Teaching English and Community Development Projects in Costa Rica

Travel to Costa Rica to teach English to children and support community development initiatives.

Durations: 1 - 12 weeks
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Positive<br/>impact

Positive
impact

Build a better world by contributing to vital, locally-led project work that strives for a more just and equitable future.
Ethical<br/>work

Ethical
work

In line with the UN’s SDGs, we are committed to ethical and sustainable engagement with our local partners and communities.
Beautiful<br/>community

Beautiful
community

Learn from the world’s most unique and significant cultures, in breathtaking remote locations.

Program information

Teach English, learn Spanish and explore the Costa Rican town of Cartago. Contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4: Quality Education. In your free time, spot unique species in the nearby mountainous areas or enjoy exploring one of the nearby volcano national parks.

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Overview
Dates & Prices
Itinerary
What's Included
Life On Base
Experiences
New
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Reviews
Speak to alumni
Parent Info
Arrivals
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training
Support & Safety
Covid-19 Response
Live Updates

Program overview

Travel to the Cartago Province in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica to join other volunteers from around the world on our childhood development project. You’ll live and work in Cartago where we support both a classroom-based childhood development program as well as experiential education and non-traditional learning environments. We focus on topics like English language, life skills such as physical activity and teamwork, and conservation education. On the weekends, you and your fellow volunteers can visit places like Turrialba Volcano National Park for a hike or relax on the beaches of Puerto Viejo.

The Cartago community – including the school system and non-governmental organisations – often requests English education to support the growing number of English-speaking tourists and to raise the employability of local community members. English-speaking is highly sought after by local employers to assist with international visitors and to work to support overseas customers and production. Therefore, English language education can assist children with improving their future employment opportunities. While supporting English education, you will also have the opportunity to improve your own Spanish language abilities.

In addition, all children need exposure to a range of specific play activities to effectively develop the skills required at their age level. This might include sports to increase their gross motor skills, art, crafts and music to develop their fine motor skills, and group activities like games to develop effective social skills.

Highlights

  • Improve your English facilitation skills and develop transferable skills like teamwork and leadership.
  • Learn about the unique Tico culture and the rich history of Cartago.
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Sample local Costa Rican dishes.

Program details

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Exclusive offer. Book before the end of the month and receive up to 0 off this program.
COVID-19 flexibility. If COVID-19 prevents you from travelling, change your location and dates free of charge.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date. The itinerary shown below has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

06:30

If you’re an early riser, enjoy a jog or walk before breakfast.

07:30

Prepare and enjoy breakfast with the team before getting stuck into some base duties.

08:30

Prepare lessons and workshop resources for the morning’s classes.

10:00

Deliver lessons at a local school – including teaching English, sports activities and health & wellbeing.

12:00

Lunch is prepared by a local cook – an opportunity to try delicious Costa Rican dishes!

13:00

Prepare lessons and workshop resources for the afternoon’s classes.

16:00

Deliver community adult English classes in either a group or 1:1 setting.

18:00

Enjoy a meal together and reflect on the day’s challenges and successes.

What’s included?

What's Included
General
Volunteer
Intern
24-hour emergency desk
24-hour in-country support
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All project equipment
Food (except on long-term internship placements
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Pre-program training
Volunteer
Intern
Group introductory call
Welcome presentation
Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course
Endorsed Leadership Course
Project work
Volunteer
Intern
Sustainable project work
Leadership responsibilities
Data collection and research
Real projects with partners
Remote support
Volunteer
Intern
Program training
Weekly group check ins
Remote Academic Internship Supervisor
Remote Career Internship Supervisor
Post-program
Volunteer
Intern
Preferential recruitment on GVI positions
Job portal access
Endorsed Careers Course
Career coaching sessions
Certificates and achievements
Volunteer
Intern
PDF reference - upon request
Linkedin reference and skills endorsement
What's Excluded
General
Volunteer
Intern
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Personal items and toiletries
Police or background check
Visa costs

Life On Base

Learn to live the “pura vida”, or “simple life”, in the central Costa Rican city of Cartago – one of the largest cities in Costa Rica that is located in the Central Valley and full of lush greenery and volcanic views. Located in a province that is teeming with national parks, volcanoes and farmland, the base is in close proximity to many hubs in the country. In a 45 minute bus ride, participants can be in downtown San Jose where they can go to see a professional theatre production, watch a football game at the national stadium, or visit the National Museum and learn more about Costa Rica’s history that has shaped its unique political positioning in the Americas. Participants can also go 3 hours to the east and be on the beach by sundown listening to caribbean music and eating fresh ceviche. Or participants can enjoy all the Cartago base has to offer – from the local football stadium a 5-minute walk away to the lush greenery of the public university to the famous basilica in downtown Cartago to sharing communal accommodations (including meals and base  duties), with individuals from all over the world who are there for the same reason you are — to make an ethical impact.

Accommodation

You’ll  share a house that has basic bedroom and bathroom facilities with other participants and GVI staff.  You will live in a beautiful two sto...

Transportation

We are located within walking or driving distance of our projects. You can expect up to a 30-minute drive to project every day through beautiful ...

Communication

You’ll have daily access to long-distance communications whilst on the project, but bear in mind that the connection may not be as reliable as ba...

Meals

You’ll take turns preparing breakfast for the group, which typically consists of porridge, cereal, or toast, accompanied by fresh tropical fruit,...

Climate

Located in a mountainous region of central Costa Rica and in close proximity to the equator, Cartago enjoys a fairly consistent climate. Temperat...

