Welcome to Volunteering at the MFS!
Now that you are in Monteverde, this page provides further information. Contributions of more information, corrections, and comments are welcome. As of April 2020, please contact Mike West (MWJWest@gmail.com) or Ellen Cooney (email@example.com) to give information, for more information, for password changes, or to get on our mailing list.
Some recent insights and overview of volunteering:
Thoughts for MFS volunteers to consider
We are coming to be of service without being intrusive; while some of our talents and expertise may be much appreciated and utilized, it is important to remember that MFS has a long legacy and continues to function without any of us ‘needing to fix’ anything.
There are many different kinds of volunteers. Hundreds of people would like to be accepted as volunteers but the school (students, teachers and staff) can only accept a limited number at any given time. Volunteer schedules vary from intermittent per diem, to 1-2 days a week, to daily. Some volunteers have been coming for many years, some have relocated to Monteverde.
Try to be aware of and temper personal expectations. Some days it may be most helpful for us to assist with clerical or maintenance tasks. MFS does not often place volunteers for long periods in the classrooms secondary to the emotional wellbeing of students and teachers.
Your initial contact person from the school is generally only responsible for helping you arrive in Monteverde. After you arrive, you will meet with others to help with school orientation, assignments and volunteer coordination, etc.
School dress policy is relatively informal. Plan to dress in layers prepared for strong breezes, mist or rain. Supportive shoes help with walking to and from school and hiking opportunities. Sunscreen is often needed.
Money: Some small businesses and hosts don’t want to deal with credit cards or may charge you to cover their cost. Many accept dollars or you can change to colones at one of the banks. You will need debit card for ATM but be aware that intermittently the machines aren’t functioning. US dollars can be withdrawn at ATMs at Banco de Costa Rica between Cerro Plano and Santa Elena or Farmacia VITOSI in Santa Elena or the ATM a floor above and to the right of the lower entrance to Super Compro in Santa Elena.
Communication: Many people in Monteverde use WhatsApp for texting and calls. It is free, and works with either a WIFI connection or phone data, and does not need a local phone account after being set up so international calling and texting fees can be avoided. It will work better for you to download and register this app before leaving your home since it needs to send a confirmation text to a phone number to set up.
Check the school’s website for the ‘wish list’ to see if you can bring anything.
Transportation: there are many options including walking, public buses, shuttles, taxis. The tourist center in Santa Elena across from Farmacia Vitosi and to the left of Amy’s restaurant has a lot of info.
Social: Staff, students and regular volunteers are very creative in hosting various opportunities for developing and sharing community. If you attend Quaker Meeting for Worship (Wednesday with school community at 9 AM and/or Sunday at 10:30 AM) you can learn about additional social and volunteer opportunities within the larger community (i.e. yoga, tai chi, library, scrabble…)
Follow MFS activities on social media: Facebook , Instagram
AFTER ARRIVING (suggestions….)
- tour of school
- Look out for the WiFi password posted on signs around the school
- email/copy the daily and weekly school schedule
- be on the email list for weekly newsletter
- be on the whatsapp list for daily lunch order list
Local Transportation- Buses, Taxi, shuttles
Monteverde – San Jose Transmonteverde – Facebook – Location – more – more (I recommend going to the bus station to buy a ticket because it can sell out, the website does charge a bit more, and the website can be frustrating)
Monteverde – Tilarán Schedule
Shuttles link link
Taxi Call (usual fare from Santa Elena to Monteverde (CASEM) is ₡2.000 (“dos mil colones” / two thousand colones)
Border Runs (90 day tourist visa renewal)
When leaving Costa Rica and promptly returning to obtain a renewed tourist visa for up to a 90 day stay, you DO NOT need to leave Costa Rica for 72 hours minimum in order to renew your visa. See for example this article on the Tico Times. DO HAVE Proof of Through Travel, like an outgoing airplane reservation screenshot on your phone (which may not have internet), to show, scheduled within that 90 day window (which you can then cancel…) to proof you will be leaving Costa Rica before your tourist visa expires again.
Some Facebook pages of possible interest
Most reserves offer free hiking if you mention you are a volunteer at MFS, having a letter from Yuri is good (see below).
As mentioned above, the phone app WhatsApp is broadly used. Register it using a phone number, and afterwards it is useful by internet or phone data.
Useful people’s phone numbers to add, include:
Yuri Suárez +506 2645 5563
Mike West +1 302 559 3642
Introduction/Permission Letter for admission to local reserves
Ask Yuri Suárez (Subdirectora Administrativa) firstname.lastname@example.org for a letter of introduction to local reserves for free admission, including in the text specifically at least the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, and Curi Cancha Reserve.
Establishments in Monteverde catering to tourists such as restaurants or attractions will often have a discount for locals, residents, school volunteers, etc. Ask at the cash register. For example:
“Por favor, soy voluntario en la Escuela de Los Amigos, y yo vivo con Tarsicio y Marianela en Casa Alquimia. ¿Hay un descuento para locales?” (translation: Please, I am a volunteer at the Friends School, and I live with Tarsicio and Marianela at Casa Alquimia. Is there a discount for locals?”.)