Abriendo Mentes FAQ
If your questions are not answered here, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can I do?
The opportunities for volunteering in the Abriendo Mentes classroom and community are endless!
Abriendo Mentes has youth programming 5 days a week, and we always need assistance planning and teaching our kid's classes. Youth English classes are high-energy, very interactive, and a great opportunity to gain lesson planning experience. We encourage our volunteers to take a truly active role in opening the minds of our students.
We provide adult English classes, both privately and in groups, for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. Volunteering with adult classes is an opportunity for highly-motivated individuals to take a leadership role by planning and executing classes.
Abriendo Mentes offers open hours for children to use the computers throughout the week. Volunteers are needed to staff the technology lab during those times. In addition, we offer adult technology classes twice a week; volunteers can assist with these lessons and work one on one with students to improve their computer literacy.
Mujeres Activas de Potrero (MAP) is a program created by Abriendo Mentes that aims to empower the local women of Potrero. Currently, the largest compenent of the women's group is their microenterprise handbag business. Volunteers can help cut fabrics, work in the store, and use their creativity to develop new product ideas.
In addition to teaching, volunteers have the opportunity to utilize their skills in other areas of the project. These may include: grant writing, web development, public relations, blogging, fundraising, and any other essential function to a growing nonprofit.
What are the volunteer hours?
Youth English classes begin at 1:30 or 2:30 and end at 5:30pm. Group adult English classes are offered in the evening between 5 and 8pm. Private adult English classes are offered when it is convenient for both the student and volunteer teacher. The technology center has open hours between 2 and 4pm most weekdays, and adult computer lessons take place in the evening hours. MAP meets in the afternoon a few days each week to sew, and the shop is open from 10am to 4pm during the week.
Meetings for these programs take place once a week in the morning. In addition, there are weekly meetings about communications and development, and all volunteers are welcome to attend and help out with these areas.
How long can I stay?
To maximize your impact and integration within the local community, we ask that you volunteer for a minimum of one month. Volunteers are encouraged to stay for an entire session, typically three months. Many volunteers stay for 3-6 months. Shorter term volunteer opportunities can be arranged for families traveling in Costa Rica or individuals looking to implement a specific project.
How much does it cost to volunteer with Abriendo Mentes?
Volunteering with Abriendo Mentes is and always will be free. There are no direct costs to volunteers. Volunteers are only expected to pay for their personal expenses (food, housing, travel, etc…). We estimate that most volunteers spend approximately $500-$600 USD per month on living expenses. Read more about the cost of living in Potrero here.
Is there financial aid available?
All general volunteer positions are unpaid, and due to budgetary constraints, we are unable to offer financial assistance. AM encourages volunteers to do fundraising within their communities before they leave. A sample fundraising plan can be found here. A former AM volunteer also created this resource that summarizes travel grant opportunities that are available to individuals volunteering abroad.
Do volunteers teach their own classes?
Abriendo Mentes believes strongly in working together; therefore we usually teach kid's classes together as a team with the guidance of the Director of Youth Development. We encourage volunteers to begin leading lessons, art activities, sports activities, etc. after one week of working in the classroom.
Group English classes for adults are taught individually or by a team, usually two teachers, who work together to plan and execute lessons. Private English adult classes are taught by individuals.
Does Abriendo Mentes accept volunteers under 18 years of age?
Abriendo Mentes accepts volunteers under the age of 18 if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Read more about volunteer life on our blog.
Which airport should I fly into?
Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) is served by many major airlines and is located about one hour from Playa Potrero. It is also possible to fly into the Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose (SJO). This airport is farther away (5 hours) but at times flights are less expensive into San Jose.
What is the best way to get to Playa Potrero?
There are several different options:
Private Transportation (recommended): From Liberia or Tamarindo airports we recommend EcoTrans which will pick up at the airport and drop off in Potrero for $25-$50 depending on the number of other passengers. From San Jose we recommend Interbus which will pick up from designated hotels across from the Juan Santamaria airport and drop off in Potrero for $45.
Flights: Sansa and Nature Air fly domestic flights from San Jose into the Liberia or Tamarindo airports.
Public Transportation: There are public buses that provide transport from San Jose and Liberia to Flamingo (3 km from Potrero), and less frequently all the way into Potrero. Tralapa Bus is the best, and most straight forward option from San Jose. It is tricky, but not impossible, to take the public bus from the Liberia airport due to bus and route changes. If you would like more information about taking a public bus from the Liberia airport, please contact us.
Do I need a visa to enter Costa Rica?