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

GVI experiences

During your program, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a variety of the following adventure and wellness activities on a monthly basis, specially designed to further immerse you in the diversity and richness of the habitats and cultures around you.

Exclusive local GVI experiences
Learn to cook Costa Rican food
Learn to cook Costa Rican food
The tastes of Latin America
Visit a Cabécar village
Visit a Cabécar village
Ancient culture
Discover local medicinal plants
Discover local medicinal plants
Healing hands
Kayak in a hidden lagoon
Kayak in a hidden lagoon
Tropical wilderness
Hike through a riverbed
Hike through a riverbed
Paradise found
Visit a working fruit plantation
Visit a working fruit plantation
In the bag
Hike through virgin rainforest to a waterfall
Hike through virgin rainforest to a waterfall
A rare jewel
White water raft down the Pacuare River
White water raft down the Pacuare River
Ride of your life

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Weekend Trips

San Jose

Explore the bustling capital of Costa Rica for an insight into the country’s heritage and modern lifestyle. Due to its dense urban population, Sa...

Irazu volcano national park

Take some time to explore the Irazu Volcano National Park. Peaking at 3,432.00 metres, Irazu is famed for being the largest and highest active vo...

Coffee plantation tour

Costa Rica is known for producing some of the world’s highest quality coffee beans and Cartago is just about 1 hour from Los Santos, one of the r...

River adventures

Just 30 minutes away in Turrialba, there are many rivers in the area to explore on a kayak or canoe. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can ...

Further Travels

Puerto Viejo

Well known for the Salsa Brava surf break that people travel from all over the world to experience, as well as beaches like the black-sand Playa ...

Surfing

Costa Rica is well known as a surfing destination and the Pacific Coast is home to a number of incredible beaches. You can also explore areas lik...

Manuel Antonio National Park

Acclaimed as one of the most biodiverse parks on the planet, lush tropical rainforests converge with the stunning beaches of the Pacific coast. H...

Other Latin American nations

There are plenty of opportunities for further exploration throughout Latin America. Travel south to Panama and Colombia, or north to Nicaragua an...

National parks

With  some of the greatest biodiversity in the world and a commitment to preserving this unique natural heritage, Costa Rica features many natura...

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.

Churches and cathedrals

You’ll find many beautiful churches and cathedrals within the forests and hills of Cartago and Limon province. Cartago province is home to the re...

Festivals

March to April: Easter is a popular holiday in Costa Rica and is celebrated with elaborate processions.

Spirituality and religion

The majority of Costa Ricans identify with the Roman Catholic religion. Other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Rastafari...

Dancing

Dancing is an integral part of Costa Rican culture. Locals learn to dance the fluid ballroom styles of cumbia, salsa, bolero, and the merengue fr...

Cooking

Food in Costa Rica is a combination of Spanish, South American, Caribbean and American influences. Common dishes include corn tortillas, tamales,...

Languages

Spanish is the country’s official language and the majority of the population speaks Spanish. You’ll also hear indigenous languages like Bribri, ...

Testimonials

Yelena Zylko

11 Oct, 2018

My time with GVI was the most rewarding, inspiring and fulfilling experience to date. I signed up for Teaching English which meant I was able to work with adults as well as the chi ...

Valentinna Vulin

25 Nov, 2013

Assisting in the school teaching English has been a lot of fun. The kids find the way we speak hilarious so it´s funny to hear them copy us! English is really important for any job ...

Speak to alumni

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Flights

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Program ethics

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more
No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Your Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Cartago

Community: Women’s Empowerment

Learn about gender equality, skills development and examples of income generating activities.

Community: Human Empowerment

Learn about our empowerment principles.

Introduction to TEFL

Learn the basics of how to teach English as a foreign language.

Costa Rican Culture

Learn about the Costa Rican pura vida lifestyle.

Certificates & qualifications

GVI Online Community Development course (optional)

In this course, you’ll explore the most common pitfalls of community development initiatives so that you can avoid them. You’ll also learn how to carry out community development work effectively and ethically and how local context impacts program development. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Safety

View support and safety protocols

Support

View risk mitigation

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Health and safety case studies

How GVI upholds health and safety

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays ju...

GVI's commitment to safety and security

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the heal...

How GVI remains prepared for natural disasters

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...

How GVI manages participants expectations

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.

The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Read up on our COVID-19 protocols

Live Updates

GVI Cartago works in direct collaboration with schools and communities near Cartago, Costa Rica, to support education initiatives -- both in and out of the classroom -- and community projects. GVI volunteers work with students in the local schools, supporting teachers in the classroom or with individual/small group tutoring; providing extracurricular programming in the arts or in sports; and assisting with school events as needed. GVI also offers English tutoring for adults in the community and provides support for community events and initiatives whenever possible, through construction projects, community days, fundraising events and more. As GVI projects are always focused on meeting the needs of our partners, we work under their direction to increase the education opportunities available here. Our aim is to create sustainable programs, offer students a chance to improve their academic performance and find new areas of talent, and support initiatives that will strengthen the community itself.
Stay up to date

Included in your program

A variety of the following exclusive, locally-curated adventure and wellness activities are available on a monthly basis.

Learn to cook Costa Rican food
Visit a Cabécar village
Discover local medicinal plants
Kayak in a hidden lagoon
Hike through a riverbed
Visit a working fruit plantation
Hike through virgin rainforest to a waterfall
White water raft down the Pacuare River