There are many opportunities available to students while studying abroad. A unique opportunity that is available in every study abroad location is volunteer work.  There are many types of volunteer work such as social, environmental, political, etc. that vary from place to place. One of the goals I have for my study abroad experience is to volunteer in many different parts of Costa Rica. I am currently studying my spring semester at Universidad Veritas in San José, Costa Rica. I am happy to say I have been successful during my Costa Rica journey, in that I have volunteered with three different organizations. Nevertheless, my work is not near done. My study abroad program started in March and ends in June, and I fully intend on continuing volunteer work until I leave Costa Rica.

This past weekend, my study abroad program called API or Academic Programs International, organized a volunteer opportunity that I had to get my hands on. I knew I could not pass up the opportunity, and I packed my bag for a work intensive weekend.  *If you do intend on doing volunteer work, I suggest bringing old clothes you do not mind getting dirty. While travelling down the Pacific Coast to the jungle of Mantapalo, I had no idea what to expect of the volunteer trip. Our program organized our transportation, but there is a Dominical bus that will drive by Mantapalo. Upon arrival, we met Daniel and Robert, two fulltime volunteers in command of the Mantapalo ASVO program. They showed a presentation explaining the program in its entirety. The program, Conservation Project of Marine and Costal Resources, is a sea turtle rescue through the nonprofit organization Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas (ASVO).

We learned that Mantapalo is one of the oldest marine turtle conservation programs on the Pacific Coast. The organization’s goal is marine turtle protection and conservation through fieldwork and research. They emphasized the need for ecological balance in order to restore and prevent extinction of marine turtles. We learned the background of turtles such as the types and their unique characteristics, threats to existence, and actions that need to be taken to help. Even though it is not yet sea turtle season (June to December), Daniel simulated a patrol of the beach. We learned about the nesting process of turtles, how to identify their nests, and the process of collecting data from the turtles.

The following morning we woke up very early to work at the hatchery. The hatchery is the place where the rescue puts all the sea turtle eggs in order to monitor them. Many natural and human-made risks lower the rate of survival of the eggs. We were told that we needed to use new sand in the hatchery that is fresh from the beach.  Therefore, we did some backbreaking work, but it was an incredible experience. It was very rewarding to be able to run to the beach after completing our volunteer work at the hatchery. There are many different volunteer opportunities during study abroad that you should experience.

For more information, visit http://www.asvocr.org/english/matapalo/index.php

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