Primary School Teaching Volunteer

Centro Educativo Gandoca - Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-719 Location: Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica Sector: Education Category: Classroom Teaching Min Duration: 2 weeks Lodging: Host Family / Lodge Language: Basic
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Volunteer Job Description

The Centro Educativo Gandoca (Elementary School) is located in a small town of approximately 150 people situated between the protected areas of Gandoca and Manzanillo.

The community school has 24 students and 2 teachers who have the responsibility of teaching the basic subjects for all the grades, from kindergarten to grade six. Those subjects are Spanish, Math, Social Studies, Science and Agriculture. English is not included in the students curriculum.

For years, the principle of the school has requested the support from the government to get an English teacher but due to financial restraints and lack of teachers in the country a small school with a small student population can only receive funds for basic educational requirements.

Gandoca is not a developed area but it has became an important tourist attraction due to the conservation areas that surround the town. In order for the people living in this area to obtain tourist related jobs, they need to have some knowledge of the English language and their children need English language training in their school to better prepare them for a wider range of job opportunities in their future years.

A volunteer English teacher at this placement will need to assess the English Language Program that previous volunteers developed, (if there is one) and then determine their lesson plans for their volunteer period. They will also need to keep a record of the progression of the students during this period and outline an English educational lesson plan for future volunteers.

Volunteers do not need to have a teacher's education or experience but they do need energy, enthusiasm and creativity to succeed at this placement.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Teach English

A volunteer English teacher would be responsible to develop and implement English language workshops geared to the age of the children in each class. These workshops would be conducted with the support and knowledge of the teachers employed by the school. A volunteer English teacher is expected to have prepared her workshop lessons well before each class and endeavoured to make the sessions successful and fun for all. The more effort the greater the results!

Teach Specific Groups

A volunteer English teacher may be ask to teach: individual teachers and/or students or a classroom of students. Much will depend on the volunteer's previous experience and the preparation she/he has done towards their lesson plans.

All volunteers will follow the established rules for teaching as set by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.

Assist in Other Subjects

A volunteer English teacher may be asked to assist the instructors in the school to teach other subjects such as: Math, Science or Agriculture. Each class, (or grade) has only two, forty minute English language lessons per week.

Administration Duties

A volunteer English teacher may be ask to help with administrative duties at the school when he/she is not required to assist or teach a lesson or if the children are not at school due to a Costa Rican holiday or outing.

Host Organization Details

Centro Educativo Gandoca

The Centro Educativo Gandoca is a school in the town of Gandoca. At present (2013) the school teaches a total of 24 students with ages ranging from 5 to 13 years old. These children live in and around an area in Costa Rica, that has very little modern conveniences. Electricity came to the area 10 years ago as did purified drinking water. There is one internet cafe. Most of the parents are engaged in agricultural and fishing activities, so the children who attend the school and their families are usually living in conditions of poverty.

For years, the school has struggled with student dropout, as the community is located far from developed and prosperous settlements and the children frequently have to help their parents, from an early age, to provide an income to meet the family needs for basic living.

The school has functioned for years with only two teachers. They teach kindergarten up to and including grade six. The lack of teachers means that they have no classes in English, Art, Music or Physical Education. Therefore, the school needs volunteers to teach any of these classes.

Does this organization have any religious affiliations?

The organization does not have a religious affiliation but it should be noted that the Catholic faith is acknowledged in any public institution in Costa Rica. Volunteers do not have to have any religious affiliations but are expected to respect the faith and practices of others.

When They Were Founded

The school was built in 1974. The property called San Miguel, was donated by Jose Rojas who lived in the area and owned said property. He asked a couple of friends to help him with the construction of the wooden building and then received the funding from the government to run the Public School. Mr Rojas then asked the only teacher in the area, Mr. Rogelio Brown, to come to the new school and teach 20 children. At that time, the teacher had to walk 13 km everyday to teach at the school.

How Are They Funded

Centro Educativo Gandoca is a Public School that receives their funding from the government. The area is becoming a tourist destination and sometimes they receive donations from visitors.

Donation Requests

The school is in need of: notebooks, pens, pencils, colored pencils, colored markers, erasers, crayons, English dictionaries, used laptops, backpacks and shoes.

Placement Location Information

Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica

Gandoca downtown is a tiny town with 150 people approximately at a remote area where life runs very slow and most of the people who live on the area are relatives.

The area has not developed itself, and is still consider a virgin area where tourism is growing at a very slow level.

The little wooden school is located 1km away from the beach. The school is divided in three classrooms, one for kinderganden and two for elementary school. There are two teacher attending 24 children.

There is only one internet cafe that work a couple of hours per day and there is no cell phone signal. There is only one small Pulperia (convenience store), but it has very basic products. Fresh food and cool drink can be bought in the closest town.

Transfer From BaseCamp

Volunteers will need to take a taxi to San Jose to the San Carlos Bus Station (Street 12 Ave 7 & 9) where the bus to Sixaola departs. The bus leaves at 6am and once in Sixaola, one member of the association will be waiting for the the volunteer to continue to Gandoca by taxi. The taxi ride is for around 20 minutes and it has to be paid by the volunteer.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 226
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 6:30

Weather in the Area

In this area, tropical-humid forest predominates, with an annual average precipitation between 4,500 to 6,000 mm, so it is considered one of the rainiest zones in the country.

The weather in this region ranges between 24 to 33 degrees Celsius, but it combines with humidity. Gandoca Manzanillo is on the Caribbean coast. This means it is hot with 100% humidity, it rains frequently and sometimes heavily.

There are mosquitoes and sand flies in the area, as well as Malaria and Dengue fever. The driest period is February through May.

There is no clearly defined rainy or dry season in the southern Caribbean, though the least rainy months tend to be September/October and February/March. Even during the drier months, afternoon or evening storms roll into the Gandoca-Manzanillo area.

City/Village Description

Gandoca is a small village very near the Panama border on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. There is no costal road leading all the way to Gandoca and the road stops at Manzanillo. Gandoca is accessed by car via the road leading from Sixaola, an inland town on the Panama border. Gandoca is definitely not a tourist town, and visitors there are quite rare. You are unlikely to include Gandoca on your travel itinerary, but we decided to include information on it as a curiosity.

Most of the people in Gandoca who work, work on commercial banana plantations.

Gandoca is a typical example of the fallout of banana operations. There's nothing happening in Gandoca. That is why few people go there.

Gandoca is really a beautiful place. Its most notable feature is the turtle conservation project that works there to protect the eggs of sea turtles. Huge sea turtles come to the beaches near Gandoca every year to lay their eggs in the sand. It is a truly awesome sight to behold, and many people are concerned with protecting these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, their eggs are considered a delicacy, so every year the turtle project works to move the eggs to safe sites and protect them from poachers. They welcome volunteers to help with this endeavour.

Gandoca is at the southern end of the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife reserve, and is situated next to some of the most beautiful, pristine wilderness areas in the region. The beaches are exquisite and the jungle is lovely. Eventually, a coastal road may be built all the way to Gandoca, opening it up to tourist traffic. This would greatly benefit the local people, as well as the tourists who would be given access to this beautiful spot. However, care must be taken to preserve the wilderness within the reserve, as it is home to some of the last remnants of the original Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest ecosystems.

This place is fairly isolated, however there is electricity but it goes out occasionally; as an isolated town there is no phone signal and no internet except for one house that has internet and they use it as an internet café.

In Gandoca there are no ATMs or supermarkets. If volunteers need an ATM, they would travel to Sixaola, around a 20 minute ride by car.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Clinica Daytonia
From the plaza in Daytonia 100 west
TEL 1: 2754 2085

Placement Address

Centro Educativo Gandoca
From The Minae 100 Meters North
Costa Rica

Accommodation and Meals

All of our volunteers begin their stay in Costa Rica at our BaseCamp Center in San Jose. Given that this placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minute commute from BaseCamp, volunteers here will be living with a host family after your orientation. Living with a host family is an awesome experience for a person looking to really experience Costa Rica and its culture.

The following information outlines a brief description of life at BaseCamp and also what someone can expect living with a host family in Costa Rica.

If you think that living with a host family is not for you, then this placement might not be the best fit with what you are looking for. You should try completing our application. It's totally free and will allow our team in Costa Rica to come up with a list of exactly which placements they would reccommend for you based on your personal preferences, background, skills and interests.

BaseCamp Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica
BaseCamp Costa Rica Address

Ave 16 St. 39&41
Los Yoses Sur
San Jose, Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica Contact Details

Tel: 506-8763-9595
Tel: 506-4030-1891
Mobile: 506-8763-9595

Take a Tour of BaseCamp
Accommodation in Costa Rica

All volunteers on our program in Costa Rica start out at our BaseCamp Center. The center is located in the capital city San Jose, and is a fantastic place from which to start your adventure.

Once volunteers have finished their orientation, where they live depends largely on the location of their placement. If their placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minutecommute from BaseCamp, then the only accommodation option may be host families or volunteer lodges in the national parks. However, if the placement is within a 1 hour 15 minute commute, then volunteers can choose whether or not to stay with us at BaseCamp or live with a host family.

BaseCamp Costa Rica is located in the province of San Jose at Los Yoses area. This is a fantastic area closed to the University of Costa Rica, San Pedro Mall, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, embassies and stores. Walking distance to down town and only 30 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria Airport.

BaseCamp has four bedrooms and three wash-rooms. The beds are mainly bunk beds in dormitory style rooms. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. There is a large common area where movies, books and games are available to our guests and there is a patio with a nice set up. This is an ideal setting for reading, studying Spanish or just some quiet relaxation.

BaseCamp is where volunteers first come when they arrive in Costa Rica and where they live for at least the duration of their orientation and training. The meal plan at the centre is based on a 14 day rotating schedule of a variety of traditional dishes from around the country. This meal plan allows volunteers to gain comfort and familiarity with both Costa Rican food and meal etiquette before making the transition to living with a host family.

Orientation and language training sessions take place in the BaseCamp Center. Each day of orientation blends some workshops and lessons with a mixture of outings to explore and become familiar with transportation and knowledge regarding the city.

Living With a Host Family in Costa Rica

Living with a host family in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation for the people and customs of the country. Each home-stay will provide a bed and three meals per day for our volunteers. The majority of host families offer private rooms with only one or two volunteers living with the family.

In the case of a volunteer lodge or ranger station (which is often the only option for placements within a National Park), volunteers will be living in dormitory type accommodation and meals will be provided in a mess hall or dining area.

Living with a host family can greatly enhance your performance at your placement. For one, it will have a huge influence on the speed with which you gain familiarity with the local language. This, along with your deeper understanding of cultural practices and beliefs that you are likely to gain in this environment, can go a long way to improving or strengthening your relationships with your team mates at work. Furthermore, a significant percentage of our host families are closely affiliated with the organizations with which our volunteers work. As such, even the evening meal or hanging out around the house can become valuable time during which volunteers can share their ideas and continue their support of their host organization.

All of this being said, living with a host family is not for everyone. It is very important for volunteers to honor the house rules in their host family and to be punctual. Also, depending on how remote your placement location, host families can be very rustic. Our staff in country can give you a better idea of what exactly you can expect from a host family in any particular community. However, in general, if these things sound like they might pose a challenge for you, we strongly suggest that you look at a placement within commuting distance from BaseCamp Costa Rica.

How the Program Works

Our program structure and costing is completely flexible which lets our volunteers ensure that they only pay for exactly the degree of support that they want.

Option 1 - Free Services

Some volunteers prefer to coordinate their own accommodation, meals and other support while overseas.

Anyone is welcome to use our volunteer placement search tool to help in finding a placement that is well suited to their interests. Once someone finds a placement that they wish to work with, they are welcome to make all the rest of their arrangmeents on their own.

As well, our team of staff overseas are often able to offer a few helpful pointers for volunteers 'doing it on their own'. Just send us an email with your questions and we will put you in touch with our team abroad. We only ask that you keep your requests fairly general, as this type of advice is exactly how our team earn their living. :)

Option 2 - Placement Support - 250 USD

Other volunteers would like assistance in selecting and confirming their placement, but they plan to manage their own accommodation and other expenses on their own.

These volunteers have the option of choosing to only have our assistance with selecting and confirming their placement. This option also includes ongoing placement support while abroad, so a volunteer would be able to ask our team for help if things at their placement were not working out.

In providing Placement Support, our team works with each volunteer through email, telephone and either Skype or Google Hangouts, to ensure that each volunteer has a clear understanding of their placement options. Our in-country staff will put together a custom list of placement options for each volunteer that they believe are the most appropriate matches with the volunteer's background, skills and interests. Then each volunteer can work with our team both in Canada and abroad to go through each of the options and narrow-down their selection.

Option 3 - Full Program Support

For most volunteers who are volunteering for less than a year, they are looking for an option that includes their accommodation, meals, airport reception, country and program orientation and placement support. This is what our Program Fees are designed for.

We are proud of how over the years we have ensured that our program fees are amoungst the most reasonable of any program in the world while we continue to provide exceptional volunteer support both at home and abroad.

Our Program Fees and listings of what these do and do not include are listed below:

Program Fees

Program Fees - Costa Rica

  Registration Fee
  1 Week
  2 Weeks
  3 Weeks
  4 Weeks
  5 Weeks
  6 Weeks
  7 Weeks
  8 Weeks
  Additional Weeks

Costa Rica wildlife and conservation placements require an additional $7 USD per day fee to cover park fees and accommodation. All program fees are listed in US Dollars.

What is Included
  • Pre-Departure support
  • Placement consulation
  • Airport reception & transfer
  • 2 Day orientation
  • Accommodation (BaseCamp or host family)
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Emergency & placement support

What is Not Included
    Before Departure
  • International flight
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Visa costs where required
  • Work permits where required
    While Overseas
  • Daily transportation to and from placement
  • Transport to airport on departure
  • Placement fees if requried

Program Dates


The following is a list of all months during which this placement is not available.

  • July
  • December

Our regularly scheduled program start dates are the first Friday of each month, every month of the year. We strongly recommend beginning your program on one of these dates as this will allow you to go through our orientation alongside other international volunteers.

If you would prefer, our application will also allow you to select a custom start date for your program. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for a custom start date which ranges from 50 to 75 USD.

Aug 07, 2020 Sep 04, 2020 Oct 02, 2020
Nov 06, 2020 Dec 04, 2020 Jan 01, 2021
Feb 05, 2021 Mar 05, 2021 Apr 02, 2021
May 07, 2021 Jun 04, 2021 Jul 02, 2021
Aug 06, 2021 Sep 03, 2021 Oct 01, 2021
Nov 05, 2021 Dec 03, 2021 Jan 07, 2022
Feb 04, 2022 Mar 04, 2022 Apr 01, 2022
May 06, 2022 Jun 03, 2022 Jul 01, 2022


These dates are the day that volunteers should plan to arrive on the ground in country. We can accommodate arrivals in-country at any time day or night on these dates.

Give us a Call
Canada / USA 866-646-4693 (toll free)
UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
Send us a Message