Citizens of the US and Canada, and many other countries are granted 90 day visas upon entry into Costa Rica, free of charge. If you are planning to stay in Costa Rica for more than 90 days, you will need to leave the country (we frequent Nicaragua because it is so close and easy to travel to and from) for 72 hours, then re-enter Costa Rica to receive a new 90 day visa. You will always need proof of onward travel every time you enter Costa Rica.
Does Abriendo Mentes offer housing or home stay options? How much does it cost?
We are happy to set up housing either in homestays with a local family or private accommodations. Homestays include breakfast, dinner and laundry service and cost $15 a night. Private accommodations are in apartments or casitas and cost approximately $150-$200 per month. Please email us for more information on housing. Prices are subject to change due to the inflationary tendency of the local currency and current housing availability.
How do volunteers make housing payments?
We will secure the housing ahead of time with payment. We ask that volunteers bring cash to reimburse the organization upon arrival for the housing.
How do you choose the homestay family?
We have a group of families that we work with in Potrero. All are friends of Abriendo Mentes, most with children that attend AM classes. We will choose the homestay based on availability and duration of stay. Usually, we will not be able to tell volunteers who their homestay family will be until close to the time of arrival.
Do I need to bring my own sheets or towels?
In both homestay and apartment accommodations, towels and sheets are provided. We recommend bringing a beach towel for personal use.
What activities are there to do in the area?
There are many different activities and excursions in the area, as well as day or weekend trips. Different options include kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, surfing, catamaran tours, travel to beaches, volcanoes and more. Follow this link to see the Ecotrans tour offerings http://www.soulwebsolution.com/clientes/ecotrans/index.html
Should I bring my laptop to Potrero?
We do recommend that volunteers bring a computer. There are many places in Potrero that have wireless internet connections, including the Abriendo Mentes office which is always available to volunteers. There are risks with traveling with electronics, like there would be anywhere. While in a homestay or apartment, your things will be safe, as well as in the Abriendo Mentes office and around Potrero. Please be aware of your surroundings while traveling within Costa Rica and Central America. Keep an eye on your things! We recommend netbooks, they are light, easy to travel with and inexpensive.
What should I pack?
When is the rainy season?
The rainy season officially starts in May, although rains do not typically get strong until August. September and October will be very rainy. By November, the rains begin to let up a little bit and by December the dry season has begun. It is very hard to predict the weather. Sometimes it will rain all day, sometimes just in the afternoons. Anyone traveling to Costa Rica between July and December should be prepared for rain.
What health issues do I need to be concerned about (water/diseases/access to health care)?
The following advice and recommendations are not from a physician and should not be interpreted as such. It is always best to consult a physician about specific health concerns you may have. However, as long term residents of Playa Potrero, we do offer the following advice and recommendations related to health and physical well being.
The water in Playa Potrero is potable. It comes from a deep mountain well and is delicious.
Living in the tropics can entail certain inherent medical risks due to the environment and abundance of all forms of life; the cute cuddly kind and also the stinging/squirming kind. The malaria risk in Playa Potrero and Costa Rica in general is very low to usually nonexistent. We do not recommend using or bringing malaria medication with you to Costa Rica. There are sporadic, localized outbreaks of another mosquito borne illness, Dengue Fever, but the average number of infected people per year is very low, especially compared with the number of people who visit Costa Rica every year who are not infected. Bring plenty of insect repellent though, it is the tropics and there are plenty of flying creatures that would like to make a meal of you.
It is recommended that you be up to date on your standard vaccine preventable diseases such as Typhoid, MMR, Hepatitis, etc... It is always best to consult a physician about any health concerns you may have.
Is Playa Potrero safe?
Crime is very low in Playa Potrero. As a very small, tight knit community, everyone looks after one another and helps create a peaceful, safe environment. Because of the relative isolation and demographics of Playa Potrero, the town is largely absent of the types of crime that are more common in the Central Valley and other large cities. It is always best to take the standard safety precautions as you would in any unfamiliar environment.
What is the banking/ATM situation in Potrero?
There is an ATM located in Potrero, a five minute walk from the center of town. There are two banks in Flamingo, a 10 minute ride or 45 minute walk. If volunteers need to access a bank in Flamingo, we will do our best to accommodate and provide transportation.
What is the cash/credit card situation in Costa Rica?
Most places in Costa Rica, even in Potrero, accept USD in bills $20 or smaller. We suggest bringing between $100 and $200 in small USD bills so that you have cash if needed. Most places will also accept credit or debit cards, except for small institutions. You can expect to receive change in colones (the local currency) when using USD. You can use an international debit card in most ATM's to take out USD or colones. ATM's usually charge a $5 fee for withdrawing money from a foreign bank account. The exchange rate fluctuates daily, but is usually close to 500 colones to the dollar.