Program Details

Location: Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Recommended Airport: ​Liberia (LIR)

Program Dates: January 3-12, 2020

Application Deadline: October 4 2019

Program Cost: $1380


Los Angeles/Long Beach Area

Date: Sunday, October 13 2019

San Jose Area

Date: Saturday, October 12 2019

Location: Martin Luther King Library


Los Angeles/Long Beach Area 

Date: Sunday, October 20 2019

Location: TBD


San Jose Area 

Date: Saturday, October 26 2019

Location Martin Luther King Library

Program Highlights May Include:

  • Service learning projects working with children and older adults
  • Visiting local schools and clinics
  • Traditional dance and music experiences
  • Visiting sugar cane plantations to learn about production and labor
  • Boat trip on Rio Tempisque
  • Visit to Guatil to learn about local pottery and traditions

Program Fees Include:

  • Service learning project search, match, and assignment
  • Accommodation with local host family
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner at homestay placement
  • Transportation to and from airport
  • Excursions
  • Orientation upon arrival
  • Local field supervisor/interpreter at field sites
  • In-country support from US-based social work professionals
  • Pre-departure orientation and logistics support
  • Administration fees ($500 tax deductible donation)​


  • 6 months of field placement experience
  • Maturity, flexibility, and open-minded attitude
  • Open to social work, sociology, human services, and other approved majors
  • You do not need to speak Spanish as we will have interpreters available at project sites

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Social Work Abroad Program (SWAP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to providing international learning opportunities for US-based social work students.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​SWAP Costa Rica (Guanacaste)

Program Video Featuring SWAP Guanacaste 2019 Participants

Program Summary

SWAP has partnered with "Viva Nicaragua!" to offer an exciting new social work abroad opportunity in Guanacaste, Costa Rica in January 2020. Located off the beaten path in the rural communities of Bolson and Ortega in the province on Guanacaste, this Costa Rican region is an area where many Nicaraguans migrate and an ideal location to learn about the intersection of culture, history, economy, and people. This program offers the opportunity to live in a rural community and interact with both Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans, work with different social groups, visit different government institutions, and participate in social and cultural activities.

Service learning placement sites will center in the small rural communities of Bolson and Ortega, located about an hour and a half away from Liberia.  This is a perfect location to learn about the true culture, history, economy and people of the Guanacaste region.

The two communities are surrounded by sugarcane plantations which is the primary economic activity.  In addition, the towns are near the Rio Tempisque and Palo Verde National Park and many of the residents work in tourism on the river as park guards or in conservation efforts.  Much of the sugarcane work is done by Nicaraguan workers.

The communities count on bus transportation, a clinic, two elementary schools, a soccer field, a restaurant and bar, and a community center and has potable water and sewage systems.  Participants will live with families in simple but adequate conditions and work with children's groups, youth and adolescents, women, and the elderly population.  Community members and Viva Nicaragua! will offer presentations about Nicaragua and Costa Rica relations and Guanacaste.  You will have the opportunity to visit schools and clinics to learn about the country's model universal healthcare system and public schools.  Local guides will take us on a boat tour of the Rio Tempisque, we will visit sugarcane plantations and talk with Nicaraguan workers, make tortillas with our families, and learn about the customs, dance, music and the community's Chorotega and Spanish roots.

Applications for SWAP Costa Rica 2020 will be accepted through October 4, 2019.  Complete an application with us today for this incredible opportunity!

Click image above to view your tentative itinerary

Guanacaste Background

Guanacaste is located in northern Costa Rica and shares a border with Nicaragua.  Previously part of Nicaragua, it was annexed to Cost Rica in 1824.  The population is primarily mestizo, or mixed descendants of Spanish and Chorotega Indigenous groups.

The official point of entry of Costa Rica from Nicaragua is Penas Blancas, located about 1.5 hours north of Guanacaste's capital city Liberia.  However, all along the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border there are many blind spots where Nicaraguans cross without documentation.

Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica work primarily in agriculture, construction, and domestic work.  Some Nicaraguans migrate between Guanacaste and other provinces in search of agricultural work.  Others migrate back and forth between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Money earned by Nicaraguans in Costa Rica is sent back to support their families in Nicaragua.

Pre-departure Orientations

One mandatory pre-departure orientation will be scheduled to help participants prepare for their service learning experience in Costa Rica. Orientations cover the following topics: SWAP background, team building, risk and safety, engaging with hosts, Costa Rican culture, coping strategies, and logistics. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with and learn from guest speakers, get to know their fellow program participants, and begin planning for their experience abroad.

Los Angeles/Long Beach Area Orientation: October 20, 2019
San Jose Orientation: October 26, 2019

Partner Organization

The mission of Viva Nicaragua! is to (1) support the efforts of both public institutions and non-governmental organizations working to promote social justice and sustainable development in Nicaragua and (2) facilitate cross-cultural learning by recruiting motivated individuals to participate in experiential  learning programs.

Viva Nicaragua! works to support community based social justice and sustainable development efforts in the southwest of Granada.  Working with community leaders, organizations, and international interns and professionals, Viva Nicaragua! collaborates with communities to design projects to improve the overall living conditions for all Nicaraguans, especially those living in conditions of extreme poverty.  Projects focus on social justice - trying to protect the human rights of people from sectors of society whom, due to their socio-economic conditions, find their rights violated on a daily basis.  They have limited access to education, employment, legal protection, and healthcare.  Most of projects involve work with youth, women, children, and the rural and urban poor.


Participants will attend an orientation following arrival, becoming further engrossed in Costa Rica's rich culture and history. Participants will be matched with a local leader/translator at each placement site and will partake in evening seminar sessions with SWAP's US-based social work team who will facilitate meetings designed to deepen the group's learning and understanding of their experiences abroad. This team will additionally provide logistical support as needed and conduct site visits at placement agencies.

Accommodations and Meals

In this fully immersive social work abroad experience, all participants will reside with a host family that has been carefully screened and selected by Viva Nicaragua! There may be 2-3 participants in each home stay setting. Home stay accommodations will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The homes may not have air conditioning or hot water.

Re-entry Support
Following program completion, SWAP will organize a reunion for participants to continue their learning following re-entry into the United States.  Participants are strongly encouraged to attend.