Latin America and Caribbean Featured Program: Costa Rica
—Kurt Brandenburg and Jackie Hintz, Thrivent Builds Worldwide team members
Costa Rica (Spanish for “rich coast”), officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.
Ethnic groups include 94 percent white (including mestizo); 3 percent black; 1 percent Amerindian; 1 percent Chinese and 1 percent other. Nicaraguan immigrants make up 10 to 15 percent of the population. The indigenous population today numbers about 29,000, or less than 1 percent.
San Jose is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. San Jose’s elevation gives it a mild climate. The temperature ranges between 15 degrees C and 26 degrees C. The rainy season is from May to late November, but cloudiness and rainfall can occur during the dry season. Relative humidity tends to range between 60 and 90 percent. The climate is similar throughout the country.
Spanish (official), English
According to the National Institute of Statistic and Census of Costa Rica 2010 report, the number of houses needed in Costa Rica is more than 700,000. When accounting for houses that lack at least one of three basic services (i.e., sanitation services, water and electricity), the housing need rises to more than 900,000 houses. Of the seven Costa Rican provinces, San Jose and Alajuela have the greatest housing need.
Despite some government investment, the housing need in Costa Rica is still urgent and growing.
National program information
In 1988, Habitat began work in the Costa Rican city of Esparza. In its first three years, the Esparza affiliate built 55 houses.
After the introduction of an ambitious government housing program that gave houses to the poor, HFH ceased construction in Costa Rica in 1991. However, due to large cutbacks in the government program, an estimated 35 percent of the Costa Rican population was still living in substandard housing. Habitat Costa Rica was invited to begin work again in San Ramón in 1997.
Habitat Costa Rica has made a significant impact in the last 11 years. Through the construction of 1,000 new houses (as of December 2009), they have helped more than 5,000 people fulfill their dream of decent housing. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is known around the world for its biological diversity and friendliness, making it a great host country for regular teams as well as youth, church and Thrivent teams.
Learn more at habitatcostarica.org.
Work site information
Volunteers may assist with improvements, finishes and conclusions, and repairs. Habitat houses in Costa Rica are built using cinder block walls, tin roofs and cement floors.
On the work site, team members will have access to portable bathrooms as well as designated resting areas with drinkable water and a first aid kit. During building days, volunteers are required to use safety glasses and hard hats and will be supervised by a technical advisor. There will be written construction goals every day to keep track of the progress made by the team.
Habitat Costa Rica serves communities located in Guanacaste, San Ramón, Alajuela, Buenos Aires and La Fortuna.
Teams arrive by international flights to Alajuela/San Jose International Airport for most project locations. Teams will fly into Liberia International Airport for project locations in Guanacaste. Flights from the United States typically arrive in the afternoon.
Hotels are typically simple and basic (two to four people per room) and located near the project site. Each room will contain single beds or double beds for married couples, with ceiling or wall fans. Rooms typically have a private bathroom with hot water. Bedding and towels are usually provided. All hotels have potable water.
A private bus or a van is typically used from the airport to the hotel and back. Transportation to and from the work site each day is hired through local drivers.
Food and water
Breakfast: Breakfast is typically continental (e.g., toast, pancakes, cereal, fruit, juice, café, etc.) and served in the hotel. A traditional Costa Rican meal, such as the “Gallo pinto” (rice and beans), may be served.
Lunch: Lunch is served at the work site as a picnic. Costa Rican lunch is based on “Casado,” or rice and beans with meat (chicken, pork and beef), a vegetable and salad. However, soups and pastas are some variations that complement the menu. Lunch on non-work days will be at restaurants.
Dinner: Dinner is similar to lunch.
Snacks: Fruits, cookies, water and café are provided at the work site around 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Drinking water: Water will be provided at the work site in five-gallon jugs.
Hosting structure and services
Habitat staff in Costa Rica will be with the team for three days but will be available by mobile phone during the entire trip. All participants receive an emergency contact sheet with phone numbers and must carry it at all times.
Both Global Village coordinators are bilingual and can be reached via e-mail.
Standard itinerary (9 days)
Day 1 (Arrival day, typically Saturday): Greeted at the airport by Habitat Costa Rica staff; shuttle to lodging in arrival city; welcome dinner.
Day 2 (Sunday): Breakfast; travel to host city (if necessary); orientation with Habitat Costa Rica staff member; tour of town; free time; dinner.
Day 3–7 (Workdays, Monday–Friday): Breakfast served before traveling to work site; daily transportation to site if needed; introduction to families, foreman and community; work site orientation; Work from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. (Workdays will start earlier during hot or rainy seasons.); lunch on site; free time after work to clean up; supper of typical Costa Rican food; free time for team activities and community exploration.
Day 8 (Saturday): Breakfast; free time; travel back to departing city; free time; final team dinner.
Day 9 (Final day, Sunday): Breakfast; departure.
Special events throughout the week: One night will be scheduled for the team to have supper at a recommended place or a place of their choice; cultural experiences with host program staff, such as traditional dance, market tours, church attendance, recreational activities with families and kids in the communities, schools, etc.; walking tour of host city; visit to Habitat families and homes; opportunities to visit local or nearby natural places and recreational facilities at team expense; farewell ceremony.
Starting at US$1,795
View costs included in the standard budget.
January-December (year-round), except for Christmas holidays and during Holy Week
Volunteer Engagement specialist
If you have read the FAQs and have further questions before you submit a Global Village trip proposal, please contact the regional Volunteer Engagement Specialist.
Please note: proposals for LAC trips should be submitted no less than six and no more than nine months prior to departure. Due to the LAC area’s hosting capacity and volume, this timeline ensures our team can best support you in the Global Village trip planning process.