Volunteer in Costa Rica - Change Starts Here

Latin America

Overview

We believe young people everywhere can change the world. So, we empower young people with the skills, experience and connections to be leaders of change. The program engages students in creating long-lasting change through hands-on projects that help to tackle environmental issues, access to education for all, and alleviate poverty.

Raleigh Expedition is an international volunteering program delivered by the youth-driven development charity, Raleigh International. We have been developing and providing responsible volunteer programs for more than 35 years.

This Expedition program is a safe and unique opportunity for volunteers aged 17-24 to become part of a rural community and immerse themselves in new cultures as well as to work alongside local people on the issues they face.

While volunteering in Costa Rica you could help raise environmental awareness and tackle poverty spending your days working on community led projects, contributing to the Global Goals. You and your team will help improve access to education for indigenous communities or take an active role in protecting natural resources and vulnerable environments. During our adventure leadership challenge you’ll develop your leadership skills and learn about the power of team effort whilst discovering incredible landscapes on our stunning treks.

Raleigh Expedition is one of the first UK programs to be accredited by the Gap Year Association (GYA) and recognized by TeenLife as a Top 15 Most Popular Gap Program in 2020.

All our projects are driven by the needs of the communities we work in, and more than 70% of our income goes directly to the projects, so you can be sure that you're having a lasting, positive impact.

Program Highlights:

Work alongside local people to improve their access to education on the indigenous Community project.

Take part in an Adventure Leadership Trek through rainforest and up volcanoes on a variety of stunning routes that tourists don’t get access to.

Work with Costa Rican youth to help create a more inclusive society.

Develop essential teamwork, leadership, intercultural learning, and active citizenship skills and knowledge – the foundation for young people to become future leaders.

Work on meaningful community led projects, contributing to the Global Goals.

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Participant Reviews

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Testimonials

I volunteered as a Project Manager with Raleigh Feb-Apr 2019, it was quite simply the most rewarding, exciting and fun 3 months of my life! I had the opportunity to work on all three different 'stages' from a trek across the country building the confidence of international youth, to digging trails in a National Park to bring tourism to a new remote area, to building a school in an indigenous community. As a project manager you co-lead a group of 15-20 international volunteers aged 18-25 so your impact is not only on the local communities of Costa Rica but of also on the development of youth from all around the world. I met friends for life and really came away feeling like a made a different to so many lives, I am proud to continue to support Raleigh as an Alumni and love continuing to watch their impact grow over seas, I couldn't recommend it more.

- Hannah - April 6, 2020

I had such an incredible time on Raleigh. I met people I didn’t think I’d ever meet and did things I never thought I’d get the chance to do! Honestly, couldn’t recommend enough! Working in an NRM project was so beautiful and trekking across Costa Rica was challenging but so rewarding! Working with indigenous communities was so eye opening and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to go there. I have made incredible friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life and I really hope that many more people will get to have the experience that I have had! The support and learning you receive throughout your Raleigh experience is invaluable. I feel I have developed so many different hard and soft skills, few of which I would ever have had the chance to develop had it not been for Raleigh. Thank you all so much!

- Kate - Sept. 17, 2020

I first heard about Raleigh International through school and as soon as I decided to take a gap year following school, I knew I wanted to embark on a Raleigh expedition. It was the best decision I have ever made! Spending 10 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Raleigh allowed me to experience new cultures, learn valuable communication, problem solving and organisational skills and meet a whole host of people I would never otherwise have met. To say that I was taken out of my comfort zone during my expedition would be an understatement- a Raleigh expedition will completely propel you from your comfort zone!!! From reinforcing paths and fixing bridges in the heart of a national park to making dream comes true for the local people with the addition of a gravity water system to hiking across breathtaking landscapes, every day on Raleigh is different. Some days will be harder than others and everyone will likely be affected by illness and feeling home sick at some point but the support and safety in place mean that sooner rather than later you will be feeling elated and in awe of the experience you are living! The projects take venturers and volunteer managers off the beaten track and allow you to experience parts of the country you would never be able to experience if you were travelling on your own or with a tour company. In addition the projects present the unique opportunity to live and work alongside local people to contribute towards the UN sustainable development goals. I had always been very shy and reserved at school and I lacked a significant amount of self confidence but following my Raleigh expedition I arrived home a completely changed person (for the better!). Although vastly different it equipped me with so many of the skills I needed to completely my pharmacy degree and go on to begin my career as a pharmacist and I’m sure the same would be true regardless of the sector that you go on to work in. I guarantee you will absolutely not regret choosing Raleigh International.

- Sophie - July 12, 2019

This experience for me came when I needed it the most. The experience in leadership and team work that I gained on expedition I could take with me back into my day to day life. The friendships I built through out this trip were life changing everyone had a different impact teaching me something new and helping me develop as a person. I felt safe though out and all of the instructors where amazing. The amount of effort put in to make sure we were safe and enjoying are experiene was above and beyond what I expected. I pushed my self mentally and physically at times especially during trek. However your group was always there to support you though the tough days and where there to celebrate the wins. Would definitely recommend Raleigh international (I want to do it all again)

- Megan - July 12, 2019

Undertaking a 7 week expedition with Raleigh to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was the best thing I could have done with my year out. It not only gave me the chance to give back in some way and create lasting positive change, but also took me on a journey of personal development. I lived and worked alongside the community of Los Llanitos in Nicaragua, to help them create a 7 km gravity-fed water system. Being fully immersed in the life of a rural Nicaraguan community was one of the best parts of my expedition, allowing me to build friendships and learn about a completed new culture, diversifying my knowledge and improving my Spanish to no end! Although one of the most challenging experiences of my life to-date - expedition helped me develop a new confidence and willingness to challenge myself and others everywhere I go. I would recommend Raleigh expedition to anyone.

- Ella - July 11, 2019

I'm not sure I really knew what I was letting myself into when I signed up for a Raleigh Expedition. However, what I can say is that I definitely didn't expect the most memorable experience of my life so far. I contributed to something genuinely meaningful - whilst part of an incredible, internationally diverse team of other young people. Not only that, it felt adventurous, fun and it created a change within me - it made me who I am today. Costa Rica and Nicaragua were incredible countries to visit. Seeing the issues they face with my own eyes, and working collaboratively alongside volunteers from those countries really opened my mind to what you can achieve together. Nothing is impossible. I can't recommend this programme highly enough. If you do it, I think it's likely it will be a turning point in your life, just as it was in mine.

- James - July 10, 2019

Beyond just giving me the chance to experience an absolutely amazing part of the world, and work on projects I knew were bringing about real positive change, my Raleigh Expedition completely transformed me in so many ways. It developed huge new confidence and willingness in me to try new things and confront challenges, at a time when I had never done anything remotely like it before. Through it, I've made such a wealth of friends around the world who I'm still in touch with, and it's led to opportunities in my career that I never could have anticipated, for which I'm still so grateful for. No matter where you're at, if you want to make a really fantastic change not just to others but to yourself, or if you want to start exploring the world or get actively involved in charitable work but you just don't know where to start, I can't recommend Raleigh enough. It is an awesome experience.

- Josh - June 19, 2019

I had an amazing time with Raleigh in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The in-country team were fantastic - really motivated to make sure that everybody on the programme was well supported and inspired to challenge themselves and make a difference. The whole experience was unique - we got to live and work with real local people to address real challenges. Working with the indigenous people of Costa Rica was inspiring - the communities were really remote, walking several hours through the rainforest to get to the village where we lived. We got to support the Cabecar people to get a basis education - previously they got their classes in falling down builiding or sometimes under a tree. Now we helped the community to build a new school, set up a parents group and inspire the children to go to school. Its an experience I'll never forget.

- Julian - June 17, 2019

It was a great experience! Getting to visit a country that is completely new to me. Immersing myself with the culture and lifestyle. Pushes you to the limit with each phase of the expedition. Each phase there is something to take away. Community Phase: this is where I practised my language skills it was fun learning Spanish to use for my daily conversation. Trek Phase: Personal Favourite one of the most amazing and breathtaking sceneries I have come across. Always Environment: This project was relaying and creating a new pathway so that tourist are able to visit the park and encourage ecotourism in the future so that it becomes more sustainable for the future. People: This is the best of all, you meet different people from all over the world and you make new friends then continue it on to be a long-lasting friendship.

- Jamal - April 15, 2019

Before I signed up with Raleigh International, I wasn't really sure where Nicaragua is and the only thing I knew about Costa Rica was #PuraVida. The last time I had slept in a tent was before puberty and my Spanish skills were pretty much non-existent. So it's safe to say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect! During our 2-week induction training someone said that during the phases we will experience our "highest highs and lowest lows" and boy, were they right! I did the 260-km Trek in Nicaragua and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Yes, mentally and physically challenging, but walking through the breathtaking landscape of Nicaragua and getting to know locals on the way was truly humbling. In the evenings we'd ask in the community if there was a nearby plain in which we could camp and most of the nights we then ended up sleeping in someone's garden or even house, just because they loved to share! My second and third phase were Natural Resource Management in the Rincon de la Vieja National park and it was there where I learned what it means to be connected to Nature. We helped the Park Rangers with their day-to-day work and also improved the infrastructure in the park and my favourite project was turning some forgotten Hot Springs into a nice-looking Tourist Destination. One of my favourite aspects was spending time and getting to know the In-Country Volunteers, who were more than willing to share about their lives, their countries and their language. 13 weeks later I feel like I am a new person! I am more self-aware, more confident, can put on a 20-kg backpack in less than 10 seconds and can comfortably have a whole conversation in Spanish! To anyone who wants to challenge themselves, have an impact on the lives of young people and experience new cultures - Sign up!

- Joanna - Jan. 24, 2018

I went on a 10 week expedition to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2011. I loved being able to work on 3 different types of projects in two countries whilst working with community members to make worthwhile impact. The trek was incredible (a mixture of fun and challenge) and let us see parts of the country many other visitors wouldn't get the chance to. I've also made some life long friends from around the world.

- Jodie - Jan. 15, 2018

What can i say? 15 years on, my Raleigh expedition is still a defining part of my life. I made some firm and lifelong friends, but meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds also really helped to develop the networking and interpersonal skills that I rely on in my subsequent career (as a lawyer). The experience of living and contributing to a community so very different to mine rocked my world. I'll never forget my Nicaraguan "family", receiving piles of ripe mangoes for an English lesson well delivered, the experience of pulling water from the well to "shower" in the open air under a hail of twigs from cheeky boys in the trees above, nor watching the sun rise over the steaming rainforest from the verandah of the village chief's house after 10 exhausting days of trekking through paths few other non-indigenous feet had trodden. Raleigh taught me the power of my own self -belief - and awoke a thirst for new travels and experiences that has stayed with me. I recommend it to you without hesitation!

- Laura - June 7, 2017

After a few years working in the NHS, as a Paramedic, I felt what I d always dreaded would happen. Everything seemed like a predictable treadmill. I d been interested in Raleigh since I first heard about them about 20 years ago and being able to mix the two, as a Raleigh medic and working on a Raleigh expedition. I did feel a bit older than most of the other VPMs but that wasn t a problem. Raleigh use Nurses, Doctors, and Paramedics as Medics. In reality though, it is a very small part of the overall experience because most of the work is whichever project you are on. And I mean work! It was not a holliday. I had arrived in central america a little earlier and had felt a connection with the people in Nicaragua, so I asked to work there. The first phase was a Trek through Nicaragua, and none of us will ever forget that. I remember, at a villiage in Nicaragua, which had taken hours of walking throught the heat, dropping my back pack, which by then felt like a lead weight, and collapsed beside the shade of a small house. Then one of the pigs, which walk freely around the village saw me get my lunch out, and came over expectantly sticking his snout in my face and 'oinking' at me. I am an animal lover but this was not a time for generosity. We were exhausted. After overcoming a few setbacks we finally arrived at lake next to a volcano and spent the night there before meeting the bus the next day and returning to field base. The next two phases were helping on a water and sanitation project in Nicaragua. In the end, we helped dig about 5km of trench, which eventually supplied clean water supply to each of the houses, about 12 in our village. The host families were beautiful, honest people. I often think of the contrast between a hectic western life, and living in nature, sitting outside, talking, in the candlelight, maybe with the sound of birds or rain, after a hard days work. Raleigh was everything I was looking for. I d love to do it again, but as any Raleigh alumni will know, whichever expedition destiny has in store for you will be a unique. For me, there wil always be Raleigh expeditions, but none like Costa Rica and Nicaragua 14 G & H.

- Richard - Nov. 23, 2016

The main gist: I had a wonderful time with Raleigh in Costa Rica, and despite several logistical things going wrong and lots of frustration, it was a really valuable experience. The first couple of days were spent doing induction and training at Field-base and a short practice trek for an hour or so to get to 'jungle camp' - a kind of mock scenario for our actual trek at the end, and a team building exercise. Quite a memorable night because it started pouring with rain, I got thoroughly drenched, and it didn't stop for about 4 days. The whole group of about 60 was split into 4 teams for the 3-week projects; mine was sent to build a classroom in an incredibly remote place called Blori Ñak, which has a tiny school and is in the Chirripo indigenous reserve. Some of the people living there didn't even speak Spanish, but they speak an indigenous language called Cabecar, which we tried to learn a few words of. The main aim of our project, to build a wooden classroom/building for the school, essentially failed. Building materials were slow to arrive, we didn't know what we were doing a lot of the time and had relatively little direction from the local builder who was meant to be overseeing us. A lot of time was spent waiting for things to happen, or for materials to arrive, and in some ways you could see it as wasted time. But we filled it with other things, like playing football - sometimes with the kids in the school - and getting to know each other. Our team were much more cohesive than any of the other groups by a long way, probably because we had to make an effort to enjoy the time together that we couldn't use to work on the project. Did we make a difference to the local community? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. We only managed to start the building, laying the floor boards and some structural posts, but even if we had finished the project, our interaction with the local people was fairly limited, which was a shame. The 3 weeks were full of frustrations, but an interesting experience, with lots learned and gained from it. I'd say I learnt more about myself than I helped anyone in Blori. Then - my favourite part of the trip - we set out for 5 days trekking, with the same team. We walked about 15km each day in quite mountainous terrain (avg. altitude was about 1500m). Such beautiful views and in some places you could see out to the Pacific coast to the West. Hard work and tiring, but so worth it. Finally, we spent 3 days on an island off the Pacific Coast called San Lucas, which used to be a maximum security prison but is now a nature reserve. This was the 'Survival Challenge', which was essentially just a bit of fun and a kind of fake desert-island situation; we did team games and survival skills like building a fire and skewering fish to cook for ourselves. A lovely end to the 5 weeks, which had ups and downs but overall was wonderful.

- Connie - Nov. 22, 2016

I went out on the 7 week expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua from the 4th July to the 20th August 2016. I was unsure about whether I had made the right choice in going and anxious about what to expect and whether I would enjoy it. Fortunately, all my worries were for nothing and I had a thoroughly great time over the 7 weeks. Although challenging, the experience was also fun and very fulfilling. I went on the Baricifico trek from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and then the WASH programme in La Montana, Nicaragua. The trek was tough at times, particularly through the Costa Rican jungle, but was full of fun moments and, on completion, gave me one of the best senses of achievement of my life. Similarly, in Nicaragua, the satisfaction gained from bringing fresh, clean water to an extremely grateful community was immense. The locals were so friendly and staying in their homes whilst we worked on the project was great fun. It is so easy to make great friends on a Raleigh expedition and I am still in touch with several of them now. Moreover, what I learnt from my expedition and the character it gave me will stay with me for the rest of my life.

- Carl - Nov. 4, 2016

“So, is that like, uh, a poor country in Africa?” Sadly enough, when it emerged that I was going to be embarking on a ten week sustainable development project in Nicaragua, this was the most common question I encountered. It’s not that I wish to mock people for their previous ignorance, and to be perfectly honest I had a blurry outline of a place located somewhere in the depths of Central America too, it is just that an overriding cliché of volunteering lingers stubbornly among our “gap-yah” generation. I am sure most people will be familiar with the concept that prior to or post university, it is common practice for young people to be shipped abroad to get stuck into charity projects, leaving only with considerably lighter wallets and a sense of self-achievement. Now, I also don’t want to judge these endeavours in a too-harsh light and I certainly don’t want to pretend that I am better than anyone. However, there is a scheme that is infinitely better and that genuinely strives to improve the lives of local communities. It might even change your life too. I travelled to Nicaragua as part of the government ICS scheme in conjunction with the sustainable development charity Raleigh International. The aims of the programme were to bring about positive change in developing countries that need it the most whilst supporting young people in their personal development in terms of leadership and valuable life skills. The ultimate goal is to create a network of global active citizens working together across the globe. And despite the fact I have been aiming to avoid clichés so far, nothing brings people tighter together than memories and shared experience. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. I experienced this poverty first-hand, living in a small rural community with no electricity or running water. The community San Marcos 2 is nestled in the mountains of Matagalpa and is breathtakingly beautiful, not a day passed where I wasn’t astonished by the deep green landscape and rolling hills. I quickly adjusted to showering by the river with a bucket under the brooding eyes of grazing cows and the sounds of a battery powered radio blasting out Latino pop tunes all day meant there was never a silent second. The community of San Marcos 2 is comprised of roughly 80 families with the majority supporting their livelihoods from the earth through the agricultural production of maize and beans. This meant waking up to the taps of tortilla being made in the morning, harvested from the land mere metres away from our wooden houses. Our group was comprised of 6 volunteers from Nicaragua and 9 from the United Kingdom, living together in local host families who welcomed us in with huge smiles and kept us on our toes with unnerving local ghost stories. The focus of our project circulated around the key issue in the community, the integral problem of natural resource management, with a focus on the watershed. The main problems facing San Marcos 2 are contamination of water sources, soil erosion and deforestation. We collaborated closely with a local partner charity, ANIDES, who aim to improve the environment in rural communities. We were the second group out of six in a two-year project working in the area. Therefore, it felt like this project was a part of a bigger picture, one that will grow and expand over time and ultimately bring health and happiness to the community. In other words, it did not feel like we were simply charging in, optimism blazing, ready to single-handedly transform the community. On a tangible level, we constructed water filters, dykes, eco-latrines, eco-ovens and Tippy-taps. These physical structures all contributed to better management of the local watershed. Water filters deal with the negative effects of contaminated water, damaged from human waste, soaps and detergents and artificial fertilisers used on crops, by filtering waste water away from the community houses. A container is placed below the kitchen’s dirty water outlet into a tube that leads to a hole filled with layers of rocks. These rocks cleanse the contaminated water which is then absorbed back in the ground and the water table. Furthermore, contaminated water thrown directly outside the house with no drainage system creates a puddle that attracts flied and mosquitoes, leading to preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea and serious infectious diseases such as malaria. Dykes are barriers of rocks that are positioned where earth is affected by heavy rain, as fertile soil is carried down the mountains and washed away into the river, damaging crops and harvests and reducing monthly income. These structures obstruct the flow of water meaning the earth retains its natural water source and ensures the productivity and preservation of the healthy soil. Eco-latrines manage human waste in an environmentally sustainable manner, providing a natural composting system that can be used on crops. Eco-ovens were built in the houses and use a slow-burning fire which uses less wood and emits less smoke, creating a more comfortable environment in the houses of the community but helps to combat the problem of deforestation. Finally, Tippy-taps are simple structures of three sticks and a container of water that can be tipped with a pedal in order to provide running water like a tap, encouraging sanitary practices of washing hands. This construction work completed by our team felt like a great achievement, ultimately empowering the community to look after their natural landscape and their individual well-being. However, the greatest achievement of this project cannot be measured in a tangible manner. As well as the physical labour, we conducted workshops and ‘action days’ with the community that aimed to gradually shift attitudes and mind-sets and create a dialogue about issues such as sustainability, health and sanitation and gender roles. This interaction with the community meant that it did not simply feel like we were rushing in, building enthusiastically and then leaving them without any idea of the benefits or how to properly use the structures. Weekly English lessons with the local children at the school meant that we had time to bond with the children, run around and play games with them whilst emphasising the importance of the environment. Furthermore, we enjoyed many special moments with the community- such as playing football with the teenage boys, dancing around a bonfire singing Nicaraguan songs and learning to, incredibly clumsily on my behalf, salsa dance. Undoubtedly, this proved that despite any cultural differences and barriers, the ability to share a moment of collective happiness lies within us all. We became incredibly close to our host families, who treated and looked after us like their own children, cooking for us their speciality of rice and beans and tortilla at mealtimes and making sure we felt comfortable in their homes. On a personal level, the role of Weekly Leader, in which every volunteer would manage the group and plan the activities and target for the week, helped me realise my passion for motivating and inspiring people. I have no doubt that all I have learnt from this experience will be transferred into my later life and career. Furthermore, as a part of the programme, we were introduced to the work of La Isla Foundation. In 2008, a documentary maker Jason Glaser encountered the community of La Isla, “The Island of Widows.” He established the foundation after learning about communities of sugarcane workers in Nicaragua who were affected, and suffering with, a devastating disease. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), also known as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure, is a degenerative condition marked by the gradual loss of kidney function. However, as highlighted by the foundation Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown cause (CKDu) is a different form of progressive, decreased kidney function. As stated on their website, “Whereas CKD is associated with diabetes, obesity and hypertension, patients who develop CKDu generally do not have these conditions. CKDu is associated with heavy labor in hot temperatures, particularly among industrial agricultural workers such as those working in sugarcane production. Additionally, CKDu often affects young men, many under the age of 30, while CKD is generally diagnosed in older patients. The location of damage within the kidneys also differs between CKD and CKDu.” The foundation strives to reverse the rising prevalence of the disease through widespread awareness and prevention efforts, facilitating more research into the causes of the epidemic among workers. Through the creation of a dialogue with the public about the scope of his condition, the foundation hopes to generate a strong network of support and awareness. Through the simple act of the foundation speaking to our group of ICS volunteers, the butterfly effect of spreading knowledge is able to continually expand and grow. During a talk given to us by the incredible Nicky Hoskyns, (a brilliant man who ethically and fairly sourced sesame oil to the Body Shop from Nicaragua) he insisted “you will never feel as confident that you have the ability to instigate change as you do right now.” And partly, this is true. During the experience, it was easy to be swept up into a positive encouraging bubble. Yet, since returning home, I have also found it incredibly simple to slip back into old routines and bad habits, of caring about sustainable development and the environment when it is convenient. However, what I have learnt from ICS is that change does not have to be massive to make an impact. I believe that in our contemporary society, when we demand so much from our consumerist lifestyles, that brand new smart phone and the expensive designer clothes, and expect things to transform instantly in the half-a-second it takes to click ‘like’, we have forgotten that things do not have to move at such a rushed and hectic pace. We cannot simply jump on a plane and hi-five all the Millennium Goals on the way down. But as active global citizens, we can make small and steady steps towards a better future. Recycling. Shopping locally. And, if you are lucky enough to be aged 18-25, shaking of the tiresome labels and putting yourself forward for ICS. Good luck, yah.

- Ruth - Dec. 5, 2016

Raleigh is the most incredible charity. They are supporting, inspiring, they work really hard, they're experienced, and I had the most amazing volunteering experience with them. I love that they work with young people. I love that they focus on how their projects can have long-term impact and be sustainable. Through my volunteering I felt like I made a real difference - to the people in the community that I worked in and to the other volunteers in my group. I also learned a huge amount about myself, about working with and leading a team, and about sustainable development. Costa Rica is a stunning country. I went to an indigenous community in Chirripo, and it was the most magical place I've ever been to. The people, the nature, the way of life and the stars. Everything about it was just wonderful. I'm not going to lie, Raleigh is tough. It's definitely a challenge, but I would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking about volunteering.

- Lucy - Oct. 14, 2015

My life was a bit of a cross roads earlier this year and I was at a point where I really needed to do something for myself, something challenging that would help me to rebuild who I was. I have always loved traveling and seeing new places but this time I wanted to do something more than just travel. I am a qualified nurse so after attending a Raleigh open evening, I applied, had an interview and was given a place as a volunteer manager (VM) and medic in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for 10 weeks over the summer. From the first week we arrived at VM pre-expedition training at field base in Costa Rica it felt like home. All the VM's bonded really quickly and it felt like we had known it each other for years. It was really amazing to meet a group of people with a similar outlook on life as myself and who were in very similar situations to me. While we worked really hard throughout the expedition there was also so much laughter and fun. The 10 week expedition is divided into 3 phases and 3 different projects. There is 2 water and sanitation projects in Nicaragua, 2 natural resource management projects in Costa Rica and 2 youth leadership treks in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua. For my first phase I went to the south of Costa Rica on a natural resource management project to a national park called Piedas Blancas with 10 venturers and 1 other project manager. Piedas Blancas is a 40,000 hector national park which consists of both primary and secondary rain forest. Costa Rica is home to 4% of the world's biodiversity and 2% of that can be found in Piedas Blancas. So as you can imagine it is one of the most beautiful and stunning places I have ever visited. Here we started building a new trail within the park that will eventually lead to the beach, and hopefully making the park more accessible to visitors. We also visited a local school to help engage local people with the park. For my second phase I was a VM and medic for a youth leadership trek in Nicaragua. Here myself and another VM went with 12 venturers to the north of Nicaragua and we trekked about 250km south over 16 days across mountains, through villages, over plains and up volcanoes. We carried all the equipment, food our personal kit ourselves. We gave up all our comforts and slept on floors and washed with buckets. Each of the venturer's took it in turns to lead the group to help them develop their confidence and leadership skills. Every night we stayed in a different community along the way and met so many very kind and helpful people. It was definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging things any of us had ever done. We all achieved things we didn't know we were capable of but we absolutely loved it. We finished with a massive sense of achievement and feeling we could now do anything if we set out minds to it. For my third phase I was based at field base in Costa Rica, here I was the medic on call and part of the field base staff. I gave medical advice to all the groups out on project when required. I also managed any medical treatment and volunteers required as well as being part of the day to day running of the program. I would definitely recommend Raleigh to anyone looking to volunteer abroad. It is a very well organized program which focus' on sustainable development and young people.I have made so many amazing friends that I will hopefully keep for life. I have definitely changed for the better and have so much more self confidence than I had before. I now really feel like I can make a difference and help to change the world.

