El Puente—The Bridge is an organization started by an American couple with the intent to help the indigenous people surrounding Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean shore in Costa Rica. These people, the Bribri people, live drastically under the poverty line. The organizations works directly with the locals on a range of projects; volunteers are able to provide help in a huge range of niche skills.
The organization is part of Global Outreach for the Centers for Spiritual Living based in Colorado, USA. The organization was created and has grown because individuals in the indigenous community have asked the organization to offer various community-based programs. El Puente offers a five-point program to help individuals help themselves to self-sufficiency:
- Assistance with legal compliance
- Covering the costs of education at local public schools
- Income generation through microloans
- Food support within the community kitchen three days a week
- Instill hope in a brighter future beyond poverty
Volunteers can offer their time and skills within any of these program areas. Past volunteers have shown up and assessed the situation, asking how they can best serve. One professional contractor volunteered his construction skills. Another built out a nutrition education program. While there are established programs volunteers can help with, there is great flexibility too for professionals to offer their time and services.
More on the organization and what it’s doing in the community here: https://youtu.be/tqWqb1ZGHpQ
Volunteers are asked to stay at minimum for one week. Longer stays are welcome.
Volunteering is free volunteer. Volunteers are responsible for their accommodation and food. El Puente has organized an option for volunteers to stay at a hotel nearby for a reasonable price (around $215 a month as of October 2014). There are a variety of budget hotels and hostels in the area.
For more information about volunteering with El Puente—The Bridge, visit them online: