going to a regional soccer game, to non-touristy hot springs and nature reserves, etc) to give us a real feeling for the country and the people who lived there.

My Spanish improved greatly, and I loved working both with kids/teachers at a local daycare/preschool and with residents of an old-age home (who were wonderfully patient with us as we talked with them and entertained them with our mostly-bad Spanish :-) )

It was also fun to have a mix of ages volunteering and living together.

How can this program be improved?
It was a bit expensive for some folks (though the cost is understandable given that they house and feed all the volunteers), and CCS was great at providing suggestions on how to raise funds to support attendees etc.
Yes, I recommend
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J
10/10

Cross-Cultural Solutions - Adult Volunteer in Costa Rica

My experience in Costa Rica with CCS more than exceeded my expectations. The staff that run the local program are amazing people. They give fully of themselves on a daily basis in whatever they do. As an adult volunteer, I had to go into this experience with an open mind. I had it in my head that I wanted to volunteer at an orphanage with the children. Luckily, CCS encouraged my to go outside of my comfort zone to also volunteer at a nursing home. My days at the nursing home were packed full. Many of the things that I did were not glamorous tasks - folding sheets, sweeping the floor, making beds, feeding the residents who could not feed themselves, and playing games. But, they were desperately needed by the staff and the residents. I left there every day feeling needed, appreciated, and a huge sense of accomplishment. Who knew I could feel so accomplished for folding loads and loads of sheets; but this task was what was needed at the time and that made it that much more important. Every moment I spent on my volunteer adventure was amazing. Please go into an experience like this with an open mind. It is not about you, it is about giving of yourself to help others with WHATEVER they need. With an open mind, you will truly change your life.

How can this program be improved?
I really did not have any complaints. The housing is not a four star hotel, so don't go into the experience expecting that. But, the home base is extremely clean, the food was freshly prepared every day, and the people running the program had hearts of gold.
Yes, I recommend
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Mary
10/10

Amazing Experience

This was hands down the best experience, so far, in my life. I decided to take a break from school and my parents suggested to me, going to Costa Rica for 3 months with CCS. I am so happy I did, I have taken away and learned so much from my time spent there. I spent time at a nursing home, special education school and a daycare. At each placement I felt very useful, each place was understaffed so they really needed the extra set of hands to help provide more attention to the kids or residents. A typical day started at about 7, which is when breakfast was served, we left home base at about 7:30 to drop everyone off at placements. At placement it depended what you did on a day to day basis, at the daycare I would prepare about 4 or 5 activities for the kids, usually trying to work on skills like counting, colors, and some English. At the nursing home the day began with feeding the residents who needed help and then helping with laundry or therapy, and at the special education school I was placed with a teacher and would help her manage the classroom and do projects. We usually were picked up from placements between 12-12:30, and once we got home we were welcomed by a wonderful meal. After lunch, depending on the day we would either have free time, dance class, Spanish class, cooking class, a field trip or sometimes a guest speaker. None of these cultural experiences were required, besides the Spanish class, however, I would highly recommend them. All the activities were very fun and I learned a lot from each activity. Dinner was served at 6 every night, and the food was always amazing. Bernardita, the cook, is an amazing cook and if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, or simply do not like something, she will accommodate you. After dinner we usually had free time, we did have Spanish class two nights a week, but only for 30-40 minutes. On the weekends we were free to travel, getting around Costa Rica is very easy, you can take a bus most places for cheap, and the staff was happy to help us figure out where to find bus schedules and any other information we needed. Overall, this program was more than I could have ever imagined it would be, I met the nicest and most amazing people and had so many wonderful experiences. The money you spend is worth every penny, personally it confirmed what career I wanted to pursue and taught me so much about myself and the world I live in.

How can this program be improved?
Better preparation for before you enter the country.
Yes, I recommend
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Vicki
10/10

Cartago, Costa Rica Experience with CCS

I volunteered with Cross Cultural Solutions in Cartago, Costa Rica. My placement was at an Adult Day Care. It was a very rewarding experience. This placement allowed me to both offer service & immerse myself into the Costa Rican culture. I planned activities for the people as there was minimal staff and materials at the Center.

The CCS staff was amazing. They were both efficient & helpful. They planned learning opportunities: cooking classes, Spanish classes, field trips, dance classes, etc.

I would recommend this opportunity to anyone who is looking for a positive, service adventure.

How can this program be improved?
More Spanish classes - I had average Spanish language skills & would have liked to be more fluent
Yes, I recommend
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Luis
10/10

Luis Icaza

It's a great opportunity to contribuye our time and skill to get to achieve a better quality of lifes for Many who need our serviles. This is an invaluable emocional return that help us to be better every day people. This is a great opportunity to meet other volunteers from differents countries who the same desires, dreams and aspirations that i have. No matter the potencial barriers of lenguage, culture or traditions. In the world there are many people willing to give the Best of each to help tose in need. This revitalizes and helps us to keep hope to achieve trough the action one more dignified, more caring, more just world for all. A world getting better.