- Rebecca - Oct. 4, 2015

Participant Reviews

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Testimonials

I volunteered as a Project Manager with Raleigh Feb-Apr 2019, it was quite simply the most rewarding, exciting and fun 3 months of my life! I had the opportunity to work on all three different 'stages' from a trek across the country building the confidence of international youth, to digging trails in a National Park to bring tourism to a new remote area, to building a school in an indigenous community. As a project manager you co-lead a group of 15-20 international volunteers aged 18-25 so your impact is not only on the local communities of Costa Rica but of also on the development of youth from all around the world. I met friends for life and really came away feeling like a made a different to so many lives, I am proud to continue to support Raleigh as an Alumni and love continuing to watch their impact grow over seas, I couldn't recommend it more.

- Hannah - April 6, 2020

I had such an incredible time on Raleigh. I met people I didn’t think I’d ever meet and did things I never thought I’d get the chance to do! Honestly, couldn’t recommend enough! Working in an NRM project was so beautiful and trekking across Costa Rica was challenging but so rewarding! Working with indigenous communities was so eye opening and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to go there. I have made incredible friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life and I really hope that many more people will get to have the experience that I have had! The support and learning you receive throughout your Raleigh experience is invaluable. I feel I have developed so many different hard and soft skills, few of which I would ever have had the chance to develop had it not been for Raleigh. Thank you all so much!

- Kate - Sept. 17, 2020

I first heard about Raleigh International through school and as soon as I decided to take a gap year following school, I knew I wanted to embark on a Raleigh expedition. It was the best decision I have ever made! Spending 10 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Raleigh allowed me to experience new cultures, learn valuable communication, problem solving and organisational skills and meet a whole host of people I would never otherwise have met. To say that I was taken out of my comfort zone during my expedition would be an understatement- a Raleigh expedition will completely propel you from your comfort zone!!! From reinforcing paths and fixing bridges in the heart of a national park to making dream comes true for the local people with the addition of a gravity water system to hiking across breathtaking landscapes, every day on Raleigh is different. Some days will be harder than others and everyone will likely be affected by illness and feeling home sick at some point but the support and safety in place mean that sooner rather than later you will be feeling elated and in awe of the experience you are living! The projects take venturers and volunteer managers off the beaten track and allow you to experience parts of the country you would never be able to experience if you were travelling on your own or with a tour company. In addition the projects present the unique opportunity to live and work alongside local people to contribute towards the UN sustainable development goals. I had always been very shy and reserved at school and I lacked a significant amount of self confidence but following my Raleigh expedition I arrived home a completely changed person (for the better!). Although vastly different it equipped me with so many of the skills I needed to completely my pharmacy degree and go on to begin my career as a pharmacist and I’m sure the same would be true regardless of the sector that you go on to work in. I guarantee you will absolutely not regret choosing Raleigh International.

- Sophie - July 12, 2019

This experience for me came when I needed it the most. The experience in leadership and team work that I gained on expedition I could take with me back into my day to day life. The friendships I built through out this trip were life changing everyone had a different impact teaching me something new and helping me develop as a person. I felt safe though out and all of the instructors where amazing. The amount of effort put in to make sure we were safe and enjoying are experiene was above and beyond what I expected. I pushed my self mentally and physically at times especially during trek. However your group was always there to support you though the tough days and where there to celebrate the wins. Would definitely recommend Raleigh international (I want to do it all again)

- Megan - July 12, 2019

Undertaking a 7 week expedition with Raleigh to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was the best thing I could have done with my year out. It not only gave me the chance to give back in some way and create lasting positive change, but also took me on a journey of personal development. I lived and worked alongside the community of Los Llanitos in Nicaragua, to help them create a 7 km gravity-fed water system. Being fully immersed in the life of a rural Nicaraguan community was one of the best parts of my expedition, allowing me to build friendships and learn about a completed new culture, diversifying my knowledge and improving my Spanish to no end! Although one of the most challenging experiences of my life to-date - expedition helped me develop a new confidence and willingness to challenge myself and others everywhere I go. I would recommend Raleigh expedition to anyone.

- Ella - July 11, 2019

I'm not sure I really knew what I was letting myself into when I signed up for a Raleigh Expedition. However, what I can say is that I definitely didn't expect the most memorable experience of my life so far. I contributed to something genuinely meaningful - whilst part of an incredible, internationally diverse team of other young people. Not only that, it felt adventurous, fun and it created a change within me - it made me who I am today. Costa Rica and Nicaragua were incredible countries to visit. Seeing the issues they face with my own eyes, and working collaboratively alongside volunteers from those countries really opened my mind to what you can achieve together. Nothing is impossible. I can't recommend this programme highly enough. If you do it, I think it's likely it will be a turning point in your life, just as it was in mine.

- James - July 10, 2019

Beyond just giving me the chance to experience an absolutely amazing part of the world, and work on projects I knew were bringing about real positive change, my Raleigh Expedition completely transformed me in so many ways. It developed huge new confidence and willingness in me to try new things and confront challenges, at a time when I had never done anything remotely like it before. Through it, I've made such a wealth of friends around the world who I'm still in touch with, and it's led to opportunities in my career that I never could have anticipated, for which I'm still so grateful for. No matter where you're at, if you want to make a really fantastic change not just to others but to yourself, or if you want to start exploring the world or get actively involved in charitable work but you just don't know where to start, I can't recommend Raleigh enough. It is an awesome experience.

