I believe that to volunteer while studying abroad is to travel with awareness. You get the opportunity to see what many people don’t see, but should, and you learn about the culture on a more social and political level. Volunteering can even help you to identify your own personal strengths and weaknesses and challenge your way of thinking. Not every organization is the same, though, and some need your help more than others.
When I was researching what volunteering options were available for Estelar, the website simply stated, “No need to pay us, just come and help us with the kids!” I really liked that attitude. I don’t mind helping out with unavoidable costs associated with my volunteer activities, such as transportation, but some volunteer experiences are so expensive as to almost be prohibitive. So, I definitely appreciate the opportunity to donate my time in a meaningful way without breaking the bank.
I really enjoyed volunteering at Club A, which as I have already mentioned in other posts, will enable you to learn about the poor neighborhoods in Costa Rica while teaching the local children English through games. Estelar started this charity organization to help impoverished children to improve their chances for a bright future, and they work with the kids at least once per week. Estelar also helps you to donate your time in weekly conversation practice sessions with adults at the school. You don’t have to stop with their own charity organizations, though. Depending on the season, Estelar also organizes other volunteer opportunities, such as beach cleanups, community cleanups, visiting the elderly, working in National Parks, helping with turtle rescue efforts, helping to save the monkey population, and many other charitable endeavors.
Instituto Estelar Bilingue is first and foremost a language school teaching English and Spanish to diverse populations, but it is remarkable for how it really branches out to more social efforts. The institute is at the core of the community: helping others to improve themselves, which in turn is a benefit to both individuals, as well as the community as a whole. In my opinion, this is the best part about volunteering for Estelar, because you will be at the core of a community, as well. Organizations like Estelar will appreciate any type of assistance, so if you have a special skill that you want to donate, Estelar will work with you to incorporate it into your volunteering experience. Whether you are artistic, enjoy gardening, are good at marketing, are handy, speak other languages, or just have a passion for helping others, volunteering with Estelar will provide you opportunities to develop your skills, spice up your CV/resume, learn a new language, and help others while doing it!
This blog post was contributed by Mieke, an intern and volunteer at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in Liberia, Costa Rica.