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Build homes for underprivileged families in Costa Rica

$829.00

Price above is guide only. Choose start date for your price.

   
  

Overview

Interested in building futures?

If you want to immerse yourself in the laidback Costa Rican culture while making a real difference to the lives of local people, this project is just the thing. You’ll have the chance to work closely with Costa Rican families as you help them to build a home that will really improve their quality of life. Hundreds of thousands of people in Costa Rica live in sub-standard housing that doesn't have adequate sanitation or safe weather protection. By working with our partner project you could help our ongoing efforts to help improve this situation and make friends for life in the process.

When you book this trip US$75 of your fee is used to purchase resources for the project through our Big Giving scheme.

Fancy learning some Spanish to give you a good start in country? Why not add on two weeks Spanish Language school before you start your volunteering. Call us now to find out more.

Trip Highlights:

  • Working alongside the community making a significant and noticeable immediate impact
  • Getting a real work out in the sun, and for a good cause too
  • Staying with a homestay family - the best  way to get to understand a country 
  • Exploring Costa Rica - you can see the sunrise over the Caribbean and set over the Pacific if you fancy!

Fast facts

Project duration: 
Min 1 week - Max 8 weeks
Location of project: 
Various locations within San Ramon; sometimes further afield according to the needs of the project
Arrival airport: 
San Jose (airport code SJO)
Activities: 
Assisting the local community with all aspects of building and renovating homes
Working hours: 
Flexible; Monday to Friday up to 8 hours a day, all other time is free
Getting to the project: 
Dependent on location; up to 1 hour bus ride (budget approximately US$15 per week)
Requirements: 
Minimum Age 17

What's included

Accommodation: 
Shared room in homestay
Food: 
All meals
Airport pickup: 
Included on arrival date - ask us for details if you're arriving early
Training: 
In-country orientation
Support: 
Pre-departure helpdesk, local in-country team and 24 hour emergency support

What's not included

Flights, Insurance, Visas, Return Airport transfer, Local Transport

Itinerary

Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival into San Jose International Airport (airport code SJO)

You will be met at the airport by a member of our friendly i-to-i Costa Rica team, and taken to the Alajuela Backpackers hostel, where you’ll be spending your first 2 nights in Costa Rica. If you arrive before 6:30pm a tasty welcome dinner is provided, and the rest of your time is yours to spend as you chose – exploring Alajuela’s bars and shops, getting to know your fellow volunteers or catching up on some sleep!

Day 2 (Monday) – Orientation

At 8:30am a member of the in-country team will pick you up from the hostel and take you to the i-to-i office for orientation. This will give you a good insight into Costa Rica - the culture, things to do and see, what to do in case of an emergency and much more! It can also be a good way to meet other i-to-i travellers and ask any questions you may have. You’ll then be given some lunch and will have the afternoon free to explore or relax.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – Transfer to the project

Transfer from Alajuela to San Ramón takes approximately 1 hour, and will normally be on public transport. When you arrive you will be able to settle into your homestay accommodation and get to know your host family. Spending time with a Costa Rican “tico” family will be a great chance to experience a different culture and lifestyle, and a fantastic opportunity to practice your Spanish!

Next an i-to-i representative will accompany you to the building project to meet the builders that you will be working with. You will jump straight into work – so make sure you are ready to get dirty! If you have a particular skill then don’t hide it; any ideas or suggestions are welcome here. You will finish work at approx 4pm (depending on work load and weather!) and head home to your new family for a well deserved shower and dinner!

Day 4 – 6 (Wednesday to Friday) – Get your hands dirty!

Now is the time to get stuck into work at your building project! Your work schedule is from 8am to 4pm and you will get involved in all aspects of the building, although this will depend on the stage building is at when you arrive and how long you are staying. You could help build septic tanks (empty tanks, don’t worry!) lay floors, dig trenches, put on roofs, prepare metal ties and metal framework for the foundations, mix cement and concrete and carry materials to the building site. No building experience is needed, although any specific skills you might have would be greatly appreciated! We only ask that you are adaptable and hard working.

Day 7 to 8 (Saturday and Sunday) – Tico Time!

It’s the weekend and time to explore! San Ramón is incredibly beautiful and full of things to do. It is also conveniently located to beaches and other tourist-friendly areas. You might like to spend some time on one of the many hiking trails around San Ramón, explore the Farmer’s Market, visit a museum or Butterfly Garden or sign up for an exhilarating, zip-line canopy tour! During the evenings you can let your hair down at a local bar or disco, relax in a restaurant or the park. You don’t need to worry about being bored in San Ramón!

If you are booked for a 1 week placement, Day 8 will be your final day with i-to-i.

Following weeks

Your week days will be spent working at the project from 8am until 4pm, and your hard work will really make a difference to the local community. If you’re lucky you may be there to see the family move in to their new home which you helped to build! Weekends are yours to spend as you chose, and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.

