Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica

Choose to experience Costa Rica through the lens of wildlife conservation, working with sea turtles, or sustainable development, building necessary community infrastructure! Running at two separate times, both offer participants an authentic opportunity to immerse themselves into the native culture, work alongside local peers, and build long lasting relationships, all while having a positive social impact, and experiencing the magic of pura vida, being full of life! Each track offers a distinct social justice focus, and both include experiencing a range of Costa Rican culture and adventure, including a zipline canopy tour, swimming in waterfalls, the chance to practice your Spanish language skills, exploring volcanos, spending Shabbat with the Costa Rican Jewish community, and playing soccer with the local youth!

Both of the Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica programs involve intensive, physical service work in the rainy summer months, so be prepared to get down and dirty! Conditions on the trip are simple, and match the local style of life.

Work with baby sea turtles. Explore active volcanoes. Live in the beautiful, coastal town of Nuevo Pacuare. Learn about the challenges of wildlife conservation. Practice Spanish. Understand how climate change is impacting sea turtle populations worldwide. Relax on a hammock at sunset. Enjoy daily hikes to local waterfalls and rivers. Play soccer with local children.

Issue Focus: Wildlife Conservation

Climate change is affecting all life on the planet, but one of the creatures most affected are sea turtles. Sea turtles are born on beaches throughout the tropics, and return to lay their own eggs. Because of the central role that these beaches play in the sustainability of sea turtle species, they are very sensitive to changes in sea level and temperature of the sand. Rising sea levels are eroding precious beaches, an increase in global temperatures is creating a warmer sand climate, and sea turtles are now at risk for extinction.

The Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST), an expert network of biologists, managers, community leaders, and educators, is committed to the recovery and sustainable management of depleted sea turtle populations along the Caribbean coast. A “sustainably managed” sea turtle population is one that meets the needs – ecological, economic, socio-cultural, political, aesthetic, spiritual – of the present without compromising the ability of the population to fulfill these roles in the future. Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica participants will spend their time working with LAST to learn about leatherback, green, and hawksbill sea turtles in the Caribbean, and engage with a variety of efforts to create sustainable management of the sea turtle populations.

In Partnership With: Central American Service Expeditions (CASE)

Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica is run in partnership with Central American Service Expeditions (CASE). The CASE team supports rural development projects, and strives to ensure that participants are immersed in Costa Rican culture, and work side by side with people from local communities, by leading our groups to areas which are off the beaten path. This program combines CASE's extensive experience and network in Costa Rica with Mitzvah Corps' deeply rooted Reform Jewish values and commitment to engaging participants in meaningful, relevant Jewish experiences.

Social Justice

Mitzvah Corps is committed to providing sustainable support; all of the direct service projects are initiated by local community members, in partnership with the Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST), and relevant context is thoroughly discussed. Much of the work is focused on habitat restoration from beach erosion, as well as hatcheries to protect turtles from extreme temperatures and predation by humans and animals. While specific projects vary, as we work in response to the evolving needs of the community, they typically include:

  • Identifying turtle nests
  • Moving eggs to protected areas
  • Maintaining the turtle egg nursery
  • Painting and repairing buildings used for year-round work

Living La Pura Vida

Costa Rica is known for its pura vida lifestyle, appreciating the little things, having a positive attitude, and taking advantage of every opportunity. It's also about living simply, and valuing the people that bring you joy. To embody this concept, Mitzvah Corps participants enjoy:

  • Daily hikes to local waterfalls and rivers
  • Exploring active volcanoes
  • Relaxing on hammocks at sunset
  • Unplugging from technology and social media
  • Spending time enjoying each other's company

Becoming Part of the Community

We have longstanding relationships in the community, and as part of that legacy, Mitzvah Corps participants are welcomed each summer with open arms. Truly being immersed in the culture, teens have the chance to:

  • Practice their Spanish
  • Play soccer with local kids
  • Eat home cooked meals
  • Build relationships with their Costa Rican peers

 

Below is our preliminary itinerary. We refine the schedule as we approach each summer to respond to the evolving needs, and take advantage of the most current opportunities, in the local communities. Shabbat will be observed in the local community on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and Havdallah is celebrated on Saturday evening.

Day 1 - Group Orientation in Miami
The program will commence in Miami. Everyone will spend a night at a hotel near the Miami International Airport, where they'll begin building their community by getting to know one another, and framing the experience they're about to have. Introductory programs will include providing relevant background information about Costa Rica, setting expectations for what daily life will look like during the trip, and giving participants the opportunity to ask questions. They'll get to sleep early and head to the airport together the next morning!

