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Volunteering while abroad is something I hadn’t considered before living in Costa Rica.

There is a whole industry now dedicated to providing charitable individuals the opportunity to jet off to distant lands and give back to a community in need.

I have always believed that charity should begin at home.

Help those in your own community before you consider helping those in another.


Arriving at the CARE clinicCredit Papa Rooster | Arriving at the CARE Clinic

House sitting has provided me with the chance to live in communities all over the world and it was during a house sitting assignment in Costa Rica that I was invited to volunteer.

Filling in for the lady who owned the house we were looking after I was tasked with the role of veterinary assistant at CARE, an animal charity in Playas del Coco.

For someone growing up in the western world having a pet is not unusual.

We love our cats and dogs like any other member of the family. They are there to stroke and pet and play with, providing companionship and picking us up when we feel down.

For some individuals having an animal does not always constitute the same emotive act. They believe animals serve a purpose and often treat them with much less respect than those kept as pets.


volunteering in costa ricaCredit Papa Rooster | First in Line

It is well documented that less developed countries often suffer from problems with a growing number of stray animals.

Without the available funds for neutering owners can unexpectedly find themselves with a litter of kittens or puppies.

With their own brood of hungry mouths to feed mother and babies are often put out on the street to fend for themselves thus adding to the population of stray unneutered animals.

CARE is a charitable organisation based in Playas del Coco. It is committed to educating the local population in animal health and responsible care.

Each month they provide a highly subsidised medical clinic and encourage pet owners to neuter their animals.

Founded in 2008 the team at CARE work tirelessly to improve the lives of any animals they come into contact with.

Over the past five years they have dramatically reduced the number of stray animals living on the streets of Playas del Coco and have worked hard to educate the local people about the importance of neutering their pets.


volunteering in costa ricaCredit Papa Rooster | The Anaesthetist at Work

CARE is a positive force within the community.

Staffed by locals and ex pats the organisation has been responsible for the treatment and re-homing of over 1700 animals in the past five years. With only basic facilities they have made a huge difference to the lives of so many animals.

At the monthly clinic no animal is ever turned away.

Not only do they spay and neuter every animal in attendance a team of volunteers rids every patient of ticks, clips their claws and gives them some much needed TLC. With no building of their own the charity relies on the kindness of local business owners and property managers to secure a venue for each new clinic.


volunteering in costa ricaCredit Papa Rooster | Out for the Count and Next in Line

As a voluntary veterinary nurse I was tasked with assisting in the neutering of each animal. No prior medical experience is necessary for this role, only a strong stomach, steady hand and stamina.

With around fifty animals to spay in an eight hour period the vet is utilised to his maximum potential. The only paid member of the team he gives his time for a fraction of his usual hourly rate. Taking home just $16 USD to cover his daily expenses he is a vital cog in the CARE machine.

Watching as he performed each procedure I held forceps, passed implements and looked on in amazement at the speed with which he worked. His operating table covered with a floral table cloth and the floor around him littered with unconscious animals it was a scene like nothing I had seen before.

As he worked a team of volunteers cared for the recovering patients. Laid out on sheets each animal was identifiable by the numbered label stuck to their forehead.


volunteering in costa ricaCredit Papa Rooster | The Dedicated After-Care Team

CARE’s re-homing programme stretches far beyond the boundaries of Playas del Coco. Countless animals have made the trip north to the USA after a successful appeal has caught the attention of an animal lover with a generous heart.

During my time in Costa Rica one lucky dog was nearing the end of her journey with CARE. Having been rescued from the side of the road Lulu had been hit by a car and was left without the use of both her back legs. In constant pain and with no mobility she faced an uncertain future.

Without a second thought money was raised and a canine wheelchair built giving Lulu full mobility again. This kind of dedication often goes unrewarded yet I know that seeing animals safe and healthy is reward enough for those involved.

volunteering in costa ricaCredit Papa Rooster | Happy and Healthy Dogs at CARE

My time with CARE has left a mark on my conscience. My nomadic existence often envelops me and I forget just how fortunate I am. Volunteering with such a vibrant organisation has given me an insight into just how much impact positive projects can have on a community.

I’d like to thank CARE for welcoming me into their team during my stay in Costa Rica and wish them all the best for their continued efforts to provide aid to stray and injured animals.

I’m pleased to report that CARE have neutered 1706 animals since Nov 2008. If you’d like to help CARE continue their great work visit their website for more information.

For more information about the great work assisting the animals of Playas del Coco visit CARE or find out how you can become an international student volunteer.

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Have you spent time volunteering abroad? Share your comments with me below.

About The Author

Freelance writer and blogger Charli has lived in 6 countries, driven 25,000km across Australia, explored the lush landscapes of Central America and the frigid winters of North America. Currently visiting St Kitts & Nevis she plans to explore the world one country at a time.

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15 Responses

  1. Mona Vallieres

    I had found a female cat pregnate and I help her with food and water and now she had since the 25 march 5 baby but I need a castration as soon as possible because she go outcside and around here many male and she had three times baby I heard in Playa del coco is a castration day at la palma each second satursday of each month but I need to make and apointment and I don’t have the phone number. Please help me to find the phone number and help me to stop in my area to have more cat now they are 8 and it’s difficulte to feed those we can’t have more cats. Thank Mona

    • Charli Moore

      Hi Mona, thank you for getting in touch. I have forwarded your comment to the team at CARE in Playas del Coco, hopefully someone will be in touch with you.

  2. Jennifer

    Touching story and an amazing story. I really appreciate hearing about these efforts around the world – thanks for sharing and raising awareness.

  3. Discover Costa Rica's Wildlife (the Right Way)

    […] There are also a huge number of volunteering opportunities available in Costa Rica for those who have a a longer amount of time here. These programmes range from helping out in a Jaguar sanctuary, saving sea turtles and even providing aid for stray animals. […]

  4. James Gordon

    Costa Rica as a country is a great opportunity for volunteering programs and help. Close to our propriety is a place where people can help animals.

    Your post is really cool because Castration on animals are really important specially in Cats and Dogs. Its initiative should be as a country polity.

    Great Info!

  5. Paul Johnston

    I had the privilege of working with Charli. She is very dependable. CARE is made up of a wonderful group of volunteers from around the world trying to make life better for our 4 legged friends. This group seeks no fame or glory just the self satisfaction of helping and making a difference. Thanks Charli for spotlighting our great group. Hope you can come back sometime and good luck to you.

  6. Wanderlusters

    Thank you for your kind comments ladies.

    CARE do sterling work down in Playas del Coco and I’m grateful they gave me the opportunity to volunteer. The experience has really inspired me to look for other ways to give back to the communities I visit.