Volunteer Name: Marlena Ornowska
Project Location: Costa Rica
Volunteered at: Children Special Needs
Volunteer in Costa Rica
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The ABV Coordinator was mostly very prompt with answering questions and providing any necessary information. It was very easy to contact the coordinator through WhatsApp.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I was most surprised by the amount of free time that we have. I was expecting to be at work for most of the day, however work usually ends at around 12 or 1. Since I was not prepared for this it was a little hard at first to know what to do with the rest of the day. There was also a lot of individual work with teachers and students at the school. Although this was an excellent experience.
ABV: always contact the coordinator to set up more hours if you want to have a full day program.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
During the first few days it was challenging to get used to trying to speak and understand Spanish. Studying the language is a lot different than actually trying to use it to make conversation, and I was not always able to translate what I wanted to say or ask about. Once I started speaking and practicing more and more I was able to improve my Spanish immensely.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. Bring a smaller backpack or bag in addition to your large suitcase in case you decide to go on any day or overnight trips during the weekend.
2. Research places to visit or things that you would like to do during the weekends to ensure you make the most of your free time.
3. If you are not strong in Spanish, I would strongly recommend choosing the Spanish immersion option- as it will ensure that you practice conversational and grammar skills.
4. For Canadian volunteers- note that prices given in dollars on the website and for tours are in US$ American dollars. Make sure to take into account the exchange rate when deciding on your personal spending budget for your trip.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
a. Banks are not open on Sundays and close early during the week- keep this in mind when you are planning out when to exchange your money.
b. Canadian dollars can only be exchanged in the downtown San Jose locations of Bank of Costa Rica and Scotiabank. Most smaller banks in other districts of San Jose only exchange US$ American dollars.
c. Make a photocopy of your passport photo page to use as ID during your trip. You need your passport information in order to exchange currency and it is safer to leave your actual passport at your homestay family.
d. Busses to and from downtown San Jose stop running at 10pm. If you plan on staying out later than that you will have to get a taxi to come home.
ABV: Curfew on the week is 10pm, and on weekends 12am, dont be out later than that.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
Overall I was very satisfied with my experience with ABV. I loved working at the school and getting to know the teachers and the students. My homestay family was amazing- and everyone involved with the project is extremely kind and welcoming. The country is very beautiful, exploring Costa Rica and getting to know the people here are memories that I will always hold very close to my heart. I learned a lot about the culture and language of this country during my travels- and of course I also learned a lot about myself throughout my time here.
A few things that I was disappointed with were the fact that I was only working about for about 4.5-5 hours per day, even though the information for this project on the website said it would be for 8 hours. Also I would have liked to get to know the other volunteers at this project and at other projects nearby. There is not any opportunity to meet other volunteers- and since there is a lot of free time it would have been nice to know more people. It might be a good idea for ABV to plan some get-togethers or dinners for all of the volunteers during the week so that everyone gets a chance to meet each other.
ABV: Volunteers should always ask for more work hours if needed. We can't confirm always you will be with other volunteers in a program as we have open dates for arrival and departure. (Flexible*), you can meet other volunteers if you ask the coordinator to set up meeting locations. Always rely on the coordinator or email ABV for any issues you may have.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
Accommodation and meals at my homestay family were amazing. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and always ensured that I felt comfortable and at home. I would strongly recommend choosing to stay with a homestay family. I feel like the country is safe- I had no problems walking to and from work during the day, as well as taking the bus alone and walking home alone in the evenings. The locals are friendly and helpful in giving directions.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
A lot of my favorite memories were moments at school working with teachers and the children. Everyone at Special needs center is very friendly and welcoming, and care very much about the students. The work is very hands on and you get to know both the teachers and the students very well. Another great memory was a weekend trip to Montezuma- the beaches and hikes are absolutely beautiful. I would strongly recommend visiting Montezuma for two or three days during the weekend.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
The chat online was very helpful as your questions were answered immediately. I found parts of the application to be a bit confusing, so it was very helpful to have someone online to guide you through the process.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
Overall I found the online reservation system easy to use. I was able to submit everything quickly, and the live chat was a very helpful feature.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website (
I found the ABV Website with a Google search for volunteering opportunities in Costa Rica.