Day 2 - Arrival into San Jose
Flying together, the group will arrive at the Juan Santamaría International Airport just outside the city of Alajuela. Welcome to Costa Rica! After getting settled, the group will enjoy lunch and take a walk to explore the city. This evening will be the introductory meeting about the Costa Rica service expedition.

Day 3 - Poas Volcano
This morning the group will head out early with Rodrigo van der Laat to visit the Poás Volcano.Rodrigo is an expert volcanologist with the National Volcano Observatory. He’s the perfect guide to show them Poás: an impressive, active volcano. After a delicious lunch, the group will walk into San José for a little site seeing.

Day 4 - Travel to Nuevo Pacuare
The group will head east to the Caribbean coast. Along the way, they'll pass through the stunningly beautiful Braulio Carrillo National Park, and then down into the Caribbean plain. After arriving into the small town of Battan, they'll travel by boat to the tiny coastal village of Nuevo Pacuare.

Days 5-8 - Sea Turtle Conservation
Throughout the group's time in Nuevo Pacuare, each day will be spent volunteering with the Latin American Sea Turtle Association (LAST) to support their sea turtle conservation efforts, as well as getting to know local community members, practicing Spanish, playing soccer, and swimming in the beautiful water. The wildlife conservation experts will continue to discuss sea turtle conservation efforts within the context of climate change and environmental justice, and connect the special work being done in Costa Rica to ways that participants can continue involvement back home.

Day 9 - Beach Day in Puerto Viejo
After saying goodbye to the people of Nuevo Pacuare, the group will spend a well-deserved relaxation day at Punta Uva beach near the town of Puerto Viejo.

Day 10 - Zipline Canopy Tour
On the way back to San Jose, Sarapiqui provides a wonderful place to take a break to zipline through the rainforest canopy!

Day 11 - Return to the United States
The group will travel together back to Miami.

Each Mitzvah Corps international program commences at a U.S. gateway airport. Participants are responsible for their transportation to the gateway city, where they will be greeted by their Mitzvah Corps staff. The entire group will travel together from the gateway airport to their international destination, and return together upon conclusion of the program.

Domestic Travel to Miami

Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica will commence at Miami International Airport.

Participants are responsible for their own transportation from their home to the airport. Travel parameters are provided upon registration; once confirmed, participants will submit their domestic travel plans to Mitzvah Corps.

The cost of domestic travel is not included in tuition, nor does Mitzvah Corps make arrangements for any domestic travel.

Domestic carriers have varying regulations regarding unaccompanied minors (read specific policies and fees of major domestic carriers Southwest, United, Delta, American, and JetBlue). Please refer to the protocol of the chosen airline, and notify Mitzvah Corps in advance of the program so that we can provide the contact information for the staff member who will greet the teen upon their arrival, and coordinate a smooth travel experience.

International Travel to Costa Rica

Participants and staff on Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica will depart together from Miami International Airport, and return to the same airport when the program concludes. All participants must travel with the group.

The cost of this round-trip airfare is estimated to be about $550 and is not included in the program tuition.

Mitzvah Corps handles booking and purchasing seats for each participant on the group flight. When the seat is ticketed in the spring and the cost is finalized, that charge will be added to your Mitzvah Corps bill, and you will be required to pay it in full by April 1st.

If you have access to points or miles that you'd prefer to use instead of dollars, and there is reward availability on the group flight, that method of booking may be available. Please contact us to discuss this option.

Obtaining a Tourist Visa

United States citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica.

Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.

Global Traveler's Insurance

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about international travel!

What are the housing accommodations like in Costa Rica?
Participants will be living an authentic Costa Rican lifestyle, and housed in simple, yet safe and clean, accommodations.

What are the physical requirements for participation on this program?
Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica engages in volunteering projects that require moderate to intensive physical labor (digging, building, painting, lifting heavy objects, etc) outdoors in the heat and humidity. As with all Mitzvah Corps programs, participants are expected to be independent and not require consistent one-on-one care. This program is not ADA compliant; Mitzvah Corps offers wheelchair accessibility on our Civil Rights Journey, as well as in ChicagoNew Orleans and the Pacific Northwest.

Will participants receive documentation of community service?
Yes! Upon completion of the program, participants will receive formal documentation for 40 hours of community service. Please note that this number is inclusive of all social justice community engagement; participants who are looking to document specific, traditional direct service hours should contact Mitzvah Corps in advance with any questions.

