Live and volunteer in a rural Costa Rican village and work side by side with local people as part of this summer community service program in Costa Rica for high school students. Wake each morning to the sounds of howler monkeys and exotic birds and spend your day helping build a community center or classroom, teaching English, or running a summer camp for local kids.
- June 19, 2013 - July 19, 2013
- June 28, 2013 - July 21, 2013
- July 2, 2013 - July 25, 2013
- July 4, 2013 - August 3, 2013
- Students completing grades 9-12
- Community Service
- Typical Group:
- 16-18 students, 2 leaders
- 4.5 week(s) (June 19, 2013 - July 19, 2013)
- 3.5 week(s) (June 28, 2013 - July 21, 2013)
- 3.5 week(s) (July 2, 2013 - July 25, 2013)
- 4.5 week(s) (July 4, 2013 - August 3, 2013)
Immerse yourself in the rhythm of life in a small mountain village in Central America as you work with local Costa Rican people to undertake several important and much-needed volunteer projects. Work hand in hand with enthusiastic friends from the host village on important municipal and environmental projects identified by town leaders. After a day’s volunteer work, spend late afternoons and evenings relaxing with Tico friends, hiking to a hidden swimming hole, learning new songs on the guitar, playing games of futbol in the town plaza, and attending local fiestas. Participants in Putney’s 4 week Costa Rica programs can expect to complete between 80 and 100 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in Putney’s 3 week Costa Rica programs can expect to complete between 60 and 80 hours of community service work.
The rhythm of our days is steady and full of activity. We live together as a group in a community building or school. We sleep on camping pads on the floor of our group house, and use simple bathrooms and showers. Instead of alarm clocks, the sounds of roosters signal the start of a new day. Each morning, we form cooking crews to help local cooks prepare meals of rice, beans, chicken, plantains, papayas, mangoes, and other delicious fruits and vegetables.
“Lexie gained confidence and an appreciation of a very different culture. One of the most beautiful parts of this trip was the impact the kids had on the community and the community on them. They didn’t just do a volunteer project, they became part of the village because they were welcomed with open arms and curiosity, and by the end, love.”
– Jewell Tsantes, Great Falls Way, VA
We work on volunteer construction projects where we learn to mix cement and lay blocks, volunteer environmental projects such as planting seedlings or helping control erosion, and volunteer educational projects such as teaching health, environmental education, or English to local children and adults. In addition, each student chooses an independent project of his/her own design to work on over the course of the program—past projects have included learning to cook gallo pinto, creating a map of your village, and organizing a focus group for village girls and women.
On weekends, we take excursions from our host village to explore Costa Rica’s many natural wonders. With eco lodges, bungalows, and family-run inns as a base, hike a volcano, relax in natural hot springs and mud baths, surf and snorkel off pristine beaches, ride horseback, or search for monkeys, tucans, and other wildlife in Costa Rica’s ecologically rich national parks. Trek to a vista overlooking Costa Rica’s gorgeous Pacific coastline, zip through the cloud forest canopy, interview a wildlife guide to learn about howler monkeys or three-toed sloths, or take surfing lessons.
At the end of the summer volunteer program in Costa Rica we undertake one last challenge together–a white-water rafting trip. With professional guides to teach us the basics, we dive in, quite literally, to this exhilarating rafting trip through virgin rainforest and enjoy one final moment to reflect on all our experiences during our time together.
- Volunteer with friends from town to build or refurbish the community center or classroom at the school.
- Teach English classes to local school children and adults.
- Shadow a farmer for a day as you learn to milk a cow or harvest coffee beans, papayas, or plantains.
- Trek through Costa Rica’s many diverse ecosystems—visit volcanoes, rain forests, hot springs, and untouched beaches.
- Learn about permaculture and sustainability at an off-the-grid eco-lodge nestled into the jungle canopy.
What to Expect
For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This volunteer work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs abroad are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
- $5,690 (June 19, 2013 - July 19, 2013)
- $4,690 (June 28, 2013 - July 21, 2013)
- $4,690 (July 2, 2013 - July 25, 2013)
- $5,690 (July 4, 2013 - August 3, 2013)
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2012 Community Service Costa Rica Blog.
This program begins and ends at either Miami International Airport or Newark International Airport, depending on the unit.
This itinerary represents a general description of the group’s travels in Costa Rica, but exact itineraries vary by unit. Units are based in separate host villages and do not meet during the program.
