Volunteering experience in Costa Rica at “Natuwa”

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1. Posted by vi.vi. (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10w Star this if you like it!

Hello everyone, I want to share with you my volunteering experience in Costa Rica at the sanctuary « Natuwa » I booked through World Wide Vets.
At 18, my goal was to travel and make a positive impact on wildlife conservation. I found Natuwa Volunteering on Instagram through World Wide Vets, attracted by the promise of meeting similar minded dedicated people and, animal care and conservation.
I was a bit anxious since it was my first time travelling alone that far from home. Despite the high costs, I thought it was worth investing my hard-earned money for a 4-week program. The Zoom meeting with Sarah K. from World Wide Vets seemed promising and professional. She told me I could travel on January first since there was another group of volunteers arriving the same day. I arrived on January first at 5.30PM, it was almost dark. I was received by the night guard and another guy. The night guard barely talked. He brought me to a lonely container in the middle of the jungle, with no one else inside of it. The accommodation was not even clean, nor the toilets or showers. There was even blood on the shower curtain. I didn’t expect luxury but at least a bit comfortable and clean places for people who are paying to work for a month. I had been left alone in an environment I did not know. I was very scared. If something would have happened, there would have been no one to contact on site. (WWV gave me the number of Henry to contact but fun fact no one knew him at the sanctuary and I have never seen him during my stay.)I worked every day from 7AM to 3-4PM. There was minimal interaction from the workers, they barely talked with me, except to tell me how to cut a banana. Despite daily exhaustion from 7 AM to 3-4 PM, I felt like an outsider, more of a nuisance to the workers than a valued contributor.
On the third day I finally got to meet the owner of Natuwa, Rodolfo, who gave us information about safety! After 4PM there were no activities, nothing to do and no possibility to go anywhere. After a week, safety concerns and questionable animal welfare practices prompted my decision to leave. Reporting my experience to World Wide Vets led to the program's removal from their website, reinforcing my belief that it is a dubious place. Despite seeking a refund for the remaining three weeks, my efforts were unsuccessful, they just kept the remaining 1500£(1900$). Further research revealed similar programs at a much lower cost on “volunteerworld” for example.
This experience taught me the potential dangers of volunteering, especially for young and ambitious individuals. Sadly, I think that nowadays a lot of volunteering agencies and programs are only interested in your money and not your help… Be cautious—social media depictions may not reflect reality. Another alerting thing I should have noticed is that there were very few independent ratings of WWV which were difficult to find. I strongly discourage considering Natuwa or booking through World Wide Vets. Take care and be mindful of your choices!