Your last day

It’s time to bid a fond farewell to your new friends and host family and head back to Alajuela or off for further adventures! On departure day you will make your own way back to the hostel in Alajuela. Directions for this are given inside the welcome pack you’ll be given in Costa Rica.

We offer one free night in the hostel, Alajuela Backpackers, before departure if you require (e.g. if your flight leaves early Sunday morning, you can stay in Alajuela on the Saturday night). Alajuela Backpackers also offers transfers back to the airport.

 

Project

What does the project do?

Our building projects in Costa Rica work with The Fundación para la Vivienda Rural Costa Rica-Canadá. This foundation was established in 1989 when the Costa Rican - Canadian Rural Housing Programme was founded thanks to a contribution from the Canadian Government. The people from Fundación have become specialised in rural housing and they operate with a network of rural organisations, which are responsible for proposing families for a house, to help them fulfill the established requirements, advise them during the construction process and to collect the monthly loan payments. Therefore it is not a charity giving away homes but a foundation. Each project is a cooperative effort incorporating the home recipient, volunteers from inside and outside the immediate community and the foundation. The labour contributed by homeowners and volunteers, which we call "sweat equity", keeps house costs affordable.

What’s the project like?

This is the perfect environment for anyone with a love of the outdoors and hands-on work, who wants to immerse themselves in the local community and really make a difference. You’ll be working alongside local people as well as other volunteers, giving you a great chance to experience a different culture and way of life and practice your Spanish!

The work can be very physical and demanding but is 100% worthwhile in the long term. The project does expect you to have a reasonable level of fitness so that you are able to get involved in all areas. Building sites also might not be what you’re used to seeing back home! Sometimes hands are used in the absence of machinery, you’ll be getting hot and sweaty every day but it's all good fun and for a good cause so leave the ball gowns at home!

There is a good team spirit whilst working on a building project, the pace of life is slower than what you might be used to and it gets too hot to build around noon so work stops for a long lunch. May to November is the rainy season, so expect interruptions and take a rain coat!

Why does the project need volunteers?

25% of the world lives in inhuman conditions and more than 100 million do not have a house. Sign up for building homes in Costa Rica alongside fellow i-to-i volunteers and the Fundación para la Vivienda Rural Costa Rica-Canadá in order to carry on this work and help to provide homes to the communities where it is most needed. Without the support and hard work of volunteers, work on the new houses would be very slow and laborious.

Beneficiaries are in great need of simple, decent houses but can’t afford extra help to build them. By volunteering at the project you help families provide stability for their children and give them an increased sense of pride and dignity as well as providing a safe, secure home for them.

Activities and schedule

Your working hours are Monday to Friday, 8am until 4pm with a leisurely break for lunch. It’s a very hands-on project and you will have the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the building. You could be helping to build septic tanks, digging trenches, mixing cement and concrete, carrying materials to the building site, helping to put on roofs and lay floors or preparing the foundations.

It is important to note that you might not necessarily see a house finished during your time here (but if you do it’ll be a great feeling of satisfaction and pride!) but you can return home or travel onwards on your journey knowing that you’ve contributed your part of an ongoing process; you’re part of something big here.

Evenings and weekends are your free time to spend as you chose. There is plenty to do in San Ramón and our in-country team and your host family will be happy to help and advise you, and make plenty of suggestions as to how you and your fellow volunteers might like to spend your free time.

Project resources and advice

You should bring some sturdy footwear (Bring wellies/ gum boots in the rainy season. You can purchase these locally for approx $7), and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty! A hat and sun cream is also advisable as you will spend most of your days outside, as is a rain jacket in case of impromptu showers! The project is fairly well resourced but if you would like to bring some donations from home like work gloves or small tools they would be very much appreciated. These things are available to buy locally too, so if you prefer to wait until you get to Costa Rica to purchase them you will also be benefiting the Costa Rican economy.

Accommodation

What type of accommodation will I be in?

During your time with i-to-i you will be staying with a Costa Rican family in home stay accommodation. Most of our home stays are located within a short walking distance of each other and are operated on a shared basis of two people sharing. We have been sending volunteers to these families for many years and all provide clean and safe accommodation whilst being extremely friendly. You will not only be welcomed into their home, but also their family. Although your new family will speak some English, you will find you enjoy your time and get more out of the experience if you try to speak as much Spanish as you can during your time with them. So remember your phrasebook and don’t be nervous about giving it a try!

Accommodation facilities

Depending on the house, you'll have a shared bedroom with another building project participant of the same gender as you. If we aren’t able to place two people together, we’ll make sure you’re as close together as you can be. Each bedroom has two single beds and storage space for your luggage. Basic bedding will be provided but you are welcome to bring a sleeping bag if you plan to go travelling at the weekends. We’d recommend that you bring your own padlock to keep your valuables secure.