- Josh - June 19, 2019

I had an amazing time with Raleigh in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The in-country team were fantastic - really motivated to make sure that everybody on the programme was well supported and inspired to challenge themselves and make a difference. The whole experience was unique - we got to live and work with real local people to address real challenges. Working with the indigenous people of Costa Rica was inspiring - the communities were really remote, walking several hours through the rainforest to get to the village where we lived. We got to support the Cabecar people to get a basis education - previously they got their classes in falling down builiding or sometimes under a tree. Now we helped the community to build a new school, set up a parents group and inspire the children to go to school. Its an experience I'll never forget.

- Julian - June 17, 2019

It was a great experience! Getting to visit a country that is completely new to me. Immersing myself with the culture and lifestyle. Pushes you to the limit with each phase of the expedition. Each phase there is something to take away. Community Phase: this is where I practised my language skills it was fun learning Spanish to use for my daily conversation. Trek Phase: Personal Favourite one of the most amazing and breathtaking sceneries I have come across. Always Environment: This project was relaying and creating a new pathway so that tourist are able to visit the park and encourage ecotourism in the future so that it becomes more sustainable for the future. People: This is the best of all, you meet different people from all over the world and you make new friends then continue it on to be a long-lasting friendship.

- Jamal - April 15, 2019

Before I signed up with Raleigh International, I wasn't really sure where Nicaragua is and the only thing I knew about Costa Rica was #PuraVida. The last time I had slept in a tent was before puberty and my Spanish skills were pretty much non-existent. So it's safe to say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect! During our 2-week induction training someone said that during the phases we will experience our "highest highs and lowest lows" and boy, were they right! I did the 260-km Trek in Nicaragua and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Yes, mentally and physically challenging, but walking through the breathtaking landscape of Nicaragua and getting to know locals on the way was truly humbling. In the evenings we'd ask in the community if there was a nearby plain in which we could camp and most of the nights we then ended up sleeping in someone's garden or even house, just because they loved to share! My second and third phase were Natural Resource Management in the Rincon de la Vieja National park and it was there where I learned what it means to be connected to Nature. We helped the Park Rangers with their day-to-day work and also improved the infrastructure in the park and my favourite project was turning some forgotten Hot Springs into a nice-looking Tourist Destination. One of my favourite aspects was spending time and getting to know the In-Country Volunteers, who were more than willing to share about their lives, their countries and their language. 13 weeks later I feel like I am a new person! I am more self-aware, more confident, can put on a 20-kg backpack in less than 10 seconds and can comfortably have a whole conversation in Spanish! To anyone who wants to challenge themselves, have an impact on the lives of young people and experience new cultures - Sign up!

- Joanna - Jan. 24, 2018

I went on a 10 week expedition to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2011. I loved being able to work on 3 different types of projects in two countries whilst working with community members to make worthwhile impact. The trek was incredible (a mixture of fun and challenge) and let us see parts of the country many other visitors wouldn't get the chance to. I've also made some life long friends from around the world.

- Jodie - Jan. 15, 2018

What can i say? 15 years on, my Raleigh expedition is still a defining part of my life. I made some firm and lifelong friends, but meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds also really helped to develop the networking and interpersonal skills that I rely on in my subsequent career (as a lawyer). The experience of living and contributing to a community so very different to mine rocked my world. I'll never forget my Nicaraguan "family", receiving piles of ripe mangoes for an English lesson well delivered, the experience of pulling water from the well to "shower" in the open air under a hail of twigs from cheeky boys in the trees above, nor watching the sun rise over the steaming rainforest from the verandah of the village chief's house after 10 exhausting days of trekking through paths few other non-indigenous feet had trodden. Raleigh taught me the power of my own self -belief - and awoke a thirst for new travels and experiences that has stayed with me. I recommend it to you without hesitation!

- Laura - June 7, 2017

After a few years working in the NHS, as a Paramedic, I felt what I d always dreaded would happen. Everything seemed like a predictable treadmill. I d been interested in Raleigh since I first heard about them about 20 years ago and being able to mix the two, as a Raleigh medic and working on a Raleigh expedition. I did feel a bit older than most of the other VPMs but that wasn t a problem. Raleigh use Nurses, Doctors, and Paramedics as Medics. In reality though, it is a very small part of the overall experience because most of the work is whichever project you are on. And I mean work! It was not a holliday. I had arrived in central america a little earlier and had felt a connection with the people in Nicaragua, so I asked to work there. The first phase was a Trek through Nicaragua, and none of us will ever forget that. I remember, at a villiage in Nicaragua, which had taken hours of walking throught the heat, dropping my back pack, which by then felt like a lead weight, and collapsed beside the shade of a small house. Then one of the pigs, which walk freely around the village saw me get my lunch out, and came over expectantly sticking his snout in my face and 'oinking' at me. I am an animal lover but this was not a time for generosity. We were exhausted. After overcoming a few setbacks we finally arrived at lake next to a volcano and spent the night there before meeting the bus the next day and returning to field base. The next two phases were helping on a water and sanitation project in Nicaragua. In the end, we helped dig about 5km of trench, which eventually supplied clean water supply to each of the houses, about 12 in our village. The host families were beautiful, honest people. I often think of the contrast between a hectic western life, and living in nature, sitting outside, talking, in the candlelight, maybe with the sound of birds or rain, after a hard days work. Raleigh was everything I was looking for. I d love to do it again, but as any Raleigh alumni will know, whichever expedition destiny has in store for you will be a unique. For me, there wil always be Raleigh expeditions, but none like Costa Rica and Nicaragua 14 G & H.

- Richard - Nov. 23, 2016

The main gist: I had a wonderful time with Raleigh in Costa Rica, and despite several logistical things going wrong and lots of frustration, it was a really valuable experience. The first couple of days were spent doing induction and training at Field-base and a short practice trek for an hour or so to get to 'jungle camp' - a kind of mock scenario for our actual trek at the end, and a team building exercise. Quite a memorable night because it started pouring with rain, I got thoroughly drenched, and it didn't stop for about 4 days. The whole group of about 60 was split into 4 teams for the 3-week projects; mine was sent to build a classroom in an incredibly remote place called Blori Ñak, which has a tiny school and is in the Chirripo indigenous reserve. Some of the people living there didn't even speak Spanish, but they speak an indigenous language called Cabecar, which we tried to learn a few words of. The main aim of our project, to build a wooden classroom/building for the school, essentially failed. Building materials were slow to arrive, we didn't know what we were doing a lot of the time and had relatively little direction from the local builder who was meant to be overseeing us. A lot of time was spent waiting for things to happen, or for materials to arrive, and in some ways you could see it as wasted time. But we filled it with other things, like playing football - sometimes with the kids in the school - and getting to know each other. Our team were much more cohesive than any of the other groups by a long way, probably because we had to make an effort to enjoy the time together that we couldn't use to work on the project. Did we make a difference to the local community? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. We only managed to start the building, laying the floor boards and some structural posts, but even if we had finished the project, our interaction with the local people was fairly limited, which was a shame. The 3 weeks were full of frustrations, but an interesting experience, with lots learned and gained from it. I'd say I learnt more about myself than I helped anyone in Blori. Then - my favourite part of the trip - we set out for 5 days trekking, with the same team. We walked about 15km each day in quite mountainous terrain (avg. altitude was about 1500m). Such beautiful views and in some places you could see out to the Pacific coast to the West. Hard work and tiring, but so worth it. Finally, we spent 3 days on an island off the Pacific Coast called San Lucas, which used to be a maximum security prison but is now a nature reserve. This was the 'Survival Challenge', which was essentially just a bit of fun and a kind of fake desert-island situation; we did team games and survival skills like building a fire and skewering fish to cook for ourselves. A lovely end to the 5 weeks, which had ups and downs but overall was wonderful.