What kinds of clothing and other items will participants bring to Costa Rica?
Summers in Costa Rica are hot, humid, and rainy. Participants should only bring clothing that can get dirty, and ideally made of fabrics that are quick-drying; we suggest loose, long pants and sleeves in order to prevent bug bites and protect against heavy brush. Each teen should bring waterproof boots, comfortable for walking through mud, as well as flip flops or water sandals. Linens, towels, and pillows will be provided, but participants should pack their own toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen, and personal items. All items should be packed in a large backpack, which should be lined with plastic trash bags to keep contents dry. A detailed packing list will be sent prior to the program.

What is NOT included in the program tuition?
International airfare from Miami to and from Costa Rica (approximately $600) is not included in program tuition. However, families do not need to take any action to secure international airfare. These flights are obtained by Mitzvah Corps on behalf of all participants, and the charges are added to each family's bill in the spring.

If non-U.S. citizens require a visa for entry into Costa Rica, the cost of the visa is not included in program tuition. U.S. citizens do not require a visa for entry.

Will the group have a chance to exchange money?
Yes. While tuition covers all necessary expenses, some participants may choose to bring extra money for souvenirs or snacks. Many local vendors accept American dollars, but there will be an opportunity to either exchange cash, or use an ATM machine to withdraw the local currency.

How does the group get to and from Costa Rica?
All teens will arrange their own transportation to Miami International Airport. After an overnight orientation in Miami, the group will fly together to San Jose. The cost of the international airfare is not included in tuition; however, Mitzvah Corps makes arrangements on behalf of the participants and passes the true cost on to the families. Please visit our TRAVEL tab for more detailed information.

Are there any vaccinations required to travel to Costa Rica?
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control website and consult your doctor for more information about vaccinations that may be applicable for travel to Costa Rica.

Additionally, the Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. Medical exemptions are granted in rare cases; please contact us regarding any potential exemptions prior to registration. For more information, please refer to the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.

Is it necessary to purchase a special visa or traveler's insurance?
United States citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit. 

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request.

Mitzvah Corps programs are designed to be mixed and matched, giving you the opportunity to connect two or more experiences to design your ideal social justice
summer.

Costa Rica Session 1A connects well with Pacific Northwest, Nicaragua, or Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Costa Rica Session 1B connects well with Chicago.

 

Spend time engaging with the Bribri indigenous community. Explore active volcanoes. Live in the beautiful, rural setting of Yorkin. Learn about how Bribi's economic status affects the local infrastructure. Practice Spanish and the Bribri language. Support local community efforts to preserve Bribri culture. Relax on a hammock at sunset. Enjoy daily hikes to local waterfalls and rivers. Play soccer with Bribri children.

Issue Focus: Community Empowerment

When Costa Rica was first colonized by the Spaniards in 1524, the tropical rainforest on the Caribbean coast was seen as an impenetrable land filled with poisonous plants and dangerous animals, so the Bribri, Cabecar, Naso, and Nobe Bugle peoples who lived there were never conquered. Instead, they were pushed deeper and deeper into the rainforest, but left to preserve their indigenous culture. Today, the Bribri territories, although part of Costa Rica, are semi-autonomous, with a government elected by the Bribri people, their own language, and an economy focused primarily on farming and organic agriculture.

Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica participants will be staying in the Bribri territories in the village of Yorkin, a small river town near the Panama border. They'll be working with a local women's organization, STIBRAWPA, an acronym in Bribri which stands for "women artists." For the last few decades, STIBRAWPA has been focused on maintaining Bribri culture and promoting sustainable local tourism, through cultural preservation efforts, refurbishing visitor lodging, and increasing city infrastructure.

In Partnership With: Central American Service Expeditions (CASE)

Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica is run in partnership with Central American Service Expeditions (CASE). The CASE team supports rural development projects, and strives to ensure that participants are immersed in Costa Rican culture, and work side by side with people from local communities, by leading our groups to areas which are off the beaten path. This program combines CASE's extensive experience and network in Costa Rica with Mitzvah Corps' deeply rooted Reform Jewish values and commitment to engaging participants in meaningful, relevant Jewish experiences.

