The institute is located in a small rural town called Javillos, just 27 km away from La Fortuna, the popular base for exploring the Arenal volcano. Around 300 families live in Javillos, a sleepy place with gorgeous scenery and brightly colored houses. In the surrounding area, there’s elementary school, a church, a handful of local markets and several sunny open plazas where the locals play soccer in the cool evening hours. Javillos is approximately 100 km from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. It takes around 2 hours to reach the area by shuttle/bus from San Jose, and, in total, 3 hours to reach the institute itself. The shuttle buses will always take you right to the doorstep of the institute.
Costa Rica is known for its great diversity of plants and animals, however, human development and the accompanying destruction of natural habitat, not to mention illegal hunting, have led to a precipitous decline in wildlife populations, causing many species to be in danger of extinction. The project’s objective is to help injured wild animals, to educate the public on the struggle of these animals, and to help restore the balance between man and nature.
The project is dedicated to wildlife protection, environmental conservation, and inspiring cultural exchanges through education. It serves as an animal rescue center, a Spanish school and a volunteer center - all rolled into one. The project aims to give injured wild animals the care and respect that they deserve whilst nursing them back to health in order to release them into the wild. It also educates the public about the struggle faced by these animals. The institute receives no financial aid from the Costa Rican government, so it relies upon the money and manpower of volunteers to keep the rescue centre alive. Volunteer activities include:
- Receiving and evaluating newly arrived animals at the rescue center
- Introducing animals to their new living quarters and helping them to settle in
- Carefully planning the diet and preparing the food for the animals
- Assisting with the daily care such as feeding the animals and cleaning the enclosures
- Sometimes, helping to release the animals back into the forest
- Helping out during surgical procedures for the animals, where necessary
- Making sure the rescue center runs smoothly by maintaining all the facilities
- Maintenance work such as painting, repairing and constructing new cages
The project offers volunteer programs starting from 1 week and up to 8 weeks. Volunteers can choose a full-time volunteer program or combine this with Spanish classes. For sure the best combination and price/value is the combined volunteer & language school program.
At the start of your project you’ll be introduced to your day-to-day contact as well as taken through what is expected from you at the project, the do’s and don’ts, what needs to be done in every installation and how to stay safe while helping the animals. After your orientation, it's a full-time job. You will be working from 08:00 till 16:00 with a lunch break at the institute as well as coffee breaks in the morning and in the afternoon. If you opt for Spanish lessons, you’ll work part time and study from 08:30 to 12:00 before setting off to volunteer with the animals or the local community.
Evenings as well as weekends are free for you to explore the surrounding areas or do local activities, which Project Asis can help you organize. Try out tropical white-water rafting on the Sarapiqui River, zip-lining or canopy walking over suspension bridges amongst the rainforest treetops. You can saddle up for some horseback riding, take a kayak tour of Lake Arenal, head off on a mountain bike or try a local chocolate tour. And don’t forget to soak in one of Arenal’s natural hot springs - it’s heaven! Time will fly by so make the most of every minute of your volunteering experience packed with challenge and reward.
Volunteers are required to work on public holidays. Please also note that public services like transportation may be affected on these days.
All participants are expected to fulfill certain requirements in order to participate in the projects. Work is demanding, repetitive, but can also vary from day to day. Participants must know that they will be working with wild animals that are not pets and should behave accordingly. These requirements are to ensure that volunteers bring the right expectations and enjoy their experience with Asis.
- Basic level of Spanish is recommended
- Travel/Medical insurance
- Recommended vaccines: Tetanus
- Tuberculosis test: As you’ll be working at very close quarters with the animals, the center requires all volunteers to take a tuberculosis test before arrival in Costa Rica
- In Costa Rica, rabies is almost unheard of; however, you will be working with wild animals, so whilst not compulsory you may want to consider getting the rabies vaccine, it's an individual decision.
- If you are travelling to Costa Rica from certain countries, you may need to show a Yellow Fever certificate on arrival. Please make sure you check if you need to get one.
- Drugs are not allowed.
- Keep in mind that the seriousness, discipline, order and cleanliness must be the basis of work with animals. If you do not respect the basic rules of common sense it puts the lives of animals at risk.
Besides covering the costs for your homestay accommodation, your program fee means significant financial help to the project:
- All the people involved in the project are permanent staff including eg. a biologist, which generates high costs but also stability in the organization.
- The project is in charge of Rivet Vet clinic (about 15 minutes away from Asis) where medical assistance is given to the hurt animals the rescue center receives.
- The project covers the costs for all the food, medication and constructing material needed so that the rescue center's conditions can be constantly improved.
Volunteers need to be flexible and keep an open mind concerning their placements as situations can arise beyond our control which could require you to be placed at a different project than the one you have initially chosen. We will of course always do our utmost to fulfill your initial wishes but do remember that where you are going is quite different from where you are coming and as such one should be prepared for things not always going according to plan.
Volunteering and intercultural travel share a common trait: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This program is designed for proactive individuals and groups that are prepared to adapt to the local environment and its current needs. Naturally, the scheduling and activities of our program are subject to change. Alterations in activities are mainly due to changes in local conditions, which we believe is part of what makes overseas programs the interesting adventure and incredible learning experience that they are.
Our projects range from 1 week up to approx. 30 weeks. Projects have a specified minimum stay, then it’s up to you how long you can commit. In our experience the longer you stay the more you will gain, as your understanding of the project broadens and you take on more responsibilities.