- Connie - Nov. 22, 2016

I went out on the 7 week expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua from the 4th July to the 20th August 2016. I was unsure about whether I had made the right choice in going and anxious about what to expect and whether I would enjoy it. Fortunately, all my worries were for nothing and I had a thoroughly great time over the 7 weeks. Although challenging, the experience was also fun and very fulfilling. I went on the Baricifico trek from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and then the WASH programme in La Montana, Nicaragua. The trek was tough at times, particularly through the Costa Rican jungle, but was full of fun moments and, on completion, gave me one of the best senses of achievement of my life. Similarly, in Nicaragua, the satisfaction gained from bringing fresh, clean water to an extremely grateful community was immense. The locals were so friendly and staying in their homes whilst we worked on the project was great fun. It is so easy to make great friends on a Raleigh expedition and I am still in touch with several of them now. Moreover, what I learnt from my expedition and the character it gave me will stay with me for the rest of my life.

- Carl - Nov. 4, 2016

“So, is that like, uh, a poor country in Africa?” Sadly enough, when it emerged that I was going to be embarking on a ten week sustainable development project in Nicaragua, this was the most common question I encountered. It’s not that I wish to mock people for their previous ignorance, and to be perfectly honest I had a blurry outline of a place located somewhere in the depths of Central America too, it is just that an overriding cliché of volunteering lingers stubbornly among our “gap-yah” generation. I am sure most people will be familiar with the concept that prior to or post university, it is common practice for young people to be shipped abroad to get stuck into charity projects, leaving only with considerably lighter wallets and a sense of self-achievement. Now, I also don’t want to judge these endeavours in a too-harsh light and I certainly don’t want to pretend that I am better than anyone. However, there is a scheme that is infinitely better and that genuinely strives to improve the lives of local communities. It might even change your life too. I travelled to Nicaragua as part of the government ICS scheme in conjunction with the sustainable development charity Raleigh International. The aims of the programme were to bring about positive change in developing countries that need it the most whilst supporting young people in their personal development in terms of leadership and valuable life skills. The ultimate goal is to create a network of global active citizens working together across the globe. And despite the fact I have been aiming to avoid clichés so far, nothing brings people tighter together than memories and shared experience. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. I experienced this poverty first-hand, living in a small rural community with no electricity or running water. The community San Marcos 2 is nestled in the mountains of Matagalpa and is breathtakingly beautiful, not a day passed where I wasn’t astonished by the deep green landscape and rolling hills. I quickly adjusted to showering by the river with a bucket under the brooding eyes of grazing cows and the sounds of a battery powered radio blasting out Latino pop tunes all day meant there was never a silent second. The community of San Marcos 2 is comprised of roughly 80 families with the majority supporting their livelihoods from the earth through the agricultural production of maize and beans. This meant waking up to the taps of tortilla being made in the morning, harvested from the land mere metres away from our wooden houses. Our group was comprised of 6 volunteers from Nicaragua and 9 from the United Kingdom, living together in local host families who welcomed us in with huge smiles and kept us on our toes with unnerving local ghost stories. The focus of our project circulated around the key issue in the community, the integral problem of natural resource management, with a focus on the watershed. The main problems facing San Marcos 2 are contamination of water sources, soil erosion and deforestation. We collaborated closely with a local partner charity, ANIDES, who aim to improve the environment in rural communities. We were the second group out of six in a two-year project working in the area. Therefore, it felt like this project was a part of a bigger picture, one that will grow and expand over time and ultimately bring health and happiness to the community. In other words, it did not feel like we were simply charging in, optimism blazing, ready to single-handedly transform the community. On a tangible level, we constructed water filters, dykes, eco-latrines, eco-ovens and Tippy-taps. These physical structures all contributed to better management of the local watershed. Water filters deal with the negative effects of contaminated water, damaged from human waste, soaps and detergents and artificial fertilisers used on crops, by filtering waste water away from the community houses. A container is placed below the kitchen’s dirty water outlet into a tube that leads to a hole filled with layers of rocks. These rocks cleanse the contaminated water which is then absorbed back in the ground and the water table. Furthermore, contaminated water thrown directly outside the house with no drainage system creates a puddle that attracts flied and mosquitoes, leading to preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea and serious infectious diseases such as malaria. Dykes are barriers of rocks that are positioned where earth is affected by heavy rain, as fertile soil is carried down the mountains and washed away into the river, damaging crops and harvests and reducing monthly income. These structures obstruct the flow of water meaning the earth retains its natural water source and ensures the productivity and preservation of the healthy soil. Eco-latrines manage human waste in an environmentally sustainable manner, providing a natural composting system that can be used on crops. Eco-ovens were built in the houses and use a slow-burning fire which uses less wood and emits less smoke, creating a more comfortable environment in the houses of the community but helps to combat the problem of deforestation. Finally, Tippy-taps are simple structures of three sticks and a container of water that can be tipped with a pedal in order to provide running water like a tap, encouraging sanitary practices of washing hands. This construction work completed by our team felt like a great achievement, ultimately empowering the community to look after their natural landscape and their individual well-being. However, the greatest achievement of this project cannot be measured in a tangible manner. As well as the physical labour, we conducted workshops and ‘action days’ with the community that aimed to gradually shift attitudes and mind-sets and create a dialogue about issues such as sustainability, health and sanitation and gender roles. This interaction with the community meant that it did not simply feel like we were rushing in, building enthusiastically and then leaving them without any idea of the benefits or how to properly use the structures. Weekly English lessons with the local children at the school meant that we had time to bond with the children, run around and play games with them whilst emphasising the importance of the environment. Furthermore, we enjoyed many special moments with the community- such as playing football with the teenage boys, dancing around a bonfire singing Nicaraguan songs and learning to, incredibly clumsily on my behalf, salsa dance. Undoubtedly, this proved that despite any cultural differences and barriers, the ability to share a moment of collective happiness lies within us all. We became incredibly close to our host families, who treated and looked after us like their own children, cooking for us their speciality of rice and beans and tortilla at mealtimes and making sure we felt comfortable in their homes. On a personal level, the role of Weekly Leader, in which every volunteer would manage the group and plan the activities and target for the week, helped me realise my passion for motivating and inspiring people. I have no doubt that all I have learnt from this experience will be transferred into my later life and career. Furthermore, as a part of the programme, we were introduced to the work of La Isla Foundation. In 2008, a documentary maker Jason Glaser encountered the community of La Isla, “The Island of Widows.” He established the foundation after learning about communities of sugarcane workers in Nicaragua who were affected, and suffering with, a devastating disease. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), also known as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure, is a degenerative condition marked by the gradual loss of kidney function. However, as highlighted by the foundation Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown cause (CKDu) is a different form of progressive, decreased kidney function. As stated on their website, “Whereas CKD is associated with diabetes, obesity and hypertension, patients who develop CKDu generally do not have these conditions. CKDu is associated with heavy labor in hot temperatures, particularly among industrial agricultural workers such as those working in sugarcane production. Additionally, CKDu often affects young men, many under the age of 30, while CKD is generally diagnosed in older patients. The location of damage within the kidneys also differs between CKD and CKDu.” The foundation strives to reverse the rising prevalence of the disease through widespread awareness and prevention efforts, facilitating more research into the causes of the epidemic among workers. Through the creation of a dialogue with the public about the scope of his condition, the foundation hopes to generate a strong network of support and awareness. Through the simple act of the foundation speaking to our group of ICS volunteers, the butterfly effect of spreading knowledge is able to continually expand and grow. During a talk given to us by the incredible Nicky Hoskyns, (a brilliant man who ethically and fairly sourced sesame oil to the Body Shop from Nicaragua) he insisted “you will never feel as confident that you have the ability to instigate change as you do right now.” And partly, this is true. During the experience, it was easy to be swept up into a positive encouraging bubble. Yet, since returning home, I have also found it incredibly simple to slip back into old routines and bad habits, of caring about sustainable development and the environment when it is convenient. However, what I have learnt from ICS is that change does not have to be massive to make an impact. I believe that in our contemporary society, when we demand so much from our consumerist lifestyles, that brand new smart phone and the expensive designer clothes, and expect things to transform instantly in the half-a-second it takes to click ‘like’, we have forgotten that things do not have to move at such a rushed and hectic pace. We cannot simply jump on a plane and hi-five all the Millennium Goals on the way down. But as active global citizens, we can make small and steady steps towards a better future. Recycling. Shopping locally. And, if you are lucky enough to be aged 18-25, shaking of the tiresome labels and putting yourself forward for ICS. Good luck, yah.

