By Raleigh International   Reviews (7)   81% Rating

Volunteer with Central America's Indigenous Communities

By Raleigh International   Reviews (7)   81% Rating

Live alongside some of the world's most fascinating communities. A Raleigh expedition to Nicaragua and Costa Rica is a unique opportunity to experience incredible cultures and help tackle poverty, whilst living in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

You can choose to spend 10, 7 or 5 weeks on expedition. We'll guide you through up to three exciting challenges:

- Building community centres in the Nicaraguan cloud forest
- Trekking across volcanic peaks to the ocean
- Living in the Costa Rican jungle and helping experts on conservation projects

Whichever projects you do, we can guarantee that your expedition will be supportive and worthwhile. You'll be part of a team made up of diverse nationalities, all working together on projects that will inspire you for a lifetime. At Raleigh, we have over 30 years' experience of working with young people. We are dedicated to making a positive impact on communities and driving change that lasts.

Locations
North America › Nicaragua
North America › Costa Rica
Length
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
Housing
Host Family
Cost
Fundraising targets

10 week expedition PS3,150
7 week expedition PS2,350
5 week expedition PS1,850

As we're a charity we talk about fundraising rather than costs. This means you can raise the money for your expedition through donations from family, friends and supporters. Fundraising can come in all kinds of forms, from running a cake sale to doing a sponsored run or setting up a JustGiving page. We recognise that fundraising might be new to you. It is more popular in some countries than others. At Raleigh International we will support you with fundraising wherever you are based.
Starting Price
2000.00

Rating Values

  • Impact
    77%
  • Support
    80%
  • Fun
    74%
  • Value
    74%
  • Safety
    80%

Program Reviews (7)

Richard
Male
41 years old
worthing

Nicaragua

Overall
10

After a few years working in the NHS, as a Paramedic, I felt what I d always dreaded would happen. Everything seemed like a predictable treadmill. I d been interested in Raleigh since I first heard about them about 20 years ago and being able to mix the two, as a Raleigh medic and working on a Raleigh expedition. I did feel a bit older than most of the other VPMs but that wasn t a problem. Raleigh use Nurses, Doctors, and Paramedics as Medics. In reality though, it is a very small part of the overall experience because most of the work is whichever project you are on. And I mean work! It was not a holliday. I had arrived in central america a little earlier and had felt a connection with the people in Nicaragua, so I asked to work there. The first phase was a Trek through Nicaragua, and none of us will ever forget that. I remember, at a villiage in Nicaragua, which had taken hours of walking throught the heat, dropping my back pack, which by then felt like a lead weight, and collapsed beside the shade of a small house. Then one of the pigs, which walk freely around the village saw me get my lunch out, and came over expectantly sticking his snout in my face and 'oinking' at me. I am an animal lover but this was not a time for generosity. We were exhausted. After overcoming a few setbacks we finally arrived at lake next to a volcano and spent the night there before meeting the bus the next day and returning to field base. The next two phases were helping on a water and sanitation project in Nicaragua. In the end, we helped dig about 5km of trench, which eventually supplied clean water supply to each of the houses, about 12 in our village. The host families were beautiful, honest people. I often think of the contrast between a hectic western life, and living in nature, sitting outside, talking, in the candlelight, maybe with the sound of birds or rain, after a hard days work. Raleigh was everything I was looking for. I d love to do it again, but as any Raleigh alumni will know, whichever expedition destiny has in store for you will be a unique. For me, there wil always be Raleigh expeditions, but none like Costa Rica and Nicaragua 14 G & H.

Connie
Female
21 years old
London
University of Cambridge

5-week programme with Raleigh, July-August 2014

Overall
7

The main gist: I had a wonderful time with Raleigh in Costa Rica, and despite several logistical things going wrong and lots of frustration, it was a really valuable experience.

The first couple of days were spent doing induction and training at Field-base and a short practice trek for an hour or so to get to 'jungle camp' - a kind of mock scenario for our actual trek at the end, and a team building exercise. Quite a memorable night because it started pouring with rain, I got thoroughly drenched, and it didn't stop for about 4 days.

