Volunteering in the Costa Rican Rainforest
Costa Rica is one of the most distinctive destinations on earth with this region named as a World Heritage Site by the UN. While living in the jungle surrounded by unique plants and animals, students experience the true meaning of giving back to a community and protecting the local wildlife. A reforestation project will keep students physically active, building nurseries and planting trees. Bonding and playing sports with local children is also a favorite of GLA students.
“After our orientation, one of the conservationists gave a presentation on the workings of a national park in Costa Rica, thoroughly explaining the contents and inner-workings of various ecosystems that exist here, from the Ocean to the Cloud Forest. This presentation also explained the conservation procedures that the staff here at Horizontes, the experimental reforestation station that we are staying at, have taken to counteract the damage done to the tropical dry forest ecosystem.” -Omar
Bonding with the locals and the children at the service sites is an every day occurrence in Costa Rica. Each day students are able to connect and communicate with the surrounding community, and even with language barriers make deep connectinons. Many students find the use of words is not necessary when you are truly connecting with someone. Many times, locals within the community will jump in on the service work alongside the GLA students and help. Special connections and indescribable bonds continue to impact students long after they return home.
“We immediately drove to a school in El Triunfo, where we played soccer with the community. Both teams consisted of GLA forest people, Horizontes staff, and the locals. Other community members watched our battle, until the non-jerseys came out on top with a close score of 4-1 (it was closer than you might think). We then connected and snacked with the community members and met some local kids, our age and below, who were incredibly kind and friendly. Once we got back to home base, we ate dinner and chilled together, opening up even more, and learning many interesting things about our peers. We may have only been here for three days, but it really feels like we have known each other for months.” -Leah
The range of distinct ecosystems allows students to compare and contrast their environment. While in the cloud forest issues related to water, public health, and conservation and how these relate to developing communities is focused on. See the challenges locals face with regard to access to natural resources. Along the way students also learn about and discover a new world of animals and plants.
“We embarked on a night hike. We got to hear the rhythm of the forest, as the noises of the animals coalesced into a collective exhalation of wilderness, instincts such as touch and hearing became dominant, because the brightness of the stars could only poke small holes of light into the darkness which permeated through the forest. For the most part, the creatures of the forest remained hidden, scared by our invasion of their land, but we did manage to spot some toads, tadpoles, and beautiful birds.” -Omar
Of course time in Costa Rica would not be complete without adventure! The huge range of ecosystems in a small geographic area provides a vast array of exciting outdoor activities! Students hike along the base of a volcano, camp overnight on a remote beach, kayak, zipline, tube down a roaring river, ride horses thought the jungle, and bathe underneath a waterfall!
“Thick forest surrounded the beach in a large cove. We swam for hours. There were kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling gear that supplied endless fun. As the purple, pink and orange sky turned into a deep blue, the stars came out of hiding and presented themselves to us. With no lights around there was nothing to disturb the vast majority of twinkling stars. The 14 of us lied on the beach and star-gazed. There were times where we had enlightening conversations about life. Or we just talked about our favorite movies. Then there were the times where we stared into space in silence. It’s been 5 days and we have all connected so well with each other. It’s truly amazing how fast we were all able to get used to each other and make strong friendships.” -Edison
Experiencing the rainforest’s thrilling bounty inspires students to give back to the community and land. Our hope is that the connections and friendships they create together will have a positive impact and be carried with them throughout life. A seed in Costa Rica is planted (literally) with GLA that they can continue nurture, learn to be leaders within their own community, and creatively solve problems together.
Volunteering in Costa Rica is a rare experience for high school students, but one that’s worth the travel. Learn more about GLA’s Costa Rica programs.
Interested in learning more about the environment and conservation and how it benefits us all? Check out our 5 Positive’s of Environmental Restoration to see how much of a difference your efforts actually make!