Departure • Join the group as you begin a month of village-based community service in the mountains of Costa Rica. The group flight departs from either Miami or Newark where you meet one of your leaders and fly to Costa Rica.
San Jose or Liberia• Depending on your unit, either spend two nights in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, or in Liberia, a colonial city located in the northwest of Costa Rica. Here, you learn about the country’s history, language, and culture, get to know your group, participate in an in-depth orientation, and prepare for your stay in our host village.
Our Host Village • Travel by minibus to the host village, tucked into Costa Rica’s lush mountains. Live together as a group in a simple community building or house and collaborate with local people to undertake several important volunteer projects.
“Spencer realized that he was capable of physical labor and that he had more endurance and strength than he knew. He gained friends in the village and a greater confidence in his language capabilities, which is what he was really hoping for.”
– Jodi Dougherty, Middletown, CT
Mountain and Rainforest Weekend • Travel to a mountain ecolodge for a weekend spent learning about Costa Rica’s astounding biodiversity. Hike to waterfalls, interview local wildlife experts, zip through the rainforest canopy, take a tour of a coffee plantation, spot white-faced monkeys, and more.
Beach Excursion • Stay overnight in cozy bungalows on the Pacific coast. Snorkel off a pristine beach, take a surfing lesson, or hike to a vista along the coastline for a picnic lunch. Evening activities include salsa dancing, a night hike in search of sloths, playing guitar around a beach bonfire, or watching sea turtles lay eggs on the beach.
San Jose or Liberia and Rafting • Spend your last nights in the vibrant city of San Jose or Liberia (depending on your unit) and the final day of the program white water rafting with professional guides through the gorge of the Rio Pacuare or Corobici, surrounded by lush jungle.
Return • Fly with your group and a leader from San Jose or Liberia (depending on your unit) back to the US. Say a heartfelt goodbye to your group and continue home on a connecting flight.
Background • In 1949, declaring itself a peaceful nation, Costa Rica disbanded its army and has since enjoyed six decades of democracy and peace. It is well known for its astounding biodiversity, innovative approaches to ecotourism, warm and inviting people, and miles of tropical beaches. Although a tiny country, Costa Rica has incredible geographic diversity. Within its borders you can travel from tropical rainforest to pristine beaches to active volcanoes, all within the span of a day. Because nearly 30% of Costa Rica’s land is protected, it is an ideal destination for recreation, but also for learning about ecology, biology, conservation, sustainable development, and other environmental issues. Despite its commitment to environmental conservation and its reputation as Central America’s most stable democracy, Costa Rica suffers from widespread poverty, particularly in its more remote regions.
Population • Costa Rica has a total population of just over 4 million, with 1.5 million living in the capital city of San Jose. Our community service villages are located in rural areas and generally have populations of under 1000 people.
Language • Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica.
“For my independent project I had a mock “Girl Talk Inc.” lesson which is an organization I work with back home where high school girls mentor middle school girls. With the help of two of my groupmates to translate, I did a lesson on friendship and made friendship bracelets with the girls in the village. They loved it. It was awesome to mix my passions and gifts and at the same time help put a smile on so many girls’ faces and leave them with a message that hopefully impacted their life.”
– Amber Abernathy, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Atlanta, GA
Climate • Costa Rica has only two seasons: wet and dry. We are there during the wet season. Rain is common but intermittent and not necessarily a daily occurrence. It is quite warm—in the 80′s most days—so occasional rain showers are welcome!
Cuisine • Typical Costa Rican cuisine is hearty fare with rice, beans, and fruit being offered at almost every meal. A typical lunch would consist of gallo pinto (rice and beans), fish or chicken, vegetables, cheese, tortillas, and fruit.
Currency • The Costa Rican currency is known as the colon. The exchange rate is roughly 500 colones to one US dollar. The best way to access cash is by using an ATM card.
Voltage • Electrical outlets are identical to those used in the United States: 120 V/60 Hz. There are a limited number of outlets in our group house which can be used for charging electronic devices.
The Community Service Costa Rica program is directed by Lauren McDowell. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!
Lauren McDowell: Washington and Lee University, B.A., Spanish, Economics. Lauren lived in Spain during college, and has been on the go ever since. She led Putney programs to Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Spain. When not traveling, Lauren enjoys yoga, reading, and being a mom. Her two young sons will one day join Putney Student Travel groups themselves. Lauren coordinates programming in Latin America and acts as our liaison to the Putney Open Door Fund scholarship foundation.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.