How can this program be improved?
Everythings is prepared for inglish speakers. It is important to do well in spanish. Many volunteers do not speak inglish.
Yes, I recommend
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Marcela
10/10

Costa Rica - Manos de Jesús Nursery

The program was so good that I just want to go back!
I helped in the Manos de Jesus Nursery with the elderly.
A day to day experience was to help in the kitchen or in the laundry or the theraphists to let people feel better.
Just smiling make others smile!!

How can this program be improved?
Make the new volunteers know basic Spanish before they go to their assignments.
Yes, I recommend
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Aser
7/10

Great!

I had an great time in Costa Rica with them, truly. I just think that this program could have a bit more you know? I would really love more volunteer hours because in my opinion we just didn't get enough! however the advent was great and i had an amaze time.

How can this program be improved?
More volunteer time!!
Yes, I recommend
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Leo
5/10

Pura Vida, Costa Rica!

Traveling to another country - especially one that speaks a language that you, I, no... we aren't familiar with - feels scary. This is the beauty of a voluntourism organization; voluntourism allowed me to get a sense of what it is like to be in a foreign land, while still remaining in a (semi) familiar community. At the end of the day, my experience in Costa Rica reflects something much different than what an actual Tican goes through day to day. Which is fine; even a small exposure to a new way of doing things profoundly affected me. And that is what the "Cross - Cultural Solutions" is all about: taking people who know one way of existing and baring them to some other people who know another way of existing. Cross - Cultural Solutions facilitated this interaction between different modes of existence as well as a non-profit organization could/would/should. Which is to say they did fine. Even, great! The all inclusive room and board was comfy and authentically delicious. The climate of the house that I lived in felt safe - both physically and socially. Advertised as "cross cultural lessons," the Spanish and dance lessons felt more like after school specials for a middle schooler than life altering cultural exchanges - but whatever, I still knew Spanish a whole hell of a lot better by the time I got back stateside. For around $5,000, it was worth it. Will I ever do a month of voluntourism again? Doubtful; I think a more DIY approach is for me. All of that said, Cross-Cultural Solutions, establishing structure, rules, and presence in the local community, gave me the courage to consider a more DIY travel option in the future; CCS (and other voluntourism entities by extension) is like travel training wheels - so, so helpful.

How can this program be improved?
I would provide bicycles to the residents.
Yes, I recommend
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Melissa
10/10

I learned the true meaning of "Pura Vida"

In May of 2014 I had the most amazing and inspirational experience of my life. When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I had never traveled on my own, and all of the nerves and stresses I had before I arrived were totally worth it. The staff at the Cartago location made me feel welcome and I never questioned my safety. Everything was amazing from the food, people, language, activities, and even the bunk beds which became my home for a short two weeks. During my free time I explored the city with fellow volunteers and even had the chance to travel to the Caribbean side of the country which took my breath away. From bike riding to hidden beaches to eating the amazing local food at small cafes, I felt totally immersed in the Costa Rican culture. Now for the most important part of my trip; volunteering. I worked at a small orphanage in Cartago and fell in love with every single child I spent time with. Despite the language barrier, we made crafts together, played games, and sang songs. I bonded with each of them in a different way and I can only hope that I had at least half the impact on their lives as they had on mine. I would recommend this program to anyone interested in travelling while doing something good for those who are less privileged. You will not regret it!

How can this program be improved?
I would not change anything about this program accept for the possibility of lowering the cost as it is a bit high compared to some of the other volunteer organizations I had researched. Although it was worth every penny, I struggled to save and fund raise for my program fee.
Yes, I recommend
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Andrea
9/10

Great Experience

I stayed in a house for my month-long stay. I worked in a local elementary school for my internship. While it was very enjoyable, volunteers should be aware of cultural differences. The school was often closed on random days for no reason, making it hard to make a lot of progress through lessons. There wasn't a lot of prep on how to teach a class, so having previous experience, like I did, is helpful. Everyone we worked with was amazing and helpful and friendly. The people that I met during my stay were also great, and we traveled together on weekends to sight-see. There was a little bit of a divide between people that stayed a month or longer and people that were only there a week or two, but overall everyone was very friendly. It was pricey, the only downfall. You pay a lot to volunteer your time, although much of this likely covers the cost of your stay at the house and food (which was delicious!). Overall I loved Costa Rica!

How can this program be improved?
Cultural preparation for those not familiar with Costa Rican culture/Price
Yes, I recommend

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About Cross-Cultural Solutions

For 22 years, CCS has been the standard setter for the safest, most meaningful, and enriching volunteer abroad programs while striving to be a global leader in child development and women's empowerment.

Since 1995, over 35,000 people have volunteered...