Indigenous cultural exchange project

PRICE FROM
£306 p.w.

Price is based on 12 weeks
MINIMUM DURATION
1 month

Volunteer as a teacher living and working as part of a remote indigenous community

  • Volunteer as a teacher in rural Costa Rica in an indigenous exchange project
  • Teach English to adults to help them fight for their land rights
  • Gain experience by volunteering as part of an embryonic sustainable tourism cooperative
  • Immerse yourself in a cultural exchange opportunity
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Project summary

A community of 800 indigenous people live in distributed settlements in 1,500 hectares of communal forest. Work and community life is traditionally managed through a cooperatives spirit. 11 community leaders have now come together to form an innovative cooperative to develop eco and cultural tourism.

The habitat in which they live is often taken by foreign investors for agriculture and tourism. They are at a disadvantage fighting for the protection of their forest and their way of life because they do not speak English and because people do not recognise them. Only 4 of the 11 community leaders have the English language skills necessary to explain their way of life to others.

A priority is to teach English to this adult group. You will also support them in their daily work to conserve the delicate forest environment and the cultural way of life. If you can advise on marketing and business development all the better.

By sharing their passion and understanding of the natural environment they hope to preserve their eco-system from destruction that has affected the majority of mainland Costa Rica. You do not have to be a trained teacher nor an expert in ecology, although we are sure this project would attract both. A passion to be involved, to be curious and to experience community life is paramount. In return this community will extend a warm welcome.

This volunteering opportunity in rural Costa Rica is suited to mature, well-travelled volunteers who will be confident teaching English to adults, as well as being a little further off the beaten track and support.

Volunteer roles and responsibilities

Living as part of the community you have the chance to adopt a number of roles. Specifically you can help with teaching English to the elders and others, but also get involved in patrolling the conservation area, keeping paths accessible, checking wildlife signs, and helping with the administration and development of this embryonic cooperative. There is also a possibility to help on a women’s skills share programme, sharing skills with them at occasional afternoon/evening meetings.

If you are interested in teaching, you would spend your mornings teaching in small community schools and your afternoons with small adult groups of up to 10 in number.

If you are interested in conservation, then in addition to teaching adults you’ll be partnered with one or more community leaders to help develop the eco-tourism business, being prepared to help in a variety of ways, from updating the website to organising administration and clearing trails.

This is broadly an unstructured cultural exchange experience with volunteer responsibilities thrown in. You’ll live with a family in the community so you must be prepared to participate with family life as part of the ‘project’.

How you can make a difference

By volunteering in this project you will be helping a community that has no other access to English teaching or business skills. The community is desperate to secure a future in sustainable tourism and retain their cultural identity, but needs the support of external volunteers to provide a step up in skills and resources.

What is distinctive about this project:

This is a unique opportunity that is only available due to the connections of our local in-country coordinator. You will see how an indigenous community lives and how it is dealing with increasing globalisation and help preserve one of the most precious biodiverse areas of protected rainforest and cultural richness.

Blue Tiger Features:

This is not a project as such, but a cultural experience that we are proud to have been invited to promote.

The location is reasonably remote, the role is unstructured and the volunteer will live as part of the community, without the nearby presence of other volunteers or English speaking staff. It is only suitable for mature volunteers, therefore, who have the confidence, experience and pioneering spirit to adapt to the culture and fashion a productive role for themselves.

This opportunity has been visited and assessed by our UK staff and our local coordinator, who has sponsored this opportunity. As a new project to Outreach International, however, we are keen to receive detailed feedback from a volunteer perspective and so a discount is available in recognition of this (see Prices)

Season:

The best season to go is November to April, to avoid the worst of the rainy season.

Languages:

You will need to have an intermediate to advanced level of Spanish to be able to interact with the community. Outreach can offer a booster course to support or refresh your language skills.

Experience required:

Trained teachers or volunteers with experience in sustainable tourism are ideal, but not essential. Online courses mean a volunteer can learn the basics of teaching English in preparation for the trip.

Seasoned travel experience is required, preferably with experience of living within another community or culture, together with an appropriate degree of self-confidence and open-mindedness

Good to know:

You will be living in family homes which are predictably very basic, so expect to adopt local practices and eat with the family. You will be warmly welcomed in the local community, but inevitably this immersion heightens the risk of feeling lonely, although you also have the chance to make a new family there. Our coordinator lives just an hour away, so you continue to have our support throughout the experience.

Price table

4 weeks8 weeks12 weeks16 weeks20 weeks
£2,195£2,955£3,675£4,385£5,125

Includes: Comprehensive travel insurance (supplements may apply to older travellers). Accommodation, food, extended airport transfers and accommodation en route from San Jose, travel to projects, in-country support, welcome meal, excursion.
Excludes: Flights, visas, vaccinations. Spanish lessons are not included but can be arranged upon request

Things to see and do

  • Visit the volcano
  • Go white water rafting
  • Waterfalls in abundance
  • Canopy tours
  • Bird watching
Javier Cano

Country co-ordinator

Javier Cano

Javier has been working as an experiential teacher since 2001 with a focus on the benefits of outdoor education. He joined Outreach International in 2007. He provides an excellent level of support to our volunteers encouraging individuals to grow and develop through their projects. Javier believes that volunteering can be an excellent opportunity to reinforce positive values that will aid students in the future. Sharing his creative and leadership qualities with students has made his educational career successful.

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