Volunteer Programs

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
--Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Why do we have a volunteer programs?

  • Train field assistants and give them work experience
  • Further our educational and research mission
  • Identify potential job applicants—this idea of dating before we get married
  • Volunteers and interns provide an affordable way for us to implement projects
  • To develop more ambassadors for our programs
  • Build an energetic community

Our volunteer exposes participants to critical environment and conservation issues in Costa Rica and gives them a local context for global issues. 

Overall Objectives

The volunteer program seeks to give motivated and dedicated individuals the opportunity to learn and acquire skills in order to contribute to the real world operations of CIRENAS.  More than just a work experience, however, the volunteer program is an educational experience.  Volunteer Program goals include:

  • Learn about the history of CIRENAS and Hacienda Arío
  • Develop core competencies in a specific program area chosen or in general for the entire organization
  • Improve speaking, writing and organizational skills by implementing projects
  • Become more proficient in discussing issues related to the management of our natural resources
  • Develop an understanding of the complexity of environmental issues

Volunteers will come with varying abilities and backgrounds and it is the job of CIRENAS mentors to embrace and enhance that skill-base. It is our ultimate goal for participants to leave here feeling satisfied with the experience they had and the support they received from everyone in our organization.

Enduring Understandings

There are 3 key understandings that each participant should walk away with:

  1. Understanding local conservation issues as they relate to the global environment.
  2. A keen sense of environmental stewardship.
  3. How to live in a community that lives, plays, and works together.

In addition, for many volunteers this experience will be a “first job” so it is critical that CIRENAS commits to transferring how we operate and develop important work skills that are transferable like communication, planning, management, etc. 

Interested in volunteering with CIRENAS?

Take a look at the different activities in which you can learn and contribute to CIRENAS programs. Join us for a great hands-on experiences that will have a long term impact on your life.

The volunteer program runs throughout the year, but some activities will only be available seasonally or as community needs demand. Many of our programs are long term and offer opportunities at all times of the year. Let us know the area(s) you are interested in and we will do our best to accommodate your interests and goals.


Water Work:

  • Maintenance of grey and black water treatment systems
  • Design, installation and maintenance of irrigation systems
  • Installation of water catchment mechanisms
  • Maintenance of water catchment basins 

Agroforestry Systems Work:

  • Pruning, coppicing, and pollarding of existing systems
  • Installation of climax and supporting species trees
  • Mulching, ground cover maintenance, and other climactic control establishment
  • Maintenance and installation of irrigation systems
  • Micro climate creation/establishment
  • Orchard design and establishment

Nursery Work:

  • Soil (re)generation and preparation
  • Seeding trees and plants
  • Transplanting plants and trees
  • Grafting and genetic selection
  • Small scale irrigation systems
  • Additions to in ground nursery
  • Seed collection, preparation and sorting 

General Maintenance:

  • Slope stabilization
  • Basic plumbing
  • Infrastructure extensions (basic building and utility work)
  • Biomass movement (fertilizing, mulching, etc...)
  • Experimentation with harvest techniques and food preservation           


Educational Materials      

  • Designing and producing educational materials (games, lectures, guides, posters, cards...)         
  • Designing promotional materials for activities (flyers, banners, posters, videos, etc.) in English   and Spanish
  • Translating and interpreting information in English and Spanish
  • Designing and installing signs
  • Making, cleaning and replacing species identification tags

Communal Projects

  • Installing water capture and treatment systems
  • Helping with reforestation projects,  and establishing nurseries
  • Installing compost systems and communal gardens
  • Helping with cleaning-up campaigns for communal spaces
  • Establishing recycling stations
  • Building solar or alternative energy devices
  • Painting and repairing schools and communal centers
  • Helping with communal projects proposed by the Municipal Environmental Commission and other allies  

Other Activities

  • Updating data bases (keeping registers, files, lists and other documents)
  • Teaching English classes to locals
  • Training workshops in different environmental and social related topics
  • Communications and social media: Updating website, taking photographs and managing Gallery database.


Biodiversity and Ecology

  • Helping with terrestrial and marine species inventories
  • Collecting samples (soil, water, air, biomass, species...)
  • Keep record of biodiversity information and data...
  • Design and preparation of maps and GIS systems
  • Gathering of meteorological data.
  • Carry out ecology research activities according to each volunteer’s expertise.

Social Research

  • Interview to community members (Spanish required)
  • Taking audio and visual records
  • Digitalizing data from interviews, observations and other assessment instruments for systematization
  • Design and preparation of maps in different fields  


Caletas-Arío Wildlife Refuge and CIRENAS Campus:

  • Helping with infrastructure maintenance (painting, repairing, building, etc.)
  • Establishment and maintenance of trails (building steps, fences, bridges, benches)
  • Painting and replacing signs


For CIRENAS, having the collaboration from companies and institutions is a key component that supports our mission in creating transformative connections between people and the environment through education, research, integration and innovation.

Joining our corporate volunteers program, your company, CIRENAS and the surrounding communities will benefit in different ways:

  • Raise awareness in your collaborators about environmental and social problems and possible solutions.
  • Provide a unique opportunity to be part of a solution for environmental and social problems and give the community the opportunity to give answer to their needs.
  • Give your company the opportunity to effectively project the image of being social and environmentally responsible and improve the positioning of your enterprise.
  • Strengthens the bond between the company and employees and contributes to a better work environment.
  • Foment a sense of pride and belonging of collaborators to the company and country.
  • Encourages the development of skills such as teamwork, communication skills, leadership, empathy and creativity.
  • Contribute to build a more just, supportive and sustainable world.


Minimum 2 weeks.        $50 per day

3-4 weeks                       $50 per day

1 month ormore            $50 per day

For corporate volunteer groups, the rate depends on the size of the group and specific needs. Tell us about your interest and ask for more information by contacting us.

All rates Include:

  • Lodging in Shared Rooms with Communal Bathrooms
  • 3 meals per day
  • Tools and materials
  • CIRENAS Campus and Caletas Arío Wildlife Refuge Tour
  • Recreational activity


  •  Be over 18 years old
  • Updated resume
  •  Complete the CIRENAS Intern/volunteer documentation
    • Volunteer Information Sheet
    •  Medical History Form and Waiver
    • Photo Permission Form
    • Contract CIRENAS - Intern/volunteer
  • Read and Accept Volunteer Handbook and Risk Management Manual
  • Updated Medical and Accident Insurance
  • Commit to work for a minimum of 30 hours/week.
  • The minimum period of stay for volunteers is 2 weeks.

Ask for more information about our volunteer program by contacting ashleygrew@cirenas.org