Social Justice

Mitzvah Corps is committed to providing sustainable support; all of the direct service projects are initiated by local community members, and relevant context is thoroughly discussed. While specific projects vary, as we work in response to the evolving needs of the community, they typically include:

  • Paving roads and sidewalks
  • Building foundations for necessary structures
  • Repairing local schools

Living La Pura Vida

Costa Rica is known for its pura vida lifestyle, appreciating the little things, having a positive attitude, and taking advantage of every opportunity. It's also about living simply, and valuing the people that bring you joy. To embody this concept, Mitzvah Corps participants enjoy:

  • Daily hikes to local waterfalls and rivers
  • Exploring active volcanoes
  • Relaxing on hammocks at sunset
  • Unplugging from technology and social media
  • Spending time enjoying each other's company

Becoming Part of the Community

We have longstanding relationships in the community, and as part of that legacy, Mitzvah Corps participants are welcomed each summer with open arms. Truly being immersed in the culture, teens have the chance to:

  • Practice their Spanish
  • Play soccer with local kids
  • Eat home cooked meals
  • Build relationships with their Costa Rican peers

 

Below is our preliminary itinerary. We refine the schedule as we approach each summer to respond to the evolving needs, and take advantage of the most current opportunities, in the local communities. Shabbat will be observed in the local community on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and Havdallah is celebrated on Saturday evening.

Day 1 - Group Orientation in Miami
The program will commence in Miami. Everyone will spend a night at a hotel near the Miami International Airport, where they'll begin building their community by getting to know one another, and framing the experience they're about to have. Introductory programs will include providing relevant background information about Costa Rica, setting expectations for what daily life will look like during the trip, and giving participants the opportunity to ask questions. They'll get to sleep early and head to the airport together the next morning!

Day 2 - Arrival into San Jose
Flying together, the group will arrive at the Juan Santamaría International Airport just outside the city of Alajuela. Welcome to Costa Rica! After getting settled, the group will enjoy lunch and take a walk to explore the city. This evening will be the introductory meeting about the Costa Rica service expedition.

Day 3 - Poas Volcano
This morning the group will head out early with Rodrigo van der Laat to visit the Poás Volcano.Rodrigo is an expert volcanologist with the National Volcano Observatory. He’s the perfect guide to show them Poás: an impressive, active volcano. After a delicious lunch, the group will walk into San José for a little site seeing.

Day 4 - Service Project in La Carpio
The day begins with an early breakfast then a trek over to the western side of San Jose for an introduction into sustainable community engagement, and work on a service project in La Carpio, a squatter settlement on the outskirts of San José. While specifics may vary, the role of participants is to assist the local community association in any infrastructure development projects that are underway.

Day 5 - Travel to Yorkin
In vehicles, on foot, and by boat, the group will travel east to the Caribbean coast, passing through the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the port town of Limón on the way to the Bribri Territories. Once in Yorkín, they'll settle in, have an introductory meeting about the community, and learn some Bribri vocabulary!

Days 6-8 - Service Project in Yorkin 
Each day in Yorkin, mornings will be devoted to direct service work alongside local community members as they build daycare centers or homes, install water drainage systems, refurbish hotel lodging, lay foundations for healthcare clinics, and more. The group will learn firsthand about the challenges of rural development, and the balance of preserving traditional culture while evolving in sustainable ways to survive. Afternoons will be spent exploring supplemental community projects such as harnessing the medicinal properties of native plants, harvest cacao to make chocolate, and learning about ecotourism. There will also be plenty of time to enjoy all that Yorkin has to offer - playing soccer with local children, hiking, swimming in the river, learning to shoot a bow-and-arrow, and more!

Day 9 - Zipline Canopy Tour
On the way back to San Jose, Sarapiqui provides a wonderful place to take a break to zipline through the rainforest canopy!

Day 10 - Beach Day in Bahia Salinas
For a final day of well-deserved relaxation, the group will spend their final day on the beautiful Bahina Salinas beach.

Day 11 - Return to the United States
The group will travel together back to Miami.

Each Mitzvah Corps international program commences at a U.S. gateway airport. Participants are responsible for their transportation to the gateway city, where they will be greeted by their Mitzvah Corps staff. The entire group will travel together from the gateway airport to their international destination, and return together upon conclusion of the program.

Domestic Travel to Miami

Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica will commence at Miami International Airport.

Participants are responsible for their own transportation from their home to the airport. Travel parameters are provided upon registration; once confirmed, participants will submit their domestic travel plans to Mitzvah Corps.

The cost of domestic travel is not included in tuition, nor does Mitzvah Corps make arrangements for any domestic travel.

Domestic carriers have varying regulations regarding unaccompanied minors (read specific policies and fees of major domestic carriers Southwest, United, Delta, American, and JetBlue). Please refer to the protocol of the chosen airline, and notify Mitzvah Corps in advance of the program so that we can provide the contact information for the staff member who will greet the teen upon their arrival, and coordinate a smooth travel experience.

International Travel to Costa Rica

Participants and staff on Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica will depart together from Miami International Airport, and return to the same airport when the program concludes. All participants must travel with the group.