The whole group of about 60 was split into 4 teams for the 3-week projects; mine was sent to build a classroom in an incredibly remote place called Blori Ñak, which has a tiny school and is in the Chirripo indigenous reserve. Some of the people living there didn't even speak Spanish, but they speak an indigenous language called Cabecar, which we tried to learn a few words of.

The main aim of our project, to build a wooden classroom/building for the school, essentially failed. Building materials were slow to arrive, we didn't know what we were doing a lot of the time and had relatively little direction from the local builder who was meant to be overseeing us. A lot of time was spent waiting for things to happen, or for materials to arrive, and in some ways you could see it as wasted time. But we filled it with other things, like playing football - sometimes with the kids in the school - and getting to know each other. Our team were much more cohesive than any of the other groups by a long way, probably because we had to make an effort to enjoy the time together that we couldn't use to work on the project.
Did we make a difference to the local community? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. We only managed to start the building, laying the floor boards and some structural posts, but even if we had finished the project, our interaction with the local people was fairly limited, which was a shame. The 3 weeks were full of frustrations, but an interesting experience, with lots learned and gained from it. I'd say I learnt more about myself than I helped anyone in Blori.

Then - my favourite part of the trip - we set out for 5 days trekking, with the same team. We walked about 15km each day in quite mountainous terrain (avg. altitude was about 1500m). Such beautiful views and in some places you could see out to the Pacific coast to the West. Hard work and tiring, but so worth it.

Finally, we spent 3 days on an island off the Pacific Coast called San Lucas, which used to be a maximum security prison but is now a nature reserve. This was the 'Survival Challenge', which was essentially just a bit of fun and a kind of fake desert-island situation; we did team games and survival skills like building a fire and skewering fish to cook for ourselves. A lovely end to the 5 weeks, which had ups and downs but overall was wonderful.

How can this program be improved?
More organisation for the projects.
- better communication with local partners (e.g. the builder we were working with)
- contingency plans if things go wrong - we were just stuck there for 3 weeks feeling useless when we could have been put to use doing something else
- more teaching about methods and practices of sustainable development
Carl
Male
20 years old
Salisbury
University of Edinburgh

My Costa Rica & Nicaragua Volunteering Experience

Overall
9

I went out on the 7 week expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua from the 4th July to the 20th August 2016.

I was unsure about whether I had made the right choice in going and anxious about what to expect and whether I would enjoy it. Fortunately, all my worries were for nothing and I had a thoroughly great time over the 7 weeks. Although challenging, the experience was also fun and very fulfilling.

I went on the Baricifico trek from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and then the WASH programme in La Montana, Nicaragua. The trek was tough at times, particularly through the Costa Rican jungle, but was full of fun moments and, on completion, gave me one of the best senses of achievement of my life. Similarly, in Nicaragua, the satisfaction gained from bringing fresh, clean water to an extremely grateful community was immense. The locals were so friendly and staying in their homes whilst we worked on the project was great fun.

It is so easy to make great friends on a Raleigh expedition and I am still in touch with several of them now. Moreover, what I learnt from my expedition and the character it gave me will stay with me for the rest of my life.

How can this program be improved?
Maybe slightly cheaper
Elroy
Male
44 years old
London

Awful experience courtesy of Raleigh International - Costa Rica / Nicaragua

Overall
1

Broken promises. What was promised in their literature was not reality.
Lack of support with regards to our tasks that we signed up for.
Health and safety not being at the forefront of their minds. We lived in disgusting conditions.
The team leaders employed by Raleigh were not strong leaders.
I paid a lot of money to sign up for what I thought would be a worthy cause to undertake and walked out after a week and some change.

