Volunteer & Cultural Immersion Program

Join us as a volunteer in Costa Rica and have a life changing experience!

As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to contribute to youth and community development initiatives in Guanacaste with Abriendo Mentes. You’ll learn about and experience local Tico culture, participate in recreational activities and enjoy the natural beauty of the Costa Rican Pacific Coast. 

The Volunteer & Cultural Immersion Program is geared towards University students, gap year students or recent graduates, but we encourage anyone over 18 years old from any walk of life to apply! The length of the Program depends on the time of year but ranges from 6-12 weeks. See below for the 2021 and 2022 Program schedule.

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As a volunteer, you will have the unique opportunity to learn about ethical and responsible volunteering.  You will make a long lasting impact in our communities by adding your skills and abilities to existing programs at Abriendo Mentes. You will support local families and entrepreneurs, contributing to the economic development of the region.  Your impact will be powerful and long lasting. 

“Volunteering at Abriendo Mentes is a transformational experience. It was incredibly rewarding to immerse myself in a new culture, improve my Spanish speaking skills and get to know the Brasilito and Potrero communities. I learned to appreciate a slower pace of life, to cherish my community and the environment we live in – that is the Tico way! Abriendo Mentes is a pillar of the community and it was an honor to be a part of that. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this experience. I will be back!”

Courtney Hall, Former Volunteer

What do our volunteers do?

Volunteer activities

• Support the Youth Development Program including English and computer classes, art, sports and recreational activities, and field trips

• Assist the Adult English Program and provide individual English classes

• Plan community events such as movie nights, beach and park clean ups, small construction projects, etc.

• Help with women’s programming (to be determined based on volunteer’s Spanish abilities)

• Volunteer at an animal rescue center

• Fundraising event planning and coordination

• Social media take overs

• Administrative support

Cultural Immersion:

• Meet and learn from local families 

• Learn about traditional food, art agriculture and wildlife 

• Explore national parks, local hiking trails and other natural resources

• Participate in recreational activities popular to the region such as yoga, hiking, boating, zip lining, surfing, hot springs and more

• Explore traditional Guanacasteco towns, Santa Cruz and Nicoya 

Sample Itinerary

Volunteers should expect to spend about 5 hours of their time volunteering 5 days a week. Some weekend hours will be required. See below for a sample weekly schedule. Saturday and Sunday will generally be cultural immersion and recreational activities. (note: this is just an example schedule. Actual schedule will be given upon arrival.)

TimeMonTuesWedThursFri
9:00am-12:00Weekly Team Meeting/
Free time
Morning Yoga (optional)Social Media Meeting /
Volunteer at Animal Rescue
Free Beach Clean up / Free time
12:00-1:00pmLunch in the communityLunch in the communityLunch in the communityLunch in the communityLunch in the community
1:00-5:00pmYouth Afterschool programYouth Afterschool programYouth Afterschool programYouth Afterschool programFun Friday
7:00-8:00pmAdult English classAdult English classCommunity Movie Night

Accommodation

Housing


Experience authentic Costa Rican living. Your first two weeks will be spent in a homestay with a local family, then you will move into shared, private housing with other volunteers. During your homestay you will eat breakfast and dinner with your family.

Meals


Volunteers receive lunches prepared by local families or ‘sodas’ (local eateries) Monday through Friday. Typical dishes include gallo pinto, casados, arroz con pollo and much more. Meals can easily be made vegetarian and vegan. You can find fresh fruits and veggies and anything else you need for breakfast and dinners at local markets.

Transportation


Public buses, taxis and bikes are the common methods of transportation. Abriendo Mentes will provide airport transfers and transportation for volunteer activities as well as have bikes for volunteers to borrow to get around town.

Trip Dates & Costs

2022 Program Dates and Fees

  • January 15 – May 6, $5500 USD
  • May 27 – August 5, $4600 USD
  • September 3 – December 10, $5200 USD
  • What’s Included

    Accommodation

    Lunch Monday – Friday

    Airport transfers

    Onsite Coordinator

    Volunteer Projects

    Recreational & Cultural Activities

    What’s Not Included

    Airfare

    Breakfast and Dinner

    Travel Insurance

    Transparency

    Abriendo Mentes greatly appreciates the personal and financial sacrifice that volunteers make in order to contribute to our organization. It is important to us that our volunteers understand that a portion of the trip fees goes directly to support Abriendo Mentes and it’s important programs. Abriendo Mentes could not serve over 300 people each year without the contributions from this program. Transparency is important to us. If you have any questions about the trip fees and the breakdown of expenses, please don’t hesitate to contact us at volunteer@abriendomentes.org.

    Ready to apply?

    Apply now and fill out the application form by clicking the button below! Upon receipt of your application we will contact you via email to set up a time to chat via Zoom. If you have questions about how this process works, do not hesitate to contact us at volunteer@abriendoments.org.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How does the application process work?
    The first step is to fill out application form by clicking “Apply Now”. If we choose to move forward with your application we will invite you to an interview via Zoom. We also require a reference check and a criminal background check. If all goes favorably, we will officially invite you to become an Abriendo Mentes volunteer and participate in the program. Unfortunately, we are not able to accept everyone who applies into the program. We give priority to those who are truly looking for a meaningful experience, who are eager to contribute to Abriendo Mentes, who are open minded and who are culturally aware and sensitive.
    What does ethical and responsible volunteering mean?
    Ethical and responsible volunteering means that the organization works hand in hand with the community they serve. The programs and activities provided by the organization must be approved and wanted by the community. Abriendo Mentes was founded by this principal.