The cost of this round-trip airfare is estimated to be about $550 and is not included in the program tuition.

Mitzvah Corps handles booking and purchasing seats for each participant on the group flight. When the seat is ticketed in the spring and the cost is finalized, that charge will be added to your Mitzvah Corps bill, and you will be required to pay it in full by April 1st.

If you have access to points or miles that you'd prefer to use instead of dollars, and there is reward availability on the group flight, that method of booking may be available. Please contact us to discuss this option.

Obtaining a Tourist Visa

United States citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica.

Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.

Global Traveler's Insurance

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about international travel!

What are the housing accommodations like in Costa Rica?
Participants will be living an authentic Costa Rican lifestyle, and housed in simple, yet safe and clean, accommodations.

What are the physical requirements for participation on this program?
Mitzvah Corps Costa Rica engages in volunteering projects that require moderate to intensive physical labor (digging, building, painting, lifting heavy objects, etc) outdoors in the heat and humidity. As with all Mitzvah Corps programs, participants are expected to be independent and not require consistent one-on-one care. This program is not ADA compliant; Mitzvah Corps offers wheelchair accessibility on our Civil Rights Journey, as well as in ChicagoNew Orleans and the Pacific Northwest.

Will participants receive documentation of community service?
Yes! Upon completion of the program, participants will receive formal documentation for 40 hours of community service. Please note that this number is inclusive of all social justice community engagement; participants who are looking to document specific, traditional direct service hours should contact Mitzvah Corps in advance with any questions.

What kinds of clothing and other items will participants bring to Costa Rica?
Summers in Costa Rica are hot, humid, and rainy. Participants should only bring clothing that can get dirty, and ideally made of fabrics that are quick-drying; we suggest loose, long pants and sleeves in order to prevent bug bites and protect against heavy brush. Each teen should bring waterproof boots, comfortable for walking through mud, as well as flip flops or water sandals. Linens, towels, and pillows will be provided, but participants should pack their own toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen, and personal items. All items should be packed in a large backpack, which should be lined with plastic trash bags to keep contents dry. A detailed packing list will be sent prior to the program.

What is NOT included in the program tuition?
International airfare from Miami to and from Costa Rica (approximately $600) is not included in program tuition. However, families do not need to take any action to secure international airfare. These flights are obtained by Mitzvah Corps on behalf of all participants, and the charges are added to each family's bill in the spring.

If non-U.S. citizens require a visa for entry into Costa Rica, the cost of the visa is not included in program tuition. U.S. citizens do not require a visa for entry.

Will the group have a chance to exchange money?
Yes. While tuition covers all necessary expenses, some participants may choose to bring extra money for souvenirs or snacks. Many local vendors accept American dollars, but there will be an opportunity to either exchange cash, or use an ATM machine to withdraw the local currency.

How does the group get to and from Costa Rica?
All teens will arrange their own transportation to Miami International Airport. After an overnight orientation in Miami, the group will fly together to San Jose. The cost of the international airfare is not included in tuition; however, Mitzvah Corps makes arrangements on behalf of the participants and passes the true cost on to the families. Please visit our TRAVEL tab for more detailed information.

Are there any vaccinations required to travel to Costa Rica?
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control website and consult your doctor for more information about vaccinations that may be applicable for travel to Costa Rica.

Additionally, the Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. Medical exemptions are granted in rare cases; please contact us regarding any potential exemptions prior to registration. For more information, please refer to the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.

Is it necessary to purchase a special visa or traveler's insurance?
United States citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit. 

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request.

Mitzvah Corps programs are designed to be mixed and matched, giving you the opportunity to connect two or more experiences to design your ideal social justice summer.

Costa Rica Session 2 connects well with Civil Rights or Pacific Northwest.

At A Glance

Sessions 1A & 1B - Wildlife Conservation
Dates 1A: June 26-July 6, 2017
Dates 1B: July 6-16, 2017
Length: 11 days
Community Service Hours: 40
Cost: $3000 + airfare
Session 1A is full. We are now accepting registrations on our wait list.
Session 2 - Community Empowerment
Dates: August 6-16, 2017
Length: 11 days
Community Service Hours: 40
Cost: $3000 + airfare
Mitzvah Corps organizes and reserves seats for participants on a round-trip group flight from a gateway U.S. airport to each international program destination. Program staff will fly with the group on both departure and return. The international airfare is not included in the tuition cost; please refer to the TRAVEL tab for details.
Register for multiple programs to receive a $100 discount per additional program.
Mitzvah Corps is open to all rising 10th - graduating 12th graders.