Ruth
Female
26 years old
London
University of Leeds

Nicaragua is not a country in Africa- reflections on my Raleigh experience

Overall
10

“So, is that like, uh, a poor country in Africa?” Sadly enough, when it emerged that I was going to be embarking on a ten week sustainable development project in Nicaragua, this was the most common question I encountered. It’s not that I wish to mock people for their previous ignorance, and to be perfectly honest I had a blurry outline of a place located somewhere in the depths of Central America too, it is just that an overriding cliché of volunteering lingers stubbornly among our “gap-yah” generation. I am sure most people will be familiar with the concept that prior to or post university, it is common practice for young people to be shipped abroad to get stuck into charity projects, leaving only with considerably lighter wallets and a sense of self-achievement. Now, I also don’t want to judge these endeavours in a too-harsh light and I certainly don’t want to pretend that I am better than anyone. However, there is a scheme that is infinitely better and that genuinely strives to improve the lives of local communities. It might even change your life too.

I travelled to Nicaragua as part of the government ICS scheme in conjunction with the sustainable development charity Raleigh International. The aims of the programme were to bring about positive change in developing countries that need it the most whilst supporting young people in their personal development in terms of leadership and valuable life skills. The ultimate goal is to create a network of global active citizens working together across the globe. And despite the fact I have been aiming to avoid clichés so far, nothing brings people tighter together than memories and shared experience.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. I experienced this poverty first-hand, living in a small rural community with no electricity or running water. The community San Marcos 2 is nestled in the mountains of Matagalpa and is breathtakingly beautiful, not a day passed where I wasn’t astonished by the deep green landscape and rolling hills. I quickly adjusted to showering by the river with a bucket under the brooding eyes of grazing cows and the sounds of a battery powered radio blasting out Latino pop tunes all day meant there was never a silent second.

The community of San Marcos 2 is comprised of roughly 80 families with the majority supporting their livelihoods from the earth through the agricultural production of maize and beans. This meant waking up to the taps of tortilla being made in the morning, harvested from the land mere metres away from our wooden houses. Our group was comprised of 6 volunteers from Nicaragua and 9 from the United Kingdom, living together in local host families who welcomed us in with huge smiles and kept us on our toes with unnerving local ghost stories.

The focus of our project circulated around the key issue in the community, the integral problem of natural resource management, with a focus on the watershed. The main problems facing San Marcos 2 are contamination of water sources, soil erosion and deforestation. We collaborated closely with a local partner charity, ANIDES, who aim to improve the environment in rural communities. We were the second group out of six in a two-year project working in the area. Therefore, it felt like this project was a part of a bigger picture, one that will grow and expand over time and ultimately bring health and happiness to the community. In other words, it did not feel like we were simply charging in, optimism blazing, ready to single-handedly transform the community.

On a tangible level, we constructed water filters, dykes, eco-latrines, eco-ovens and Tippy-taps. These physical structures all contributed to better management of the local watershed. Water filters deal with the negative effects of contaminated water, damaged from human waste, soaps and detergents and artificial fertilisers used on crops, by filtering waste water away from the community houses. A container is placed below the kitchen’s dirty water outlet into a tube that leads to a hole filled with layers of rocks. These rocks cleanse the contaminated water which is then absorbed back in the ground and the water table. Furthermore, contaminated water thrown directly outside the house with no drainage system creates a puddle that attracts flied and mosquitoes, leading to preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea and serious infectious diseases such as malaria. Dykes are barriers of rocks that are positioned where earth is affected by heavy rain, as fertile soil is carried down the mountains and washed away into the river, damaging crops and harvests and reducing monthly income. These structures obstruct the flow of water meaning the earth retains its natural water source and ensures the productivity and preservation of the healthy soil. Eco-latrines manage human waste in an environmentally sustainable manner, providing a natural composting system that can be used on crops. Eco-ovens were built in the houses and use a slow-burning fire which uses less wood and emits less smoke, creating a more comfortable environment in the houses of the community but helps to combat the problem of deforestation. Finally, Tippy-taps are simple structures of three sticks and a container of water that can be tipped with a pedal in order to provide running water like a tap, encouraging sanitary practices of washing hands. This construction work completed by our team felt like a great achievement, ultimately empowering the community to look after their natural landscape and their individual well-being.

