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Special Needs Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Special Needs Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Interested in Special Needs volunteering in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Special Needs Care project sets volunteers up to help at group homes or clinics for people living with special needs or the elderly. Volunteers will gain experience caring for disabled people while assisting house staff with day-to-day tasks and providing companionship and encouragement which can make a genuine difference to the lives of residents.

Highlights:
  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from AU$732 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help care for adults, children or the elderly with disabilities

  • Discover Costa Rica’s fascinating history and many museums

  • Experience life in San José by staying with a local family

'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

Key information

Provide care & connection for those with disabilities
Based in Costa Rica’s capital, San José
Local homestay accommodation
Volunteers aged 18+
Fully hosted experience from AU$732 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 24 weeks
Coffee plantation tours available
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Caring, compassionate volunteers who want to support people with a range of disabilities. There is a need for physical therapists on this project, but it is open to all volunteers and no experience is required.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

People living with disabilities in Costa Rica are sometimes abandoned by their families who can’t or won’t give them the care they need. Many of these people live together in homes or facilities that are run by only a few staff and rely on volunteers to assist with daily tasks.

As a Special Needs volunteer you can help to increase the care and education people with disabilities receive. By bringing a caring attitude and desire to help, you’ll be contributing to the development of those with intellectual and physical challenges and increasing inclusiveness for people living with special needs.

Creativity and new ideas are welcome on this project, but usually Special Needs Care volunteer duties include:

  • Providing personal care
  • Helping with feeding
  • Dressing and changing clothes
  • Bathing and personal care
  • Playing games and helping with activities
  • Assisting with physical therapy
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Good mental and physical health is key to sustainable development and building healthy and happy communities. Now more than ever, we must increase access to free healthcare and health education across the globe to achieve an acceptable standard of living and wellbeing for all.

Why do Special Needs Care volunteering in San Jose with IVHQ?

When you volunteer on this Special Needs Care project you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Improving access to care for disabled people in San José
  • Helping students develop and thrive
  • Practicing your Spanish
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining experience caring for people with disabilities
  • Immersing yourself fully in the Costa Rican culture
  • Exploring San José, Costa Rica’s bustling capital city

Volunteer requirements

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.

Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

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'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

KJ
Kimberly Jeffries
28 Mar 2023

I was able to experience a different culture through the eyes of a local versus a tourist. I underestimated the emotional impact that experience would have on me. Do it! You will not regret helping to make a difference to someone in need, and you will gain a life changing experience.

...
MS
Madelyn Sheppard
14 Mar 2023

I loved it so much. I loved spending time with the special needs residents. We did lots of crafts that I thought of, games and puzzles. I couldn’t be happier!

...
VM
Virginia Manzano
16 Feb 2023

The most memorable moment from my experience in Costa Rica was when we put our palm prints on our Team Manager Melissa's shirt after we finished painting the wall mural at the Children's placement. We were all happy admiring our work. Best high five ever! 😊This experience has given me more confidence to do things on my own. "Be open and flexible" is my new mantra. Thank you IVHQ for leading me to a new path, a new direction. To anyone still wondering if they should volunteer abroad, I'd say try it, you might like it! 😊

...
CD
Camila Dinse
08 Aug 2022

The IVHQ team was very helpful and always there to answer my questions and needs.

...
LB
Lori Boldt
21 Dec 2021

The volunteer experience was phenomenal for me in Special Needs Care. My sister joined me and it was a growth experience for us. My college age children, pre-med and pre-nursing broadened their medical skills and enjoyed connecting with the staff and patients. Great experience for entire family!

...
VH
Veena Hanoman
21 Jul 2021

This experience truly exposed me to a different culture, awesome people and a whole variety of amazing adventures ,which has allowed me the opportunity to grow in soo many ways. Pura Vida Costa Rica !!!!

...

To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

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Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica San Jose with IVHQ

Location

San José is Costa Rica’s modern, metropolitan, cultural hub. The capital city has been hailed as one of the most visited destinations in Central America and is the central point for tourists arriving in Costa Rica. It’s got excellent eateries, an interesting variety of museums, markets, shops, parks and nightlife and is only a short trip to any of the numerous natural attractions and adventures in the region.

Arrival and orientation

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José on the Sunday before your start date.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in San José. This is included in your Program Fee.

We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation. If you are travelling in Costa Rica prior to your program, the local team will pick you up at your San José accommodation the day before your orientation.

Your check out is at 11am on the last Saturday of your program.

The compulsory program orientation is hosted by our Costa Rica team at their offices in San José on Sunday or Monday.

Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – an introduction to Costa Rica, its customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Costa Rica, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

Volunteer schedule example

First day

You will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.

