The focus of Proyecto San Gerardo is to support San Gerardo and neighboring communities in their efforts to be self-sustaining so that community members find additional opportunities to generate income.
The story of Proyecto San Gerardo...
Christmas 2005: we visited San Gerardo de Rivas and fell in love!
Three weeks later we had bought the property we shortly built on for a holiday home, and little did we know, turned out to be my permanent address!
During that brief visit to the lovely community of San Gerardo we picked coffee, watched the making of dulce at the ox-driven trapiche, hiked all over to see quetzal and monkeys as well as bathing in the warm waters of the Aguas Termales. It was heaven! Who wanted to go home to the northern cold and the relentless 9-5? But it was all just the normal escapist fantasy until a young woman in the community asked us to teach her English. We asked her why and she replied that she wanted to go and work in the States and needed the language. With that brief conversation our minds began to work around the idea of setting up courses to enable this remote community to get better jobs – but definitely not abroad, here in Costa Rica. And preferably at home in San Gerardo where a skilled workforce would better enable San Gerardo to attract and benefit from appropriate tourism and therefore a brighter future.
We rushed back to Canada and qualified as ESL instructors. During that year, in conversation with the local Camara de Turismo we set up a website for the community: www.sangerardocostarica.com – to help tourists plan their vacations here and also promote local services. Early in 2007 we started our English classes in the local Community Centre. Free classes to anyone – but especially for adults who had not had the opportunity of high school education. 45 students graduated their levels by July that year, and in the following year we started to attract qualified volunteer teachers to maintain the courses. Now we also teach in 3 elementary schools who don't qualify for a state-supplied English teacher.
In July 2008 we started Computer Skills courses. A local credit union in Vancouver, Canada offered us 6 used laptops and a master’s student offered to teach if we could find him a homestay. So we began to teach Windows, WORD, and now Excel, PowerPoint and Internet/Email free to adults and youth alike. Volunteers began to donate more laptops and a projector; we opened free internet and computer practice sessions – we were on a roll!
At the same time we developed relationships with many of the families in San Gerardo who wished to host volunteers. They provide room and board as well as Spanish practice and in return get reimbursed at a realistic level by the volunteers. We hired a coordinator for the program and also paid a local youth to maintain the laptops as he was planning on studying computer skills at university and this gave him free practice!
The community formed a supportive Committee and Proyecto San Gerardo became a legal entity in 2011 (an Asociacion) which helps attract more funding. The website has helped local guides, hotels and attractions develop their businesses, the classes have qualified others to get better jobs and the Amigos Ingles program has helped support language practice outside the classroom.
In 2010 we launched a scholarship program to assist youth at high school and university level stay with their education. At the moment we help support 7 students – 4 at university level and 3 at high school.
We teach a Business Skills course and a First Aid course as well as many other small projects.
English Conversation Teachers for children, youth and adult programs
- 3 month minimum stay
- TEFL certificate or teaching experience required
- all teaching programs provided
Amigos Ingles Program - native English speakers for 1:1 conversation practice
4 - 6 week minimum commitment
No additional requirements except outgoing, friendly personality and interest in making friends and supporting language learning.
Computer Skills Teachers
- minimum 6 week stay
- program curricula provided
- fluent Spanish required
- good working knowledge of Basic Windows & WORD
- Experience with Excel is helpful
First Aid instructors
- minimum 4 week stay
- certified curriculum provided
- First Aid Instructor Certificate from a known program required
- fluency in Spanish
Business Skills Trainer
- 2 week minimum stay
- 4 module program provided
- experience in business development/marketing
- Spanish helpful but not required (interpreter provided)
Other opportunities such as arts/crafts group leaders, sports trainers, video development, website updating, writing available - details on request.
Proyecto San Gerardo will arrange an appropriate homestay with one of our approved families. Each volunteer has their own bedroom, shared bathroom, 3 meals a day and laundry plus involvement with the family. Many volunteers cherish this family experience and also improve their Spanish incredibly during their time here.
We provide a homestay for each volunteer the cost of which ($350.00) is paid directly to the homestay host by the volunteer.
Our website proyectosangerardo.org and the community website we support sangerardocostarica.com both need ongoing updates and especially SEO improvement. We would really appreicate expert help with this!
Additionally fundraisers are needed to work with the Director to broaden our donor basis and search for new sources of funding for rural education.
We also need researchers who can explore new sources for volunteer recruitment.
Minimum age 21
Volunteers should be content living in a rural, remote area with lots of outdoors activities to enjoy but little city life or technology! They should also be physically fit as in this mountainous area everything is up and down!