There is a shared family living space so you might like to take items such as playing cards or books to bring in to the family space. Your new family will be keen to spend time chatting and getting to know you and we’d encourage you to get as involved in family life as much as possible. The bathrooms will be on a shared basis with the family and have running water, shower and Western style toilet. There isn’t a huge demand for hot water because the weather is already hot, and you’ll find that you won’t miss hot showers all that much!

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included; expect traditional Costa Rican basic food such as: rice, beans, salad, meat, poultry, pasta, fish, etc.

Things to bring from home

  • Sleeping bag (if you plan on going travelling in your spare time)
  • Towel
  • Mosquito net
  • A re-sealable plastic bag will come in handy for keeping items dry in rainy seasons!
  • Basic phrases in Spanish will help you settle in quicker, the more Spanish you know, the better!

Where is the accommodation?

Set in a scenic basin, San Ramón is one of the larger Central Valley coffee towns of Costa Rica. Rolling mountains surround this unique, close-knit town. San Ramón is located in the province of Alajuela, 30 miles north of San José and 28 miles inland from the Central Pacific beaches. This town is ideally located for travel in Costa Rica. So, the distance to other popular tourist locations from San Ramón is relatively short. Apart from its central location, you will find that San Ramón's people are one of the friendliest subpopulations in Costa Rica. The proud people of San Ramón are eager to extend a warm welcome to travelers through casual conversation and a helping hand if necessary. One of the campuses of the University of Costa Rica's is located in town ensuring a vibrant nightlife in San Ramón. You will find numerous cafés, restaurants and traditional bars in town that still serve free bocas (small meals!) when you order.

How far is it from my project?

Depending on which house you are working on, your commute in the morning could take up to 1 hour by public bus. You will be travelling with other participants on the building project and we’d recommend that you budget around $15 per week for this cost.

What you get

Next steps

Flights & insurance

Country information

I've done this trip. Write review >
Bruce Phillips gives this project
7/10
Here is what Bruce had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Staying with a Costa Rican family
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Learn spanish
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Seeing how other people live has been rewarding
Isla McCole gives this project
7/10
Here is what Isla had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
My homestay family were absolutely fantastic and making bonds with them and other locals was a massive highlight for me. The ability to go away and explore in our free time was definitely fantastic as it enabled me to experience so many different elements of Costa Rica.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
1) Make sure you factor in enough money for trips away, as yo uhave to remember that places you visit are likely to have higher, tourist prices than where you're staying 2) Check if you have a credit card that can be used in the atms in the local area, i.e i had a mastercard credit card that wasn't accepted in loads of atms 3) If you usually have a smart phone, don't think you have to buy a cheap phone and bring that instead, its really useful to be able to access the internet on your phone as it's easier than trying to always find internet cafes
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
A completely unbelievable, unexpected, unreal experience
Madeleine Philps gives this project
8/10
Here is what Madeleine had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
The family I lived with during my time in Costa Rica were amazing. I loved getting to know the whole family and learn about their lives. They welcomed me into their home and made every effort to make my experience as good as possible. And they really helped improve my Spanish!
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Make as much effort as possible with your family because you can learn so much from spending a bit of time with them. Be tolerant. You will meet a wide range of people during your trip and face unexpected challenges so don't get too stressed and just enjoy it! Try and fit as much as possible into you time there.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
More eventful than expected but even better than expected.
William McClean gives this project
9/10
Here is what William had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Homestay, building, having fun with locals.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Know some spanish, get involved, bring some gifts from home.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
PURA VIDA!!!
Anthony Boffman gives this project
10/10
Here is what Anthony had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
The family was by far my favorite part. The arthquake was cool too.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Make sure your phone works, know bus schedules.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
It´s now my second home
Nicholas Scott gives this project
10/10
Here is what Nicholas had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Homestay experience, exploring Costa Rica on holidays.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Learn spanish, be motivated, enjoy every minute!.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Something that I will always look back on and tell people about!
Elena Mencos gives this project
8/10
Here is what Elena had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Meeting and working with the families
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Get details, learn spanish, bring snacks
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
An experience I will never forget
Danielle Agius gives this project
8/10
Here is what Danielle had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Consider where your volunteering is eg. San Ramon is central, weather not great in afternoon, all amenities. Have a basic spanish understanding pre arrival.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
A complete change from my day to day UK life. Humbling, extraordinary and so many memories to last me a lifetime.
Sally Hughes gives this project
9/10
Here is what Sally had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Book plenty of time around your volunteering to travel, lots to see. Basic understanding of spanish. Get to know your families.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Amazing culture and landscape.
Kate Riley gives this project
7/10
Here is what Kate had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
The better your spanish, the better your experience. The more you put in, the more you get out.

We work in partnership with hundreds of established projects that are run by local communities. The information on our website comes directly from the projects and we work with them to ensure this information is as accurate as possible. However, due to the very nature of the projects themselves the exact details of what happens on a daily basis can change with little or no notice. If you have travelled with us and have any updates to this information, please let us know.