Weekdays

During the week, you will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 3 to 5 hours. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in but a typical morning schedule is as follows:

8:00 AM Breakfast with your host family.
9:00 AM Leave home and travel to your placement. You will join the local staff and will receive a duty roster and plan for work.
12:00 PM Lunch at a local restaurant.
1:00 - 6:00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. You are free to travel back to your accommodation, go sightseeing or take Spanish lessons.
7:00 PM Dinner with the host family.

Weekends

Whether you want to explore or relax on your weekends in San José , there’s plenty of opportunity to do both. Stroll down the bustling Central Avenue in downtown San José and take in a museum, listen to street performers or do some shopping. Then check out the stunning architecture of the National Theater of Costa Rica, taste-test the city’s fabulous coffee or sample a brew from San José ’s blossoming craft-beer industry.

It’s worth noting that Sunday is a religious day of rest and many stores and restaurants will be closed. Costa Ricans tend to devote Sundays to spending time with their family. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is a unique and special experience for many volunteers.

On long weekends you may choose to travel around the rest of Costa Rica and the many cities, volcanoes, jungles, coffee plantations and beaches which are more than worth a visit. Many of these are only a short trip from San José .

Most IVHQ volunteers choose to take advantage of our Costa Rica - Travel and tour add-ons in their free time. Please note that volunteers on more remote projects such as Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation will only be able to join these activities before or after their program.

Accommodation and WiFi

In San Jose volunteers are accommodated in homestays with local families - it’s an immersive experience that connects you with an authentic insight into the Costa Rican way of life. You will find living conditions are comfortable and you can expect your accomodation to have electricity, drinkable running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers are common and the water is not always heated. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with up to six other volunteers of the same gender in most homestays It is possible for volunteers to upgrade to a private room (double bed, shared washroom) for $62 per person, per week.

If you are traveling as a family, the local team will place you in a separate homestay to ensure all family members are accommodated together.

Please note, volunteers under the age of 18 who are traveling solo will be accommodated separately from those over the age of 18. If there are other volunteers under the age of 18 participating at the same time, the local team will do their best to ensure they are accommodated together.

WiFi is available at the homestays, and you will also have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in San José.

Meals

Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast typically consists of toast, fruit, eggs, rice and beans accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner usually includes: meat (typically chicken), starches and vegetables. Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto, is made of rice and beans and served with nearly every meal. Lunches are not provided to San José -based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. Budget between AU$7 and AU$15 per day to buy lunch.

If you have specific dietary requirements, our local teams and homestays can cater to you, however keep in mind that as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible.

Pricing

  • USD
Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week $465 Equivalent to $66/day
2 weeks $755 Equivalent to $54/day
3 weeks $1,055 Equivalent to $50/day
4 weeks $1,330 Equivalent to $48/day
5 weeks $1,545 Equivalent to $44/day
6 weeks $1,760 Equivalent to $42/day
8 weeks $2,190 Equivalent to $39/day
10 weeks $2,620 Equivalent to $37/day
12 weeks $3,050 Equivalent to $36/day
16 weeks $3,910 Equivalent to $35/day
20 weeks $4,770 Equivalent to $34/day
24 weeks $5,630 Equivalent to $34/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately AU$518) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$150 - US$200 per week to be sufficient for expenses. Please note this budget is for general expenses and does not include money you will need for any weekend activities you plan to do.
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Airport pick-up
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on language lessons
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Lunch
  • Transport to and from your placement each day
  • Return to the airport when your program finishes
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Free-time experiences & tours in San Jose

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in San Jose! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ San Jose program.

Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio
Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio

Immerse yourself in Manuel Antonio’s stunning natural beauty and thrilling activities on this 6-day adventure

AU$1448
Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose
Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose

Embark on a full-day adventure exploring La Paz Waterfall Gardens, an animal sanctuary, and a Poas Volcano Tour, followed by a Coffee Farm experience.

AU$346
Mini Adventure  - San Jose
Mini Adventure - San Jose

Experience a comprehensive 6-day Mini Adventure, featuring Arenal Volcano, the Britt Coffee Tour, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, whitewater rafting, and a visit to the pristine Tortuga Island.

AU$1976

Spanish language lessons

Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica program, however, learning basic conversational Spanish will help you maximise the benefit of your program. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. Please note these lessons are not available on the Holiday Experience, Eco-Agriculture or Turtle Conservation projects.

San Jose Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$180 (approximately AU$283) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$205 (approximately AU$322) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$400 (approximately AU$629) per week

Check what's required to visit Costa Rica

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital San Jose
Population 5 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00

Weather and climate: Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country. Although you get much cooler temperatures in the mountains, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 71°F (21.7°C) and 81°F (27°C). The coolest months are from November through to January, and the warmest months are from March through to May. San Jose stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 69°F (20.6°C).

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How to get started

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