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There are various organizations in the Puerto Viejo area which use volunteers to help them with various projects in two main areas: Evironment (wildlife and habitat protection, sustainable agriculture) and Development (anti-poverty, economic development and healthcare).
Each organization has different needs and requirements so please check the following list and then contact them directly for more information.
You can also help out by Donating.
If you know of other organizations working in the area that should be listed below please contact us
The Caribbean Coast has an incredible biodiversity. There are several organizations working in the area to protect it.
Jaguar Rescue Centre
Centre to rehabilitate mistreated, injured and/or confiscated animals, which are then reintroduced to their natural habitat in protected areas. Runs a visitor center to support operations where visitors have direct contact with monkeys, wild cats, sloths, raccoons, anteaters, marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, etc. Volunteers for a minimum stay of 3 weeks are accepted. Tasks include cleaning and facility maintenance, diet preparation, training and observations within the rescue center.
They also operate La Ceiba Reserva Natural, a nature reserve 4km away from the rescue center which is one of the locations for animal reintroductions. Volunteers are needed for tasks such as building up enclosures, opening paths, accompanying animals in their reintroduction process, visual tracking, and making written comments for a final report on the state of the reintroduction.
The Ara Project
Launched in 1982, the Ara Project is dedicated to saving Costa Rica's two native macaws: the endangered Great Green Macaw and the Scarlet Macaw. The Manzanillo site is dedicated to the reintroduction of the Great Green which had been extinct on the Caribbean Coast.
Volunteers are required with commitments of 1 month or longer to help care for the birds. More information is available at thearaproject.org/volunteer/current-opportunities
Based in Hone Creek, Asociación ANAI, a Costa Rican nonprofit organization, has pioneered some of the world's most successful and highly participatory community based development initiatives in tropical zones. Since 1978, ANAI has worked hand in hand with the inhabitants of Costa Rica's Talamanca region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 'Biodiversity Hotspot'. ANAI and its Talamancan partners have found ways to advance a sustainable development agenda in one of the most logistically and socially difficult areas of Central America. This alliance has successfully nurtured local entrepreneurs to carry out economically viable activities that are environmentally sound as well as national technical capacity and leadership.
A volunteer, Kevin Wells, wrote the following about them:
I've been a volunteer for 5 months, and would like to share the info with you. Feb-Jun they do biomonitoring, river/stream monitoring with fish/eels/shrimp, they teach classes in such things. They have an organic fruit tree project going on with APPTA (asociacion de pequeños productores de talamanca), and they're also involved in waste management and mapping sources of contamination. The people working there are good people. They were the founders of the sea turtle project in Gandoca which was eventually handed over to what's now Widecast, so ANAI has been here since the 70s.
Biological Corridor has taken over responsibility for the collection of recyclables and they need your help. Recyclables are collected from Sixaola to the Valle de la Estrella, from Manzanillo to Cahuita, from BriBri to Gandoca; covering nearly all of Talamanca! Annually, they remove more than 100 tons of solid waste from our community, therefore contributing to a cleaner and safer environment for our community and the planet at large. Their ReciCaribe project has worked for years with not only Talamanca's schools, associations, and municipal officials, but also government officials out of Bocas del Toro, Panama and we've served as a model for all of Central America.
If you'd like to help out, you can contact ATEC in town or contact Biological Corridor via their website.
Finca Tierra Organic Permaculture Farm & Eco-Lodge
Live with nature in the rainforest while dining on meals of fresh organic foods served to you from their permaculture farm kitchen. Finca Tierra is a special place for travelers who want to explore sustainable living, reconnect with nature and eat off the land while on vacation. Located near Playa Cocles, Finca Tierra is 100% solar powered, totally off the grid, and harvests both rainwater and natural spring water. Our organic gardens and food forest supply almost all of the ingredients used in our farm kitchen. Volunteers are asked to pay a stipend to help cover the expenses of running the volunteer program but that includes accomodations and meals.
If you'd like to help out, you can contact Finca Tierra via their website.
Kéköldi Scientific Center
Kéköldi Scientific Center is a wildlife conservation centre. From researchers and student groups to the average tourist, people are discovering the awesome array of opportunities to explore tropical ecology and participate in conservation programs of global importance at the Scientific Center. The lodge, or "albergue", has turned into the Kéköldi Scientific Center and is a base camp for avian ecology research and countless other potential ecological studies. The vision that this community has maintained for sustainable community development is realizing itself with this Center. International as well as local collaborations and alliances are key to the success of this amazing initative. Asociación Wak Ka Koneke invites people from all over the world to visit and enjoy. You won't find fancy laboratories, but nature at it's finest in a rustic community lodge setting.
Planet One World
The One World base camp learning center is a 36 hectare self sustainable permaculture farm situated in 546 hectares of wildlife sanctuary.
Become a wildlife sanctuary park ranger and experience a Virgin Rainforest at day and at night, learn from traditional Awà Shamans, practice sustainable agriculture, and feel what self sustainability really means, help wild animals,support indigenous communities and help to make a social change for several beautiful projects in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Short and long term volunteers are accepted.
If you'd like to help out, you can find more information on their volunteer page.
Punta Mona Center
The Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education is an 100-acre organic farm and educational retreat center located on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
The mission at Punta Mona is to provide a center where adults and children alike can be exposed to the ideals of permaculture and sustainability through a dynamic and multifaceted educational curriculum. We aim to provide this within the context of a supportive and compassionate community against the backdrop of a beautiful and ecologically diverse physical environment.
Sample volunteer activity: An intern is someone who stays for a minimum of 1 month. A monthly intern fee is applied to cover the costs of running the program. Intern fees include room, board and all meals, as well as, varying levels of educational programming and classes such as yoga, permaculture, and more. We also provide access to a great library including multiple resources on permaculture, tropical plants, natural building, etc. We encourage interns to self organize and teach each other about projects they research or learn on the farm. There is always a rich diversity of community members who are happy to answer any questions you may have.
A Costa Rican nonprofit organization, has pioneered some of the world's most successful and highly participatory community based development initiatives in tropical zones. Since 1978, Widecast has worked hand in hand with the inhabitants of Costa Rica's Talamanca region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 'Biodiversity Hotspot'. With its Talamancan partners they have found ways to advance a sustainable development agenda in one of the most logistically and socially difficult areas of Central America. This alliance has successfully nurtured local entrepreneurs to carry out economically viable activities that are environmentally sound as well as national technical capacity and leadership.
Sample volunteer activity: Widecast works in the Manzanillo-Gandoca refuge and the Cahuita National Park to protect the Leatherback Turtle from poaching.
Costa Rica is an emerging economy and some portions of society have been left behind, especially the indigenous people. The Puerto Viejo region of Talamanca is the home of Costa Rica's largest indigenous group, the Bri Bri. These organizations work on projects in education and healthcare.
The Bridge / El Puente
Offers educational assistance, food, and microloans mainly to indigenous people in Costa Rica. The School Program assists families with educational expenses for young children. The Food Program provides a gathering place, healthy meals, and additional support on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Microloan Program provides small loans from $20--$400, with approaches that have been helping people out of poverty globally since 1987. Used together, these programs provide powerful support for families working together toward self-sufficiency.
The Bridge is run by El Puente del Caribe, S. A., a Costa Rican corporation in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and is a qualified non-profit under US rules.
VIDA Volunteer and Travel
VIDA organizes volunteer trips for medical, dental and veterinary students and professionals throughout Central America. They organize clinics in areas which receive little regular medical or dental care. Veterinary clinics are organized as well which provide care for farm animals and spay and neuter services for dogs and cats.