However, the greatest achievement of this project cannot be measured in a tangible manner. As well as the physical labour, we conducted workshops and ‘action days’ with the community that aimed to gradually shift attitudes and mind-sets and create a dialogue about issues such as sustainability, health and sanitation and gender roles. This interaction with the community meant that it did not simply feel like we were rushing in, building enthusiastically and then leaving them without any idea of the benefits or how to properly use the structures. Weekly English lessons with the local children at the school meant that we had time to bond with the children, run around and play games with them whilst emphasising the importance of the environment. Furthermore, we enjoyed many special moments with the community- such as playing football with the teenage boys, dancing around a bonfire singing Nicaraguan songs and learning to, incredibly clumsily on my behalf, salsa dance. Undoubtedly, this proved that despite any cultural differences and barriers, the ability to share a moment of collective happiness lies within us all. We became incredibly close to our host families, who treated and looked after us like their own children, cooking for us their speciality of rice and beans and tortilla at mealtimes and making sure we felt comfortable in their homes. On a personal level, the role of Weekly Leader, in which every volunteer would manage the group and plan the activities and target for the week, helped me realise my passion for motivating and inspiring people. I have no doubt that all I have learnt from this experience will be transferred into my later life and career.

Furthermore, as a part of the programme, we were introduced to the work of La Isla Foundation. In 2008, a documentary maker Jason Glaser encountered the community of La Isla, “The Island of Widows.” He established the foundation after learning about communities of sugarcane workers in Nicaragua who were affected, and suffering with, a devastating disease. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), also known as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure, is a degenerative condition marked by the gradual loss of kidney function. However, as highlighted by the foundation Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown cause (CKDu) is a different form of progressive, decreased kidney function. As stated on their website, “Whereas CKD is associated with diabetes, obesity and hypertension, patients who develop CKDu generally do not have these conditions. CKDu is associated with heavy labor in hot temperatures, particularly among industrial agricultural workers such as those working in sugarcane production. Additionally, CKDu often affects young men, many under the age of 30, while CKD is generally diagnosed in older patients. The location of damage within the kidneys also differs between CKD and CKDu.” The foundation strives to reverse the rising prevalence of the disease through widespread awareness and prevention efforts, facilitating more research into the causes of the epidemic among workers. Through the creation of a dialogue with the public about the scope of his condition, the foundation hopes to generate a strong network of support and awareness. Through the simple act of the foundation speaking to our group of ICS volunteers, the butterfly effect of spreading knowledge is able to continually expand and grow.

During a talk given to us by the incredible Nicky Hoskyns, (a brilliant man who ethically and fairly sourced sesame oil to the Body Shop from Nicaragua) he insisted “you will never feel as confident that you have the ability to instigate change as you do right now.” And partly, this is true. During the experience, it was easy to be swept up into a positive encouraging bubble. Yet, since returning home, I have also found it incredibly simple to slip back into old routines and bad habits, of caring about sustainable development and the environment when it is convenient. However, what I have learnt from ICS is that change does not have to be massive to make an impact. I believe that in our contemporary society, when we demand so much from our consumerist lifestyles, that brand new smart phone and the expensive designer clothes, and expect things to transform instantly in the half-a-second it takes to click ‘like’, we have forgotten that things do not have to move at such a rushed and hectic pace. We cannot simply jump on a plane and hi-five all the Millennium Goals on the way down. But as active global citizens, we can make small and steady steps towards a better future. Recycling. Shopping locally. And, if you are lucky enough to be aged 18-25, shaking of the tiresome labels and putting yourself forward for ICS. Good luck, yah.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change one thing about my Raleigh experience, it would be for the Raleigh team to support a greater interaction between the British volunteers and the In-Country Volunteers. This could be done by making bonds beforehand through joint Facebook groups, cultural exchanges and language sessions.
Lucy
Female
30 years old
London, UK
University of Leeds

Life-changing and inspiring

Overall
10

Raleigh is the most incredible charity. They are supporting, inspiring, they work really hard, they're experienced, and I had the most amazing volunteering experience with them.