- Ruth - Dec. 5, 2016

Raleigh is the most incredible charity. They are supporting, inspiring, they work really hard, they're experienced, and I had the most amazing volunteering experience with them. I love that they work with young people. I love that they focus on how their projects can have long-term impact and be sustainable. Through my volunteering I felt like I made a real difference - to the people in the community that I worked in and to the other volunteers in my group. I also learned a huge amount about myself, about working with and leading a team, and about sustainable development. Costa Rica is a stunning country. I went to an indigenous community in Chirripo, and it was the most magical place I've ever been to. The people, the nature, the way of life and the stars. Everything about it was just wonderful. I'm not going to lie, Raleigh is tough. It's definitely a challenge, but I would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking about volunteering.

- Lucy - Oct. 14, 2015

My life was a bit of a cross roads earlier this year and I was at a point where I really needed to do something for myself, something challenging that would help me to rebuild who I was. I have always loved traveling and seeing new places but this time I wanted to do something more than just travel. I am a qualified nurse so after attending a Raleigh open evening, I applied, had an interview and was given a place as a volunteer manager (VM) and medic in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for 10 weeks over the summer. From the first week we arrived at VM pre-expedition training at field base in Costa Rica it felt like home. All the VM's bonded really quickly and it felt like we had known it each other for years. It was really amazing to meet a group of people with a similar outlook on life as myself and who were in very similar situations to me. While we worked really hard throughout the expedition there was also so much laughter and fun. The 10 week expedition is divided into 3 phases and 3 different projects. There is 2 water and sanitation projects in Nicaragua, 2 natural resource management projects in Costa Rica and 2 youth leadership treks in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua. For my first phase I went to the south of Costa Rica on a natural resource management project to a national park called Piedas Blancas with 10 venturers and 1 other project manager. Piedas Blancas is a 40,000 hector national park which consists of both primary and secondary rain forest. Costa Rica is home to 4% of the world's biodiversity and 2% of that can be found in Piedas Blancas. So as you can imagine it is one of the most beautiful and stunning places I have ever visited. Here we started building a new trail within the park that will eventually lead to the beach, and hopefully making the park more accessible to visitors. We also visited a local school to help engage local people with the park. For my second phase I was a VM and medic for a youth leadership trek in Nicaragua. Here myself and another VM went with 12 venturers to the north of Nicaragua and we trekked about 250km south over 16 days across mountains, through villages, over plains and up volcanoes. We carried all the equipment, food our personal kit ourselves. We gave up all our comforts and slept on floors and washed with buckets. Each of the venturer's took it in turns to lead the group to help them develop their confidence and leadership skills. Every night we stayed in a different community along the way and met so many very kind and helpful people. It was definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging things any of us had ever done. We all achieved things we didn't know we were capable of but we absolutely loved it. We finished with a massive sense of achievement and feeling we could now do anything if we set out minds to it. For my third phase I was based at field base in Costa Rica, here I was the medic on call and part of the field base staff. I gave medical advice to all the groups out on project when required. I also managed any medical treatment and volunteers required as well as being part of the day to day running of the program. I would definitely recommend Raleigh to anyone looking to volunteer abroad. It is a very well organized program which focus' on sustainable development and young people.I have made so many amazing friends that I will hopefully keep for life. I have definitely changed for the better and have so much more self confidence than I had before. I now really feel like I can make a difference and help to change the world.

- Rebecca - Oct. 4, 2015

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