    Ethical volunteering also means that volunteers are respectful and adapt to the culture and customs of the country. It means that volunteers will contribute to and improve existing programs with Abriendo Mentes in order for them to remain sustainable. Volunteers will never take jobs away from local people. It also means protecting natural resources and the environment and leaving as little carbon footprint as possible.

    Ethical volunteering should be beneficial to both the volunteer and to the organization. Too often volunteer opportunities exist solely for income purposes for an organization. They don’t take into account the type of experience the volunteer wants to have, nor the real needs of the communities where the volunteers are working.

    Abriendo Mentes has been working in Guanacaste for 12 years and was founded on the basis of listening and responding to the communities and their needs. One of our core values is that we will never exploit a community or volunteer for personal, financial or professional gain. Our goal through this program is for the volunteer to have an unforgettable experience that results in personal growth while contributing to the success of Abriendo Mentes’ education and community development programs in Guanacaste.
    Do I need to have experience or enjoy working with children to participate in the program?
    While the majority of the volunteer activities involve working with children, we recognize that it’s not for everyone! That’s okay. We encourage you to apply even if you don’t want to work with children or have experience. There are other volunteer activities you can participate in such as English classes for adults, administration support, social media support and much more.
    When are program fees due?
    Once accepted into the Volunteer & Cultural Immersion program, a non-refundable $300 fee is required to hold your spot. 50% of the program fee is then required 1 month before departure date and the rest of the fee is required upon arrival. Payment can be made via credit card or check (check is preferred as it saves us processing fees!).
    How many volunteers are on each trip?
    Our volunteer groups are kept small on purpose. Abriendo Mentes operates in small towns that have limited housing options. In order for you to have a meaningful experience and leave a positive impact in our communities, there is a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 8 volunteers on each trip.
    What is the COVID-19 situation like in Costa Rica? Are there any other health issues I should be concerned about?
    Coronavirus is present in Costa Rica and as of March, 2021, there have been 2885 deaths. Vaccinations have begun and the number of daily cases has been declining since November 2020. Masks are required in all enclosed spaces and social distancing is enforced. We have been lucky in that COVID-19 has not hit hard in the communities where we work. The hot weather and the fact that most activities and restaurants are outdoors has helped keep the number of cases down. Tourism is returning to Guanacaste. However, we continue to monitor the situation and if at any moment cases start to rise again we will reevaluate and act accordingly.

    Abriendo Mentes requires volunteers to have a negative COVID-19 test within 4 days of traveling to Costa Rica. To enter the country you must also purchase health insurance that covers emergency services. The cost is minimal. More and updated information will be sent once accepted into the program.

    Water is potable and safe to drink throughout the country. Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus are present throughout the country, which are contractible though infected mosquitos. There is currently no vaccine available for either virus. Taking precautions such as using bug spray with DEET especially in the morning and late afternoon hours, wearing light-colored clothing, ensuring window and door screens are secure, etc. will greatly reduce the chances of contracting the viruses. Cases of dengue and chikungunya are not uncommon in the areas where we operate and you should consult with your doctor to determine if contracting either virus would cause you any serious health complications.

    We are located in a rural, tropical area. During the dry season (November-August) there is a lot of dust in the air. If you have allergies, make sure to bring your medication(s).

    Please visit your doctor or a travel doctor before arriving, and be sure to visit the CDC website (or equivalent website in your country) to educate yourself on the most recent health updates and vaccination recommendations and/or requirements.
    Is living and working in Potrero and Brasilito safe?
    Yes. Potrero and Brasilito are both safe, tranquil towns. We do encourage all volunteers to use common sense in regards to their personal safety, such as not walking alone at night. Most crimes that do occur in this area are crimes of opportunity, so always remember to lock your doors and keep your valuables in a safe, secure place. Natural disasters do occur in Costa Rica, most of which are earthquakes. Abriendo Mentes has emergency plans in place for natural disasters that all volunteers will be trained on upon arrival.
    What airport should I fly in to?
    There are two international airports in Costa Rica- San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR). When possible, we recommend flying into Liberia as it is located just 45 minutes from Abriendo Mentes headquarters in Potrero. San Jose is located 5 hours away. We will arrange shuttles from either airport, however, the shuttle from San Jose only leaves twice per day (8:00am and 2:00pm) so if you arrive after the last shuttle leaves you will need to spend the night at a hostel at your expense and take the shuttle the next day.
    What should I bring with me?
    The Abriendo Mentes dress code is “Professional Beach Casual” (yes, we made that up). Inside and outside of volunteering hours we always represent ourselves as professionals. However, the weather is hot year round here on the Pacific Coast. Dress tends to be less casual than a typical professional setting, so we recommend packing lightweight clothing. Shorts, t-shirts, tank tops and dresses are all acceptable for volunteering. Pack at least one pair of pants and short sleeved shirt for visiting cities where dress tends to be a bit more formal. A thorough packing list will be provided upon acceptance of the program.