I love that they work with young people. I love that they focus on how their projects can have long-term impact and be sustainable.

Through my volunteering I felt like I made a real difference - to the people in the community that I worked in and to the other volunteers in my group. I also learned a huge amount about myself, about working with and leading a team, and about sustainable development.

Costa Rica is a stunning country. I went to an indigenous community in Chirripo, and it was the most magical place I've ever been to. The people, the nature, the way of life and the stars. Everything about it was just wonderful.

I'm not going to lie, Raleigh is tough. It's definitely a challenge, but I would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking about volunteering.

How can this program be improved?
I would tell more people about it!!
Rebecca
Female
33 years old
United Kingdon
Other

Trail dig digging and trekking Costa Rica & Nicaragua

Overall
10

My life was a bit of a cross roads earlier this year and I was at a point where I really needed to do something for myself, something challenging that would help me to rebuild who I was. I have always loved traveling and seeing new places but this time I wanted to do something more than just travel. I am a qualified nurse so after attending a Raleigh open evening, I applied, had an interview and was given a place as a volunteer manager (VM) and medic in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for 10 weeks over the summer.

From the first week we arrived at VM pre-expedition training at field base in Costa Rica it felt like home. All the VM's bonded really quickly and it felt like we had known it each other for years. It was really amazing to meet a group of people with a similar outlook on life as myself and who were in very similar situations to me. While we worked really hard throughout the expedition there was also so much laughter and fun.

The 10 week expedition is divided into 3 phases and 3 different projects. There is 2 water and sanitation projects in Nicaragua, 2 natural resource management projects in Costa Rica and 2 youth leadership treks in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua.

For my first phase I went to the south of Costa Rica on a natural resource management project to a national park called Piedas Blancas with 10 venturers and 1 other project manager. Piedas Blancas is a 40,000 hector national park which consists of both primary and secondary rain forest. Costa Rica is home to 4% of the world's biodiversity and 2% of that can be found in Piedas Blancas. So as you can imagine it is one of the most beautiful and stunning places I have ever visited. Here we started building a new trail within the park that will eventually lead to the beach, and hopefully making the park more accessible to visitors. We also visited a local school to help engage local people with the park.

For my second phase I was a VM and medic for a youth leadership trek in Nicaragua. Here myself and another VM went with 12 venturers to the north of Nicaragua and we trekked about 250km south over 16 days across mountains, through villages, over plains and up volcanoes. We carried all the equipment, food our personal kit ourselves. We gave up all our comforts and slept on floors and washed with buckets. Each of the venturer's took it in turns to lead the group to help them develop their confidence and leadership skills. Every night we stayed in a different community along the way and met so many very kind and helpful people. It was definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging things any of us had ever done. We all achieved things we didn't know we were capable of but we absolutely loved it. We finished with a massive sense of achievement and feeling we could now do anything if we set out minds to it.

For my third phase I was based at field base in Costa Rica, here I was the medic on call and part of the field base staff. I gave medical advice to all the groups out on project when required. I also managed any medical treatment and volunteers required as well as being part of the day to day running of the program.

I would definitely recommend Raleigh to anyone looking to volunteer abroad. It is a very well organized program which focus' on sustainable development and young people.I have made so many amazing friends that I will hopefully keep for life. I have definitely changed for the better and have so much more self confidence than I had before. I now really feel like I can make a difference and help to change the world.

How can this program be improved?
I wouldn't change anything about it, it was awesome.

About The Provider

At Raleigh International, we empower young people and communities to drive lasting positive change. We are committed to building a future that's sustainable, and we believe that the best way to achieve this is to harness the power and energy of youth.

We have over 30 years' experience of working with young people. Our programmes are structured and supportive, and we take our volunteers' safety extremely seriously. Our expeditions are a chance for young people to gain valuable life-skills such as teamwork and leadership, to broaden their outlook and experience new parts of the world and to meet fellow volunteers from across the globe.

Raleigh's history of volunteering dates back to members of the British royal family, and to date we have inspired over 40 000 volunteers to make their impact in the world.